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rules of golf

Why every golfer should take an R&A rules exam

Our club golfer has been buried in the Rules of Golf for a solid month. And he thinks you should try it too
 

My memory is playing tricks. They say that can happen as you get older but I’m halfway through The R&A’s online Level 1 Rules of Golf exam and it’s comprehensive.

When I first took the test, back in August 2016, I have vague feelings of being asked about the spirit of the game, general etiquette, and then downloading a certificate signed by Padraig Harrington.

Now I’ve got to know what the penalty is for lifting a ball on the putting green without marking its position.

Have times changed? If they have, it’s for the better.

For those of you just joining at this stage, let me set the scene. I’m the person that gets stuck into the Rules of Golf whenever there’s an incident on tour, or a query comes into the NCG office.

I’m also the rules secretary at my golf club but I’ve been masquerading – hiding behind the pages of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf when delivering decisions.

In a bid to improve my knowledge I’ve embarked on a quest that will climax when I take the Level 2 qualification at the Home of Golf next month.

I’ve had my head stuck in the Rules of Golf for the best part of a month now and the first chance to see how I’m getting on comes when I decide to dive in once again to The R&A’s online Rules Academy – the first rung of what can be a three-stage ladder of learning.

There were a couple of reasons for knuckling down and getting a refresher and it wasn’t merely about using it as a handy piece of revision.

Since I first pitted my skills against the random computer questions the best part of four years ago, the Rules of Golf went through their most significant revision for a generation.

Essentially, it felt like a new test and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to update my certificate for the 2020s.

The first thing to say, if you’re going to click onto the academy and sign up, is you won’t be blinded with subsections and interpretations.

This stage uses the Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf so not only is it delivered in language that’s easy to understand, there are plenty of videos and diagrams to help hammer home the knowledge.

You’ll work through topics such as areas of the course, putting greens, flagsticks, dropping, movable obstructions, abnormal course conditions, and much more, before having the chance to take a 50-question test.

So how did I get on? 44 out of 50. That’s 88 per cent – so the certificate signed by executive director David Rickman tells me.

Here’s a flavour of the questions asked:

  • How many relief options are available for a red penalty area?
  • Before putting, Grant removes a stone embedded in the putting green on his line of play. How many penalty strokes does he get in stroke play?
  • On the putting green, Shona notices a spike mark on her line of play and taps it down with her putter before holing her putt. How many penalty strokes does she get in stroke play?

If you want the answers, you’ll have to take the test!

I’m irritated about the questions I got wrong but, as I work up to Level 2, they will serve a purpose. Three of those incorrect concerned penalties, and I got a little muddled as to whether it was a one or two stroke sanction.

Given that’s obviously a clear weakness, I can work harder on those before the moment of truth arrives in St Andrews.

I’d urge you all to give The R&A Rules Academy a go. It’ll occupy about three hours of your time – including the exam – you don’t have to complete it in one sitting and you’ll come away knowing how to deal with much of what you’ll see on a golf course – as well as taking the first stage on a possible route to refereeing.

We all want to play the sport as honestly as we can and I’d say 99 per cent of the rules breaches I’ve seen have been down to a lack of knowledge rather than skulduggery.

So give it a go. It’s free and you’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Visit The R&A’s Rules Academy to get started. How did you get on? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet me.

 

 

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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