The new Rules of Golf are now in force, here's what blogger Golf Peach has to say...

Blog: Will The New Rules Of Golf Be A Success?

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Is there a self-appointed Rules Tsar at your golf club? Some vocal know-it-all that can recite chapter and verse if the ball should come to rest inside a discarded satsuma peel lying butted up to a debatably movable obstruction that is resting against the out of bounds post? Yes, you know exactly who I’m talking about!

Well, as from New Years’ Day, that Lord Chief Justice of the 19th hole may now be open to challenge. 2019 is the year of the big rule changes. Changes that say you can use your club to build a palatial sand castle in a bunker and decorate it with stones, twigs and other loose impediments if you really want to. And with no penalty.

Or just perhaps I haven’t quite read them right yet.

In the name of modernisation and ready golf, this is the year when all those riveting debates surrounding pitch marks and spike marks, all those educational discussions about burrowing and non-burrowing animals, all those microscopic inspections of wind-blown ball oscillations must come to an end. What will we find to talk about during the 3 minutes that the group ahead are searching for a ball?

Now that it is no longer punishable, perhaps we could explore if there are potential benefits to perfecting a technique that masters the art of hitting the ball twice in the course of one swing. Is it a legal double hit if you flip the ball up into the air with a lob wedge and somehow volley it towards the horizon in the same sweeping loop of the club face? Over to you Bubba!

The only true certainty about new rules in any sport is that people are already at work on the challenge of using them to their advantage.

If there is no charge for your ball hitting your own equipment, what is to stop you from (accidentally) laying your bag down beyond the line of that awkward chip down a green that is protected by water over the back? If an embedded ball in deep rough comes with an entitlement to a free drop, where does it say that you can’t stand on it (accidentally) during the search?

At least the player that fires a shot against the wide trunk of a tree will be comforted to know (during that split second that she sees it rebounding towards her at twice the velocity she originally hit it) that no penalty will be incurred when it smacks her in the belly. That’s progress.

There is a very simple answer to the silly rhetorical questions I’ve asked about scope for ‘interpretation’. Golfers don’t cheat. Or if they do, they are totally ostracised to a degree that no other sport ever condemns its villains. It may be human nature to break the speed limit but there are no penalty points or speed awareness courses at your golf club. Reputations and honour are at stake. Golf cheats don’t get slapped wrists, they are sent straight to the lifers’ wing.

However much we may mumble about that crusty old rules expert in the bar, we all privately admire and take pride in the exact nature of the regulations of the game and the spirit of fair play they enshrine in such meticulous detail. Golf is an unusually well self-policed sport not least because the penalty for any transgressor goes far beyond a DQ. It’s vilification and disgrace.

When the new rules decree that a drop should now be taken from knee height, you can bet that serious golfers will drop from the bottom of the thigh, not the top of the calf. This is not a sport in which you want to leave anyone with any room for making damning moral judgments about you. If you are not sure about something, who do you ask for an opinion? An opponent, that’s who. Imagine that in football!

Such is the level of trust that golf places in its participants, the new 2019 regulations actually incorporate a ruling that legitimises a player’s ‘reasonable judgment’ even if video evidence later reveals that player to have been wrong.

Tiger Woods pushed the spirit of that ruling to its limit with his improvised scoop shot from beneath a bush in his own tournament in Bahamas recently. He was convinced that he had not struck the ball twice and I don’t doubt his version of events. Only a high definition slow motion replay of the stroke revealed his violation. By the law, he was in the clear. Why a man of his status and wealth who was out of contention for a tournament of little standing didn’t subsequently call a penalty on himself in the recorder’s hut, I will never know. It’s not worth the whispers.

I am still learning the new code but I have seen nothing that unduly troubles me and nothing that I think will change my game significantly. Common sense and golf rules don’t always go together but most of these revisions are based on logical, practical thinking.

There is still licence for a local committee to go beyond the rule book and make allowances for winter or drought golf conditions. For instance, it is now possible to avoid the long walk back to the tee for a shot that has bounced out of bounds and take a drop under penalty in the vicinity under a local rule. About time.

I can never understand why even a partially-flooded bunker is not automatically GUR. I know that sand traps are hazards but picking a ball out of a puddle at the base of a bunker then dropping it onto a sodden sandy downslope is a rotten double jeopardy. I wouldn’t mind but even the new knee-high drop penalises the taller golfer unfairly. Damn my long legs for once! 😊

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