A recent segment on The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive broached the subject of playing golf with a relaxed set of rules, and it’s fostering a spirited debate. The question: Are you playing golf if you aren’t abiding by The Rules of Golf? Golf is a unique sport because we referee ourselves, but I believe you can play golf by a different set of rules depending on the venue and type of competition. The most important rule is that everyone in your group or the competition play by the same set, even if you are in technical violation of USGA or R&A standards.
The most common rule players break is rule 1-1 that states you must hole your ball with a stroke. Essentially when we take putts, we are in violation. Weekend golfers take putts. The second rule most folks break is the various permutations for lost balls. Most just drop as close to where they lost it and count one penalty stroke. I believe, if agreed upon, this is permissible, because it speeds the game up. If you post a handicap round that included a lost ball that was played in this fashion, you are posting for a lower score than you actually shot, which is the opposite of sandbagging, and again, I have no problem.
Where it gets dicey is for folks who don’t play the ball down. I play it down and many of my weekend partners do not. You gain a huge advantage of improving your lies in the rough, as well as in the fairway. If there’s no money on the line, I’m fine this transgression, but it’s where I draw the line for personal integrity. The other relaxed rules about picking up after double par and limiting searches for two minutes make sense as well.
I have played in sanctioned Mid-Atlantic PGA events, Pro-Am competitions, club championships, member-guests, outings for charity, weekend money matches, and just for fun. Each of these games was played by a different set of rules (some with a local rules sheets, others without). Each time I believe I can state I was “playing golf” even though I may have been in technical violation of some USGA rules. Generally, the more serious the game, the more closer you’ll usually have to conform to the official Rules of Golf.
Do you believe in relaxing the rules? If so, which ones to do you bend or break most often?