Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Best (Make that Easiest) Way to Learn the Rules

People who know about my interest in the Rules often ask me how they can get a better understanding of them, without boring themselves silly. It seems that most players avoid looking up the Rules of Golf book, as jointly published by the R&A and USGA, as they find it difficult to read and even more difficult to locate to the particular sub-section that deals with the query that is troubling them. So, I thought that it might be useful to give you my views on some of the other ways that golfers might use to assimilate the Rules, leaving the best until the end.

Ask an ‘expert’ in the Club restaurant or bar. This is not always a good idea. Typically, there will be lots of members who will answer your query quickly and authoratively. The problem is that their answers may not concur and will often be completely wrong. In most cases they will be acting in good faith, but their responses may incorporate mistakes, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, misconceptions and myths. I have observed that the louder and more forcefully a contributor expounds their ruling, the more
likely it is that they are wrong.

Ask the Club professional. This is far more likely to give you an accurate reply than the suggestion above. Most golf pros have encountered many of the situations that can occur on the course during their playing careers. The problem is that they are very often not present when the need arises, due to them giving lessons, taking part in ProAms, or taking well-earned rests at weekends.

Learn from watching golf tournaments on television. This doesn’t work as well as you might expect it to. You could be watch
ing for hours before an interesting Rules situation occurs. Then, the chances of the commentators giving a useful and accurate interpretation of the ruling are slim. Also, the Rules of Competition for tournaments shown on TV can differ in several ways from the amateur game. For example, relief from temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs), practicing putting or chipping when play of the hole is completed, and playing with one type of ball throughout the round.

Read books that attempt to simplify the Rules. Whilst this is definitely a preferable option to reading the official Rules of Golf book, the most popular tomes are still not light readings and require a certain dedication to study the subject.

Watch videos showing a variety of Rule
s situations. There is no doubt that golfers can learn from watching others’ mistakes on video. The DVD, ‘Golf Rules in Action’, produced by the R&A to explain and demonstrate the rules of the game, uses footage from top-level tournaments showing some of the world's best golfers in over 70 situations where the rules have affected them. For those that do not want to purchase videos there are some very good Rules and Decisions videos on the USGA’s web site, and I have four of my own at http://www.stracka.com/golf-videos/?userID=3486088 (on water hazards, lateral water hazards, nearest point of relief and ball unplayable). This is a good way to learn the Rules.

Gently absorb and understand the Rules by quizzing yourself on a regular basis. Yes, yes, yes! At last, there is an easy and enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules for golfers of all playing abilities. With my new book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ , readers can work through a series of questions, answers and, most importantly, explanations to the myriad situations on the golf course that they will recognise and relate to. Answers are conveniently located immediately beneath each question and are directly referenced to the applicable Rule of Golf, or Decision on the Rules. A detai
led index provides an easy and convenient way for readers to reference specific situations as they arise. This has to be the best way of getting to know the Rules for most players. It is a fun format for learning, where five minutes, or five hours, can be spent on it anytime, anywhere, and you can test yourself to see how you are progressing. Let me encourage and urge you to purchase at least two copies of ‘999 Questions’; one for yourself and one for a friend, or family member, who also needs to improve their knowledge of the Rules. If you play golf you will know that almost everyone would like to know the Rules better than they do at present.


As always, wishing you good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’

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