Rules Bifurcation?

“The R&A and USGA continue to believe that the retention of one set of rules for all players of the game, irrespective of ability, is one of golf’s greatest strengths.” (Joint Statement of Principles adopted by the USGA and R&A in 2002)

I have some frank feelings – which is not unusual — regarding bifurcation, about which I will opine in a more extensive article sometime in the future.

The major points in my opinion are:

• Even though golfers at large do not apply the rules all the time — in many cases because they don’t know the rules or choose to modify them – this misapplication will not fracture the integrity of the game.

• The cause of the misapplication may be ours, in not promoting the importance of the rules — which lend order to our game — more effectively.

• Bifurcation is impractical in its application as to when we apply each set of rules. We (golfers of all abilities) in some instances play on the same course at the same time.

• We progress in many cases from beginner, to mediocre, to good, and in some cases on to elite golfers but still play with each other, at club, local, state, and onto national events, so when do we make the switch back and forth between sets of rules as we continue to participate with others at all levels?

• A single set of rules is not only practical but is the one thing that makes golf unique.

• There will be less talk about “Bifurcation” if:
a) The guardians of the game honestly and proportionally consider all golfers, especially when it comes to modifying, introducing and promulgating the rules of golf
b) Course architects do the same thing when designing golf courses.

Golf is more than 500 years old and when it was decided to formally consolidate and document the rules in 1744 the game was made whole and became one for all to enjoy.

Please let us know how you feel about formal bifurcation of the Rules of Golf by replying below.

32 thoughts on “Rules Bifurcation?

  1. The basic issue now seems to be the ball. A limitation on the maximum velocity would take care of the issue. Our amateur balls would remain the same – we need all the help we can get. On the other hand, if a tour player with huge clubhead speed hits a ball that compresses too easily it will mush and lose velocity. Or make the tour ball more prone to side spin so shot making comes back into play.

  2. We already have all the appropriate “bifurcation” that we need. It is entailed in the GHIN system. We can play, compete or simply enjoy the game and all can play by the same rules automatically adjusted for playing different tees, course ratings and slopes. If we play for the love of the game and value it traditions, we should not get too hung up on some equipment issues. Just play by the rules and the allowed equipment as stated.

    I do agree that the current rules could be better communicated and simplified.

  3. The rule that I hope they never change is the size of the hole. I would hate to get my first ace on a course with “big” holes. It would forever be tainted. It feels great to sink a 50 foot putt with my Frog into a standard hole. If the hole was bigger, my enjoyment would be greatly diminished.

  4. Regarding Mike Reed’ comment, having different rules for amateurs and professionals need not be complicated and confusing. Different rules for amateur and professional play apply in baseball, basketball and football with no confusion.
    Also I would call attention to the fact that in golf itself the “founders” themselves couldn’t agree on one set of rules for many years. For years the USGA and the R&A versions differed.

    • Two sets of rules would be easy to apply. If you play for pay one set, if not another set. This would draw that line between local, state, and national amateur tournaments and any professional tournaments. Why should amateurs have to play by the same set of rules as pros when so many of the rule changes are due to what the pros are doing. that is grooves, drivers, longer balls, etc. we want to be able to hit it as far as humanly possible so why limit us. We also need some common sense applied to the rules such as OB, play it as a lateral water hazard and move on (pace of play). Golfballman

  5. There are many groupings of golfers that can be imagined. Having separate rules for different groups can be very confusing and unduly complicated.

    One set of rules for all golfers is the only way to go. It is the way the founders wanted it!!

  6. I think that there should be one set of rules. That said, rules made that really only apply to the pros should be removed.. There are enough ridiculous rules in the book that need to Striking a reed on a backswing in a hazard penalty. A club striking a ball a second time in the process of the stroke. How does that help a golfer? That should be the measure of the rules. Does the golfer get an unfair advantage from some action? If not that rule should be deleted or changed.

  7. Niblick makes some sense. Bifurcation of the rules of play will indeed tarnish the tradition of golf. Making more stringent/punitive rules for professionals–no anchoring, no square grooves, a deadened ball, only 10 clubs, no lasers or gps devices–reflects the reality of professional vs amateur. There’s the right fork in this road!

  8. If you play tournaments at different venues, then a single set of rules for both equipment and play, with local modifications as required, makes the most sense. If you are playing quarter skins with you buddies on the weekend, then your group is your own local committee and can modify the rules as you see fit, as long as it doesn’t destroy the course or interfere with other golfers. Most of the people I play golf with don’t really know the rules of golf, but they still enjoy playing, which is the whole point for most of them.

  9. I dropped my USGA membersip for 2013 because of the new anchoring rules/ It’s silly to change something that’s been in effect for over 40 years. Change some rules like to out of bounds rule (make it one from where it went out and take one stroke), move it from a divot – no charge.

    • These 2 suggestions will also speed up play, what I believe is the biggest impediment to enjoying & growing the game. Also, I would add lost balls to the 1 stroke & drop.

  10. personally at 66 I do what you want as rules go The walk and friendships I make are the game Do what you want but enjoy the outing. agolfer

  11. I was ticked-off when the flap over groove specs happened, and only reluctantly renewed my USGA membership. However, this latest dust-up over anchoring / long putters looks to me like the US gov’t.’s approach to illegal immigration. Too little and way too late. Therefore, from now on, their mail will go straight to the recycle bin. Hate to say this next part, but, if a “ruling body” truly seeks to rule, it needs to be almost as definitive in its policies and ruthless in enforcement of them as the Third Reich, else it is simply a noodle waving in the current of the spoon in the soup.

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