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  • Alistair Tait

Golf's defining factors

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Former European Tour Chief Referee John Paramor might not have had to hand out so many basic rulings during his long, illustrious career if the members he served had taken even a fraction of their time reading the Rules of Golf as they spent working on their games.

Indeed, JP said players didn’t have to go as far as reading the all the rules that govern the game, although that would have been welcomed wholeheartedly. He said players would increase their knowledge just by learning the definitions section of the rule book.

Paramor made this statement at one of the old finishing schools the European Tour ran in the early 1990s for incoming graduates from the Challenge Tour and Qualifying School. Sponsored first by McGregor and then Apollo, the tour ran a week’s course – McGregor Week, Apollo Week – at San Roque Golf Club in Southern Spain to help players prepare for life on tour. Bob Torrance, Denis Pugh and the late John O’Leary were on hand for instruction. Psychologist Alan Fine was there to help players with the mental side of the game. There were financial experts to advise players on how to manage the vast amounts of money they expected to make. And, of course, JP was there to educate them on the laws that governed how they earned their living.

Paramor’s rules sessions were intriguing since he would create situations players would/could face in a round of golf. He’d tell the players there was no trickery to what he was presenting them with, just common circumstances – ball sitting on a cart path, ball resting against an out of bounds stake, ball overhanging hole, etc.

JP would ask players to volunteer what they thought was the correct ruling. Sometimes a player would get it bang on, but usually JP had to talk them through it. Often players couldn’t get the ruling because they had no idea of the definitions section of the rule book.

JP’s advice on first getting to know the definitions is as apropos now as it was when he was advising players on the how to take a simple drop from a cart path. There are 74 definitions over 39 pages in the current Rules of Golf book. No one expects players to learn them in one sitting. However, tour players have a lot of down time in courtesy cars, airplanes, hotel rooms, etc. It wouldn’t take long to get these basics down to increase their rules knowledge.

Who knows, maybe once they got to know the definitions, they might think about actually learning the rules. Now there’s another radical idea. Here’s another one: they might even think to carry a rule book in their golf bag. They would probably learn a lot more about this game if they did than spending two minutes per green studying those infernal green-reading books that contribute to slow play. The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf only measures five and a half inches by four inches. Lots of room in those big tour bags for it. My well-thumbed edition fits rather neatly in my wee carry bag and comes in handy on occasion.

#JustSaying: “The only times you touch the ball with your hand are when you tee it up and when you pick it out of the cup. The hell with television towers and cables and burrowing animals and the thousand and one things that are refereed to as ‘not part of the golf course.’ If you hit the ball off the fairway, you play it from there.” Ken Venturi

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