Tuesday, August 11 2020


New year, new rules

Update: January, 06/2019 - 07:00

By Robert Bicknell

Well, its 2019 and another new year is off and running. We have no idea what we will be saying this time next year, but for many it will be the usual “Thank G-d, that year is over” while others will be saying the opposite. How the year goes really depends on you.

Look, we like to blame a myriad of things as the cause of a bad year, but with a few exceptions, what makes a year good or bad is you. It’s the same as golf. Nobody puts a gun to your head and says “hit the ball into the trees”, it’s just something that happens. How you deal with adversity is what counts. Get the ball back in play and keep going.

Whining about it, blaming outside forces, or such is not a solution and it only reinforces negatives. An old PGA Tour pro, Chip Beck, was the happiest guy on the course. He would hit a ball into a horrible location and then get excited about the opportunity to hit a recovery. Yes, he was actually like that. Strange guy.

But it also illustrates the two ways to look at something. You can either bemoan your bad luck, or you can look at it as an opportunity to try and recover. The choice is yours, but psychologists will tell you being an optimist is better from a mental health point of view.

So, what happens in 2019 is pretty much up to you.

One good thing about the New Year is that the USGA/R&A have made a few rules changes to make your life easier, or so they say. In fact, there are 19 changes to the rules, many of which are long overdue – such as now being allowed to fix spike marks on your line of putt, simplifying water hazards to one simple “penalty area” instead of wondering if a water hazard was a lateral one or not, and one which local golfers will enjoy as they do it anyway – dropping where a ball went OB instead of going back to the tee or from where the last shot was from.

Nobody ever went back to the tee to hit again, except in a tournament when people were watching. Now, just drop where it crossed the line and add two strokes. Much more simple and no “walk of shame” involved.

One new rule eliminates “caddies assisting with alignment” and this one might create a problem because it’s a bit unclear.

For example, a caddie may no longer stand behind a player to see if the player has correctly aligned his putter/stance to the line of putt. In short, it’s up to the player to do it himself. Fair enough, that’s what golf is about. The rule change also allows a caddie to mark the ball on the green for the player. The caddie may also place the ball back on the green (at the right mark) after cleaning it.

The rule DOESN’T say if the caddie can align the ball to the putting line (which is a given here in Viet Nam). Personally, I don’t think the caddie can align the ball because that is a player’s responsibility and it would violate the new rule governing alignment. However, this needs to be officially decided by the governing bodies because anything else is “interpretation”.

So, barring the USGA/R&A or even the VGA coming out with a statement on this, I predict that caddies will continue to mark, clean, replace and align the ball on the greens as usual in Viet Nam.

In fact, I also predict that even if the powers-that-be rule it’s illegal to do so, caddies will still continue to do it.

OK, lastly… There was a Facebook post about a golfer (who I will not name) who apparently couldn’t wait to hit the rest room and decided to create some “casual water” of his own. This has been going on since the beginning of time, but the club took issue with it and sent him an email.

Look, if ya gotta go and cannot hold it until you get to the rest room, head into the trees. Don’t do it on the course itself, or into the lake, and certainly don’t do it in front of the caddies or other players. VNS

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