Backing into a Love Affair with the Rules
It can happen to anyone. I know it happened to me.
When USGA West Regional Manager Ron Read presented information on the rules at a meeting I was attending years ago, he showed me a copy of The Decisions on the Rules of Golf and I was hooked.
You don’t have to be a single-digit handicapper to have the Rules of Golf suddenly catch your attention. Like many players, you might receive a penalty during a tournament or have a friend tell you about a rules infraction and suddenly realize you need to know more about the rules if you want to play this game correctly.
In a conversation with Sandy Lyle during a rain delay at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am a few years ago, I learned that he paid more attention to the rules after a penalty resulted in disqualification. Perhaps Michelle Wie has come to the same conclusion.
Whatever your reason for wanting to learn more about the Rules of Golf, there are some tools that will make the journey more interesting. First, purchase a copy of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf. This book contains both the rules and the Decisions that have been developed to explain situations that have happened at every level of golf.
Begin with the Definitions section and develop an understanding of the vocabulary. How do Loose Impediments differ from Movable Obstructions? How does the definition of Rub of the Green work with the definition of Outside Agency? Are we speaking of Match or Stoke Play when we say Fellow-Competitors or Opponents? Am I playing alternate shots with a partner in Foursomes or Four-ball? What’s the difference between a Second Ball and Provisional Ball? Do both Line of Play and Line of Putt stop at the hole and where does that matter?
I think of learning the rules as analogous to peeling three onions at the same time: a layer from definitions, a layer of learning with the rules themselves and then gaining insights from another layer of the Decisions. Look up every rules question you hear at the course, read about in the paper or see on television. The process will both expand and refine your thinking.
Consider adding to your experience by attending an Introduction to the Rules on Course. The presentations include demonstrations of relief procedures from water hazards, bunkers, obstructions, rules situations on the putting green, teeing ground and information on playing a provisional ball and what makes a ball lost. These sessions are offered in Northern California by the Northern California Golf Association, Pacific Women’s Golf Association and the Women’s Golf Association of Northern California. Check the respective websites of your association for details.
If you are the Rules Chairmen or the “go-to” rules person at a club, you should sign up for a classroom rules seminar. The NCGA offers five, two-day classes in the spring and summer each year. Registration is available online at ncga.org. Classes are offered in Monterey, Alamo, Sacramento and Fresno.
Whether you choose to learn on your own or attend a seminar, remember to share your passion for the Rules of Golf with those with whom you play. Prevent others from getting a penalty whenever you can. Playing by the rules makes golf more fun for everyone.