SI Vault
December 21, 1959
End-of-year Notes
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December 21, 1959

Events & Discoveries

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Golf Preview for 1960

Nowhere are this year's reveries cheerier than among snowed-in golfers. An optimistic lot by nature-did you ever know a golfer who thought his slice was going to be worse next year?—golfers have something special going for them at this season's close. The United States Golf Association has reduced the penalties on three kinds of wandering shots starting January 1, 1960, a move hailed with cheer by duffers everywhere.

A friend of ours, and it's hard to say whether he is a hooker who sometimes slices or a slicer who sometimes hooks, shared this general optimism until a few days ago. That's when circumstances found him in Florida, and overeagerness led him to preview the 1960 rules.

It seems that his partner in this venture was a purist, a man who joins with the British in thinking the USGA is making the game too easy. That got things off on the wrong spiked foot before a club was swung.

On the first tee, our friend reports, he hit a long drive—over the fairway, over the rough, over a hedge and over a paralleling road. It was out of bounds, to say the least. "Smiling sweetly, I reminded my purist companion that I was now hitting two, under the new rules, instead of three under the old ones, and I teed off again. The purist looked unhappy." The penalty stroke he saved eventually won our man a bogey, and bogeys are the backbone of his game.

Six holes later the second rule change came up. A sweeping slice found a dense grove of trees. No sign of the ball:

"I told the purist I'd drop another ball and take a two-stroke penalty. This is the way (admittedly illegal) that it's done in friendly golf games. But purists aren't friendly. 'Any rules, old or new,' I was tartly reminded, 'you walk back and shoot from where you were.' Under the old rules I'd be hitting three, under the new ones hitting two. It was a long way back, and uphill. A foursome was waiting on the tee, so I started to run, trying not to think of the fellow I knew who dropped dead of a heart attack at 33 rounding third base in a picnic softball game. I finally got there, and the foursome looked tough. 'Get him!' said one. 'Thinks he's in the National Open.' 'Hit it, Hogan,' advised another. I hit it. All of 15 yards. Hit it twice more with my driver before getting to my bag. Ended up with a quintuple bogey. The purist smiled."

The final rule change, and the day's most bitter blow, came up on the 17th. Our friend, less optimistic about 1960 by the minute, mismashed a mashie into a vine-covered fence. Declaring the ball out of bounds, he hit another, tight to the pin for an apparent par 3. But:

" 'Not so fast,' I heard the purist call. He had muddled around the fence and found my ball against a pole, but in bounds. I swung twice trying unsuccessfully to move the ball. Then I declared it unplayable. Under the new rules I could either return to the spot the ball was hit, hit another, and add a penalty stroke, or drop the ball behind me, out of the unplayable position, and add a penalty stroke. I looked back and saw the grim foursome, so ceremoniously dropped the ball over my shoulder. It fell in deep rough. I ended up with an 8. The purist laughed out loud."

Our friend has quit golf for this season. Says he's moving north to sit quietly before a fire while it snows outside.

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