This golf rule is unfair, according to Bernhard Langer

This golf rule is unfair, according to Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer earlier this year.

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The Rules of Golf are a perpetual work in progress; in fact, the USGA and R&A recently announced a slew of rules changes that will be enacted on Jan. 1. Still, no matter how many tweaks the governing bodies make, the rules book will never be perfect in every golfer’s eyes. What edits would the best players in the world make to the laws of the game? We polled some of them. First up in this series: Bernard Langer.

Langer’s beef is with Rule 8.1a(3), which relates to playing your ball where it comes to rest.

Among “actions that are not allowed,” the rule states, are for golfers to “alter the surface of the ground” where their ball lies. That includes by: “Replacing divots in a divot hole; removing or pressing down divots that have already been replaced or other cut turf that is already in place; or creating or eliminating holes, indentations or uneven surfaces.”

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In short: ball in a divot? Sorry, pal, you’re outta luck!

Surely you have found your own ball in such a predicament. There are also countless examples of pros in high-profile situations encountering the same misfortune.

Take Lee Westwood, who arrived on the 72nd hole at the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational trailing Bryson DeChambeau by one. Westwood needed a stellar drive for any chance at birdie on the long watery par-4 and delivered just that, splitting the fairway — only to see his ball tumble into a nasty divot. From there, Westwood hit his approach to 65 feet and two-putted for par and second place.

“Just gotta shrug it off and get on with it,” he later tweeted. “The game was never meant to be fair. That’s the mental challenge.”

But not all players feel the same way. Enter Langer!

“I think we should be dropping out of divots,” Langer told GOLF.com. “Divots are made by us.”

Us, as in us humans. Why, Langer contends, should one golfer suffer for turf trauma left behind by another golfer?

“Sometimes you hit a beautiful tee shot down the middle of the fairway and you’re in a sand-filled divot, and it’s like hitting out of fairway bunker,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair. If you had a good shot, you should have a lie on grass.”

Fair or not, it’s unlikely Langer will get his way, no matter how many years his ageless game holds up. Playing the ball as it lies is one of the basic tenets of the game. It’s hard to imagine the rulesmakers altering this law anytime soon.

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Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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