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English Senior Men's Amateur

You won’t believe the things referees look at before a big tournament

Our club golf editor is part of the officiating team at the English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship at Alwoodley. In the first of his tournament dispatches, he introduces you to a vital part of the whole week – the referee course walk

 

What do you call a gathering of referees? A gaggle? A school? Whatever you might think to name us, we’re all stood in a patch of rough at the side of Alwoodley’s 12th hole and are pondering.

The club is hosting the English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship this week and there are large swathes to the left of the shortish Par-4 where trees have been cut down during winter work.

You might think shedding timber is straightforward enough, but it’s what remains. There are roots, there is displacement, and there is recovery.

Not ideal for the purposes of playing a golf shot in a big championship but, more pertinently, it’s work that could risk a player getting injured if they inadvertently smack a wedge into it.

Parts have been defined as ground under repair and are surrounded by white paint. We all know we can take relief when a ball is within it.

The problem is that some areas which are not classed as GUR still look an awful lot like areas which are. What do you do? Mark every little strip of ground affected? Make the whole area GUR, even though some of it is already painted?

Are you going to deny relief from what might essentially be the same situation because of the absence of a precious line?

I tell you this story not to pose a quiz – the answer is it’s at the referee’s discretion – but to give you an idea of the sheer detail that goes into putting on a championship and the involvement referees have in that process.

I’ve been allowed to be part of the England Golf team officiating at the West Yorkshire course this week and the first day of activities for the referees sees them conducting a course walk ahead of play getting under way.

English Senior Men's Amateur

What goes into putting on the English Senior Men’s Amateur?

Organisers have been on site for four days already and they’ve done much of the spadework. Even so, you will not believe the minutiae that is considered.

Boundaries are checked, drainage lines inspected, seams of cut turf considered. The status of a pile of logs to the right of the 6th fairway is debated. Should a path crossing a penalty area close to the 11th tee be considered part of that ‘hazard’?

What constitutes a path anyway? Is it enough for it just to be a clearing, or does there need to be some stone, or some evidence of construction (as we find on a walkway close to the 4th green), for it to meet the definition of an immovable obstruction?

The team are hedging bets on whether wooden covers, over what looks like a couple of wells, will ever come into to play down the left of the 18th. One ref offers 100/1. But that’s not the point. They look at it, they judge it, and they define it because it might come into play. It only has to happen once.

The English Senior Men’s Amateur is a huge tournament. A total of 288 golfers, split in half, play a round at Alwoodley and a round at Pannal before a cut is made and nearly 90 get to play a final round once more at Alwoodley to decide the champion.

It’s an enormous undertaking of logistics and resources and the referees are all volunteers and vastly experienced.

When you see the dedication they show, and the efforts they make before a tee shot has even been struck in anger off the 1st tee, you can only recognise the pride they take in their work and just how big this event really is.

It’s going to be an exciting week of great golf, and drama, and it’s a real thrill to play a small part in it. Let the rulings commence.

Now have your say

Are you planning to visit the English Men’s Senior Amateur Championship this week? Let me know with a tweet.

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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