The Bisheff Blog
Analyzing and commenting on what's hot in sports

Golf Has The Dumbest Rules

No other sport has as many dumb rules as golf.

Your ball inadvertently moves an inch here, a penalty. A towel hangs out of the wrong place there, a penalty. Or you do what poor Dustin Johnson did on Sunday at the PGA.

You put your club down on what, for all the world, appears to be a normal clod of dirt. Instead, it somehow turns out to be a weird-looking bunker and just like that, one of the sport’s most promising young players is robbed of a chance to win his first major.

The PGA rules gods slapped Johnson, one of golf’s two or three longest hitters, with a two-stroke penalty that only took him out of a three-way playoff at Whistling Straits.

Clearly, this was another case of golf whistling in the dark. Come on, guys, look at the replay. Here Johnson was trying to hit a difficult second shot at the 500-yard par 4. The gallery, some 20 or 30 deep, encircled him and gave him barely enough room to see his target.

For those of us watching on TV, the spot didn’t look like a bunker. It looked like what is commonly called a waste area. It looked like your backyard after you’ve been away for two weeks on vacation.

That’s when Johnson did it. He had the unimitigated gall to place his clubhead on the ground for a mini-second. “Grounding,” they call it in PGA circles. How dare him, huh?

Anyway, he got his shot off, eventually lipped out a putt that would have won him the tournament (temporarily) outright and settled for a tie that made him part of a three-way playoff.

Only the PGA ruled he had screwed up. They said the aforementioned area was, indeed, a bunker on a course strewn with more bunkers and mini-bunkers than you’ve ever seen in your life. And you can’t ground a ball in a bunker.

That was it. Sorry, Dustin. Say goodbye to your dream. It was just snatched out of your hands. It was left for Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson to play three extra holes with Kaymer, the steadier of the two, finally prevailing.

Good for him. Bad for golf.

Johnson played magnificently down the stretch and was on the verge of becoming a bright, new American star at a time when the sport is badly in need of one. You already know about Tiger Wood’s troubles. Now we find out Phil Mickelson is battling arthritis.

We need all the Dustins and Bubbas we can find.

Instead, we get golf with its flimsy rulebook. What’s next? Baseball umpires taking away a home run because the guy stepped out of the batter’s box first and scratched his, uh, you know? Or a quarterback will have a touchdown pass called back because his toe was shaded in the wrong direction before the snap?

Happily, those things don’t happen in other sports. They only happen in golf. Too bad, it basically ruined a tournament that turned out to be really interesting even without Tiger and Phil contending.

Sadly, this is a sport that continues to shoot itself in its expensive spiked shoes. Yes, I know, there have to be rules in all sports. But why so many petty rulings in this one?

When people look back at the year’s final major, they won’t remember Kaymer or his playoff with Watson. They’ll remember how Johnson had his opportunity plucked right out of his strong hands.

I know there will be some people out there who will defend what happened. But I can’t.

To me, it was just d-u-m-b.

— STEVE BISHEFF

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3 Responses to “Golf Has The Dumbest Rules”

  1. You are so right! I hope your blog makes to the PGA rules makes and wakes them up. They are so picky, picky, picky. They need to revamp the rules that were made 100 or so years ago at Saint Andrews. Mr. Johnson was robbed.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I am sure that the powers that be on this particular course will pontificate on how they are upholding the rules of golf. In this case, they are as right as most of the ball and strike calls in baseball.

  3. A Sand Trap My ____ – When is the last time you saw an overhead TV shot of the spectators and they were ALL in the trap along with the Golfer. The rules guys should have got them out of the “Trap” if it really was intended to be one. Where were the “Officials” – What a shame for Johnson.


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