“Changing” the rules as a new golfer can actually be a good thing...
The rules of golf are intended to provide a framework for playing the game and enable a player to establish an accurate Index and handicap. Until you are keeping an Index and therefore need an accurate score, why should you follow all the rules?
As long as you are not impacting others’ playing or enjoyment of their round, there are not that many compelling reasons.
So, in no particular order, here are some adaptations or rules relaxations a starting golfer might want to consider:
- Tee up every shot until you are around the green (say more than 10-15 yards away).
This will help you get more solid contact plus get the ball airborne. Note: only tee it up a little bit... maybe a quarter of an inch. The idea is to have a perfect lie, not hit it like a driver.
- The two-club lengths rule does not need to apply to starting golfers.
At the very least, take all drops from Out of Bounds and Penalty Areas somewhere where you have a clear shot without trees, ponds, etc. in the way. This speeds up play and does not give a beginning player as much of a penalty. If you have taken a few too many swings and are still a long way from the green, don’t be afraid of telling your partners that you are going to pick up and drop closer to the hole. Always leave yourself a shot or distance where you are confident of reaching the green.
- Change tees on a hole if you feel the need.
If there is a forced carry over water and the tee ahead takes it out of play, feel free to move up. If you are having the game of your life, maybe stay back and hit from the tees others are playing. If you are having a rough day, definitely move up for the remainder of the round.
- Play scramble golf.
If your playing partner out drives you, pick up your ball and play from where their ball ends up. You can repeat this for the second (or even third) shot as well. Once you are in short game range, play out your own ball. You will feel less pressure and again it will help speed up the game.
- Don’t keep score.
Just put a happy face on the scorecard for a hole where you felt you played well and then add those up after the round. Try to get more happy faces each time you play (this tip is courtesy of Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk).
- Bonus rule to break:
The rules do not allow you to use training aids during a round but there is one that can actually help all golfers and no one will ever know you are doing it. Use a permanent marker to draw two lines on your glove showing where the grip is supposed to lie across your fingers and palm (see image below). Use it on every shot (except putting) to guarantee you have a perfect grip, one of the cornerstones of a good golf swing.
A Few Final Thoughts
The key to not impacting other golfers who may be playing by all the rules is best done by being proactive and always telling them what you are planning to do.
If you plan to play a scramble format, tell everyone on the first tee. If you decide to pick up and drop closer to the hole, say so and drop the ball in an obvious manner so that your playing partners can easily tell who is next to play.
If you have been paired up with people you do not know, it is even more important to explain before the round what you are planning and maybe ask them if they mind. Even if they don’t react positively right away, guaranteed once they see that you are consistent and trying to play quickly, they are almost always more than happy. If they aren’t, don’t play with them again... they are not happy people. :)