Sunday, 28 December 2008

Why is it important to learn the Rules of Golf?

It is estimated that there are more than 60 million people around the world who play golf more than once a year. It is likely that only a very small percentage of these have a good knowledge of the Rules and probably only a handful that have a detailed understanding of all 34 Rules, 126 sub-sections and over 1200 Decisions made by golf’s governing bodies, the R&A and USGA. But why is it important to learn the Rules? Well, I suggest that there are at least five good reasons why players should continually strive to improve their knowledge of the Rules of this great game;

• First, Rule 6-1 specifies that, “the player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules”.
• Second, a good working knowledge of the Rules can often be to your advantage, saving you strokes by avoiding unnecessary penalties. For example, knowing when relief without penalty is available and how to take it.
• Third, when playing in stroke play competitions you have a responsibility to every other entrant to ensure that anyone that you are playing with fully complies with all the Rules. Players aren’t permitted to disregard any breach of the Rules by a fellow competitor, or they are disqualified.
• Fourth, in match play you don’t want your opponent(s) to take an advantage because they know, or they think they know, the Rules better than you.
• And fifth, Rule 1-3 specifies that, “players shall not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule, or to waive any penalty incurred.” The penalty for doing so in both match play and stroke play is disqualification.

Of course, there are many golfers that find the Rules an irritation and claim that they are a deterrent to being able to enjoy a social game with their friends. What difference does it make if someone places their ball when they should be dropping it, or rolls their ball to the side when it comes to rest in a divot? If players want to play the game that way, who is to stop them? The answer is that no-one will stop them, they are free to play however they choose, but it is not golf they are playing. I am sure that if you have watched or played any game regularly, such as soccer, pool, trivial pursuits or poker, you will have been party to arguments as to whether a particular play is valid, or not. Sooner or later players will have to check, or establish, rules so that they can compete fairly against each other on a level playing field. There is only one game of golf, with one universal set of Rules, and if that is the game that you want to play then you have to abide by all of them.

Enjoy your golf more by understanding the Rules better,

Barry Rhodes
rules@barryrhodes.com

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