There are two kinds of golfers – the ones who play by the rules and the ones who don’t. Or is it, there are two kinds of golfers – the ones who know the rules and the ones who don’t?
Actually, there are two kinds of golfers – the ones who play by the rules, but don’t know them, the ones who don’t play by the rules and don’t know them. Of the two possibilities left over, knowing the rules and playing by them and knowing the rules and not playing by them, there are no golfers like that because nobody knows the rules.
The rule book as 97 pages and there is an 457-page book of decisions on arcane exceptions that came up once in a tournament, and even that is not all-encompassing. Our sport is too complicated!
When the rules of golf were first codified in 1744, there were just thirteen rules. They dealt with conditions of the day, such as dogs and horses on the course (no mention of cows, sheep, and goats), clubs breaking, and balls “coming among wattery filth.” One can only imagine what that might refer to, given sanitation practices of the day.
But the idea you get from reading those rules is that you hit your ball, go find it, and hit it again. No excuses. They’re so simple that even your average PGA touring professional would know at least eleven of them.
For golfers who really want to know today’s rules, there isn’t much hope. There’s just too much material and the rules interact in unexpected ways. That’s where The Recreational Golfer comes to your rescue.
Over at therecreationalgolfer.com, there is a one-page set of rules that covers just about everything that would occur in normal play. The hedges are “just about” and “normal.” I’m using 12-point type, and to to condense 97 pages into one, you would need about .025-point type and a microscope, so I had to leave a lot out.
What got left out is mainly the legalistic language the rules have to contain to account for clubhouse lawyers who insist that the letter of the rule apply exactly to their case instead of understanding the spirit of the game. You know the type.
I call my short set of rules, The Rules of Recreational Golf. They’re easy to understand, easy to apply for people who are just out to bat the ball around the course and enjoy their surroundings and the company they’re keeping. For turning in a handicap round, or playing in a tournament, keep to the USGA rule book.
If you want to play by the rules, and I hope you do, try playing by these. If you do, you’ll get it right (except for the ridiculous out of bounds rule, which I changed), and you’ll know a great deal more about the rules than 95 percent of the golfers you play with.