Now that we’ve had one season in the books using the USGA and R&A’s
Updated Rules of Golf, we thought it would be interesting to ask the TGA’s Tournament
Directors for their perspectives. We sat down with Senior Tournament Directors
Kellen Kubasak and John Cochran IV, Tournament Directors Ian Davis and Kevin
Porter, who runs the Legends Junior Tour, and Women’s Tournament Director Amy
Worthington to find out their thoughts on how the changes in the Rules affected
play during the 2019 Championship season.
JOHN COCHRAN IV, Men’s Championships: From my perspective, there
were two changes that had the most impact: the reduction of time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes when
conducting a ball search in reference to when a ball becomes lost, as well as
putting with the flagstick in. The ball search change obviously helps keep up
pace of play, but so too does putting with the flagstick in. No longer are
players waiting for someone to tend the flagstick, nor are they spending time
walking to the flagstick to tend it for others. Instead, they’re using that
time to focus on their putt.
KELLEN KUBASAK, Men’s
the ball search time change and ability to putt with the flagstick in certainly
were impactful, from what I experienced, the Rules change that had the most
impact on players was the ability to fix more things on the putting green,
including shoe damage such as spike marks. This specific Rules change impacted
players in the most positive way. Throughout the years prior to 2019, we’ve all
seen putts bounce offline because of marks on the green from previous players’
shoe marks and other damage. The fact that players can fix those now had the
most impact on their play this year.
IAN DAVIS, Men’s
an interesting take, Kellen, but I have to agree with John about the reduction
of time allowed to search for a ball. Trimming the time allowed down to 3
minutes had the largest impact on the Championships I worked this year.
KEVIN PORTER, LJT
nearly 20 LJT events this year, I have a different take on this question. The
change to dropping the ball from knee height was definitely the most impactful.
Early in the year, it was just so easy to incorrectly drop from shoulder height
simply out of habit. The LJT players did a great job adapting. They understood
that if they dropped from the wrong height, they could correct the mistake and drop
it properly to avoid penalty.
From an administrative perspective, one of the most noticeable changes for me
was the difference in how course marking was approached. The committee now has
more flexibility in what can be considered a penalty area. Even if an area of
the course isn’t meant to hold water, it can be marked as a penalty area. Being
able to mark more of the course as penalty areas also improved pace of play.
IAN: That’s easy. Dropping from knee
KEVIN: Yep, same for me. Dropping the ball
was brought up a lot at the first of the year, as players wanted to make sure
they were doing it right. Also, I’d like to touch on something that isn’t
brought up as much. Before the changes, players used to confirm with players in
their group that they were only fixing damage from ball marks and not spike
marks. It saves time for players now that certain damage isn’t up for
interpretation on the putting green. The relaxations to the Rules on the
putting green are big for golf.
AMY: The biggest question that came up at
TGA Women’s Championships was about a rule that was not in effect for our competitions, Model Local Rule E-5 -
Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Lost Ball or Ball out of Bounds. Players
brought it up to confirm whether or not the Local Rule was in effect, as some
of our players are used to using it at their home club. The Local Rule is
appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing
their own competitions.
JOHN: Especially early in the season, and
for those events where players aren’t playing as much competitively as our
“regulars” were, the most questions I answered were about the drop at knee
height. This seemed to be a Rules change that, in the heat of the moment, would
slip some players’ minds.
KELLEN: Players were surprised to see that
when dropping the golf ball, the ball had to remain in the relief area when it
came to rest. Under the old Rules, in some cases the ball could roll up to two
club lengths from where it first struck a part of the course after dropping.
The addition of the relief area changed all that so, I answered more questions
about that part of the ball drop than anything else.
KEVIN: I think the status of the flagstick
was a good change because it allows players to putt towards the hole without
the fear of striking the stick. It’s also good knowing that if a player hits a
terrible putt, they won’t get penalized for hitting a flagstick that was laid
down with the thought that there was no way it would be in play.
IAN: For me, it was the new terms for relief
area and reference point. Especially when the terms are explained using the
images in the Rule book, it greatly simplified when a ball is dropped
AMY: In my opinion, the best change was
the emphasis on pace of play. You tend to hear that golf takes too long to play,
so the new changes that encourage playing the game at a prompt pace are
important. Additionally, introducing Maximum Score as a form of stroke play not
only helps with pace of play but it also encourages new golfers to pick up the
JOHN: Going from 5 minutes to 3 minutes on
ball searches. 5 minutes used to feel like an eternity, now 3 minutes comes
fairly quick. There is a greater effort to find the golf ball and the reduced
time allotted for search keeps play moving.
KELLEN: Being able to repair spike marks and
other damage on the greens has really allowed players to showcase their putting
skills. The putting green is the most sacred area of the course, so allowing players
to repair more of that area was a great Rules change.
KELLEN: When I’m playing, it was always tough
to get used to dropping from knee height because I had only known dropping from
shoulder height. It seems that this was a change that players were aware of,
but we needed to remind them during the first few events of the season before
they actually dropped their ball.
IAN: For me, it was the changes to what
happens when a ball in motion is deflected. Also how procedures change when the
ball is played from a specific area of the course and what happens next
depending on whom or what it was deflected by.
KEVIN: The terminology change was difficult
for a while since I was so used to the previous definitions. Calling places penalty
areas instead of “hazards” and the general area instead of “through the green”.
I’ve gotten much better now, but I still hear those words, and an alarm goes
off in my head.
AMY: Kevin nailed it. For me, it was the
language changes. I still find myself sometimes saying “hazard” instead of
penalty area, or using terms that don’t exist anymore.
JOHN: I’m in the same camp with Kevin and
Amy here. From an administrative perspective, learning and using the new
terminology (“casual water” is now temporary water, “hazards” to penalty areas,
“through the green” to general area, etc.) are things I still catch myself on.
IAN: I typically use the Rules of Golf app
on my iPhone.
AMY: I tend to use the Rules of Golf app a
lot more because it is easier to search what you are looking for than having to
find it in the book.
KEVIN: I’ll always fall back on the book
when making a ruling, but the app does a great job as well. It’s nice to have
it while I’m out on the course and see something that I need to quickly
reference. I also promote the app to our players so they can always be aware.
JOHN: The search function with the Rules of
Golf app is very handy. When comparing it to prior versions of the app, this is
USGA’s most user-friendly, functional app to date.
KELLEN: I’m more old school. I prefer the
Rules of Golf Book with the Interpretations inside, the Official Guide to the
Rules of Golf. But, I have used the app a few different times as well.
IAN: Putting with the flagstick in. However,
I don’t necessarily need to have it in. I say if the flagstick is in, leave it
in. If it’s out, leave it out.
KEVIN: Definitely dropping from knee height.
I tend to put myself in situations where taking relief and dropping are key for
me to finish the hole.
AMY: I’m with Ian. I putt with the
flagstick in. I also fix spike marks or any other repairable damage on my line
of the play.
JOHN: I have become very comfortable
dropping from knee height and using the 3 minute ball search. Looks like
this offseason I should work on trying to hit the ball straighter.
KELLEN: Like Ian and Amy, for me it’s putting with the flagstick
in. I’m a fast player, and I don’t think the flagstick in the hole affects a good
stroke or the result of a stroke, so anything to continue to improve the game’s
pace of play is good for the game and good for me.
For more on the Rules of Golf, click here.