Spring 2019

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84 SPRING 2019 | NCGA.ORG Knee Deep Into the New Rules A closer look behind the new knee height drop and why it makes sense BY RYAN FARB R U L E S O F G O L F W ell, the Rules of Golf certainly know how to make an entrance. The fir st few months have been a cacophony of issues, including problems that need to be resolved, Rule reversal by clarification and absolutely no shortage of player whining. However, as we look past the visible Tour issues—some concocted and some worthy of further review—the new Rules of Golf have actually been successful in a majority of the governing bodies' stated goals. For starters, they quicken pace of play, are easier to understand (in most cases) and more players are following the Rules because they make more sense to the common player. Part of the issue at the highest levels is that some of the changes only make sense once you take the time to understand why the change was made. So let's look at one of the most volatile issues and discuss the reason behind dropping from knee height. Ever since the first tournament in January at Kapalua, players have railed on the new dropping height, culminating with Rickie Fowler making fun of the possibilities in a rather vulgar, yet comical way at the Honda Classic in late February. First, let's agree that dropping from knee height is not hard. If you can set up to a wedge shot, you can reach down a few more inches to drop from knee height. How many times do you reach down to either tee up a ball or pick a ball out of a hole during a round? And if you know where your knee is when you are standing up, you know the height from which you need to drop the ball. But many have asked, "Why not knee height or higher?" Tha t's where the full overhaul comes into play. Let's pass over the obvious reason that we don't want players to be able to vary the height of their drop based on what suits their needs. If we allowed variable drop heights (something that was initially proposed), a player could lower the height when they want the ball to stay on a specific spot or raise the height when they're hoping the ball will leave the relief area. That defeats the purpose of dropping which is to retain the randomness of where the ball will end up. So moving on to one of the major changes: that a player will always drop a ball into a relief area. With the exception of Lateral relief for an Unplayable Ball or Red Penalty Area, all relief areas have a one club-length radius, and the new requirement is that the ball must stay in the relief area. The old Rule allo wed the ball to roll up to two club-lengths from where it struck the ground. So in order to increase the chance the ball will stay in the relief area, the Rules had to lower the dropping height to a point that limited the amount of bounce a dropped ball would have. One might argue that waist height should be OK, but the governing bodies wanted a drop height low enough to assist in two other scenar- ios: dropping in a bunker and dropping in wet conditions when a ball might embed. If you raise the height, the requirement to drop in a bunker seems a bit harsher than need be. Dropping from knee height should prevent a ball from settling into the sand. The same idea goes for a potential embedded ball. The new Rules do not consider a ball that has embedded from a drop to be embedded. The Rules can be written in this manner because the drop height has been lowered to knee height. If you drop a ball from knee height and it embeds, you likely are playing in conditions that warrant preferred lies, an abnormal course condition declaration or a suspension of play. As you can see, the knee height drop was not an arbitrary choice by the governing bodies and actual tests were made to see the effect of various dropping heights. If you try, you can make the knee height drop look silly, but there is just no reason to do so. Hopefully, this fuller explanation of why the change was made will help you and other players appreciate what the new Rule is designed to achieve. Ryan Farb is the NCGA's Director of Rules and Competitions. AP Former AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am champ D.A. Points had to take a drop at the Honda Classic.

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