Rulebook: Back To The Future – Same Great Game, Great New Rules

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

w/ Rich McLean, Golf Canada Level 4 Rules Official @lobwedge 

Marty McFly: “Hey, Doc, we better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to 88.”

Doc Brown: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

Okay, so over the last few columns we’ve taken a bit of look at some of the rules changes coming up in 2019. What are your impressions? Are there some you like more than others? Have you looked at them any further on your own? I highly recommend having a read through them before January, if for no other reason than to be somewhat familiar with how things will work before you tee it up next season. HINT: Start with the Definitions at the back of the book. These are the foundation to understanding and applying what you’re reading. If you can nail these down first, you’re way ahead of the game.

I’ve already had plenty of questions this year from the guys I play with. We’ve had some good discussions too, and they’re starting to catch on. That’s exciting for me. These guys really want to hit the ground running next year. The big “hits” so far are the possibility of expanded Penalty Areas, other than just water, and the two-stroke option for Unplayable Ball in a bunker. My personal fave is the 3-minute ball search maximum (I spend enough time in the woods already). Even those of us who study the rules are asking questions. It’s in our nature. We all want to be ready for January 1st.

Trust me, the R&A and USGA aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Let’s just say they’re trying to make the car easier to drive. A little less “GPS”, and a bit more “heads-up”. The principle of the game remains the same: Get your ball from the teeing ground in to the hole, in as few strokes as possible, under the rules. Match Play is still Match Play, and Stroke Play is still Stroke Play (and Stableford, and Foursomes, and Four-Ball…). And, while some of the names may have changed that describe the different areas on the course, you’re still making swings, and chips, and pitches, and putts, with 14 clubs and a ball.

Is it nerve-wracking? Sure. Anything new comes with a bit of a break-in period. There’ll be questions, and we’ll take second guesses, and we’ll all make mistakes for a little while. That’s all part of learning. On the other hand, this is also a pretty exciting time. Think about it. We get to be first. There aren’t too many times you truly get to be first at something. Pretty cool, eh?

So “old rules”, what do you have to say for yourselves? You’ve served us admirably for the last billion years, but we are so done with you. Time to retire along with your hard-collared shirts, your plaid bell-bottom Sansabelts, and your metal spikes. There are new kids in town, and they all want to play.

Same great game. Great new rules. Let’s take this baby up to 88 and see what happens!

/ Rich McLean
Rich McLean is Golf Canada Level 4 Referee from Kanata, Ontario. He calls himself “a lifelong player, and fan of this great game.” You can find him on Twitter, @LobWedge. “Golf has given me so much joy, and this is my small way of giving back.  Have fun. Play smart. Play well.”