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THE STYMIE—LET'S HAVE IT BACK
Robert Tyre Jones Jr.
November 14, 1960
I have always been thankful that the governing bodies of golf on both sides of the Atlantic have resisted changes in the rules. Throughout the years there have been plenty of suggestions for changes, but few have been made. The one instance which I think was a real mistake was the elimination of the stymie.
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November 14, 1960

The Stymie—let's Have It Back

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I have always been thankful that the governing bodies of golf on both sides of the Atlantic have resisted changes in the rules. Throughout the years there have been plenty of suggestions for changes, but few have been made. The one instance which I think was a real mistake was the elimination of the stymie.

It has been appalling to me to find that there are golfers of today who do not even know the meaning of "stymie." Twenty years ago I should not have dreamed that it would ever be necessary to explain that a stymie results, in match play, when one ball on the green interposes some or all of its mass between the other ball and the hole. For a while, in the U.S., the offending ball could only be removed if it was within six inches of the hole, which was tantamount then to concession of the remaining putt; but now a player may insist upon its removal from any distance if he "considers that it might interfere with his play."

Two aspects of the stymie (under the rules in force at the time I played) must be understood. If the balls lie so that the space between them is less than six inches, the nearer one may be lifted. Thus, if a player's first putt should leave his ball less than six inches from the hole, he cannot be stymied. Also, within a radius of two feet, a competent player can make, almost every time, any stymie that may be laid him. It is not likely, therefore, that anyone will ever lose a hole by reason of a stymie unless he has left himself in a vulnerable position.

It has been said that the stymie is unfair, that it brings a factor of bad luck into the game. True, it can, but it is not typical. One might say, for instance, that my win on the 19th hole at St. Andrews over Cyril Tolley (see page 82) was a lucky win. This was a typical stymie situation, but did luck play a part in it? I had played the hole better all the way, after the tee shot. The question is: How much better must a man play a hole in order to be entitled to win it?

With the stymie in the game, match-play golf becomes an exciting duel in which the player must always be on guard against a sudden, often demoralizing thrust. More than anything else, it points up the value of always being closer to the hole on the shot to the green and after the first putt. The player who can maintain the upper hand in play up to the hole rarely suffers from a stymie.

In my observation, the stymie has more often been the means of enforcing a decision in favor of the deserving player, rather than the contrary. I think that today as in the past it merits a respected place in the game. I know that a return to it would greatly enhance the interest, suspense and excitement of match-play golf for player and spectator alike.

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