Sunday, 1 March 2009

60 million Golfers, Very Few of Whom Know the Rules Well Enough!

Last week I gave a presentation on ‘Common Misunderstandings on the Rules of Golf’ to about 40 members of a well-known Irish Golf Club, whose origins go back a hundred and twenty-five years. Unfortunately, it is my experience that those attending these types of seminar events tend to be Rules enthusiasts already. It is the other; say 95% that are rarely seen at Rules events, who should be making more of an effort to better their understanding, rather than muddling on week after week, with a very limited grasp of the Rules.


The publicity posters announcing my seminar last week posed three teaser questions that I had given to the organisers in advance;

1. Your tee shot hits your golf bag or trolley. What is the penalty?

2. Your shot ricochets off a tree and then hits your foot. What is the penalty?

3. You move the removed flagstick that is lying on the green to stop a ball hitting it. Is there a penalty?

**See below for answers.


I began the evening by asking the audience to all raise one hand above their heads. I then read out the 3rd question above and asked those that were not absolutely sure of the correct answer to that question to put down their hands, and about half of them did, leaving approximately 20 hands raised. I then asked those that thought that the answer was a one stroke penalty to put down their hands and a few more hands were lowered. Next I asked those that thought that there was a two stroke penalty to put down their hands and following this there were just 3 hands still in the air. You have probably realised by now that there is no penalty for moving a removed flagstick that is lying on the green if you think that a ball in movement may hit it (Rule 24-1). It was not the fact that only 3 out of 40 Rules ‘enthusiasts’ got the answer correct that surprised me, it was that 17 others were sure that they knew the right answer to this question, but didn’t!


I believe that this is an ongoing problem in most Golf Club competitions. Players think that they know the Rules a lot better than they actually do. How many times have Captain’s and President’s prizes been won when the winner, and their fellow competitors, unwittingly ignored an infraction of the Rules? Does it matter, as long as the breach was innocently perpetrated? Well, I’m sure that you would think it did if you came second when the winner had failed to record a penalty of two strokes, for removing a pine cone lying in front of his ball in a bunker! On the other hand, you would have to feel very sorry for someone who lost out because their fellow competitors wrongly penalised them two strokes, for moving the flagstick when a ball was in motion, in the circumstances of question 3 above.


So, how do most golfers acquire their limited knowledge of the Rules? They gradually assimilate them, by discussing the various situations that occurred on the course when they get into the locker room, or arrive at the water cooler, or at the ‘19th hole’, with refreshment in hand. If they cannot agree amongst themselves as to the correct ruling they often go to the guy, or the girl, in the Pro Shop, or someone they know who is acknowledged as being an expert. They rarely reference the Rules of Golf book because they have trouble navigating it, and struggle to interpret the formal, precise and verbose language that is necessarily used to avoid ambiguity. Most players are not even aware of the existence of the Decisions book, which contains over 1,200 ‘case studies’ that are intended to clarify rulings on a multitude of occurrences that may not be evident from the Rules book itself.


These are the main reasons for me writing my book ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, which gives answers, direct Rules references and explanations to the myriad situations that occur on the golf course. Golfers can either dip in and out of the book, testing themselves on a few questions at a time, or they can check out specific scenarios by referencing the index at the back of the book which then points them to the relevant question numbers. I am convinced that players of all abilities can improve their game by understanding more about the Rules and that my book of questions and answers will assist them greatly in their endeavour. Only three weeks to go until it’s launched (March 23rd). Reserve your copy now.


Remember, it’s not Golf you are playing if you are not playing to the Rules of Golf.


Barry Rhodes



**

1. Your tee shot hits your golf bag or trolley. What is the penalty?

You incur a penalty of one stroke. Rule 19-2. If a player's ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by himself, his partner or either of their caddies or equipment, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

2. Your shot ricochets off a tree and then hits your foot. What is the penalty?

You incur a penalty of one stroke. Rule 19-2. As above.

3. You move the removed flagstick that is lying on the green to stop a ball hitting it. Is there a penalty?

There is no penalty. Rule 24-1. When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up, must not be moved.


1 comment:

Vertabrett said...

There's some cognitive bias in all of us, when we can be overconfident of our knowledge. I appreciate this post as much for that reminder as I do for the information about the rules! Thanks :)