Listen Up Pilgrim – New Rules

GolferDownI’m sure most of you have read the USGA “Rules of Golf” from cover to cover countless times. Many of you can cite chapter and verse from memory. Just the other night, I woke myself up at 2:30 a.m. screaming something about Rule 28 and how my ball was unplayable. My wife mumbled something about taking a Mulligan and going back to sleep.

Much of our effort to committing the rule book to memory becomes of little value on January 1st when the 2019 Rules of Golf officially go into effect. That means we’ve got to memorize a completely new book of rules (and it contains 240 pages). Egad. Although some of you have already done so, the rest of you have work to do. Get on it!

There are some major changes, especially with regard to the way the native grass areas on Ambiente (soon to be called “penalty areas”) are played.

To give those who play in our group a heads-up on getting ready for 2019, our games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will – by decree – be played under the 2019 rules beginning with our first November match (Nov. 2nd). Note this decree applies ONLY to matches played within our regular golf group. There has been and probably will not be any such declaration by Camelback Golf Club or any other group within it.

For those of you who used to buy the Cliff Notes versions of your books in school rather than wasting time actually reading the classics, Bob Sznewajs has been kind enough to give us a link to a simple summary of the changes. I highly encourage you to watch it. Click here to view the video.

The primary reason for adopting the 2019 rules sooner rather than later is to help all of us in the transition. I’m sure there will be countless errors due to force-of-habit and boundless confusion for a while. Designated scorekeepers need to exercise a little understanding and compassion in enforcing the new rules. We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll be much better off in the long run.

If It Feels Good, Do It!

elsGive yourself the joy of hearing it slide into the hole, of seeing it disappear, of knowing that you completed the task as nature meant it to be done. Putt the ball into the hole, not near it, not by it, not within a foot, two feet, three feet; putt the ball INTO the hole. If you take a step back and look at the game of golf, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that putting the ball INTO the hole is actually defined as the object of the game. Don’t deny yourself that pleasure.

Section 1-1 of the USGA Rules of Golf: The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the rules.

Within our golf group at Camelback, we have adopted a policy which coincidentally corresponds with the USGA Rules of Golf. We are putting the ball INTO the hole. As expected, there is grumbling. “That’s ridiculous. I would never miss a putt that close!”

If that is true, then what are you bitching about? If you can’t miss it, enjoy the sound of the ball rolling in the bottom of the hole. Bathe yourself with the satisfaction of playing the hole in the manner in which the game was designed. Bask in the glory of having upheld the honor of the game of golf by playing by the rules.

As a reality check, consider the case of Sue Clark. In her last twenty or so rounds, she has carded a 74, a 75, a 78 and a 79. It’s probably reasonable to assume that with scores like that, she’s a better than average golfer. (I’m practicing my understatement skills.) However, on Friday past, she three-putted from three feet! It happens. It is not uncommon to see someone “give” a three footer, but obviously, it shouldn’t be a given. I still have nightmares about the time I four-putted from six feet in a tournament. Maybe if I hadn’t been so willing to accept gratuitous “gimmes” in previous rounds, I might have improved my score by only three-putting.

Why do golfers give and accept “gimmes”? When someone gives you a two-footer and you pick it up, the reality is you do so because you’re scared half to death that you might miss the putt.

Why does someone offer to give you a putt? Because it gives him a feeling of magnanimity and authority. There may also be a darker side to the act, an implied quid-pro-quo. “Hey you jerk, I gave you a three-footer back on two and you’re going to make me putt this one?” (Hint: The correct answer is “Yes”.) If you feel the words “Pick it up” or “That’s good” welling to your lips, spit them out, but don’t say them. Don’t lead your fellow golfers into temptation.

One of the arguments, lame as it might be, for awarding gimmes is … it speeds up play. Nonsense! Truth be known, if we assume someone has a one-footer remaining on each of the eighteen holes and he takes a full three seconds to tap that “automatic” putt into the hole, then you’ve added a full 54 seconds to the round. Oh my, call the marshall.

Sandy volcano
Everyone misses the short one, even Sandy Wiener

Since we’ve been playing with a more rigorous approach to putting out, hardly a soul hasn’t missed a two-footer. I certainly have. If we accept the gimmes, we’re hurting ourselves. We’re fooling ourselves into thinking we’re actually a little better than we really are. We’re gazing into a carnival mirror to evaluate our own abilities. The only thing a vanity handicap buys is a place near the bottom of the standings in legitimate tournaments. We’re denying ourselves the practice we need on the short putts and that practice is a critical component to becoming a better golfer. On the two-footer, the stroke is shorter. The follow-through is shorter. The muscle control is in many respects more demanding. Miss a thirty inch putt in the club championship and you’ll kick yourself for taking all those gimmes.

Old habits may be tough to break. You may slap at the ball that stopped four inches from the hole and you may miss it. It’s possible; ask Ernie Els ( Ernie has won nearly fifty million dollars on the pro tour, but he seven-putted in The Masters. If he can do it, so can you. And note that no one said to Els, “Hey, that was good.” If you miss your putt – it’s a stroke.

Here’s what we’re going to do within our group until we establish the habit of finishing the hole the way the rule book says we should. If someone absentmindedly picks up his six-incher through the force of habit, his playing partners MAY allow him to place the ball back on the spot from which it was lifted with no penalty. The golfer must then make the putt.

Golf is a game of honor. Play it with honor. Putt it into the hole. Do it for Ernie. Do it for yourself. If it feels good, do it.


Skins and the Quest for Fairness

GolfSkinsEveryone agrees playing a skins game is great fun as long as you win one. Others say it’s not nearly as fair when you’re not collecting a portion of the prize money. The issue of “fairness” is rarely broached by those collecting money, but often questioned by the empty handed competitors. Let’s take a look at the mechanics of “skins games”, especially as played with our regular group at Camelback Golf Club.

Continue reading “Skins and the Quest for Fairness”

Lateral Hazards – A Footnote

Santa golfingThe previous post (Camelback Golfers – Read This or Else; December 14, 2017), has generated far more “interest” than I had anticipated. Almost every response came to me in private rather than as a comment on this blog. After reviewing the responses, I can assure you that we not only have some good golfers in the group, we’ve also got some golfers that carry a sense of humor that can be used like a scalpel to surgically extract the essence of a situation and describe it in a fashion that make my sides hurt from laughter. I can’t share all the comments because they were sent in private. However, I will give the award for best humor to Dr. John Raines. Barbara must spend half her time doubled over in laughter.

I will share one comment and my response to it without mentioning any names (not even my own). One golfer said:

I assume you believe there are those that fudge?

Here’s my response.

“Three answers … Continue reading “Lateral Hazards – A Footnote”

Camelback Golfers – READ THIS OR ELSE!

GodfatherIf you continue to play golf at Camelback and you haven’t read this, a curse will be cast upon you. Your hair will fall out. (Note to those of you with sparse or no hair: In your case, a secondary curse will be administered the results of which are far too gruesome to detail in a public forum such as this.)

It has come to my attention that some golfers continue to be conflicted and/or confused by the rules governing “lateral hazards” in general and in particular, the rules as they pertain to the native grass areas at Camelback Golf Club. Please read this missive and absorb it. Inculcate it both into your conscious and subconscious minds, your ID, your EGO, your memory, your yin and your yang. Kindly understand this so thoroughly that in the event you talk in your sleep, you recite variations on this rule rather than cry out the name of someone with whom you had a love relationship in the past. In that regard, having a thorough grasp of this rule may not only save you penalty strokes on the golf course, it could also save your relationship at home.

ALL NATIVE GRASS AREAS ON THE AMBIENTE COURSE ARE DEEMED “LATERAL HAZARDS”. There are certain God given or natural laws of nature that apply to lateral hazards. Some for your bemusement are: Continue reading “Camelback Golfers – READ THIS OR ELSE!”

A Few Rules for Faster Play

Have you ever noticed that golfers tend to hate the group in front of them? It’s because that group is holding them up, at least in their minds. Real or imagined, slow golf sucks. If the group in front of you truly is holding you up, there’s no need to worry about the nuances of fast play. But if you’re the hold up, consider picking it up a bit. Here is a partial list of “rules” that if adhered to, will make the game proceed faster and everyone will be happier.


  1. DON’T PIDDLE! If you have already hit your shot and you are the only person still within range of the group behind you, DO NOT piddle with your clubs. DO NOT clean your club. DO NOT put its head-cover on. Get in the cart and move on. Believe it or not, the cart will operate properly while someone is holding a club. In fact, if you’re the passenger, you can clean your club and replace the head-cover while the cart is moving. When the cart comes to a stop, you can then put your now shiny club back into the bag.

Continue reading “A Few Rules for Faster Play”

The Rules are The Rules, but …

The USGA has a clearly defined set of rules for the game of golf. Most of our fellow golfers have a pretty good understanding of those rules, at least when there are witnesses present. On top of these rules, players need to be familiar with any “local rules” which may be applicable on any given course. The extent of the rules that govern our play may sometimes seem burdensome and confusing. However, whenever frustration sets in when dealing with those rules, consider yourselves lucky that you didn’t have to play golf at Richmond Golf Club in England in 1940.

According to one source, German planes would fly from Norway on bombing missions. Because of icy weather conditions, the barrels of their guns had a small dab of wax in the muzzle to protect them from clogging with ice. In addition to attacking industrial targets close to the golf courses, after crossing the coast, they would clear their guns by firing a few rounds at the golf courses. Golfers were encouraged to take cover. It is said they also were asked to play by the following rules.


The next time you get a bad lie in the fairway, relax. It could be a lot worse.