And there is only one rule book for the game of golf…or is there?
Do you follow all of the rules in “the book” when you play? I would suspect that most of us follow many of the basic rules of the game each time that we hit the links. But, we all know that the foot-wedge has been seen in many a golf bag at our local golf courses. It always has been and always will be. Between you and me, on a Saturday afternoon round, I really don’t care if you move a ball from a spot with bare roots and rocks all over the place. I say go ahead. No one wants to see another player get hurt because of course conditions, but come tournament time, if that spot is not marked as ground under repair you had better hit it or take your medicine…and a drop clear of the area…with a stroke.
I think that the deeper a player gets into this great game the more they need to adhere to the rules. As a beginner the object is to learn the basics: stance, grip, swing path, etc. A beginner needs to learn the etiquette of golf: where to stand, where to put the flag, pace of play and things that will make them a good citizen of the golf course. In early stages of a beginner’s game he/she does not need to know that out of bounds is “stroke and distance” or that hitting the wrong ball is bad and that taking a mulligan is taboo. The newbie needs to gain confidence in hitting the ball and seeing it soar through the air like their minds eye pictured it would. They don’t need to worry about “rule 4-B, section 3 paragraph 2”.
The more experience a golfer has, the more likely it is that they will join a league and maybe play in a tournament from time to time. It is at that point when rules become more important. Even a corporate sponsored, beer-fest, fundraiser scramble event has rules. Most are loosely interpreted, but there are rules nonetheless. Some leagues care about the rules and some don’t. If and when I sub in a new league I always ask about things like “playing it down,” whether the formal out-of-bounds rule is enforced, or do they take a drop at the point the ball went out of bounds.
During our Club Championship last year one of our veteran players hit his drive OB on the last hole and proceeded to tell his fellow players that he would just drop a ball “here” and play out. The rest of the group said “no way pal” and sent him back to the tee. He may take that drop on a Tuesday morning when playing with his regular group, but in the Club Championship? I don’t think so.
R&B singer, Anita Baker, sings a song called “Rules” and as the song goes they are made to be broken. Well maybe in a love song. But, depending on your level of skill and the magnitude of the round, in golf “rules ain’t rules”.
Dan Crosby came to the sport of golf at an early age – in seventh grade he realized that getting hit by a fast-pitch baseball was not for him anymore. His father was his high school golf coach, and the only coach that he ever had. Currently residing in New York state, with his wife as his caddy, he lives, sleeps and eats golf.