Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Rules Are Rules in Golf, or Are They?

In my blog last week, which related to Rory McIlroy turning down an autograph request from a young fan while making his way to the scoring area, I said that in my opinion Ian Poulter was wrong to use the misleading hashtag, #RulesAreRules, in his tweet in defense of Rory. My point was that this implied that a Rule of Golf was involved. This reminded me that I have received several queries over the years indicating confusion over the various roles of Rules, Decisions, Conditions of Competition, Byelaws and Handicapping Systems in arriving at rulings for various circumstances. In this blog I will try and clarify the differences

First, the term ‘Rules’ includes;

a) The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’.
b) Any Condition of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I.
c) Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I. d) The specifications on;
(i) clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in ‘A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls’; and
(ii) devices and other equipment in Appendix lV.
Rules of Golf: There are 34 Rules of Golf, jointly written and administered by R&A Rules (spun off from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and USGA.

Decisions on the Rules of Golf: This book contains over 1,200 Decisions clarifying matters that may not be entirely clear from the Rules of Golf, in a well-indexed format that is easy to read and understand. (I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have access to the R&A’s 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015'. If you do not want it for yourself you should consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. If you are going to purchase this book, or anything else from Amazon, please use this link, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which will help me to meet my costs. Note that I think that I am right in saying that the USGA publication is only available from USGA Publications, but the content of both publications are the same, only some spellings are different.)

This reminds me to stress that there is only one ‘Rules of Golf’. Do not believe those that tell you that there are differences between R&A and USGA Rules, amateur and professional Rules, or Club and Society Rules, because there are not. Anyone playing the game of golf must abide by the same 34 Rules; conversely, anyone that chooses to ignore any of these Rules is playing a different game to golf.

Local Rules:
The Committee may make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I to the Rules. Some Local Rules operate on a permanent basis, e.g. allowing the removal of stones from bunkers by declaring them to be movable obstructions. Other Local Rules are temporary, e.g. those introduced to deal with adverse conditions in winter for the protection of the course, or to promote fair and pleasant play.

Rhodes Rules Tip: No golfer should commence a round of golf without knowing what the Local Rules are for the course, both permanent and temporary.

Conditions of Competition:
Rule 33-1 provides that the Committee must establish the conditions under which a competition is to be played. The conditions should include matters such as method of entry, eligibility, number of rounds to be played, etc. Tour events often have conditions of competition that do not usually apply to amateur competitions, such as the ‘one ball’ Rule and line of play relief from temporary immovable obstructions. I wrote a blog on this subject at this link. http://www.barryrhodes.com/2011/07/conditions-of-competition.html

There are four Appendices at the back of the Rules book covering these subjects;

Appendix I - Local Rules; Conditions of the Competition (see above)
Appendix II = Design of Clubs
Appendix III - The Ball
Appendix IV - Devices and Other Equipment, Rules of Amateur Status, Policy on Gambling
Some Clubs have byelaws and/or sanctions that can affect the play. For example there may be areas of the course where players are not permitted to enter, e.g. environmentally protected areas, neighbouring gardens, water courses that have steeply sloping banks.

Whilst Committees have no power to waive or modify a Rule of Golf without permission from the R&A or USGA, they may introduce ‘club regulations’ that require competitors to follow certain procedures in order to assist in the administration of the competition. Failure to follow these procedures may result in the application disciplinary sanctions, e.g., ineligibility to play in the next club competition(s). An example of this is a requirement for players to enter their score in a computer after their round. Committees may not penalise a player under the Rules of Golf if they fail to do so (Decision 6-6b/8), but they may impose a disciplinary sanction to take effect in the future, e.g. not being permitted to enter any competition for the next four weeks.

Handicapping Systems:
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary greatly. When playing competitive golf outside their own country golfers should ensure that their handicap is recognised for the purpose of the competition.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

No comments: