The Rules Of Golf And Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Know Them

By Ian Fabian (contributing writer)

It’s been several years now, but it seems like only yesterday. My good golfing buddy Dave, who was Club Captain of the Men’s Club at the course we were members of, was attempting to convince me I should join the Board and contribute my ideas to the general benefit of the membership.

There was alcohol involved and after some debate back and forth I asked what position Dave thought I might be suited for. Dave replied there was an opening for the Chair of Rules and Discipline he thought I’d be perfect for.

This article will (eventually) deal with the Rules aspect of the position, but allow me to pause here and state that when you’re the Chair of the Discipline committee people are very friendly to you on a regular basis whether they’ve done anything to worry about or not.

I questioned Dave as to what was involved and he explained I would have to take the RCGA Rules Course in order to be qualified. Like most golfers, I knew some of the rules and thought, “How hard could it be?”

The course itself took up most of a Saturday morning and certainly opened my eyes as to how many and how intricate the rules of golf are. We were issued a pocketbook size, official RCGA rules book and sent on our merry way.

It was much later that I discovered that there was an additional book called the “Decisions” book. This reference may not make any sense to you of the Millennial Generation as you’re blissfully unaware of what a “telephone book” looks like, however, the Decisions book is roughly twice the size of the old New York City telephone directory. Should you ever have to barricade your doors against a home invasion, this is the book for you!

I commenced my duties as Rules and Discipline Chair and found out rather quickly that while there were disciplinary issues that needed to be dealt with, the vast majority of my time involved rules interpretation and infractions.

The other discovery that I made was that most people were unhappy with the answer you gave them regardless of whether it was the correct one or not. They always seemed to be sure that what they’d done while on the golf course was completely within the rules and took exception to being told that it wasn’t.

Some examples include, “Yes, I moved my ball from the divot but it was very deep and someone should have repaired it,” and “Yes, I was standing directly in line with my opponents putt but that was the same line my ball was on and I wanted to see the break,” and one of the most common, “No, none of us actually saw my ball enter the hazard but we’re sure it did so I played it from there”.

There’s no question that knowing the rules can benefit you and often times help you get out of a predicament, however, it’s a very slippery slope. When you invoke a rule during your round of golf the other players in your group will begin to look at you differently. Some may question whether you’ve applied the rule correctly, some may question whether it’s a rule at all and some may look at you as an omniscient* being.

It’s the latter group which you have to be aware of. The first two doubters can be pacified by simply pulling out your copy of the rules book (everyone should have one in their bag) and pointing out the appropriate rule that you’ve applied.

The last group are not so easily dealt with. Not only will they count on you whenever you’re playing with them to advise them of a particular rule but they’ll start going out of their way to invent situations so that you can tell them what the rule would be. It would never occur to them to learn the rules themselves since it’s so much easier to just ask you.

On those occasions when you simply don’t know the rule in question and say so, the look you receive will remind you of the expression you wore when you realized your Mom and Dad were actually Santa Claus. (My apologies to any readers if this was a spoiler alert for them.)

My best suggestion is to learn the rules, abide by them at all times, use them to your advantage when you can and NEVER volunteer a rules interpretation to anyone.... at any time.

Omniscience /ɒmˈnɪʃəns/, mainly in religion, is the capacity to know everything that there is to know. In particular, dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) and the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) believe that there is a divine being who is omniscient.

About the Writer:

Ian Fabian is a self-proclaimed golf addict and makes no apologies for it. He can be found most weekends carving out his legacy on his home golf course and is easily recognized by the cloud of swing thought bubbles following him around like the cloud of dust followed Pig Pen from Charles Schultz' famous Peanuts comic strip. However, should you seek him our regarding a 'Rules' inquiry, he may suddenly become somewhat scarce.