“Play the ball as it lies,play the course as you find it,and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf." — The R&A and the USGA

During my trip to St. Andrews, one of my stops was to the Old Tom Morris Golf Shop. This was where Morris and his son would greet golfers and craft the clubs for his patrons. The shop sits across the road from the 18th hole of St. Andrews and the venerable home of the R&A (Royal and Ancient), golf’s ruling body outside of the United States.

Walking around the store, it quickly became apparent that items were priced for the tourists that visited. I was ready to leave when a woman who worked at the shop engaged in conversation with my wife. It turns out this was the store manager.

This young lady was pleasant and totally into the history that permeated the surroundings. When I told her I wrote a weekly golf column, she became more deeply engaged. She started to show us items that were not visible to the casual visitor. During a recent shop renovation, a wooden locker with four clubs with the initials T.M. was discovered. At this point she began to give me some items that would be a reminder of my visit. One was a Book of Rules that her neighbors across the road published yearly.

I made a comment intending to bring some humor into my gift, but her reply made me realize this woman took the Rules of Golf very seriously. “Every player should know the rules and how to play according to them.”

When the first rules were put to paper in 1744, there were only 13 rules and sentences. Today, there are 215 pages in the rule book. All are important, but how often during a round do you encounter a situation where you or your partner look around and question what is the correct drop or penalty? If a player takes an incorrect drop, what is the penalty? If a ball hits a player after he hits the ball (player is in a bunker and the ball rolls back and strikes the player), how many strokes must he add to his score? What is the difference between a red and yellow hazard stake? What do I do if I play my competitors ball?

These are some of the situations we face during almost every round. The R&A, along with the USGA, is trying to streamline the game by making some of the more cumbersome rules “user friendly.” The new rules will also help speed the game along.

In 2019, a player can take a “knee high” drop. Currently, drops are from the shoulder. The original proposal was a drop from the height of the vegetation surrounding the ball.

There will be no penalty assessed if a ball accidentally moves on the green or a club accidentally touches the ground in a hazard. A ball that hits an unattended flag, while on the green, will likewise not incur a penalty.

There will be a differentiation between the recreational game that we play and that of the pro game. If a player hits a ball out of bounds, he currently must hit from the spot where he first hit. This is not so next year. In 2019, a player will get to drop a ball in an agreed-upon vicinity of where the original shot went out. This will continue to be a two-shot penalty, but time will be saved.

Also, if you are looking for a lost ball, you will need to quicken your ball-hawking skills. The current rule allows players to hunt for their traitorous sphere for five minutes. The new rule gives players only three minutes to find their lost ball.

Pro golfer and Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk might have summed up the changes when he said: “Happy to see the rules being simplified. This will make the game more enjoyable.”

I would agree with him, if everyone played by the rules. But often you will have a player take advantage of a situation. If this becomes the norm, it will be up to the players to police the game. The R&A and USGA still allow a player to call a penalty on a competitor. If this isn't done, the penalty will be on you.

CLUB NOTES

North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: The Champ of the Year round will be played this weekend. The four men and four women who captured the monthly events will face off to determine who gets the coveted parking spot through next season. Sunday, the Fall Member/Member will be played. Sept. 28-30 will see the members of NCCC play a Ryder Cup event. This competitive and fun tournament will start on the 28th, when members gather in the Ledgeview Grill to watch a draw for teams. Play will begin the next day.

Wentworth Golf Course, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: The 2018 Red Fox League has finished the season. Taking the top spot is the Shanks-A-Lot team. They were followed by Stan & Dan's, Pin Seekers, Divots and Drivers, Hale Merry's, Oak Lee Boy, and Khandahar's. The Second Annual Golf Shootout is scheduled for Sept. 19. The Fall Four-Ball will be played on Sept. 23. Sign up in the pro shop.

Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: After Week 2 of the Fall Don Ho League, the Jackson Six and the Six Styxx find themselves in first at -11. The Divot Kings are two strokes back. Individual honors went to Dennis Murphy, Chip Henry and Mary Hansel for long drive. Mary was also the sharpshooter, claiming closest to the pin. The Thursday Eagle League saw the team of Terry Fitzgerald, Nicki Lynn, Denis Lavoie, Mike Peloqin and Bill Earle take the top spot. Bill also claimed closest to the pin honors. The Phil Kelly Memorial Scramble is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 23, at 4 p.m. This is a nine-hole scramble for teams of six players. The cost is $20, with half of the money going to the local food pantry in Phil's name. Call the pro shop (603-383-9090) to sign up. PGA Pro Bob McGraw is offering a full swing clinic on Saturday from 10:30-11:30 a.m.. Bob will be covering the fundamentals for hitting irons and hybrids. The class is limited to six students, and the cost is $20 per student.

Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: The Men's and Women's Leagues have concluded their season. On the Men's side, it was Steve Wolner who took first place. He was followed by Denis Lavoie and Bob York, who tied for second. Tied for third were Dave Heffernan, Doug Beauregard and Steve Phillips. For the woman, it was Anne Lee Doig taking first place. She was followed by Sandy Glynn and Janice Andrews. Nine, Wine, and Dine continues every Sunday. For $59, you get nine holes of golf with a cart as well as a full glass of wine. Call the hotel to make a reservation (603-356-7100) and the pro shop to make a tee time (603-356-2140). The pro shop is offering 20 percent off Titleist and Callaway bags.

Lake Kezar Country Club, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-2462: The Annual Senior Open Tournament will be held Sept. 19. This event has a 9 a.m. shotgun start, and there are three divisions. The Sub-Seniors (64 and younger) play from the blue tees. The Senior Division (65-74) play from the white tees. The Super Seniors (75 and up) play from the red tees. This event is open to member and non-members. Call the pro shop to sign up. A reminder: The pro shop hours have changed to 8 a.m-6 p.m. If you are considering a 2019 membership at LKCC, you can pay now and play for the remainder of this season for free. This does not include cart rentals.

19th Hole: There have been some famous golf penalties. Roberto Di Vicenzo signing an incorrect scorecard at the 1968 Masters and Craig Stadler placing a towel on the ground to avoid getting his pants wet at Torrey Pines are a couple of the more memorable ones. Steve Elkington, who was playing an event in Sweden, hit his ball into a hazard but had to wait to hit his next shot. While waiting, he reached down and pulled a piece of grass to chew on. Elkington was in the hazard and was assessed a two-shot penalty for “moving a loose impediment.” Paul Azinger was disqualified when his caddie pulled a flag stick too early. Azinger's playing partner had chipped his ball to the green. The caddie pulled the flag before the ball had stopped rolling. The round continued, but when it was pointed out to Azinger, he had already signed his scorecard. A player is DQ'd for signing an incorrect scorecard. Golf is a tough game. Have a great weekend.

Joe Soraghan may be reached at joesoraghan@yahoo.com.

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