With all of the uproar regarding the USGA and R&A's decision to implement a rule banning the "anchored" stroke from the game beginning in January 2016, I began to wonder just how many of us truly follow the rules of golf. With the number of golfers using an anchored stroke to enjoy playing the game for fun, will they even care what the lords at the USGA and R&A do?
I would bet that one would be hard-pressed to find any one person playing golf outside a sanctioned competition with rules officials and the like watching over them who follow the rules to the letter and intent of the law.
We recreational golfers break the rules all the time. We move our drive in the fairway from a divot that was left behind. We move our ball off a root so we don't break a club or our wrist. We hardly ever return to the tee to re-hit after finding our ball out-of-bounds. We give 2-foot putts to speed things up. We even take mulligans.
With all this in mind, I think it's time we have a set of rules for recreational golfers. We need them! There are three things that hurt our beloved game. It's expensive, it takes a long time to play and most of all, it's too difficult.
If you owned a golf course, would you really care if the golfers are playing by the rules or would it matter more that they are having fun, enjoying the game and filling up the tee sheets?
The results of a recent Google survey, based on nearly 7,000 respondents shows that 61percent of golfers admit to occasionally bending the rules. An additional 12 percent admit to always bending the rules while only 27 percent claim to have always played by the letter of the rules.
In addition, the same survey shows an overwhelming majority of golfers consider themselves "recreational golfers" and have no desire to follow the same rules that professionals do.
Fewer than 15 percent keep an official USGA handicap and an equal amount have no idea what a handicap is.
Of those responding to the survey, 78 percent said they play the game for fun, nothing more, nothing less. The remainder admit to playing by the rules because they enjoy the challenge it presents, for work or because they are aspiring to become professionals.
The golf industry is facing some interesting challenges. According to the National Golf Foundation, golf rounds fell from 518 million to 475 million in the past decade. The numbers have declined in each of the past five years. Many surveys done by the NGF have shown those leaving the game have given three main reasons for their departure: high cost, excessive time needed to play and inconvenient rules.
The Google survey shows what many, including myself, have thought for years. Those of us who enjoy this game are fine with the idea of playing with "recreational" equipment. We don't mind the implementation of balls that want to go straight and clubs that help poor swings. Why should this game only be enjoyed by those talented enough to play it well or with enough time and money to devote to honing their skills to make it so?
With that in mind, I think we should have a set of "Recreational Rules for Golf." They should be simple and straight-forward. The best part of these rules should be that as long as everyone in the four-some or group agrees with what they are at the start of the round, and it doesn't slow down your play at the expense of others or damage the course, it doesn't matter what they are.
The rules being used by a group of buddies five groups ahead could not matter less to me and my bunch. Nor should our recreational rules matter to you.
Wouldn't manufacturers love to be able to take the reins off their designers and have them make clubs that help the poor golfer? I'm sure if they sold enough of them, they wouldn't mind there being two sets of rules or non-conforming clubs.
It's time we stand up and be heard. It's time to save our game and make our enjoyment of it paramount.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.