It was one of the new rules brought into world golf for 2019, but some of the world’s leading golfers have already expressed dismay at the new regulation to drop from knee height.
Several PGA TOUR stars have been forced to take relief during the opening two tournaments of the calendar year—the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii—but have been left scratching their heads at the new rule.
The United States Golf Association and R&A made the change to the dropping rule as part of sweeping changes to not only simplify the game but also help speed up play which has become a problem in recent years.
Originally planned to be changed to dropping from just inches above the ground from the shoulder height previously used for as long as the memory goes back, the final draft of the rule changes switched it to become knee height.
However, after having been forced to use the new dropping rule during the two tournaments, the likes of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau have questioned whether it actually improves the game.
Spieth was almost caught out by the new rule, having originally gone to drop his ball from shoulder height when taking relief from a sprinkler head in the Sony Open. Had he done so, despite it being a disadvantage, he would have incurred a shot penalty.
“One that I don’t really understand necessarily is the drop,” Spieth said at the Sony Open. “You drop it knee height, but like, what’s the advantage of dropping it shoulder height? It’s actually probably a disadvantage, so why can’t you still do that? You should be able to drop it from shoulder to knee height in my opinion.
“It doesn’t do any good and honestly it’s like, a frustrating asterisk that I have to re-pick it up and re-drop from your knee.”
One of the problems a number of players have come across is getting in position to drop the ball without lowering the knees.
Dechambeau, who also putted with the flag in—another of the 2019 rule changes—throughout the Tournament of Champions even from close range, was keen to get his point across on the awkwardness of the knee-high drop rule.
“That you have to drop it from knee height is a bit absurd, unfortunately,” he said. “I think that you should be able to go from knee height to shoulder height. There should be no issue with that, whatever you want to do, honestly.”
The USGA’s senior managing director of governance Thomas Pagel, however, pointed out that there was more to new drop rule than meets the eye.
“People say that dropping from shoulder-height is simple, and it is, but under the old rules, there were nine different times you had to re-drop,” he said. “We wanted to eliminate all those complications.”
Rory McIlroy, however, had a point of the rule being more advantageous to the smaller players on tour whose knees are naturally closer to the ground in the first place.
“We’re saying that Brian Harman has got a big advantage, he can basically place it,” McIlroy quipped. “Where you got someone like Tony Finau who is dropping it probably from like waist high for me.”
It looks like something that is going to divide opinion for some time yet.