The Royal and Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association last week announced proposals to make significant changes to the rules of golf. There are at present 34 rule in the sport, and if the proposals are permanently accepted, this will reduce the number of rules by 10, to just 24.
R&A’ executive director David Rickman says that such rules changes are motivated by the need to modernise the game and make golf easier to understand and play. A closer look at some of the key changes (courtsey of the Irish Times) is available here.
I noticed a commonality in some of the changes, that have also been adopted in other sports, that of the speed of the game. David Butler has previously considered the rise of instant gratification in sport with reference to Fast4 Tennis. One need only look at cricket to see how the sport's organisers have attempted to make the game faster and more exciting, with the move from 5 day cricket, to 1 day cricket, to T20 cricket. Power Snooker is an attempt by World Snooker to make their sport more exciting, by speeding up play.
This is what many of the golf rule changes target; explicitly and implicitly. The reduction in ball searching time from 5 to 3 minutes, and the recommendation that players take no longer than 40 seconds to play a shot, will instantly impact the speed of play.
Relaxed rules on the putting surface will also make the game faster, as pins do not need to be removed before putting. Additionally, it will be possible to play out of turn in stroke play. Traditionally viewed as disrespectful, this will prevent excessive and sometimes unnecessary waiting times, and should get players around the course faster.
The R&A and USGA must be a little worried. We live in a world where many people constantly require instant results. I remember listening to Curtly Ambrose bowl over after over for the West Indies against England in a Test Match at the Oval on BBC Radio 5 Live. Yes radio! After 4.5 days the game ended in a draw because of rain.
Delayed gratification is tough but I'd take it any day over some of the faster outcomes evolving in sports we see today.