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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas – The Rules Official

Welcome to another Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers we’ve all played with over the years. The series proved so popular last year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise this Christmas, too.

Once again, I obviously pre-wrote these so I don’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. Still no flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family; eating and drinking too much; and taking long walks, sadly without Izzy in tow.

Oh, Izzy. Merry Christmas my big lassie. Still miss you big time.

9. The Rules Official

Here’s the scene in a monthly medal at Woburn Golf Club early on in my membership. I’m in the left hand greenside bunker on the par-5, 10th hole of the Duchess Course. My ball is at the front of the bunker. The rake is at the back, with the handle protruding from the bunker. To save time and trudging unnecessarily through the sand, I pick up the rake and walk around to the point where my ball is.

I carry my sand wedge and the rake into the bunker and place the rake down in the sand near the ball. That’s when the player marking my card says:

“Actually, you can’t place the rake in the sand like that. You have to wait until you play your shot before you can take the rake into the sand. Afraid it’s a two-shot penalty.”

I give him a quizzical look and a slight laugh and tell him he’s wrong. What I’ve done is perfectly fine. He’s not having it, insisting it’s a two shot penalty.

The third member of the group chimes in.

“Yes, it’s a two shot penalty. We had the exact same situation a couple of weeks ago. Sorry.”

I knew what they were saying was absolute tosh because nothing in my action could be considered testing the condition of the sand under old Rule 13-4. They still disagreed.

I told them I wasn’t taking a two-shot penalty, that we would sort everything out in the clubhouse afterwards. Sure enough, they changed their plea to not guilty when I showed them the wording of Rule 13-4 .

It made for a frosty final eight holes and taught me many amateur golfers don’t know the rules of golf well enough to be handing out two-shot penalties.

The irony of the above situation was that it occurred only a few weeks after I passed the R&A’s Referring and Rules of Golf examination over three days at St Andrews. Mind you, my mark was 74%, so technically I’m wrong 26% of the time.

I had another one recently, whereby I was told we no longer have to use the words “provisional ball” following the overhaul of the Rules of Golf on 1 January 2019. Er, no. Not true. Thankfully on this occasion my playing companion believed me when I told him whoever had passed on that advice was talking out of his jaxie.

Most amateur golfers are just happy to play the game and care not a jot that they don’t fully know the rules. Why would they? Despite the supposed simplification of the laws from 34 to 24 with the rewrite for the new edition published 1st of January 2019, the current full rule book is 552 pages long! Recreational golfers, even long-standing golf club members, aren’t going to plough their way through the rule book of an evening – even several evenings.

To be fair, many club golfers have a fairly decent understanding of the basic rules, some even have an excellent understanding of the full laws that govern our game. However, every once in a while I come across individuals who think they’re a match for John Paramor or Andy McFee, the European Tour’s recently retired experts.

Some of these people can do more harm than good by passing out spurious information others take as gospel.

I’m not saying you have to read the Rules of Golf cover to cover, but beware the wannabe rules official. It pays to double check rules advice from time to time just in case you’ve been misinformed because such misinformation can be taken as gospel and spread quickly to other players. I still occasionally play with people who think you can declare a ball lost – even if it's clearly visible.

The R&A website has a useful online quiz that can help your knowledge. It’s divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The questions are true or false or multiple choice, each quiz only takes a few minutes, and it’s a good fun way of brushing up on your knowledge of the rules.

#JustSaying: “Golf: the only game in the world in which a precise knowledge of the rules can earn one a reputation for bad sportsmanship.” Patrick Campbell

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Bill Elliott
Bill Elliott
Jan 03, 2022

Just taken the Intermediate quiz and got 13 out of 18 correct. Quite pleased with that pal. Happy New Year X

Jan 07, 2022
Replying to

So you should be, but don't tell the rest of the AGW: you'll get kicked out of the organisation...😉 HNY to you too...

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