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Bernhard Langer earlier this year.
The Rules of Golf are a perpetual work in progress; in fact, the USGA and R&A recently announced a slew of rules changes that will be enacted on Jan. 1. Still, no matter how many tweaks the governing bodies make, the rules book will never be perfect in every golfer’s eyes. What edits would the best players in the world make to the laws of the game? We polled some of them. First up in this series: Bernhard Langer.
Langer’s beef is with Rule 9.1a, which states in part: “A player’s ball at rest on the course must be played as it lies, except when the Rules require or allow the player: ‘To play a ball from another place on the course…’”
In short: ball in a divot hole? Sorry, pal, you’re outta luck!
Surely you have found your own ball in such a predicament. There also are countless examples of pros in high-profile situations encountering the same misfortune.
Take Lee Westwood, who arrived on the 72nd hole at the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational trailing Bryson DeChambeau by one. Westwood needed a stellar drive for any chance at birdie on the long watery par-4 and delivered just that, splitting the fairway — only to see his ball tumble into a nasty divot hole. From there, Westwood hit his approach to 65 feet and two-putted for par and second place.
“Just gotta shrug it off and get on with it,” he later tweeted. “The game was never meant to be fair. That’s the mental challenge.”
But not all players feel the same way. Enter Langer!
“I think we should be dropping out of divots,” Langer told GOLF.com. “Divots are made by us.”
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Us, as in us humans. Why, Langer contends, should one golfer suffer for turf trauma left behind by another golfer?
“Sometimes you hit a beautiful tee shot down the middle of the fairway and you’re in a sand-filled divot, and it’s like hitting out of fairway bunker,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair. If you had a good shot, you should have a lie on grass.”
Basically, Langer is saying, he’d like to see divot holes treated as ground under repair, which they are not. (If they were, this situation is addressed by Rule 16.1a, which covers free relief from abnormal course condition, ground under repair being one of many different types.)
Fair or not, it’s unlikely Langer will get his way on his rule-tweak suggestion, no matter how many years his ageless game holds up. Playing the ball as it lies is one of the basic tenets of the game. It’s hard to imagine the rulesmakers altering this law anytime soon.
As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.
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