Adam Gerlach, golf professional at Sun City Hilton Head, holds a copy of the new USGA Rules of Golf book.

Every four years the rules of golf are updated. In 2019, there were many major changes. 

Now, in 2023, there are five key changes that really don’t pertain to the recreational golfer. One change pertains to players with disabilities. Another has to do with putting your handicap on a scorecard. Now most players use electronic scoring. 

The next change has to do with replacing a damaged club. You can now replace a club during your round if it isn’t damaged through abuse. Another change has to do with a ball dropped that is “at rest” and then moves into a penalty area. 

As you can see many of these changes don’t pertain to the recreational golfer.

The USGA always talks about growing the game, and yet the rules might be hurting the game’s future. I think the rules should be for “competitive” amateurs and professionals. 

Adam Gerlach, golf professional at Sun City Hilton Head, runs more than 200 competitive golf outings a year. Those players must have official handicap indexes. Their handicaps should be established by playing by the rules of golf.

However, it is believed that the majority of recreational golfers don’t play by the rules – mainly because they don’t know them. Also, many of the rules slow down the recreational golfer and slow play is a real problem in golf. (By the way, there is no such thing as “winter rules.”)

Below are suggestions that can make the game more fun for recreational golfers and also speed up play:

• Tee off on the forward tees until you are able to score double bogey or better.

• Tee up the ball in the fairway until you have enough skill to play it as it lies.

• Allow a mulligan once each nine holes.

• Out-of-bounds and lost balls should be played like a lateral water hazard and dropped where you think it was lost. Stroke and distance are severe penalties and slow down play.

• If you can’t find your ball in three minutes, just drop another ball in the general area that you lost it and take a penalty stroke.

• Get free drops from trees, roots and rocks.

• Move your ball if it lands in a divot or in someone’s footprint in a bunker.

• Once you score “double par” on a hole, pick up and go to the putting green. If you are not holding up the group behind you, practice your putting.

• Play continuous putting unless your ball is in someone else’s line.

All these suggestions will speed up play and make the game a lot more enjoyable for the recreational golfer. 

The key to playing good recreational golf is keeping up with the group in front of you. If you can’t keep up with them, then you are playing too slow.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local golf courses.;