Category Archives: rules

The Rules Of Golf In One Page

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, 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.


Villegas DQ’d at Kapalua

Camillo Villegas was disqualified last week for signing an incorrect scorecard. He broke Rule 23-1 and did not know he had. He signed his card without the penalty, and when TV viewers spotting the infraction called in, rules officials determined the viewers were correct and disqualified him. His comment as, “There are a million rules, and no one can know them all.”

The debate crops up once more: should TV viewers be able to phone in violations, and should players be DQed if the notification happens after they have signed their card?

Unlike other sports, where there are rules officials on the spot covering a small area of the field of play, golf is played over 150 acres with only a handful of rules officials acting where requested.

So we expect the players to be the referees their own game. It is asking too much that we also expect them to know the rules we trust them to enforce? What else could we think? The players, though, don’t know the rules. No one is certain if they even care to.

Rocco Mediate is quoted in the January 14, 2011, Golfweek magazine when asked how well PGA players know the rules, on a scale of 1 to 10. “Maybe a 5 — and that’s being nice,” he said. Bubba Watson, who was in the Villegas group, said, “I probably wouldn’t have known that rule, either.”

The issue that tournament officials want to avoid is having to walk the line between ignorance and dishonesty. Is a player truly ignorant of a rule, or just claiming to be so he or she can get away with something?

The way to avoid walking the line is to not have a line. When a rule is broken, and no penalty is taken at the time, whatever penalty the rules provide must be assigned retroactively if the violation becomes known. The question of cheating never gets asked.

We’re left with the fact that the absence of on-the-spot referees means matches are being supervised by people who know less about the rules than guys I play with on Tuesday morning do. Not only that, but even though I’m not a rules maven, and I didn’t know about Rule 23-1 until this issue came up, I do know that when your ball is moving, all you do until it stops is watch it. Couldn’t we expect a world-class professional to have the same amount of sense?

Of course a violation should be phoned in if it is noticed, and relevant penalties applied. One golfer suffers if it does, but the entire sport suffers if it does not.


Julie Inkster’s DQ Was the Right Call

Saturday at the Safeway Classic in Porltand, Oregon, Julie Inkster was waiting on the tee. A 30-minute wait. So to stay loose, she took a few practice swings with a club on which she had put a “doughnut”, a weighted training device. A TV viewer called this in and Inkster was disqualified.

Here are the rules: Decision 14-3/10: Question: During a round, may a player make a stroke or a practice swing using a club with a weighted headcover or “doughnut” on it, or use any other device as a training aid or swing aid? Answer: No

Rule 14-3: Penalty for breach of rule 14-3: Disqualification.

There you have it. She made a practice swing in violation of the Decision, hence the Rule, and the penalty is DQ.

Inkster said, “The device had no effect on my game whatsoever.”

1. If so, then why did you use it, and

2. Lots of rules violations might have no effect on one’s game, but they’re still violations.

On the air, commentator Judy Rankin, a former touring professional, said the penalty should have been two strokes. But that’s nowhere in the Rules, Judy. And we don’t make up rules just because something isn’t “fair,” or happens to a player we like, or we don’t like how severe the consequences are.

Then there’s Rule 1-3, which Judy’s comment gets right to, which says, “Players must not agree to exclude the operation of and Rule or to waive any penalty incurred.” An unbelievable comment from someone who used to be in the mix.

Golf World magazine said, in its August 23rd Golf World Monday e-mail edition, that “players who happen to be on TV are arbitrarily being held to an unfair standard.” What standard is that? Obeying the rules? That’s unfair? Did I miss a memo?

In the sport where players are expected to call rules violations on themselves (see Brian Davis at the Verizon Heritage last April) Golf World apparently wants violations to be called only if a rules official sees it.

Golf is played on a 150-acre arena with players scattered all over it. The actionable event in other sports takes place in an area about the size of your back yard and there are officials right there to make the call.

Michelle Redman got it right when said why she told a rules official about Lisa McCloskey’s caddy violating a rule concerning riding in carts during a round. “I was fulfilling my obligation to protect the field.”

That’s exactly the point.

The field has to be protected from players who violate the rules, intentionally or not. Otherwise, the integrity of the sport will plummet. The shocking thing about this incident is that people who should know better believe otherwise.