Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Just leave it in!

Well, the West Virginia University Basketball Team continues to struggle mightily, and new WVU head football coach Neal Brown is busy shoring up, not only the final spots of 2019 recruiting class, but also the final three spots of his coaching staff. Since there is a week to go until football signing day and only a faint pulse detected from the basketball team, I’m going to offer a few comments on golf and a several of the new rules changes which came into effect on January 1.

I’ve long been an avid golfer, which in no way should be confused with being a good golfer, but the name of this column is an indicator that golf was on my mind when the moniker was conceived. Chip Shots was selected because in those days chips and pitches around the green was really my forte, which may be too strong of a word, but suffice it to say, was the best part of my game.

Somewhere in the last 10 years that short game strength has turned into, at times, the weakest part of my game; embarrassingly so at times. With an assist from Ben & Jerry a more apt name for this space might be Chunky Monkey, or even Chubby Hubby, though the latter isn’t a golf reference, but apt just the same.

So why is my lemon of a short game being discussed here?

Short answer is; I was trying to segue from WVU sports to golf, and it just happened. As my ambivalence toward golf seems to be on the rise, I was not paying close attention to the rules changes adopted by the United States Golf Association for 2019 and beyond. I knew of them and knew what most of them were, but I was still surprised when I tuned into a PGA Tour event a couple weeks ago and saw the pros putting on the green with the flagstick in the hole.

That’s a pretty big change, because previously the pin could not be in the hole if a ball were to be holed from the putting surface, or a one-stroke penalty was incurred. A player would either have the pin out of the hole, or have a caddie attend the pin so it could be pulled prior to the ball going in the hole.  The gist of the 2019 overhaul of the rules is to speed up play and I am an advocate of speeding up play.

The real problem, as I see it, is the mindset of those who are going to be slow players no matter how many rules are changed, but I digress. One rule that does target slow play in a more direct manner is cutting the time allowed to look for a lost ball from five minutes to three minutes. I’ve played with a few who will hate this rule, as they would routinely abuse the previous five-minute rule.

A visual rule change that has me shaking my head is the new drop procedure. Previously, a player would extend their arm and drop the ball from shoulder height when taking relief. Now the drop is from knee height. This method should increase the chances of getting a better lie from the drop, but it’s odd watching pros have to get in a ‘courtesy’ type position to get their hand to knee level.  Why change at all? Primarily to speed up play by increasing the chances your ball stays within the two-club-length drop area on the first try.

There are more changes to mention another day, but there is one rule I’ve always considered one of the most unfair in the game that could use a makeover. That’s when a ball hit beautifully by a player from a tee, or anywhere and comes to rest in a fairway divot. That’s one of those ‘rub of the green’ I’ve never been able to reconcile.