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Want to play the same game as the pros? That means playing the same Rules!

Want to play the same game as the pros? That means playing the same Rules!

Our expert can’t help but chuckle when people advocate a different set of laws for those at the top level of the game

 

How difficult is it to put the right numbers on a bit of card? Hard enough apparently that we need to bifurcate the rules.

I use that word ‘bifurcate’ deliberately, as it neatly sums up the hypocrisy. There are people who’ve spent months screaming about the prospect of a different ball at pro and club level who seem perfectly happy to divide up the rule book if it means their favourite gets to enjoy the weekend.

There are only a few players who can cause this sort of teeth-gnashing in the golf world. Jordan Spieth is one of them. If someone like, say, JJ Spaun (sorry to single you out) had missed the cut because he’d signed for an incorrect scorecard, it might have merited a few paragraphs.

But Shane Ryan and Ron Green Jnr wouldn’t have launched into a Golf Channel tirade about the unfairness of it all. “In 2024 we can’t punish a guy like this!’

Bums on seats and all that. Or, in this case, sofas.

Was Spieth’s situation unfortunate? Of course. It’s an administrative mistake and the punishment is harsh. He’s also had to do it since he first picked up a club competitively. Check the scores are right, sign the card. It’s been around since we began writing numbers on bits of paper in this game.

Oh, as plenty have said, we’ve got live leaderboards now. We’ve got ShotLink. Why do we need to physically sign a card?

Let me count the ways. Firstly, anyone who has spent time staring at leaderboards – as I do for a living – will know they don’t always get it right. We once got into a right lather at NCG Towers after one player in a decent tournament was listed as having started with two aces. They had not.

Technology, along with the people who operate it, is not infallible. If we’re spluttering like this because a player made a mistake, imagine the reaction if a volunteer got their maths mixed up.

Don’t pass the buck. And credit to Spieth because he did not. It’s your score, you’re responsible for it. It really is that simple. As my podcast co-host Tom Irwin has said, “it’s not a trick”.

2023 Rules of Golf rules disputes

Golf rules: If you start fiddling with the rules, where would it stop?

Wider than that is what a separation of powers would do to the Rules of Golf themselves. People forget, when they’re crying about something that’s happened at the elite, that those rules are universal.

They’re written for everyone – from those of us who take on the weekend Stableford to the competitors at the Masters. We play the same game, to the same laws.

Local rules can carve out exceptions. It would be absurd to enforce a ‘one-ball rule’ in your weekend medal, where some golfers care less about model and brand uniformity as much as playing with what they’ve found.

But they can’t one-up the Rules of Golf themselves.

Once you start fiddling with the fundamentals – and being responsible for your own digits is fundamental – you start unravelling the fabric of the game.

Where would it stop? Do we bother with scorecards at all on the tours? Do we change the number of clubs that can be used there, because this big sponsor would like the chance to hawk more of their wares to a watching audience?

That might sound far-fetched, but is it? It’s a slippery slope. What other rules do we bend because ‘fans want to see them play the weekend’?

I do find it interesting when people bang on about wanting to play the same game as the pros, as they do with equipment, but seem quite happy to contemplate a different game entirely when it comes to the rules.

If we’re truly playing the same game, that means playing to the same regulations. Even if the consequence of that is a player being booted out of a tournament because a 3 should have been a 4.

Now have your say

Has Steve got it right, or should the golf rules be different depending on whether you’re playing tour or amateur golf? Why not let him know with a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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