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Golfer Justin Thomas of the United States plays his shot

OPINION: New USGA Rules Cause Problems For Pro Golfers

With the multiple new rules of golf implemented in 2019, the USGA has recently been the subject of many negative comments made by players. The many rules changes that came in 2019 were supposed to alter the game in a way that conformed and catered more toward the average golfer and simplified the game. However, there have been some unforeseen negative effects.

As a child, I grew up learning the rules of golf and became more knowledgeable as I played in numerous junior tournaments and high school tournaments. Just as I learned the rules of golf, so did my competitors. The rules of golf, at first glance to the average person, may seem relatively simple; however, in a game where every stroke is valuable, things can become quite complicated. Thus, it can take years for a player to develop a strong understanding of the rules. However, even after years of experience, players tend to make a mistake from time to time that may or may not cost the player additional penalty strokes. Thus, this is a big deal to competitors and stresses the importance of knowing the rules.

Just as any junior or collegiate golfer does, professional golfers on the PGA Tour make mistakes as well, just not as often. However, with several new rule changes, it has proven to be difficult for professional players in particular to remember all of the new rules. For example, on Feb. 28 during the first round of the 2019 Honda Classic, Justin Thomas struck his 9-iron against a tree on the 10th hole and was displeased when he realized that he could not replace the club due to a 2019 rule change. As a result, Thomas had to finish the rest of the round without a 9-iron. Furthermore, in the same tournament, professional Alex Cejka was using a yardage book from previous years with green diagrams to read a putt. A competitor noticed his yardage book had diagrams that were larger than what the new rules allowed for, notified an official and Cejka made history as the first player to ever be disqualified from a tournament for violating a new rule that limited green reading materials. Even more popularly, at the 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship on Feb. 22, Rickie Fowler was found in violation of the new rules and was issued a one-stroke penalty after dropping his ball back into play from shoulder height, rather than from knee height.

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It is clear that the new rules of golf have caused a number of problems for competitive golfers. As a current collegiate golfer, I have felt the negative effects of the new rules myself and have incurred my fair share of penalty strokes as a result. However, I can see both sides of the argument for the players and the USGA. I can understand the USGA trying to simplify the game, but I do not feel it was done with the best approach. As for the players, I absolutely agree with their comments expressing their dislike for the new rules, as the radical changes and addition of nearly nine new rules is a bit much for players to handle at one time. I believe it will be interesting to see what new rule violations occur in the weeks to come on the PGA Tour.

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Written by John Gooden

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