The recent updates to the Rules of Golf from the USGA and R&A have gotten ASGCA Past President Rick Robbins (Robbins & Associates International) to thinking. He shared his thoughts on “one of the least understood, most severe and most ignored penalties in golf” with Golf Course Industry.

Robbins wrote an article highlighting his views on “stroke and distance” penalties for out-of-bounds and lost balls.

“The most penal rule in golf – the ‘stroke and distance’ penalty where the player hitting his ball out-of-bounds (or lost) must replay the shot from the original spot and add a stroke to the score has now evolved into a much more prevalent part of the game.

“The (current rule) is so illogical to the general golfing public that it has become a rule that is probably ignored more often than it is enforced in average weekend golf groups. Much like ‘taking a mulligan’ on the first tee, many golfers have agreed within their groups to play all such situations as a lateral hazard. If a player hits one OB, they just drop a ball as near as possible to the point where it went out and add the penalty stroke. This obviously creates an issue with recording handicaps and with how they can play with other golfers who play more closely to the rules. Having a discussion on the first tee about which set of rules the group will play today is also against the rules just like ‘winter rules’ are.

“The rules have become so hard for most players to fully understand that it is intimidating for beginners to play in groups of more experienced golfers for fear of committing some infraction they didn’t know about. Many are scared to death of doing something wrong and having the other players think they are cheating. The end result is that getting beginning golfers to feel comfortable playing with others becomes a longer process with many deciding it just isn’t worth it. Limiting the growth of the game because of fear of the rules is not the direction we need to be headed.”

The complete Robbins article from GCI can be seen here.