Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Golf rules can be troublesome

By Mary Armstrong For the Sun-News

Published 8/27/10

In the past week, the golf world has been abuzz with “Bunkergate” — the fiasco at the PGA Championship. Hundreds of thousands of words have been published and probably tens of millions have been written online about it. And yet the “Rules Establishment” would have you believe that “the game isn’t supposed to be fair.” When a position of authority says or at least implies “you don’t really understand,” you have to be suspicious, and you should be insulted. To tell us that the rules aren’t there to make the game fair is frankly a slap in the face. At best it’s a lousy excuse for bad work. There isn’t another sport (or game) in this world that applies a rule and then says the game isn’t supposed to be fair. The nearest thing I can come up with was the “tuck” rule in the 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff game pitting the Oakland Raiders against the New England Patriots. It was a very controversial ruling and many questioned its validity. Nonetheless, the NFL never tried to say, nor did they need to say, “oh too bad, that’s tough, the game isn’t supposed to be fair.” There are plenty of rules that I find troublesome. The problem here isn’t so much that players need to know the rules. We all deal with rules everyday — there are rules or laws for just about anything you might do. Most of the time we don’t have to think about what the rule is because it is common sense — it’s what would come to mind for the average person in a given situation. This past week, Juli Inkster was disqualified for using a weighted “donut” on one of her clubs to get loose after a 30-minute wait on the 10th tee in the Safeway Classic. Inkster turned 50 this year. I’m sure she has been playing on the LPGA tour in excess of 25 years. The question isn’t so much whether she broke the rule, it’s more about how can you possibly know all the rules.

My father taught me that the game is dependent upon honor. Much of the time, a player is alone with his/her actions and you have to be at peace with what you do. What my father didn’t tell me is that when you have officials involved honor takes a back seat to explaining your actions. This past year, Michelle Wie was penalized for grounding her club in a hazard (a pond in this case) after she had just struck a shot from that hazard. Without getting too in depth into the particulars, Wie told the rules official that after she hit the shot, she lost her balance and put the club down to help stabilize herself. After seeing the video it seemed to me that she hit the shot and then put her club down as most of us would do, to help her step out of the pond. She knew that she didn’t do anything that gave her an advantage or violated the spirit of the rules. In my opinion she tried to explain her actions within the context of the rule that she supposedly violated and didn’t think to just say what she was thinking and doing. The rules official did not agree with her and assessed the penalty.It seems to me that the only person that knows why they did something is the player. In my view, the official overstepped his bounds by deciding he knew better than she, what was going on with her body and mind. Have we forgotten that a person’s honor is more important than any kind of penalty or disqualification that can be assessed? If Michelle Wie manufactured a reason to avoid a deserved penalty she would be vilified in ink and more importantly by her peers; and that would be far more incentive to do the right thing than having “Daddy Rules” hanging over her. And again, what advantage did she gain by putting her club down after she played her shot? The game’s not supposed to be fair — hmmpf!Rules officials have made themselves indispensable in this game. It reminds me of too many other sports that have taken the game away from the players with overbearing officiating and rule making. The honor of the game — which historically has been a foundation of the sport — has been lost. Today, observing the rules is far more about being prepared to argue your case with an official. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers got along with 13 handwritten rules on a page and a half from 1744 to 1775. For well over 30 years competitions were conducted and Championships determined without the need to add even one single word.I have been playing this game for 50 years now. I have never been more uncertain of the rules than I am now. Oh sure, when I was 8 years old I didn’t know the rules, but I KNEW I didn’t know the rules. Today, if you think you know the rules you are more likely to be penalized or even disqualified than if you KNOW you don’t know the rules. Rules officials like to lean on the “when uncertain of the course of action under the rules, play a second ball clause – Rule 3-3.” I don’t know about you, but I’m considering hitting a “second ball” on every shot.A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: https://roadholeshorts17.wordpress.com/.

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