It’s almost 70 years since Gary Player arrived on the professional golf scene, so it’s safe to say the 87-year-old has a valid opinion on the rule changes over the years, but he thinks one implemented just a few years ago is the worst he’s seen.
Speaking to Golf.com (opens in new tab), the nine-time Major winner explained why the rule in question, which was intended to speed up play, has created a bigger problem. He said: “I think the worst rule ever invented is leaving the pin, the flag in the hole. You get these guys with their big hands, and they go to take the ball out of the cup, and they squeeze their hand in between the cup and the flag. They pull the cup up, and every cup you play now is raised.”
The rule Player referred to is Rule 13.2a(2), which states: “There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole. Players will still have the option to remove the flagstick or to have someone tend the pin and remove it after the ball is struck.”
Before the rule came into force, players who hit the flag with a putt from the green would receive a two-stroke penalty. Since that threat was lifted, there has been much debate about whether there is any advantage to putting with the flagstick in. Various big-name players, including Matt Fitzpatrick, have at times opted to leave the flag in the hole as they putt from the green, with suggestions that hitting the flag can improve your putting stats.
However, Player is firmly in the other camp, and dismissed the theory that it can lead to more putts. He said: “They tell you you’ll hole more putts hitting the flag. That’s hogwash. The greatest putters in the world never ever left a flag in a hole. And they were as good as putters as you’ll ever find today."
Even worse, Player doesn’t even think the rule improves the situation it was introduced for. He said: “The whole idea is to save time. It doesn’t save time. I’m all in favour of everything you can do to save time, but get the flag out. That’s my opinion.”
The Rules of Golf have being updated, with changes coming into effect on 1 January. While not as radical as the 2019 update, there are several tweaks. Player will be disappointed, though - the removal of his least-favoured rule is not among them.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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