Paul McGinley: Golf needs two sets of rules

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 9, 2019 04:48

The captain of Europe’s successful 2014 Ryder Cup team, Paul McGinley, has called for two sets of rules of golf – one for professionals and for amateurs – in a bid to boost participation in the game.

Writing for The Times newspaper about the new Rules of Golf which came in on January 1, McGinley explains that the changes, such as the time allowed to search for a lost ball, will make the rules simpler to understand and speed up play.

However, he says there is a danger that for the amateur game they do not go far enough, and technology should be deployed.

‘Individual golf clubs and professional tours will retain options to invoke local rules but in general the new rules will apply to all golfers, amateur and professional,’ he writes.

‘While we will have to see how the rule changes work out in practice, they are, for the most part, sensible and to be welcomed. It has taken a lot of consultation and effort to get these changes in place. However, there is growing opinion within the game that the changes still don’t go far enough and don’t tackle the fundamental issues the game needs to face: participation numbers and the impact of technology on the professional game.

‘As much as the professional game has flourished with incredibly high standards, so are amateurs finding the game more difficult. Average handicaps worldwide are slowly and inexorably going up. The gulf between the professional and club player has never been wider and if current trends continue, it looks destined to grow wider still.

‘In some quarters, the word ‘bifurcation’, which essentially means different rules for professionals and amateurs, is frowned upon. Traditionalists believe there should be a single set of rules which govern the game and its technology, and that bifurcation should be avoided at all costs.

‘Technology should be more helpful to amateurs, but manufacturers are hampered by strict regulations in regard to clubs and balls, and those regulations apply in both the professional and amateur games.

‘While professionals have hugely benefited from advances in technology that reward high ball speeds, amateurs can’t produce those speeds and consequently cannot get the same quantitative gain. The rules on technology have to be very rigid with professionals in mind because if manufacturers were, for example, to produce a material that would propel the ball faster and straighter off the face to aid amateurs, the professionals would benefit even more than they already do.

‘While technology parameters are always under review, they are a lot more complex to deal with than changes to the rules of play. To start with, the R&A as well as the USGAhave to agree on the way forward, and that is not always as clear-cut as you may think. Secondly, they would then have to get every professional and amateur administrative body on board, which is no simple task either.

‘Maybe the time has come for the rule-makers to at least investigate some limited bifurcation, particularly when it comes to technology parameters. Fewer restrictions on technology for amateurs would make the game easier to play, inject more fun and as a consequence entice more people to play. At the very least an investigation into bifurcation should be the next step for our game’s governing bodies.’


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 9, 2019 04:48
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  1. Doug January 10, 13:15

    The ruling bodies have already explained that the 2019 rules revision was specifically aimed at the playing rules. A review of technology was to follow.
    However, the problem then arises when elite amateurs wish to moveto the pro ranks. How can they get used to the different equipment?

    Reply to this comment
    • Doug January 10, 13:21

      R&A and USGA
      Focus on the Playing Rules (rather than the Equipment Rules)
       Specifications or performance limits for clubs and balls – The Rules Modernisation
      Initiative is about the playing Rules, and it does not address the specifications or
      performance of clubs and balls. Accordingly, the absence of any proposals or discussion on those topics should not be viewed as indicating that any decisions have been reached about whether to make any future changes to the Equipment Rules; these rules are vitally important for the future of the sport, but are the subject of a separate, ongoing review.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Dave January 7, 15:33

    He is referring to the rules in relation to technology I think not the actual playing rules. There cannot be 2 different sets of actual playing rules surely.? Anyway, in the technology sense I agree and I think ball technology is the place to start. That’s what the great Jack Nicklaus thinks and we should listen!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Tim January 7, 11:47

    Separation by technology is fine but rules too!
    Don’t make the game harder than it already is.

    Reply to this comment
  4. James January 6, 15:37

    I also don’t agree with this idea. It is indeed true the gulf between amateur and professional is even greater these days, as the professionals are able to take more advantage of the technology on offer and have the time to work with that technology and their game.
    There have been many articles of late that focus on the problems faced by golf clubs with regards to decreasing memberships and the time taken to play the game because of ever decreasing ‘free’ leisure time. With that in mind, there’s no way I can logically see the average club golfer being able to spend more time practising when they’re struggling to find the time to play in the first place.
    I do believe that quality practice is more beneficial but is never the same as actually playing the game. There are enough video’s, articles and books out there showing the way to the ‘perfect’ swing so, in theory, handicaps should be much lower since the metal drivers and the modern golf ball came onto the scene.
    I honestly believe the greatest improvement the average golfer can make is in the quality of his mental and short game rather than always seeking to bomb it like Dustin Johnson and co, which only proves the power of advertising.

    Reply to this comment
  5. stephen January 4, 14:42

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with this idea. The beauty of the game of golf is that amateurs and professionals can play alongside each other using the same rules and equipment. By having two sets of rules and allowing amateurs access to better club/ball technology, the game instantly becomes less relatable, particularly to the younger generation who are the ones the game should be looking to attract.
    Arguably, increasing handicaps shows that golf is being played by a wider range of people of varying abilities indicating a broader appeal of the game to the general population. The technology already exists to assist almost everyone to hit the ball further and straighter but it’s only useful if you practice. Surely the best way of halting the increase in handicaps is to encourage more golfers (and non-golfers) to have lessons and play more often.

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