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. It seems to me that while equipment is regulated by the Rules of Golf, there is a difference in bifurcation of the “rules of play” and “rules of equipment”. Leave the rules of play as they are. If there need to be restrictions on equipment (for example, on the construction of balls) for pros, allow that to happen, rather than limiting the ball for all, and driving more amateurs away from the game.

  2. I play golf for recreation, so I don’t pay much attention to the rules. I seldom keep score, only when I play my sons or grandchildren. I pickup when I feel like and I move at a good pace. The rules promulgated by the USGA and PGA do not mean much to me, except where they limit my ability to enjoy the game. For me, at 77 years of age, hitting the ball longer makes me enjoy the game more. Making more putts makes the game more enjoyable. I am aware of the basic rule of physics, e=mc squared, and that alone limits my ability to hot the ball a long ways,A 70 mph swing is a 70 mph swing. But I resent any silly rule that does not allow me to use a club that might increase the effect of that 70 mph swing. I use a conventional putter, but if I really thought the belly putter would make me sink more putts I would use one. Tell the USGA and the PGA to go fly a kite and leave us recreational golfers alone.

    • For “Brian B Torsney Sr”

      I play by THE rules but that does not mean you have to do anything other than what you presently do to enjoy this game. Try to remember the ruling bodies are NOT outlawing the long putter. This suggested change is NOT a long putter ban.
      You fall into the category of the other 99% of us who are not making a living but playing social golf. The difficulty comes in when you and your other 99% play in club events or local charitable events. What rules does the average participant use to allow the competition to be played on even footing ?
      If everyone does what they want rather than all follow the same rules it is not a golf tournament it is a phrase !

      • I don’t play in club events or charitable events; they are competitive in nature. I quit being compeitive in sports when I could no longer touch the rim in basketball.. I play for the limited exercise and for fun..

  3. The USGA must consider ALL golfers, not just the elite when they propose rules. The issue is that they haven’t done that in the past- why are you hopeful that they will in the future and if not, what then? I am considering a grass roots movement at the club level to have our green committees poll the membership, then formulate an opinion and forward that to the USGA. The USGA relies heavily on their member clubs and this could be one way to get their attention. Anchoring, grooves and COR are 3 issues that come to mind.

  4. I don’t understand what the USGA and the R&A are doing , writing rules for the professional tours. They are elected and funded by amateur golfers. Therefore, they should write the rules for the none professionals. If the pro tours wish to write local rules, supplementing or over-riding these rules, then let them do so at their peril. As Harvey Penick is supposed to have said , ” If you are not playing by the rules of golf, I don’t know what game you are playing, but its not golf.”
    Menno Martens,

  5. Yes I agree, let’s bifurcate the rules so that the game is easier for golfers who can’t play by the rules…

    The dumbing down of America continues.

  6. Frank
    While we have some differences from tour to tour, they usually come under the provisions of a local rule and this practice should never change.
    From personal experience through refereeing I find that many adults and seniors who think they know the rules really don’t and to create two sets of rules would only cause greater confusion. When we talk about .people confused about the rules we should of course add the media, club pros and many touring pros.
    Every four years when it’s time to be recertified with the new and revised code the PGA-USGA sessions have many club pros who are required to attend but the exam is optional. I think the ruling bodies should insist that a passing grade be obtained by all club and touring pros and then maybe our younger participants will get the message and study the rules. We would be well served to have our TV folks certified or forbidden to express rules opinions.
    I have read posts that make reference to The Rules and plain language, well let me give them a hint or two to help.

    1) Read and understand the section near the front of the book.
    “How to use this book”.
    2) Commit to memory the definitions.
    3) Fully understand the words may, should, must, a ball & the ball
    4) The Rules of Golf book means what it says

    This will give them a better understanding of the rules and a better level of enjoyment when playing .
    It has been my experience that the player who possesses a very good knowledge
    of the rules has an advantage over someone who doesn’t have that knowledge.

  7. I resigned from the USGA after the U-groove rule. I have been playing for 40yrs and very few golfers know even the simple rules. ex: Where do I tee up? Let the big boys have their rules. The Dewsweepers I joined just recently, MAKE their own.

  8. While I accept your arguments against bifurcation I feel the governing bodies have not considered all golfers when making the rules. Some things like playing from a divot in the fairway or hitting from someones carelessly unraked footprint in a bunker come to mind. Professional and elite amateurs play on manicured courses that are immaculately maintained, most of us do not. If we are all to abide by the same rules, should not the playing fields be equal? The rules of golf already allow for some bifurcation when a course implements “Local Rules” for existing course conditions. The Rules of Golf need to be simplified and some logic applied to them.

  9. You are 100% correct. We should all play by the same rules every time we play. If we agree to modify those rules for the day under local rules our selves that is our personal choice. Things like lift, clean and place due to weather or preferred lies when we aerate the fairways are within the local rules.

  10. Frank, I have been all for bifurcation since the talk of and inception of the groove rule several seasons ago. Just because the pro’s bomb & gouge please don’t ask an amateur golfer to suffer when his ball skitters off the green. Again with the long putters, many more amateurs use them than pro’s. With the backdrop of a decreasing number of golfers each year, shouldn’t the USGA be making the game easier? When to make the change? Simple, when a person plays professionally. This comes from a 3-5 hdcp player who plays in many State events and other Championship Flight events. I have never wielded a long putter, nor will I. Your caveats a) and b) have not been happening and will not happen, so your theory is in a dream world. I am all for bifurcation now!
    Thanks, Jeff Jones
    Huntley, WY.

  11. Frank, I like the points you make in general – but it is not true that we all play the same game (some examples):
    1) Amateurs can play with different square groove wedges than professionals until 2024 at least
    2) We do not play the same T’s as professionals (T forward America)
    3) We certainly do not play on the same greens as professionals (their greens are much faster)
    4) Amateurs and Senior tour players may use carts during competitions.

    I think these examples highlights that it is possible to have different rules for average golfer for ‘the good of the game’. I agree that we all should play the ball as it lies but the proposed ban on ‘anchoring’ makes no sense at all.

    My 2 cents…

    • Also agree.
      Tour Rules allow moving stones in bunkers; we can only do it if the club puts a Local Rule into place.
      Tours allow embedded ball thru the green, again clubs have to put it into the Local Rules.
      You can’t practice putting on the course during a round on Tour, we can.
      Etc, etc, there’s a few more.

  12. There is a very good article in the Jan 25th issue of Golf Week magazine titled: The Case for Unification by Wally Uihlein, CEO Acushnet Company. After reading your ideas and his, I have been won over to the “one set of rules” camp. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. Sao many do not know the rules, and so many do not understand the rules. Whichmay be the reason so many do not know the rules. To much “courtroom language” used to describe an event KISS is best. A re-write from legaleze to common mans language would do wonders. Golf Courses to post a synopsis of the particular rule near the event would remind players of the proper conduct to get past the problem. Such as Bunker Hazard rule number 13-4 do not ground the club 24-1 ok to remove stones

  14. I agree 100%. There should only be one set of rules for everbody. Bifurcation would diminish the effectiveness of the rules and add to the confusion of which set of rules to apply in competition. We amateurs have enough trouble appyling the rules as it is now. Personally I want to play by the same rules as the pros as it gives me a better appreciation of their abilities.

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