The tried and true sport of golf has seen relatively few major changes since its inception in the 1570’s. There was the drastic change in 1764 at St. Andrews when the course was changed from the 22-hole golf experience to the 18-hole standard that has remained through to the present.
Then along came the advances in technology that made some major changes in clubs, balls and even shoes, but the Rules of Golf remain basically the same as they started out in Scotland over 253 years ago. Sure there have been rule changes over the decades, but nothing compared to the current major proposed changes that are on the chopping block to modernize today’s game.
There are eight categories of rules, Ball at Rest, Ball in Motion, Taking Relief, Areas of the Course, Equipment, Playing a Ball, When to Play During a Round, Equipment, and Player Behavior, with over 30+ major changes undergoing review by the USGA. Many of the proposed rule changes are minor but some are considered significant.
Every 4 years, the United States Golf Association (USGA) that has now partnered with the R&A, hand us their revisions. Something always changes and sometimes a rule is added or deleted, but this year they implemented a local rule to the 2016-2019 Rules of Golf and implemented it early. The new Local Rule eliminated the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green; under the old ruling golfers faced a 1-stroke penalty outlined in Rule 18-2 or Rule 20-1. Even though this was surprising, we saw the change coming with past incidences on courses that changed golf history, most notably when Pro Dustin Johnson was penalized at the 2016 U.S. Open.
The changes in golf are usually small tweaks that add to the bottom line of your individual game or the sport as a whole. There are always “hints” at major changes and with over 100 drafted changes to the current rules, 33-38 of them considered major, golfers will experience the most significant rewrite in more than 30 years.
What major change in golf that we didn’t see coming was last week’s announcement of Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay parting ways. “Bones” had been Mickelson’s caddie in an ironclad relationship for 25+ years, just about the same amount of time without a major rewrite to the Rules of Golf.
Mickelson and “Bones” are household words in golf and they both have a cult-like following here in Arizona. ABC News, Golf Week and USA Today have all reported it was a mutual parting. Tim Mickelson, Phil’s younger brother, will finish out the season as his caddie and we will just wait with baited breath to see where Bones will land.
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