Golf is known as a gentleman’s game. It is perhaps the only sport played on such an expanse of open space that competitors often never get to see one another during the game, despite playing the same field under similar conditions. It is also essentially a self-regulating game: golfers should understand the basic rules.
One must understand that the rules are meant to assist players rather than impose penalties on them. That means, as a golfer, you need to ‘play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair’. However, to do what is fair you need to have adequate knowledge of the rules. In general, golfers are so preoccupied with their swing that they tend to assume they know the rules. It is only when the rules begin to work against them in the form of penalties that they start realising the harsh realities of their ignorance. By then, of course, it is too late to lament, “Oh if I had only read the rules or called a marshal for a ruling!”
Even the world’s best get penalised in big competitions due to ignorance. In some occasions, players have been disqualified. In the recent Nepal Professional Golfers Association tournaments, two professionals were disqualified because they took a wrong drop. You can see that even top professional players get confused at times with the rules of golf. Remembering every single rule is quite impossible, but whenever doubt creeps in, a marshal is called or two balls are played with a decision sought afterwards. The rules are amended once every
four years. It is of paramount importance to keep your-self updated. References are available on the United States Golf Association website www.usga.org. Click on ‘Playing the Game’ and read ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’. For an explanation of the general rules, consult with your local club professional.
In some amateur tournaments, I have seen players not holing putts and still recording scores. In all kinds of competition, a player must hole a putt to record a score, otherwise the hole is scratch. Often seen at the club are golfers taking wrong drops from unplayable liesand lateral water hazards. A recurring problem is how neither proper point of entry into a hazard is identified nor the nearest point of relief.
In this game you are given the initial privilege of being your own judge. The game is no fun if rules are not followed.
(The author is a golf instructor and golf director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. He can be contacted through