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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Law Can be an Ass

There was a time when golfers policed themselves. Only when a disagreement arose between competitors would the tournament committee become involved to rule on the matter. Today the situation has become almost laughable--if it wasn't so sad.

We now see professional golfers feeling compelled to call a rules official over the most routine matters, like taking relief from a cartpath. This because they live in fear of some moron phoning in suggesting the drop was incorrectly taken. Again, it would be funny if it wasn't so damned sad. The professional tours have created this situation by allowing outside agencies, in the form of anal retentive, armchair rules aficionados, insert themselves into the competition by feeling free to add their two cents worth. This absolutely must stop.

It seems the somewhat nebulous rule book is up for some big changes and revisions. That is good. We are coming to understand, often in a painful way, that the rules are not only often misunderstood, they are often arbitrary and do not take into account the reason they exist in the first place; namely the fairness of the competition. For someone to lose a Major championship because they replaced the ball on the putting green an eighth of an inch to the left insults almost all of us because it isn't fair. Again, fairness being the reason for the rules in the first place. On the other hand, replacing the ball an eighth of an inch to the left intentionally to avoid a spike mark is a different story. Circumstances do matter. 

In the case of Lexi Thompson, the law was an ass. And I am not encouraged by the fact that the rules official involved still feels she had no alternative but to assess the penalty. I spent thirty years in the penitentiary service. I had to enforce the rules, and even had to hold court and hand down sentences to the inmates. When you are a judge, you must, if you are going to be respected and effective, take into account the circumstances surrounding the offence. And, believe me, officers who were great rules enforcers, but had no discretion, were a real pain in the neck. 

The rules have to be changed in some cases. In other cases, those charged with enforcing the rules need to understand that there is such a thing as discretion. Whether an infraction is penalized should be based upon whether the offender by committing the offence gained an unfair advantage or not, and whether the act was intentional and egregious. 

The rules need to be changed. We have to have rules that make sense and are there not to arbitrarily punish a competitor, but to ensure fairness. If a person unintentionally moves his ball, he should be able to simply replace it. Championships should not be won and lost on the basis of a ball accidentally being moved a fraction of an inch. For rules to be respected they must be understandable and make sense.

Unfortunately, golfers seem to feel it necessary to hold one another, and especially themselves, to what is sometimes an impossibly high standard. And rules officials feel that they have no discretion. The rules need to be made simple. The prime reason for them being that no player be permitted to take unfair advantage. Instead, we see the rules actually being used in some cases to give a player an unfair advantage; as in the case of a fricken boulder that needed six people to move it being deemed to be a loose impediment. In cases like that, the law is truly an ass.