New Rules discussed

Added on March 8th, 2017 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General, Slow play

FineGolf’s friend ‘Lord Ted’ Dexter CBE, has been recommending changes to the rules and testing them out for many years, to help speed up play.


FineGolf used his rules at the first FineGolf Day at Temple GC in 2013 and the three-ball flights of golfers enjoyed getting round in between 3.15 and 3.30 mins.

Ted is now pleased that The R&A and the USGA have finally caught up and are now recommending many of his ideas such as:

  • No penalty for hitting the pin at any time.
  • Reduction from five minutes to three minutes the time for finding a lost ball
  • Playing ‘ready golf ’ (including on the tee)
  • Reduction of the time for practice swings

Ted recommends they should go further concerning lost balls:-

Ted in front of Lords painting

There is only a one stroke penalty for when a ball is lost in a lateral water hazard. He asks why should this not also apply to a ball lost in a bush or in the rough? In other words deem there to be the equivalent of a lateral water hazard down each side of the fairway (FineGolf adds ‘or semi-rough’). There would then be a one shot penalty for out of bounds and no need to play a provisional ball or walk back to play another ball. When a ball is lost the player may take a drop (Ted suggests this be on the fairway, while FineGolf would suggest in the semi-rough) no nearer the hole than the area of the search. Penalty one stroke. A player may deem a ball lost at any time. Thus, there is no imperative to search for the ball.

FineGolf is not clear at this time as to the exact rules proposed about the pin. We think, to also help reduce the trampling of feet around the pin, that Ted’s rules should apply i.e. The pin should be left in unless a player asks for it to be taken out. So, no ‘attending the pin’.

FineGolf welcomes the ruling bodies’ belief that more trust should be given to golfers’ integrity with a simpler set of rules.


I have to admit that my knowledge of the exact rules, I suspect like most golfers, is somewhat sketchy, and we just use our integrity and commonsense. I find most of the people I play with would never cheat and maintain a similar relaxed attitude.

The authorities dislike the idea of bi-furcation (a set of rules for tournaments different than for recreational golf) but the reality is that it already exists and it is to be welcomed that the authorities are just trying to catch up with how the majority of golfers want to play.  Rulers hate being irrelevant and ignored!

The point about making ‘ready golf ‘ the rule, is that the slow golfer can then just get left to play last and the embarrassment might help them get ready quicker. There are times even on the green when somebody has a difficult long putt and needs some time to think about it. If others are happy to putt first, why not?

Banning caddies from helping players’ alignment is sensible but hopefully this does not apply to the line of putt on the green or indeed asking one’s partner to help on occasion. Good caddies are more than bag carriers and it is often a great advantage to the confidence of a golfer to have what is thought to be the line pointed out to them.

The new dropping rule is a clever way round FineGolf’s bête noir of when a ball is in casual water in a bunker and the ball is moved to drier sand. No longer will the next shot have to be played with a plugged ball.

Allowing the use of distance measuring devices, which can become nicely irrelevant when there is a good wind blowing, when conditions are calm can arguably speed up the game. One might add at this juncture that it is on ‘target-golf ‘ courses when knowledge of distances is most helpful as one seeks to fly the ball right to the pin and stop it dead. On ‘running-golf ‘ courses more imagination is required from the golfer than just distance, in order to take into account the lie of the land and strategic hazards.

FineGolf  is not sure about having a maximum score for a hole. One would hate to spoil the fun of one of the groups who play Royal Dornoch’s Carnegie each year, who have a rule that if a player scores double figures on a hole during either of the qualifying rounds, that player has to face the embarrassment of standing up at dinner that night and explaining shot by shot how this disaster happened!

The finest courses do have the habit, at the very moment when one is going along quite happily playing par/bogey golf, of suddenly, at a moment’s lack of concentration, delivering an eight or more on your card! Are the authorities suggesting one is prevented from scoring a ten for example? Presumably, one would pick one’s ball up from the hazard where one has had the ‘Hamlet’ moment and put say a seven on the card?  FineGolf  is all for speeding up the game, particularly the pros’ televised game, but to reduce the natural challenges would not be clever. We hope we have misunderstood this suggestion.



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