A New Rule to Make Golf Better


The USGA has formed a committee to review and greatly simplify all of the Rules of Golf. They have already held meetings and hope to introduce a first draft of this work next year.

It’s about time. The game is too slow, too hard and there are too many rules. The Rules of Golf should be as minimal as possible, without dashes and A/B/Cs.

Since this review is already in process, I beseech the USGA to go one step further. I suggest a fundamental shift in the nature of scoring that helps the game in general, without changing golf’s core. To help people love golf more. To make the game faster. To increase player enjoyment and even grow the game.

(No, not that silly bifurcation nonsense. Everyone should play real golf under the same rules. Stop with that, already.)

My new 2017 USGA Rule suggestion is this:

Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey
Once a player hits a shot in an attempt to make a score of bogey, if that shot is not holed the player must immediately pick up the ball. A score of double-bogey is officially recorded for that hole, and the hole is finished for that player. The player may not hit another shot until the tee of the next hole. Failure to pick up at double-bogey or to strike another shot on the hole after making bogey is grounds for immediate disqualification.

Now, this rule already applies generally to the USGA handicap process: a player can only record a double-bogey on any hole so a handicap can’t be padded. But let’s go further! ‘Double-bogey max’ should be changed to a MANDATORY RULE that applies to ALL events and ALL players, from beginners right up to the pros competing on the PGA Tour!

[ADDENDUM: for casual rounds, the Rule applies to all holes. But for tournament competitions, the rule applies only to the first 17 holes; the 18th hole must be played out counting all strokes. This tournament condition shall be known as the ‘Jean Van de Velde Rule‘ — a great suggestion courtesy of George Smiltins.]

Here’s why making A RULE for picking up your ball at double-bogey makes sense:

1. IT SPEEDS UP GOLF FOR EVERYONE. The biggest flaw in the design of the game is that the slowest player on the course sets the pace for every other player behind him. This frustrating reality is killing the game as it stands. But it can be fixed somewhat with our new Rule, as a player MUST pick up after too many whacks. (This new Rule will not stop the double-plumb-bobber or the lazy slug who won’t get his ass out of the cart until he is driven to his ball; we must fix those slow play issues with cattle prods and name-calling. But the new Rule will prevent a slow player from double-plumb-bobbing a putt for an 8.)

2. IT FORCES PLAYERS TO HIT FROM TEES THAT SUIT THEIR GAME. Too many hackers with pea-shooter games head to the back tees. Or they choose to play a golf course too difficult for their skill level. If the Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey Rule is put into play and enforced, then after a few rounds players will realize they are picking up hole-after-hole instead of putting out. Eventually, those players will move up to the tee box (or play the golf course) that better fits their game. And once they do, they will finish more holes with a ball hitting the bottom of the cup instead of the bottom of their pocket.

3. IT MAKES TOURNAMENT GOLF MORE EXCITING. “But wait,” Mr. Skeptic harrumphs, “you couldn’t possibly implement this kind of rule on the PGA Tour or in other top-level competitions; stroke play requires every hole to be finished no matter how high the score.” To which I respond, “Why? Do you enjoy crushing the human spirit?” Rules are changed all the time. One bad hole should not remove a player from having any chance to win a golf tournament with a spectacular comeback. Look, a double-bogey or worse on the PGA Tour is already disastrous. It’s near impossible to win if you’ve made a double, and it IS impossible if you’ve made two or more doubles. So why not make double-bogey the worst score that can be recorded and give every player a tiny glimmer of hope? (On the amateur side, this glimmer of hope is even more critical — nothing in amateur tournament golf is harder to swallow than making a 10 on the first hole then having to play the next 17 with absolutely no chance to win.)

4. THE RULE CAN APPLY TO STROKE PLAY, MATCH PLAY, STABLEFORD AND HANDICAPS. No other Rules of Competition need to be revised to make this new Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey Rule a reality. It’s administratively friendly!

5. MORE PEOPLE MIGHT PLAY GOLF IF IT DOESN’T TAKE 5 HOURS. Cost and time are the two primary reasons golf is in decline. The Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey Rule clearly helps speed up play. And it might also help out with the cost issue, too — a bad player will only lose one ball per hole instead of two or three.

6. IF THE PROS DO IT, AMATEURS WILL DO IT. No amateur ever wore a white belt until the pros on the PGA Tour wore white belts. So if the pros play every day under the Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey Rule, then so will the rest of the cool kids.

7. NO OTHER SPORT IS THIS NASTY. Why is golf the only sport that makes one mistake so potentially cataclysmic? A double-bogey is a punishing score in and of itself. Only a masochist needs to see an even bigger number on a score card than that.

Look, I joke a bit here but this topic is dead serious. This rule is a simple way to make the game more fun and less slow for everybody.

There is no reason to make someone who just pumped two balls out of bounds to feel even worse about the game of golf.

So let’s limit a player’s pain, give him a chance to overcome some mis-hits, speed up play for everyone, and make a few more comeback-win stories possible.

Officially implement the Completion of Hole at Double-Bogey Rule and make the game of golf better in 2018.



  1. Avatar
    December 19, 2016

    I have to disagree with you on this one Al. You usually have great ideas when it comes to making the game of golf better but this won’t. For those of us that play tournament golf I believe it will give the individuals that set up the course the opportunity to make it play unfair because the worst anyone could make is a double bogey. That would mean holes placed on slopes, edges, etc… Every event would play like the Chippy Champ used to. There are other, more sensible ways to fix slow play.

    • Allen Freeman
      December 19, 2016

      As they say on TV court dramas: “Objection, facts not in evidence.”

      Sorry, but I don’t see why a course owner would suddenly decide to set up a course unfairly because a rules change makes double-bogey the max score. Why? If the entire point of the new rule is to make the game play faster every day (not just tournaments!), why would the owner work against a rule that helps make them more money and enhance the customer experience?

      Also, you say there are other more sensible ways to fix slow play. What are they? Because so far, none of those other ways are working…

      • Avatar
        December 19, 2016

        I do not play very many casual rounds so I’m only referring to competition, so all my statements only reflect that. There is no fun in picking up your ball at any point on a hole no matter what your score is, so people will not want to do that and if it’s made a rule people won’t play, like me. Slow play needs to be penalized, it never is. No one wants to be the bad guy. If they would do it on the PGA tour people would notice and maybe change the way they play.

  2. Avatar
    December 7, 2016

    What’s next … two strikes and you’re out in baseball?

    • Allen Freeman
      January 5, 2017

      A ‘two strikes’ comparison is not analogous. The baseball comparison would be the ‘mercy rule’ used in many youth leagues, like 10 runs max in any half-inning at-bat…

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