While working for the USGA, we became hardened to the cries (or whinings, as we viewed them somewhat snobbishly) to simplify the Rules of Golf. We believed and continue to believe that the current Rules of Golf are extremely well written and can be reasonably learned in depth by anyone willing to make the effort. (When someone would complain that the Rules are too complicated, we would often ask the person how many times he had read the Rules, and almost every time people admitted that they have never read the Rules of Golf. We therefore were quick to dismiss complaints of complexity as the result of laziness of golfers rather than as an actual shortcoming with the Rules.)
As the cries for simplification have increased, we decided to take a stab at rewriting the Rules of Golf to make them significantly more simple, if for no other reason than to satisfy our curiosity and perhaps to silence the critics. At the start of this project we believed that a likely result would be to learn that there is not actually much room for improvement and simplification and that, if anything, we would have an even greater respect for the current Rules.
To our surprise, we found that, once a few key philosophical compromises are made, there is significant room for simplification - and improvement. Simplification for simplification's sake is not a worthwhile goal. For example, there could be a rule stating that the penalty for a lost ball is disqualification. Such a rule would be simple and well understood, but it would be a bad rule.
When we were mid-way through our first draft, we learned from USGA President Glen Nager that the R&A and USGA were undertaking a similar project, looking at whether significant simplification of the Rules of Golf is in fact possible. After that conversation, we questioned whether our draft went far enough. We therefore decided to produce two versions - one (Code One) that is based on the current Rules of Golf and another (Code Two) that is dramatically different. We were not sure which we would prefer; today we have a preference for Code Two. We feature both versions on this site for completeness and because we imagine there could be a healthy debate as to which is preferred.
Some of the key points we discussed during this undertaking:
- Exceptions add complexity;
- Local Rules and conditions of competition add complexity and confusion;
- We should be more willing to accept the occasional terrible or great result if it would lead to a significantly simpler Rule that adequately addresses 99% of incidents; the Rules should not become bogged down to address the 1%;
- While not a primary aim of this project, any changes that would allow for a quicker pace of play would be welcomed;
- There are too many procedures for putting a ball into play (placing v. dropping; as near as possible v. with in one club-length v, within two club-lengths v. on a line);
- There are too many differences in the Rules for match play and stroke play; and
- There are too many differences in the treatment of different parts of the course.
We established this site to release the project and supporting documents in hopes of initiating serious discussion on the matter (see the Discussion Group). We would be flattered if this work can be of use to the R&A and USGA as they continue with their discussions. We will be most interested to see their conclusions.
Please note that we are not advocating bifurcation of the Rules. We strongly believe that bifurcation would be a terrible move. Our main goal has been the simplification of the Rules of Golf; having two separate sets of Rules would be perhaps the one act that would most complicate things again (in fact, make the Rules even more complicated than they are today). If people struggle with knowing one set of rules, imagine the chaos that would exist with two sets of rules. Bifurcation is in direct contrast to the noble and wise sentiments that brought the R&A and USGA together to produce the first uniform code for the entire golf world in 1952.
We look forward to the discussion.