Lost your ball? You’ll find happiness in the major change in golf’s rules


No more “walk of shame.”

No more feeling sick to your stomach that your seemingly OK tee shot can’t be found and is going to cost you two shots.

More time to enjoy our great game. And less time worrying about a bunch of silly rules that only served to turn off new players, not invite them back.

In case you haven’t heard, the changes being instituted to the Rules of Golf next year, starting Jan. 1, are the most important and wide-ranging ever.

This is exactly what was needed. This is how we speed up play and make the game more attractive.

This is common sense.

It starts with something I’ve railed about for years, and not just because it has hurt me so often. The stroke-and-distance penalty for a ball hit out-of-bounds or, worse, a ball that was lost was the biggest enemy of pace of play and was one of the most depressing, embarrassing, discouraging aspects of golf for anyone trying to learn how to play.

On top of that, it largely was ignored.

Let’s be honest here (because golf is all about honesty): Unless it’s a serious tournament or match, how often have you seen someone hit a ball in the woods, waste at least five minutes trying to find it, and then just drop another one and play from there?

Like, all the time. I don’t know many people who would do what has been the proper thing and walk back to the tee – the “walk of shame” – to hit another one.

There is nothing worse than walking 250+ yards back to the tee, where the next group is standing, impatiently waiting, and having to reload. I’ve done it more times than I care to remember. I can’t think of many times when that next drive was any good.

Well, the new rules fix that.

Now, you simply can estimate where the ball went OB, find the nearest spot in the fairway and take your two-stroke penalty. No more hitting 3 from the tee and hoping you can put it in play. It’s as if you hit at least a decent drive on your second chance.

This also applies to a lost ball. Just determine where you think it should be, walk over to the fairway and hit your next shot from there.

Just imagine: No more pumping two or three balls out of bounds on a tight hole and ruining a good round. Sure, the penalty hurts. But speeding up play makes this a no-brainer.

The length of time you have to find your ball also is changing – it will be reduced from five minutes to three. That’s another good thing. Think of all the times you stood on the tee while another group spent what seemed like an eternity looking for a lost ball. I encourage everyone to live by the three-minute rule. It’s just not worth all that time – and who wants to spend more time in poison oak anyway?

Now keep in mind that enforcing the new OB/lost ball rule is up to each course. I would be stunned if this doesn’t become standard operating procedure at courses across the country … or, if the course doesn’t take the initiative, among most golfers.

One other good thing about this: You still have the option, if you want, of hitting 3 from the tee. This could be advantageous on a par-3 or a longer hole where you might have a good reason to try again after hitting a bad one.

There are lots and lots of other important rules changes – involving how and where to drop your ball, leaving in the pin when putting and accidentally moving your ball – that I’ll cover in future columns, but this is the one that caught my eye first.

This is huge. This is reason to shout, “Hallelujah!” on Jan. 1.

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