As the USGA and R&A rolled out the actual written Rules of Golf coming in 2019—please give them clicks, much editing went into this!—Golfweek’s Alistair Tait asked the R&A’s David Rickman about the proverbial elephant in the room: spike mark tapping.
While spikes are virtually gone, the idea that players can massage their line continues to not sit well with many, including yours truly, who is struggling to reconcile playing the ball as it lies while being freed up to manipulate the ground between your ball and the hole.
Besides the philosophic disconnect, Tait zeroes in on the past lessons learned from allowing spike mark tapping on the European Tour and Rickman says times have changed.
“It was an area in the extensive discussions that we talked about for some time because in all of this we were interested in speeding the game up, and this change in particular could potentially even go the other way. But what I would say is that it does present a completely different dynamic,” he said.
“I think we’ll see people repairing damage as a collective at different times. I think what you will also see is that the putting green surfaces will generally be maintained throughout the day through the actions of all the players at different times in a much higher standard. So those players at the end of the are only repairing the minimal damage that hasn’t already been repaired. I think in reality it will work.”
I don’t. And this is someone who believes in Rickman’s views on the rules. Primarily, I just can’t see how you can instill a “play it as it lies” mentality in today’s players or future generations when you can now make it lie on the greens. They already complain when all 18 greens are not of the same firmness and speed, and providing a free-for-all to manicure lines seems like less of a slow play issue and more of a core value undermining problem.
Certainly a case could be made that introducing spike-mark tapping could have alleviate pressure on supers to present perfect conditions. But the first time you watch an elite player turn golf into curling by massaging their line, I’m confident you’ll miss the old play it as it lies days.
We’ll find out soon enough!