The scourge of golf - slow play - is being addressed by a number of prospective rule changes. The fact that there are changes proposed for thirty rules gives some indication of the plethora of rules and regulations in the game.
The aim of the amendments is to simplify and speed up play; there is no doubt that some will do exactly that, while the wisdom of others is questionable, to put it mildly.
The proposals are at the consultation stage at the moment but could become effective within two years.
The time allowed for searching for a ball will be reduced to three minutes. We are currently allowed five minutes or, in Stornoway, anything up to quarter of an hour, so this will be a welcome change. Also welcome is the proposal that any damage on a putting green can be repaired, dispensing with in-depth discussions as to what caused the damage. And, long overdue, there will be no penalty for hitting the flagstick in the hole from anywhere on the course, including the green.
Instead of waiting for the player furthest from the green to play first, golfers will be encouraged to play when they are ready.
There is no doubt that this will speed up matches but could result in human dynamos like John Fraser putting out and heading for the next tee while his playing partners are still trying to decide what club to use to reach the green.
For those of us allergic to sand, it will be possible to lift a ball from a bunker and drop it in line with the flag, incurring two penalty strokes. Unbelievable! It may not speed play but it could save golfers like Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and myself around half a dozen strokes in every round. Another similar wheeze is to allow local club committees to set a maximum score for holes in strokeplay competition, such as double par or triple bogey. I would suggest that we use par as the maximum score on each hole in Stornoway: that would dramatically accelerate play and have the added bonus that we would all be single handicap golfers within a year.
Probably most bizarre is the change to the rule on how to drop a ball.
Currently, the ball should be dropped with the arm extended at shoulder height; clearly, there is an advantage for the smaller golfer. However, we may soon be permitted to drop the ball from any height, although the recommendation is that the ball is dropped “from at least one inch above the ground or any growing thing or object”. The difference between “dropping” and “placing” is becoming more blurred with every reading of this rule amendment.
Moving swiftly from what might happen to what actually happened, it is a pleasure to confirm that the course in Stornoway was open last weekend and, despite deteriorating conditions, remained open until the last of the sodden and shivering competitors in the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League returned to the clubhouse.
Par was needed to earn a single point, the Blacks being the pick of four teams posting nett 46 and not just because they matched the lowest gross score of the day. Another seven teams carded nett 45 for five points apiece.
With a gross and nett total of 44, two under par, Andy Macdonald and Neil Rowlands picked up nine points for third place.
Birdies on the Avenue and Dardanelles made for an excellent start and the pair reached the halfway mark one under par. The inward half had only one birdie but, crucially, no bogey.
Two teams shared top spot on nett 43, each picking up fourteen points. John Cunningham and Scott Maciver were three over par after an average outward half, but notched birdies on the Glen and Redan in an impressive one under par return.
Kevin “Lava” Macleod and Norman Morrison are both impervious to rain and, as was demonstrated last Saturday, are completely unaffected by wind. A solid start of four par holes was almost undone by a double bogey on the Manor. Fortunately, Kevin and Norman were back on track in the inward half and were rewarded with their first handicap reduction of the campaign.
At the top of the overall league table, David and Michael Black have now drawn level with Donald and DJ Macleod on 45 points. Five points behind, Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan share third place with Angus Innes and Lewis Mackenzie.