It comes to something when a daydreaming caddie can relegate mass-murdering tyrants to a glossed over paragraph.

When Keith Pelley next finds himself fielding awkward questions about journalist-killing Saudi Arabia, perhaps he can just ask Denny McCarthy’s bagman to linger a little longer in shot.

Even Sergio Garcia’s worst Gardener’s World impression (someone should really explain to him you’re allowed to repair the greens now than destroy them) failed to dislodge Derek Smith’s casual bystanding at the Phoenix Open from the summit of social media’s hit parade of scorn.

What we’ve got is full-blown rules Armageddon. What next? We’re glued to our TV screens like it’s Gemma Collins approaching a triple Salchow.

I don’t know what the collective noun is for a crowd of discontented web warriors – a waste, perhaps? – but it struck me watching the weekend’s outrage that we’d all have lower blood pressures if we simply turned a few pages in the rulebook.

Am I the only one stunned that a group of players who compete for millions of dollars every week don’t appear to have the most basic grasp of some of the game’s laws?

Look I’m not surprised about Dustin Johnson, who admitted before the year-opening Tournament of Champions that the extent of his revision had been a brief glance at a poster in the locker room.

He’s the last person I’m going to for a reasoned exposition of Rule 10.2b (4).

But if you believe everything you read, it seems like a lot of them haven’t paid more than a cursory nod to the directives – appearing to lean on what they think is right, rather than what’s written, as their guide for how the game should be played.

That and assuming a rules official is always on hand – like some sort of expert personal butler – to keep them on the straight and narrow.

So if the pros can’t be chewed to get stuck into the rules, given what’s at stake for them, what hope is there for the rest of us?

If our warm-up routine consists of a couple of lazy swings and a lag putt before a medal, how many of us are going to spend a prior evening going through the complexities of what counts as announcing a provisional ball?

The crazy thing is that there are no excuses. The Player’s Edition of the Rules is hardly a Dan Brown thriller but it’s all there and with some big pictures to boot.

Rules of Golf

Honestly, it’s the R&A’s equivalent of a Spot the Dog pop-up.

Yet when the new Rules came into force at the start of January, golfers at clubs all over the world had a collective brain freeze.

If we can’t drop a ball from knee height or consider the position of a flagstick without going through a pantomime routine, is there any hope?

Or this golf now – where we grab a quick half dozen holes before it breaks out like The Walking Dead every time someone’s ball obeys gravity?

I can’t help thinking, given we’ve actually had a year to get to grips with these, that it’s all a bit of a lost cause.

But, on behalf of soon to be embattled rules and competitions secretaries all across this land, please just give the rulebook a browse.

Let’s make a collective effort to improve our knowledge and then maybe we’ll no longer need to stage a quiz on what constitutes taking a stance.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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