• Alistair Tait

Golf’s rich language is worth fighting for


I’m still looking for “Dormie” in the Rules of Golf. I’m searching in vain. One of golf’s greatest words was chopped when the new rules came into effect on 1 January 2019.

I’m thinking of starting a campaign to get the word re-instated.

Here’s the wording of the last line in old Rule 2-1. “A side is ‘dormie’ when it is as many holes up as there are holes remaining to be played.”

Rule 3.2, Match Play, now deals with head-to-head golf, but “dormie” has been eliminated and the game is poorer by its absence. The last sentence of Rule 3.2a (4) states: “But the Terms of the Competition may say that the match will end in a tie rather than be extended.” No mention of dormie.

I know this to be true because I’m in the midst of re-reading and re-learning the Rules of Golf. I’ve just finished writing out Rule 3: The Competition. Yes, writing them out. It’s my way of trying to keep my knowledge as current as possible.

Hey, it’s helping me get through this coronavirus nightmare.

Every two years or so after passing the R&A’s Refereeing and Rules of Golf exam, I would re-read the rules. I went a bit further; I wrote them out in longhand, too, and I’m intent on keeping that tradition going.

So I was a bit miffed (again) this morning going over Rule 3.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some dyed in the wool stick in the mud who wants to see the rules reduced to the original 13 printed in 1744 – although that might make things an awful lot simpler.

I get it that there are places in the world where they say "tie" instead of "half." I have no problem with that, even though you’ll probably never hear me use “tie” or “tied.” That goes for most of the people I play with.

I understand that the R&A and USGA wanted to trim down the rules from 34 to 24, even though I think the new changes could have been included in the original 34. However, deleting “dormie” from the official book that governs the game is a step too far.

One of the beauties of this game is the language we use to describe it. As Henry Longhurst once said:

“Golf is the Esperanto of Sport. All over the world golfers talk the same language – much of it nonsense and much of it unprintable – endure the same frustration, discover the same infallible secrets of putting, share the shame illusory joys.”

Dormie was one of the game’s little joys.

Sports writer Grantland Rice once wrote:

“Golf is 20 per cent mechanics and technique. The other 80 per cent is philosophy, humour, tragedy, romance, melodrama, companionship, camaraderie, cussedness and conversation.”

That conversation has been diminished by eliminating “dormie” from the rule book. The game has been dumbed down to a certain extent, maybe to cater for those yahoos who seem to think shouting "mashed potato" is the way to behave at golf tournaments.


So, R&A director of rules David Rickman and USGA counterpart Thomas Pagel, if you’re reading this I implore you to reconsider this omission and insert “dormie” into the next edition of the Rules of Golf. It can easily be added to the end of Rule 3.2a (4).

Golf’s rich language is worth fighting for.

Wait until you see the battle that starts when I get around to “penalty area.” Honestly!

© 2020 by ALISTAIR TAIT GOLF

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