Dan Reardon

I have walked in the pro shop of the Golf Courses at Forest Park dozens of times and seen the cardboard cut out of Charlie Rymer without ever taking the time to see what he was selling. I assumed it was an equipment endorsement of some sort. The other day I was in the shop a little longer and walked across the room to see what the accompanying text said.

Now you have to understand, while I play golf with an unsurpassed love and admiration of the game, and pour through transcripts of player interviews week after week, I am not an addict of the Golf Channel, the 24/7 cable ‘pusher’ of the game. I am sure that there is much value to be found somewhere in the non-stop pedaling of golf information. I just don’t care to take the time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So when I read the “Relaxed Rules of Golf” on the sign next to Rymer it was a discovery for me. I didn’t realize that the Eagle Golf endorsement of Rymer’s Rules was a year old campaign to make the game more enjoyable for the masses.

If you are like me and hadn’t been exposed to the Golf Channel campaign, here are the suggested changes:

For all who play golf just to have fun, we offer 7 rules to govern all play.

1. MAXIMUM SCORE Double par (i.e., 6 on par-3s, 8 on par-4s, 10 on par-5s).
2. PENALTIES All are 1 stroke, including out-of-bounds, water and lateral hazards, lost balls and unplayable lies. Drop a ball near where the original was lost and play on.
3. SEARCH TIME Two minutes to look for your ball. If lost, proceed under Rule 2.
4. UNFORTUNATE LIES With your playing partners’ consent, balls may be dropped out of divots or footprints, away from tree roots and any other dangerous lies.
5. CONCEDED PUTTS Putts may be conceded with your playing partners’ consent.
6. EQUIPMENT No restrictions, including number of clubs.
7. COMMON SENSE When in doubt, use common sense and fairness.

Over the years, Director of Golf Operations at the Park, Jeff Raffelson and I had talked about various fledgling movements n the game to make it more user friendly. From Play it Forward to Play Nine to Green is not necessarily Good to oversized cups for entry level golfers I had asked Raffelson’s perspective on such ideas.

Jeff is a business pragmatic when it comes to the game and his parent company has been vocal at times about solutions to “what’s wrong with golf” being tried. He runs one of the most vibrant operations in the area, and his customers represent a cross section of where real golf resides. Good and bad, the Park is where the people’s game is played, and the Rymer Relaxed Rules stanchion, I suspect are not an assault of the Rules of Golf legislated by the USGA and current President, St. Louisan Tom O’Toole as much as they are an appendix to the conditions of play.

Without trying to split the baby in the divide between the O’Toole way and the Raffelson way permit me to react briefly to the Rymer way.
Double Par – I have often told the story of two beginning high school golfers looking out the window at a cold and blustery two hours of a golf match they were preparing to play. When they learned that “double par” was the policy in place, they realized they could do no better with actual play and filled out their cards, signed them and left. By contrast, in the recent high school district in which my team participated there were 44 holes posted with totals of ten shots or better recorded. There must be a happy medium.
Penalties – It would not surprise me, although it sounds like a level of heresy demanding excommunication from the game, if the ‘stroke and distance’ rule bit the dust somewhere in the future. At the course my team frequents, Eagle Springs, Tim Davenport has conserved on the number of white stakes he has pounded into the ground and striped the tree line around the course with red paint. Tim is not looking for a schism with the rules, just an accommodation to mitigate players circling back to their last shots.
Search Time – Whether the USGA five or the Rymer two is irrelevant. The time a player will spend on their Easter Egg hunt for the ball is directly proportional to the quality of the ProV1/Range ball they launched into the wilderness.
Unfortunate Lies – In July and August in St. Louis, recreational golfers apply ‘winter rules.’ Roll it over is a branch religion for many in the game.
Conceded Putts – “Inside the Leather” went to the way side when rubber grips became the norm. It’s not the number of putts one plays before finding the bottom of the cup. It’s the time spent over them each of them. Don’t circle the hole like it’s a rattlesnake waiting to strike. If you can’t see the tilt of the green when you walk up to your ball, mall walking the putting surface in searching for the break is beyond your grasp
Equipment – My first rule is a Miss America rule. If the club is ugly, it should be outlawed. Putter heads that look like mock-ups of the Starship Enterprise should be banned at the same time the anchoring rule goes into effect. The fourteen-club limit for players who walk, (there still are some that do) is not an impediment. It’s an enforced diet.
Common Sense – The same people who wrote the Rules of Golf authored the US tax code for the IRS. Any paragraph that employs the phrase “nearest point of relief no closer to the hole” is too convoluted to be applied in an industrial golf league. Someone once suggested a two rules approach to golf. If you find it, play it. If you can’t find it or play it, drop and add a stroke.

I don’t know if the Rymer movement has caught on and really don’t object if it has. I do think the people you are courting with relaxed rules will eventually find the game to difficult or frustrating and confine their golf careers to game consoles.

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