COMMENTARY | What level of influence should outsiders have on how a sport is governed? It would appear a great deal, if we're talking about the Rules of Golf at least.
As has been reported on numerous sites over the past week, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) have unveiled a grocery list of rule updates and decisions to become effective on January 1, 2014.
The one that is getting the most attention -- and rightfully so -- is Decision 18.4, which decrees movement on a golf ball that cannot be seen by the naked eye will not result in a two-stroke penalty.
In other words, as FoxSports.com Robert Lusetich puts it, "integrity trumps technology."
The knee-jerk reaction to this specific update is to suggest its implementation is the result of a high-profile rules snafu during the BMW Championship in September. I'll admit, it was my immediate reaction (I'm still not convinced otherwise, truth be told). However, many folks have informed me that this decision was in its sixth draft before the governing bodies' announcement. Fair enough.
What I find most interesting about this rule is its aura of reactivity and focus on an outside influence. It is directly addressing the viewing public, even if by way of high-definition television.
In other words, this decision was made because of golf fans.
We all know where golf came from. We constantly remind one another that it is a gentleman's game that preaches integrity, honesty and personal accountability. Those arguments hold true, but this is the first time a rule has been amended as a direct result of opinions expressed by people who have absolutely no impact on how the game is played.
Well, used to have no impact, I suppose.
This presents a scary time for golf's governing bodies. I understand that as times change so must the games we play to entertain ourselves, but to what end? Will the USGA and R&A have to continuously edit the rulebook to account for future advancements in technology or social communication? Where do the USGA and R&A draw the line?
What happened to simply sticking to the rules we all learned long ago?
While players and fans are more worried about how golf equipment advancements are changing the way golf is played -- even to the point of decimating historic golf course layouts -- they are overlooking the true danger of new rules altering the essence of the game itself.
Of course, I cannot be so naive to suggest that the rules of golf should revert back to "the good old days" when players were trusted to referee themselves and no questions were asked. At some point, however, those responsible for the enforcement of golf's rules will have to plant a stake in the ground.
Otherwise, the game we play tomorrow might look nothing like the one we once knew.
Adam Fonseca has covered professional golf since 2005. He is also the Staff Writer for the Back9Network. Follow Adam on Twitter at @chicagoduffer.
- Sports & Recreation
- United States Golf Association