The New Rules of Golf – Old Habits Die Hard!

The New Rules of Golf - Old Habits Die Hard!
The New Rules of Golf - Old Habits Die Hard!

Rickie Fowler was a victim of golf’s new rules last month when he failed to take a proper drop from knee height during the second round of the WGC-Mexico Championship

On his first hole of the day, the par-4 10th at Club de Golf Chapultepec, Fowler shanked his second shot out of bounds, meaning he needed to drop from the same place. It appeared Fowler instinctively dropped from shoulder height, then hit the ball on the green and two-putted for a 6. Rickie Fowler instinctively and illegally dropped his ball from shoulder height (top) then showed his displeasure after incurring a penalty with a mock demonstration (bottom) of what a legal drop could look like! But the new rules that went into effect on Jan.

1 require a drop from knee height. Because Fowler did not correct the mistake — he is allowed to do so before playing the next shot, without penalty — he was assessed a one-stroke penalty. That changed his score of double-bogey 6 to a triplebogey 7. Fowler said he was unaware he had broken the rule until he got to the green and playing partner Patrick Reed told him there might be an issue. “Someone had told him that I had maybe dropped from shoulder height,’’ Fowler said after shooting 73.

“He mentioned that to me. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did.’ So, I mean, immediately there, there was nothing I could do. I know I didn’t drop properly, but just going through the natural kind of progression of what you do with the drop, that’s just what you’re used to.’’ While many of the new rules instituted this year were meant to make the game simpler, this has been a common source of irritation due to the awkward nature of the kneeheight drop and the fact that no advantage is gained from dropping at shoulder length. The specific rule is 14.3b, which says the ball must be dropped in the right way. Fowler said he had a drop earlier in the year when he was so aware of the new rule due to considerable discussion about it, and he was unlikely to forget.

But in the heat of the moment Friday — and after hitting a poor shot — he lapsed, quickly dropping, while his caddie, Joe Skovron, didn’t see what occurred. Later, Rory McIlroy also dropped from shoulder height, but he realised the mistake and corrected it before playing. According to the PGA Tour, this was the second such rules violation in 2019, with the first occurring at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

An essential part of the new Rule is dropping the ball in the correct way (Rule 14.3b), which entails the following criteria for taking relief: The player must drop (not place ) the ball in the relief area The ball must be dropped straight down from knee height without touching player or equipment before hitting the ground (see diagram 14.3b left) This change is intended to “ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop”.

The new procedure lowers the height from which the ball is dropped to increase the chance that it stays within the relief area. Requiring a player to drop a ball (as opposed to placing it) will retain the desired randomness about where the ball will end up. For example, the player has no guarantee that the ball will come to rest on a desired spot or in a good line. This is especially the case when a ball is dropped in more difficult conditions such as thick rough or longer grass.