There are probably over 60 million golfers worldwide and I guess that at least 59 million of them consider that the Rules of Golf have treated them unfairly at some time or other. Despite the fact that the R&A and USGA have been refining the Rules of Golf for more than 200 years, to deal equitably with every possible situation that can possibly happen on a golf course, I would guess that a large majority of players think that they are now unnecessarily complicated and work against players’ best interests. I should quickly point out that I am not one of them. I have learned that every Rule, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, is there for a logical reason, to minimise misinterpretation, misunderstandings, mistakes and even mischievousness! I don’t pretend to have any inside information on the rationale behind any Rule or Decision, but I am aware of the huge amount of dedicated work that goes on behind the closed doors of many national golfing bodies around the world to provide informed input to the two Ruling Bodies. They in turn consider, appraise, formulate and then publish the bi-annual changes to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf and the four-yearly changes to the Rules of Golf, always acting in the best interests of the game and those that play it.
However, leaving the Rules aside, there are undoubtedly areas of our beloved game that favour one player over another. For example, those that can afford to do so may purchase the very latest technology drivers for additional length off the tee, use more expensive balls that impart more spin, employ local caddies with an intimate knowledge of the course being played, hire a motorised golf cart to preserve their energy, or more accurately decide on their club selection by reference to a state-of-the-art distance measuring device (where permitted by a Local Rule).
A personal bugbear of mine, as a high-handicapper (over 18), is that in cub competitions the prizes are geared in favour of the low-handicap players (less than 10), even though the majority of entrants are usually not in that category. It is much more difficult for a high handicapper to win a competition that extends over multiple rounds (e.g. match play events, leagues or golfer of the year), because they play to their handicap less frequently; the best golfers are more likely to win gross score, longest drive and nearest the pin competitions; and in four-ball competitions, where three-quarters of the full handicap is the norm, a 20-handicapper loses 5 strokes, whereas a 4-handicapper only loses 1 stroke; etc.
And then there are the commonplace, ‘unfair’ occurrences that can happen to any of us on the course; balls settling in a divot hole on the fairway; a ball rebounding off course signage or a stake; having to play a ball off a maintenance vehicle tyre track that we think should have been defined as ground under repair; a fellow competitor’s loud cough during a backswing; a mud ball; a gust of wind drifting a faded ball into a water hazard; the arrival of a rainstorm at the start of an afternoon round following a morning of balmy sunshine; and having to drop a ball in a less favourable position when taking a mandatory drop under a Local Rule (e.g. from a staked sapling). Of course, in this respect, most of us remember these ‘unfair’ incidents on the golf course and conveniently forget that there are probably just as many occasions when lady luck appears to be on our side.
I will finish by repeating a story told by Sean Connery, who played the first James Bond and is a passionate golfer;
The great Jack Nicklaus summed things up neatly during a charity match on the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he and I were playing against Ben Crenshaw and Glen Campbell. I asked him what he considered to be the most important factor to overcome in the game of golf. His reply, "It's an unfair game."Good golfing,
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.
I have had a great response to my new document, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play’. This 10-page document appears to have struck a chord with those of you that play match play golf and realise that several different Rules apply to this format. Click here for more information.