How well do you understand the Rules of Golf?

The Scoop

In this week's Fourball we discuss the new Player's Edition of the Rules, our own inadequacies and what we'd like to see changed by the authorities

We’re never too far away from discussing the Rules of Golf but this week brought about a cheerier, more current picture as the R&A and USGA brought out the Player’s Edition of the Rules. In short it’s shorter, easier to digest and more user-friendly.

On January 1 next year we will play under an updated Rules of Golf where, generally speaking, a collection of common-sense issues will be applied. These rules include three minutes to look for your ball, no penalty if your ball accidentally moves and more relaxed bunker and putting rules.

So we put our collective heads together to discuss the new booklet and admit how little we really understand the rules…

Will the new Player’s Edition help golfers get their heads round the Rules of Golf?

Steve: Absolutely. I was really taken with the way they were written – in very straightforward language – and the great use of illustrations. Now if anyone asks about what to do with an unplayable ball, for example, we can look at a nice picture with the options rather than scrabbling through pages of dense text trying to find the answer. These questions do come up and, most of the time, you’re shrugging your shoulders and hoping you haven’t done something that gets you disqualified. There are no longer any excuses.

Matthew: Definitely, it wasn’t possible to read the old rules book without getting your head scrambled and eventually becoming more confused by the text that was in front of you. I just found it easier to take my phone out and just Google a ruling rather try to work out the jumble inside the old rules book. The new book is effectively what you find when you search the internet for rulings. It’s short, simple and with pictures that make it easy to understand.

rules of golf

Dan: It undoubtedly will. The worst thing, previously, was that even when golfers had taken the trouble to equip themselves with a copy of the rules and tried to look something up there was every chance they would be confused by the explanation or just not be able to find it. You shouldn’t have to be a lawyer to interpret the rules accurately. I don’t want the rules to catch out the naive or unwary; they should be there to make the game better and fairer.

Mark: When Phil Mickelson did his thing at Shinnecock I took the trouble of trying to understand this part of the Rules of Golf and I was sent from one section of the book to another. It was too long and all over the place and this isn’t the case any more. The pictures are great too, who would have thought of such a thing?

rules of golf

How good/flakey is your understanding of the Rules?

Matthew: Every golfer likes to think they know all the rules but only a selected few actually do. I’ve been playing now for around six years and  in any other sport you’d have mastered the rules from cover to cover in that space of time. In golf, however, you could be playing all your life and a new rule will more than likely crop up every round you play until you play your last.

Dan: Staggeringly bad when I think how much time and thought I have invested in this game over the course of my lifetime. I think that has to say something about their excessive complicatedness, as well as my failure to engage with them properly.

Mark: I used to carry a copy of the rules around with me as a junior when I basically thought I was playing on the European Tour and my knowledge is as bad now as it is then. If anything really stinky crops up (like a two-club drop) I always involve my playing partners. When this does happen I act quite strangely and say things like ‘are we good?’ when the pantomime has come to a close.

Steve: I’ve done the R&A Level 1 (humble brag) but I still wouldn’t say I’ve got any great knowledge of the rules’ complexities. We all think we know what the rules are but, in reality, we are just playing at it. I think most of us know how to take a drop and what to do when we carve one out of bounds and that’s probably about it.

So what’s the worst rules infringement our team have seen, and which rule would they like to change? Fourball continues on the next page…

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