Code Two: Pre-Project Thoughts

Writing Code One was an interesting experience in that we found more room for improvement and simplification than we expected. While several of the changes were dramatic, we were still relatively restrained in our draft in that Code One looks and reads quite similarly to the current Rules of Golf. We now turn our attention to Code Two to see if there is room for even more dramatic change, both in content and format (as Code One really did not touch the issue of format). Before we begin work on Code Two, we want to lay out the issues we expect to have to address:

  1. The History and Traditions of the Game: Golf has a long and rich history, and we are wary of proposing a code that is so different from its predecessors that there would need to be a dividing line in the history books (e.g., 2016) to separate what could be considered two very different games. For example, if the game were invented today, we can't help but wonder if a larger hole and fewer holes would be a more likely format. However, we believe that enlarging the hole would create a different game and do irreparable harm to the essence of the game. Likewise, with the idea of shortening the number of holes in a round, we believe it would be naive and irresponsible to suggest a different number of holes, given the thousands of 18-hole courses in existence. Smaller issues in this regard involve questions such as the number of clubs a player is permitted to carry. As you can tell in the following items, the balancing act between maintaining the heart of the game while also simplifying its playing considerably will be the main challenge with Code Two.
  2. Match Play vs. Stroke Play: This point also falls under (1). Golf was originally a match play game, and it is certainly a more simple form of play than stroke play. For example, the loss of hole penalty makes it unnecessary to develop complicated correction procedures (e.g., for playing from outside the teeing ground in stroke play). However, stroke play is a necessary form of play as it allows many players to compete against each other simultaneously, and therefore needs to be retained in some form. The question then becomes whether to retain match play and if so whether to keep the loss of hole penalty. That penalty is clean and simple, but it is confusing to have two different penalties (loss of hole and two strokes) for breach of a Rule. It is hard to argue with the notion that a single penalty (e.g., two strokes) for both forms of play would remove complication and confusion.
  3. Format: Developing an easier to follow format for the Rules will be the next biggest challenge for Code Two (after deciding how much of the history and traditions of the game should be retained). As we were intimately involved with the writing of the Rules of Golf, we are predisposed to liking its format (for which much is owed to Bill Williams with his 1984 reorganization) as we see the structure as imminently logical. However, we appreciate that many golfers find the format alone intimidating. How, then, to present the Rules in a more friendly format? We also need to keep in mind that the Rules need to be able to be readily translated into many languages for golfers around the world.
  4. Language: For 2004, the R&A and USGA hired Kenneth Chapman (author of The Rules of the Green; A History of the Rules of Golf) to undertake an analysis of the language used in the 2000 Rules of Golf and make recommendations on modernizing the language (e.g., replace "shall" with "must") and making it consistent throughout (e.g., a player "makes" a stroke but "plays" a ball). This work resulted in a clear improvement to the language of the Rules, but golfers remain scared away by the book. We are not sure how we can make the actual words less intimidating while also ensuring that the text remains precise. After all, if a player about to be penalized demands to see where in the Rules that penalty is called for, the text needs to be clear.

We are not brimming with confidence at the prospect of this daunting task, but we look forward to the challenge.

David Hayes John Morrissett

September 4, 2012