If you are like me, the anticipation of the new golf season starts to cause a wee bit of an itch (nothing contagious) and thoughts turn to whether or not the clubs were cleaned properly on their last outing and have the water-proofs dried out after their last soaking?
The fixture list is uploaded into our calendars and more than a few hours have been spent on the range encouraging shoulders to turn. Indeed, now is about the time that all golfers (good, bad or indifferent) get excited to see daylight hours lengthen with the knowledge that they can once again return to the greens.
Truth be told, I had my first round of 2019 on the Eden Course two weeks ago. Nervous on the 1st tee, not knowing what to expect and overjoyed to see my ball fly off the middle of the club, split the fairway and end up with a perfect line in for the second….which I subsequently duffed, and came away with a 6!
If you’ve been avoiding the worst of the winter weather and not ventured onto a fairway since the start of the year, you may not have been playing by the new Rules of Golf which came into effect at the beginning of the year. Changes made by the R&A and the U.S. Golf Association were to make them easier to understand and apply. The language has been simplified to make it less intimidating and more practical for novices to the sport.
What you need to know for the 2019 Season
Broadly speaking, changes were introduced to modernise the game, eliminate some of the more unusual rules and speed up play and although the rule book was actually consolidated from 34 rules to 24, each of these have a sub-rule or even sub-rules. Here are a few to familiarise yourself with ahead of your next round.
If we start at the green, players are now allowed to leave the flagstick in the hole while playing a shot from the green and won’t be penalised if the ball strikes the flagstick. In the past, players had to pull the flagstick from the hole or ask another player (or caddie if you are lucky enough to have one) to pull the flagstick before the ball struck it. This rule was changed to help speed up play, although there are players of the sport including those on the PGA Tour that believe the flagstick helps keep more shots from passing the hole on putts and have a better chance of dropping in.
The new rules have replaced traditional terminology and includes hazardous spots in what are now called penalty areas. Golfers don’t have to be as nervous about incurring an additional penalty for a minor rules breach while playing their next shot.
The next change to the rules is a huge relief for amateurs of the sport that will speed up play and not force somebody to walk 200 metres or more back to a teeing area after learning their ball has been hit out of bounds. If a player hits a ball out of bounds or loses a ball, the general rules still require the player to return to the spot of the previous stroke and take a one-stroke penalty, but the ruling bodies have added the option of a local rule that provides time-saving relief. Instead of the player returning to the spot of the previous shot in the event of a lost ball or a ball out of bounds, the player can take a drop in the nearest spot of the fairway. The same local rule applies to a lost ball, with the player able to drop in the fairway across from where the previous ball is estimated to have come to rest. This is only a local rule, and the course’s rules committee must deem its use.
In the revised rules, players are requested to drop the ball from knee height instead of shoulder height whenever a drop is specified for relief. There is another important factor when taking a drop for relief: The ball must remain within the designated relief area, either one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the type of relief. If a player is allowed two club-lengths relief from a penalty area (no nearer the hole) the ball must remain within that two-club-length area. If a ball bounces or rolls and comes to rest outside that original relief area, the player must re-drop within the designated area. If it again comes to rest outside that area, the player must place it on the spot where it struck the ground in the relief area on the second drop. The ball must be played from within the original drop area, and if it rolls outside that area after two drops, it must be placed by hand. This eliminates multiple re-dropping scenarios in the old rules, and by dropping from knee-height, it’s more likely the ball will stay within the right area.
There is no longer a penalty for hitting a ball multiple times on the same swing (phew!) The old rules stated that if a player swung and hit the ball more than once, the player had to count the stroke and take a penalty stroke. Under the new rules, if a player hits the ball more than once, the player just counts the intended shot and plays the ball from where it came to rest.
Armed with your clean clubs, dry waterproofs and new rules knowledge, why not explore one of my favourite courses in the area? There are 48 within the Kingdom of Fife to choose from so choosing a short-list was tough.
The Eden and The New
Both of these are part of the Links complex, and run alongside the famous Old Course, so they are on true links. Eden is 6250 yards long, and offers some lovely golf holes, and green fees start from £50.00 pp, which in my mind makes it the best value course out of the 6. The New, 6625 yards, is the course which the locals will tell you is the best golfing experience by far. Probably slightly more difficult than the Old, and only £80 (ish) for green fees. It stands out as there are times held back for golfers that allow you to turn up without booking. You might wait a little bit, but can really recommend.
My home village, and Crail Golfing Society boasts two great courses. Balcomie Links (7th oldest in the world is great), but also now very much worth a visit is Craighead. Designed by Gil Hanse, and at 6651 yards, fees of £70.00 make it very accessible for all players. If you prefer, you can make a full day of it and double up with a round on Balcomie with a price from £125.00 for the day. The Clubhouse is stunning.
A ‘heathland’ course – inland from Rufflets (30 mins by car) Ladybank is a delight. Pretty flat, and tree-lined (not too many trees though) it makes a welcome change from links play. 6602 yards, with fees from £75.00. Wonderful people to look after you – and also watch out for their red squirrels (the club emblem) as there are a lot of them around.
Another heathland course, not far from us on the road towards Dundee, with 6564 yards, and rates from £75.00. Clever people running this one. It has been used for many years as an Open Qualifying venue, and up until a few years ago was very tight, and perhaps overly so for the visiting golfer. So what they have done is cut away lots of the gorse and widened the fairways to make it even more enjoyable (and not lose so many balls).
Kingsbarns Golf Links
A truly fabulous course, backed up by a superb team who make everyone so very welcome, it is a treat to play here. Ok – it is the most expensive (around £290 per golfer) and longest (7220 yards), but worth it. They do sometimes have offers on at the beginning and end of the season, so check the website, and at the same time explore their digital gallery – you’ll understand why it’s a firm favourite.
Aberdour Golf Club
One of the many hidden gems that Fife has to offer, and if you are heading west back towards the airport or on the route home and fancy a wee extra round of golf, you will more or less drive past here, and is worth the stop. 5460 yards, fees from £30.00, this is the only course I know that starts with two par 3s. Running along the shores of the Forth, it can be reasonably forgiving, and a perfect way to end your golf trip to Fife.
Whilst my team can’t help you hit the ball further or straighter or provide advice on how to avoid the traps, we can provide the best advice on bookings, caddies, club hire and only if required, a good local chiropractor!