Believe it or not, the USGA doesn’t govern all of golf. And it certainly doesn’t preside over recreational golfers like you and I. The USGA, along with its rulebook, does have a place in golf. But the idea it’s the supreme ruler of all things golf is a rather widespread misconception (this goes for the R&A as well). That being said, I outline below why most recreational golfers should cast-aside the USGA rules in favor of something written more for, well…recreational golfers.
1) The USGA rules weren’t really written for recreational golfers
Let me begin by stating in no way, shape or form am I advocating we throw-out the USGA rulebook. Those rules are absolutely necessary to achieve the USGA’s founding mission: To determine the best golfers in the world. This history is clearly recounted on their website:
“1894 – In September, William G. Lawrence wins a ‘national amateur championship’ at Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. In October, Laurence B. Stoddard wins a ‘national amateur championship’ at St. Andrew’s Golf Club. C.B. Macdonald, runner-up in both events, calls for the formation of a governing body to run a universally recognized national championship.” – USGA.org
Today, the USGA is basically still doing the same thing for the top amateurs. In addition, the PGA has adopted the USGA rulebook too. This all makes sense for determining the best golfers in the world.
But what about the rest of us? All golfers – from the youngest to the oldest; the worst to the greatest; are
forced encouraged to play by the USGA rules. This notion is foreign to many of the other major sports that also have youth and recreational participation. Think about your son or daughter’s little league; or your work softball team – do those strictly adhere to the rules of Major League Baseball? Of course not – the rules have been modified and/or made simpler to encourage new players and promote fun.
So that begs the question: Why isn’t there a separate set of rules for recreational golfers? For all that the USGA rules have done for the elite players in the game, the reality is the complexity of those same rules have hindered golf’s growth over the years – in particular with regards to recreational golfers (the vast majority of the game’s participants).
It should also be pointed out that while the USGA has been around for over 120 years, the game of golf was around for about 5 centuries before that. Makes you wonder how all those recreational golfers ever got by without the USGA rulebook.
2) Alleviate slow play
It’s no secret slow play is rampant in golf – from the pro tours all the way to your local muni. It’s perhaps the biggest complaint amongst average golfers and the current rulebook is (at least) partially to blame for this. A set of simpler rules for recreational players would go a long way in unclogging the links.
Why does there have to be out-of-bounds? If your ball goes into the woods, drop one near where it went in, take a stroke and move on. Why do we have to go through the entire “tend the flag” ritual? Leave the flag where it is and if the ball hits it, it counts as in. Why do we have to wait for the person furthest from the hole to play first? Instead, we should all be playing ready-golf.
I understand some folks are sticklers for this stuff, but these are the golfers a separate rulebook would help the most! A simpler rulebook would remove the hesitation some golfers have in bending the USGA rules in the first place, thus resulting in a speedier round for everyone.
3) Attract new players; and help keep the ones already playing
Try telling a newbie golfer about grounding his club in a hazard. Or that she has to walk back to the tee and re-hit if she loses her drive. How about that he or she can’t touch their ball until they are on the green. And if their ball lands in a divot in the fairway…oh well, sucks to be them. And the truth is, non of the aforementioned rules sound any better to veteran golfers either.
Watching golf on TV already has issues attracting potential players, but then the few that actually do want to try the game are met with this beast of a rulebook? It’s just not right. We should be doing everything possible to woo new folks to the game. And, part of that should be a simple set of rules that encourages fun out on the course.
Adding a rulebook specifically for recreational golfers won’t solve all of golf’s problems, but it will certainly help – especially in the longterm. And it won’t take much to implement either – there are already organizations out there like the U.S. Recreational Golf Association (more on them in a future post) who are trying to accommodate recreational golfers (including those golfers who keep a handicap) – whereas accommodating recreational golfers clearly isn’t the USGA’s priority.