USGA, R&A chiefs differ on success of new rules rollout

February 28, 2019

The revised Rules of Golf have been heavily scrutinized since their rollout on Jan. 1, 2019, and it appears the game’s most prominent leaders have contradicting opinions on their success thus far.

“I think it’s fair to say that it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked, but this is a big change,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers on Tuesday. “It is a change to the game, and having spent most of my life working in change projects in various different parts of the world, it’s not unexpected that we were going to have some difficulties.”

USGA CEO Mike Davis, however, had a different view. Speaking at the State of the Association at the USGA Annual Meeting in San Antonio on Saturday, Davis said, “From my perspective, I would say by and large they’ve been a huge success. They did exactly what we wanted them to do, which was really simplify the understanding and make them easier to apply.”

Mike Davis speaks to the media at the 2018 U.S. Open.
Mike Davis speaks to the media at the 2018 U.S. Open.
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Yet on Wednesday at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas became the most recent pro to speak out against the changes. He was blunt, calling the new rules changes “terrible.”

“Pretty much all of them seemed like they didn’t better the game, to me,” Thomas told GOLF.com. “I mean, the ball-dropping thing is weird, it doesn’t make sense. The tapping spike marks thing down — I understand that, but I think it’s a great amateur rule. I just think as a whole they just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

The new knee-high drop rule was criticized by Rickie Fowler last week at the WGC-Mexico Championship, and another rules change, which had to do with caddie alignment, was tweaked earlier this month after several instances of its interpretation came under fire.