Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tour Players to Go 'Back to School' Over Rules

Dustin Johnson, who retained his title at the Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am in February 2010

Have you ever wondered, as I have many times, why most Tour Pros don’t seem to know the Rules of Golf very well? Doesn’t this seem odd to you? Golf is how they earn their living; wouldn’t you think that they would make a big effort to learn them? It’s a bit like a taxi driver not bothering to learn the applicable rules of the road, main routes and places of interest for their area. Golfers who don’t know the Rules run the risk of incurring unnecessary penalties, or not taking the most advantageous relief option available.

Well, it seems that in Europe the Ruling Bodies are getting fed-up with players continually calling for a referee to make and explain rulings on even the most basic situations. Senior European Rules Officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee, have outlined plans to educate Tour players on simple rulings and are producing a DVD, which explains the Rules surrounding some of the most common issues in the game. It seems that in future, if any player calls a referee to make what is considered to be a frivolous ruling, they will be given the DVD to study and required to attend a Rules seminar. If they fail to attend the seminar within the next three tournament weeks they can then be barred from entering another event until they have done so. My understanding is that there is no exam at the end of the seminar, which seems to me to be a bit of a cop out from what is otherwise an excellent plan.

When asked what represented a frivolous ruling, McFee commented that at Abu Dhabi last month, a player he declined to identify called for an official, who was several holes away. When the official arrived, the player said, "Is it two club lengths if I declare an unplayable?" McFee added, "We now have the right to make him go to the rules seminar.” He also mentioned two incidents in which Dustin Johnson asked for a ruling on two consecutive shots around the fifth green, during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. The first was for temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) relief from a grandstand (not applicable to most of us), the second, because his chip came to rest in a sprinkler head. Both were simple, tour event situations that should have easily been sorted out between the players and their caddies. Rule 6-1 states,
“The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules”.
Johnson’s explanation for delaying play by calling for the referee was, "I get a little confused; it's always good to get an official, so there's no question about it." Yet another example cited by McFee related to obtaining relief from a cart path. He said, “They need to know how to take relief from a cart path. Most golfers around the world know this, and our players should not be exempt from that.” Hear, hear and three cheers for the R&A Rules Officials.

Now, can we have the same plan for TV commentators please?

The Rules are the rules.

Barry Rhodes

Why not improve your understanding of the Rules by purchasing my book, '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf'. Definitely, the easiest and most fun way to learn.


Unknown said...

Barry, you and I are definitely on the same page with this issue. However, if players are ONLY 99.97% certain of a rule, the consequences are far worse to them than appearing dumb or uneducated in the rules.

Is it my imagination, or does it seem the better players (Tiger, Phil, Paddy) take their relief without help and ask few questions.

If Tiger or Phil ask a question, they are looking for help. And, that is legal, right?

Barry Rhodes said...


Surely, the point is that players should be 100% familiar with the Rules situations that repeatedly occur. They may also request help from each other, as information on Rules is not advice.

There are certainly some high profile players that do seem to know the Rules very well, Padraig Harrington is another one in this category; but in general the tour Pros understanding seems limited and this is a step in the right direction.


Lawrie said...

Couldn't agree more Barry. This is a great move. It staggers me that some professional golfers are not conversant enough with the rules to be able to handle the simplest of situations. The excuse that they need to be absolutely certain about something doesn't wash in the vast majority of instances. They don't seem able to read the rule book, if indeed some of the players are even carrying one.

Tiger Woods had the need to know and understand the rules intimately drilled into him by his father. Earl Woods knew the value of understanding the rules so that Tiger would never be disadvantaged through a lack of knowledge of them.