Column: When the rules of golf don’t make sense

Chilliwack Golf Club instructor Dick Whitlam says golfers can’t be treated like robots

The 46th annual ANA Inspiration tournament was played three weekends ago at the Mission Hills Country Club course in Rancho Mirage, CA.

The final round of the LPGA major was marred by a major rules dispute involving Lexi Thompson.

Playing in the final group and leading the field by three strokes, Thompson was informed, mid-round, about a rules infraction from the day before.

The infraction was pointed out by a viewer who called the LPGA, and Thompson was hit with a four stroke penalty.

In this situation, Lexi had about a one foot putt to make. At this level, players often mark any putt to make sure the ball is clean and line up the writing on the ball with the hole.

This is what Lexi did, but stop motion playback showed that when she replaced the ball it was one quarter to one half of an inch off of its original position.

We use a coin to mark a ball and in this case the coin looked like a quarter. I defy anyone to replace a ball in exactly, and I mean exactly, the same position as it was originally.

It is virtually impossible and quite frankly not important.

I have played a lot of golf and watched thousands of my fellow players mark their balls on a putting green. Believe me when I say, I don’t think 50 per cent are within a half inch of their original position.

A margin of error must be recognized. We are not GPS robots who can configure to the nearest one-millionth of an inch.

Normally an infraction means that the player has done something to gain an advantage. There was no advantage to this tiny change in placement and it was absolutely unintentional.

Lexi says so and I believe her 100 per cent. She is a journeyman top 10 player and above reproach.

That a viewer can actually call or text in a rules infraction is unique to golf. When viewers do call in, it is usually a microscopic rule infraction. Last year, Anna Nordqvist was penalized for being in a sand trap and touching the sand with her club on her backswing. You needed slow motion enhanced-playback to see her disturb a few grains of sand.

It decided the outcome of the women’s U.S. Open.

Golf’s rule book needs to include the phrases ‘within reason’ and ‘to the best of the player’s ability.’

We need to get back to playing the game with integrity, which means letting players decide if an infraction has occurred.

Stop the microscopic diagnosis of golf.

Dick Whitlam is a PGA of Canada golf instructor at the Chilliwack Golf Academy.

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