New Golf Rules! Esp 10.2b(4)!! If it wasn’t an ass, the law was made to look a bit of a lame donkey in a sport of thoroughbreds.

Some of my golfing heroes are not happy. Justin Thomas, Eddie Pepperell, Richie Ramsay, not happy at all. At least not according to their twitter feeds, where it is clear they are all up in arms about the penalties handed out to a couple of their fellow professionals for getting their caddies to line up shots.

Li Haotong left Dubai E100k lighter as a result of the 2-shot hit he took for the split second his trusty bagman lingered behind him to offer a second opinion on his final putt. Then, Denny McCarthy had 2 strokes added to his total after his caddie took a rear view of his practice swings for a shot to the 15th green in Phoenix.

Both were cruelly marginal calls. The precise letter of the new laws may have given the Tour police just about enough licence to hand out tickets but they were the kind of judgments a good barrister would have appealed with relish.

If it wasn’t an ass, the law was made to look a bit of a lame donkey in a sport of thoroughbreds.

So why was I not as outraged by these decisions as so many golfers on social media? Why did my eyes begin to glaze over when I started to read the small print of Rule 10.2b(4)? Maybe McCarthy fell asleep halfway through the rules briefing too.

The difference between Li, McCarthy and me – well, one of the differences – is that if anyone stands behind me from the very moment I first take a club out of the bag, I brusquely invite them to retake their stance in a neighbouring county.

Caddies and I have an uneasy relationship at best. Funnily enough, they always cost me quite a bit of money too. In fees! The returns on my investment in places as far apart as Thailand, South Africa and St Andrews have been mixed. I usually end up blaming them more than praising them. I prefer to misread my putts alone.

In both of the headline cases of the last few days, the caddies’ contributions to the incidents appear to me to have slowed their men down more than anything. At my level of the game, pace of play is the real stuff of Twitter rants.

I can think of no other sport in which the participants stick to the rules anything like as strictly as golfers. And yet the professional players that I admire so much for their skill and power are the first ones to push the spirit of the rules to the limits.

When Brooks Koepka’s ball briefly lost its way around a Saudi desert last week, he felt entitled to recruit half-a-dozen passers-by to move a boulder the size of Fred Flintstone’s house rather than take a penalty drop.

The rules didn’t say the boulder was a loose impediment, but they didn’t say it wasn’t. So Koepka stopped the tournament to get his odd job men in to test its looseness.

It turned out to be even looser than Tiger Woods’ even bigger boulder in Phoenix all those years ago. That one was so large it was visible from space. They had to evacuate tourists taking photographs from the summit before an army of fans managed to move the inconvenient obstruction to his next million.

It took forever.

Guys, the planet is a loose impediment in the universal scheme of things but you can’t move it just because you’ve hit a duck hook.

There is a wall of timber sleepers protecting the front of the 16th green at our club. It has been sturdily constructed to force an aerial approach shot but if a crack team of building workers began to wrap their Samson hands around the wooden stakes, I feel sure they could loosen them sufficiently to clear my way to play a bump and run next time I’m stymied.

I’m just not sure that the old boys I roll up with would be happy to wait for John Paramor to buggy out from wherever he happens to be to make a ruling in my favour.

The essence of the new revisions has been to simplify and speed up play. They have removed a number of nonsenses. No more need for David Attenborough to be summoned to identify the scrapings of a burrowing animal, no more Red Indian trackers required to distinguish footprints from ball marks. Once everybody has finished debating the Brexit-like complexity of whether or not to leave the flag in, we can all get round in the time it takes Bryson DeChambeau to work out if the Moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Uranus.

Ah Bryson! I’m sorry but he would get a hefty kick up that very planet if he started measuring air density and trajectory in our Sunday morning meeting of minds. No grip it and rip it for him. DeChambeau selects it, then checks it, then inspects it, then dissects it, then reflects it, then projects it, then corrects it, then perfects it, then and only then connects with it.

He has tried to justify his endless scientific theorising by pointing out that he earns his living on the golf course. My taxi driver earns his living on the road but I wouldn’t take too kindly to him delaying my commute to the station in order to assess tarmac texture on tyre tread every time the lights turn green.

Factor a few fines into Bryson’s calculations and see if he still does the math quite so conscientiously.

Li seems to be as good a man as he is a player. He took his punishment without complaint and has come back stronger. McCarthy has pretty much admitted that he didn’t read the T’s and C’s carefully enough. As golfers we are constantly humbled by this glorious game and that humility appears to exist in the respect the best players show to the vagaries of the rules.

Sergio Garcia got a red card this weekend but golf doesn’t need sin bins just yet.

The only request I would make to Bryson and co on behalf of those of us that don’t earn our livings from golf is to respect the reasons for the rules as readily as the text. I’m no longer of an impressionable age but I do try to watch and learn from the best. The pros not only set the bar, they set the standards and the example.

Unfortunately, they set the pace for some weekend hackers too.

Li and McCarthy may have been nabbed on technicalities but the whole idea behind the R and A reforms is to cut down on the stoppages and get on with the golfing. There are always some early casualty scapegoats when rules are revised. It’s a price worth paying for speedier, simpler golf.

My take on the new 2019 Golf Rules

https://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/features/blogs/will-the-new-rules-of-golf-be-a-success-171068

Has Scotty Cameron met its nemesis in Bettinardi?

 Molinari crowned Europe’s top golfer and win number 10 comes at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship –

According to its founder, the premium Bettinardi putter brand has been taken to a new level this year – thanks to a record collection of wins on the European, PGA, and LPGA Tours.

Robert Bettinardi, the master craftsman of putters, has overseen a total of 10 victories this season, plus numerous top-10 finishes across four elite professional Tours, earning its brand ambassadors more than $15million in prize money.

No player benefitted more from his Bettinardi putter than Francesco Molinari, winner of the Claret Jug in July who capped off his record year yesterday after being crowned Europe’s No.1 player at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. The Italian’s success was backed up by standout performances from another new signing for 2018, China’s top ranked player Haotong Li, plus long-term brand ambassadors Matt Kuchar and Fred Couples.

“The investment we made in Tour players at the start of the year has been validated with Bettinardi being the putter brand on everybody’s lips,” said Robert, who founded the brand nearly 20 years ago. “We sat down as a team around this time last year and said we really wanted to make an impact on all Tours and we couldn’t have wished for a better outcome.

“We work incredibly closely with our Tour department to ensure that our players have the best putter to suit their game week in, week out. We invited Francesco to our factory just outside of Chicago following his Open Championship victory as we wanted to show our appreciation to him and what it means to have him as a brand ambassador. We’re delighted that he secured the Race to Dubai title, as he’s been the best player on the European Tour this year and made an important breakthrough in the States too,” he added.

Using a custom DASS BBZero model, Francesco won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and shortly after claimed his first PGA Tour victory at the Quicken Loans National in June, before his first Major title at Carnoustie. The glory didn’t stop there though for the World Number Six as the Italian became the first-ever player to win five-out-of-five matches at the Ryder Cup in September.

Win number ten for the brand came this weekend at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship using a Tour Dept.Queen B #6 with a special PVD finish and triple sight line.

The eye-catching Queen B #6 putter is back in the Bettinardi line-up for 2019. For the player seeking an elegant crossover between a blade and mallet, the QB6 features soft carbon steel head features a high toe topline, wide body and flange, plus a newly crafted offset shaft for ideal balance and superior visualisation at address.

Kuchar was back in the winner’s circle recently by claiming the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, using the ever-reliable ArmLock method (Tour Dept. DASS KM-Model) created with Robert in 2011. Haotong Li has also recorded his best-ever season that’s seen him jump into the world’s top-40 for the first time. Using a custom Studio Stock 3 Tour Edition putter, he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January, before switching to his custom Tour Soft Carbon BBZero and registering four top-10 finishes in his last six starts to end 9th in the Race to Dubai rankings.

Other Bettinardi victories on the European Tour this year included the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in February, with the same player and his Studio Stock #8 putter also winning the British Masters in October. Two more victories have come on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA Canadian Tour).

Since the brand was established in 1998, Bettinardi putters have secured more than 80 victories around the world across all professional Tours.

For more information on the Bettinardi 2019 putters and wedges visit www.bettinardi.com.

 

Course Guides written just for me (not!)

Don’t you just love a course guide when you are playing a new track? Anything that makes us look like a pro golfer can also make us feel like one, and peeling back the next page then gazing into the far yonder as if plotting whether to hit a gentle draw or power fade to the distant green is a strangely therapeutic thing to do… providing your reading glasses are handy!

I particularly value the introductory advice that we studiously absorb on each tee… “The long par 4 6th hole favours a high left-to-right tee shot aimed over the deep pot bunkers at 237 yards to find a small flat plateau on this split-level fairway from which a better view of the narrow undulating green protected by a sandy ridge of dunes, a dozen lakes and an armed militia group can be gained. The safe play will avoid the long border of poisonous foxglove plants on the left and the snake-infested semi-rough that cuts into the fairway on the right.” I may just play this one as a par 5!

As with most things in golf, it’s different strokes for different folks. We need to trust ourselves more. Pro course guides look like Oxbridge geometry exam papers. I just want to know if there is a hidden bunker near that patch of verdant green pasture I’m about to launch my ball in the general direction of. I can probably live without sage guidance on ball flight, approach angles or fairway contours. Just tell me where the water is. We all have a long list of ready-made excuses waiting for our errant shots but hitting a good one into a bad place through no fault of our own… now that is beyond annoying.

Professional players and their caddies use course guides in a far more detailed way than us mere mortals. They personalise them, they survey them and write in them and hold them sideways and upside down. It may be one of the reasons they take the thick end of 5 hours to get 18 holes in. Since 2006, distance-measuring devices have become permissible in all competitive golf by local ruling of the organising committee. Only the major pro tours now forbid them.

GPS and laser ‘AI’ cannot be used to chart gradients or wind speeds even at my level of the game. New R&A regulations are coming into force to limit the size and scale of green maps in a bid to highlight the skill of reading the slopes and borrows of putting surfaces with a trained eye. Here here! There is a battle of wills going on between embracing technology and preserving the value of human judgment in golf. Jack Nicklaus never needed a Bushnell.

We live in an age where we ask Siri everything. Name me the last time you pulled a book of road maps out of the glove compartment of your car? We use SatNav and Waze to get to the golf club, Bluetooth and hands-free to confirm the tee time and GolfWeather.com to check on the conditions. There is something quite quaint about then investing in the hard copy of a book full of pretty pictures, colour-coded maps and confusing diagrams. How long before we simply whisper into a caddy app… “hey Fooch, what the hell should I hit here?”… “the back of the ball would be a start!” comes Mr Fulcher’s recorded reply.

An occasional browse through the rules of our beloved game can yield hours of enlightenment and entertainment. Rule 4.3 on the use of equipment is a great read. Did you know that tossing powder into the air to determine wind direction, using physiological information recorded during a round, listening to music to help with swing tempo and taking a practice swing with a weighted headcover in place are all big no-no’s once you’ve said ‘play well’ on the first tee? Parts of the rule book are being rewritten next year. It won’t be the last revision. That app may not be too far away… although if Fooch is on the caddies’ picket line I, for one, won’t be crossing it!

Last week, I played the new West Cliffs lay-out at Praia D’el Rey in Portugal. Silly me forgot to update my Garmin wrist watch beforehand and, as I’m no big fan of Range Finders, I was suddenly playing a strange course with only a yardage book to guide me. Worse still, it was a ‘metreage’ book, so not only was I trying to work out which hollow or mound my ball was sitting on, I was also then converting the number on the chart into old money. Not surprisingly, the club in my hand was regularly the wrong club. I was rendered embarrassingly helpless.

The long hot British summer reminded us all that the yardage number should only ever be a starting point for club selection and shot execution. 400-yard-long drives were commonplace on the parched Carnoustie links at this year’s Open. Even I was hitting it 400 on some holes (in ‘net’ 1) at the height of the drought. Golf is a very different game on a hard links from a soft parkland course. The bounce of the ball, the wind velocity, the air temperature, even the previous night’s alcohol intake can all impact on our distance control.

Not even the most attentive caddy or most accurate aid can take into account all of our personal foibles. We all play golf in our own individual ways. We know the clubs we trust and the ones we don’t. On the relatively few occasions that I’ve employed a caddy, I’ve found myself taking his or her word on putt reads without thinking for myself (and falling out with them!). Losing my trusty calculator for a day in Portugal last week left me repeatedly staring at my wrist only to see bare skin looking back at me. I was in golf cold turkey.

Thinking for oneself and thinking straight are keys to good golf. Trust your judgment and you’ve only got yourself to blame. Course guides are only guides. It’s not their fault they don’t understand you like you do.

 

 

 

West Cliffs, Obidos, Portugal

Three days of wonderful golf just north of Lisbon, culminating in a round at the stunning West Cliffs.

We played Praia Del Rey, Royal Obidos too, but West Cliffs was definitely the icing on the cake for our three days.

We stayed at the Marriot, which ticked all the boxes for a golf break (though the bar food was not so great).  An ocean view room meant we could hear the Atlantic waves crashing on the beach, such a lovely holiday sound.

My golf was average! As always, playing a course for the first time, means you play shots you wouldn’t if only you had known….about the bunker, the rough, the slope, the water etc. But we finished our three rounds of match play with an all square on the Mr and Mrs front! Always a good thing.

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