It has been said that rules are made to be broken. But in golf, for real golfers, rules are the standard of play wanted and desired so that all competitors can battle evenly.
Oh, sure, 80% of golfers do not have a "real" USGA handicap.
One hears on the first tee, "I'm a 15". And then you watch that player shoot 80....or 100.
Still, even casual golfers tend to frown upon mulligans on every hole, gimmie putts of 20 feet for par, or moving a ball from outside the stakes inside the playing course.
The USGA completed a massive re-write of the rules with goals such as speeding up play, making rules more understandable, and overall simplifying a difficult game. While this reporter consistently points out strangeness of the USGA brain trust, the rule changes implemented for 2019 do make some sense.
Right off the bat, one may leave the flagstick in the hole while on the putting green. There is no penalty for hitting the stick.
For me, this makes sense. Heck, my eyes are bad. It's a whole lot simpler to leave flagstick in the cup while putting than having this guy stomp here, that guy wanting you on other side of hole, pulling and leaving on green for one player, tending pin for another. While this can still occur, many of the regular players I compete with leave the pin in at all times.
On a January day in Florida, nobody removed the flagstick from the hole the entire round. Not once. And there was nary a problem.
Another change was dropping ball from knee height. Other than some asking what is knee height, it seems simple enough.
Also, on those pesky lost balls, you have three minutes to look for it rather than five. A time-saver.
One can ground their club in a penalty area, repair spike marks, remove loose impediments in bunkers and play ready golf.
A few seconds here and there and minutes are cut from the length of time it takes to play a round.
One major play change that affects most golfers is the alternative to the former stroke and distance penalty for a lost ball or out of bounds shot to add two strokes to their score and drop a ball in the fairway rather than trudge back to the tee and take another stab at things. Now, this is not the case if one has played a provisional ball. In such a case you check for the circumstances of the first ball (OB?, Lost) and if it is either playing the provisional ball is the option.
Overall, the new rules appear to be speeding up play, which for most means a more enjoyable game. It's nice the USGA is taking a step forward in this area.