Monday, 11 July 2016

The Rules of Golf

Golf is a game of honour.  Real golfers respect and play by the rules, not wanting to do anything to interfere with their opponents, or gain unfair advantage.  Somehow, however, those responsible for the rule book and ensuring the fairness of play have lost the plot.

Bad enough that the rules, further complicated by having to keep track of recent decisions and amendments to the rules, are not generally understood by golfers, but the rules officials don't seem to understand the concept of fairness, or intent.  We have seen the rules applied in such a manner as to give players an unfair advantage after a bad shot, and we have seen the rules applied to unfairly penalize players for minor, unintentional breaches of the rules.  We can all think of both cases if we've been around the game long enough.

Yesterday we saw a player lose the US Women's Open because she unintentionally moved a grain of sand in a bunker.  Yes, she arguably broke a rule.  Had she been aware of having touched the sand, I suspect she would have called the penalty on herself.  She was perhaps careless, hovering her club too close to the sand, but she certainly did not ground her club in the true sense of the word, nor did she gain any unfair advantage as a result.  

Playing in this age of technology, with high definition cameras focussed on the leaders, we see this kind of thing more and more often.  It doesn't add to the quality of the competition, or the fairness of the game.  It detracts from the whole affair and rankles players and fans alike.  

If we want people to be attracted to the game, we need to start using our heads and start making the rules, and their application, simple enough that we can understand, follow and, perhaps most important, respect them.  We also have to understand that for something to be just, the punishment should fit the crime.  Unfortunately, the rules of golf seem to be presided over by a bunch of stuffed shirts.  Men and women who strain the gnat out of the soup but swallow the camel.