As we enter this New Year’s holiday weekend, football, not golf, will be on the minds of many of us. What with a bowl of every name except the toilet bowl (which of course would come to us from Flushing, New York) leading up to the final NFL games of the season, you’re probably seeing bonecrushing tackles in your sleep.
So, I thought I’d have a little fun with some of the football rules and how they might translate to golf. Heaven knows, we’ve all wanted to throw a penalty flag now and then out on the course. By the way, just the name or phrase identifying the penalty from the NFL Rulebook amounts to 598 words!
• Offside: When a player ventures too far in front of the player that is out and playing his/her shot. I’m guilty of this sometimes — just too anxious to hit my next shot. Usually results in a poorly-hit shot on my part and therefore a self-inflicted penalty.
• Loss of team timeouts or five-yard penalty on the defense for excessive crowd noise: This should be called when your playing partners or the maintenance crew makes noise at exactly the wrong time — like at the top of your backswing. It isn’t so much how much noise, but the timing that will get ya. Personally, I’d like to see a 50-yard penalty or half the distance to the hole.
• Malicious unnecessary roughness: Like when you hit a 10-foot putt five feet short and your partner says, “I could have gotten that close with a broom handle.” • False start: A false start may be classified as a delay, but it also requires some skill and usually is accompanied by a disturbance by another player. If you can start your back swing and are able to stop it due to a disturbance, I say you should be able to advance your ball — 10 yards for half your back swing and 30 yards for your full back swing or more.
• Delay of kickoff: This is an easy one. If it’s your turn to hit your drive and you’re not ready — you go to the back of the pack. “Ready golf” is a possible solution, but I’ve seen three of four people hit and the fourth still isn’t ready — I say a two-tee-box penalty.
• Illegal substitution: Using a particular ball for putting or driving only. A bulge in the pocket may be a tell-tale sign.
• Piling on: When more than one of your playing partners give you a hard time about your game.
• Unsportsmanlike conduct: This ordinarily occurs when your opponent gets upset over a particularly bad break — say when you skull your 100-yard approach and it roooollllllllllllllllllllsssssssssssssssss into the cup. The rule is enforced if for instance, he or she runs up to the green and proceeds to throw your ball into the bunker or worse yet, into a pond.
• Second forward pass behind the line: Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often. Ordinarily you can watch for this infraction when you are near trees. If you hit your shot and it hits a tree (or other object) and then bounces behind you, you will be in violation of the rule with your next shot.
• More than 11 players on the field at snap for either team: Fivesomes are the bane of my golf day and bringing your novice friend along to join your regular foursome deserves a game misconduct — oops wrong sport. If you must play a fivesome, be ready to stand by the side of the second tee while EVERYONE behind you goes through.
• Five yards defensive holding or illegal use of hands (automatic first down): This occurs when your opponent offers you a hand to get out of a particularly deep bunker — you know, like at Red Hawk — and he/she withdraws the hand just as you are reaching for it.
• More than one man in motion at snap: This can be particularly disconcerting if one person is behind you and the other is slightly ahead of you. You don’t know where to be distracted first.
• Encroachment: When you mark your ball and then replace it differently — like about an inch closer to the hole.
• Captains not appearing for coin toss: If you can’t get to your tee time at least 15 minutes early, you should be ready to forfeit your time. Calling ahead and making other arrangements with the officials is permissible and encouraged.
• Excessive timeouts: Usually occurs when a player makes a bathroom stop for number two, or at the turn when they order their five course lunch. Or in the worst case, when they do both.
• Illegal motion: The ball must be played with both feet on the ground through the entire stroke. Any form of the “Happy Gilmore” stroke should not appear on the golf course. If you want to show off your Adam Sandler imitation, take it to the range.
• Delay of game: Mulligans are rampant in the game. I have a friend that holds that you can’t hit a mulligan unless you have an extra ball in your pocket. Makes good sense — there’s nothing worse than waiting for your partner to fetch a ball from their bag for a mulligan. Oh wait, yes there is — seeing the second one go as far left as the first one went right.
• Less than seven men on offensive line at snap: Your group should be flagged when the other people in your group aren’t positioned as far forward as possible as the player that is out is playing their shot. This can contribute to a delay-ofgame foul as well. However, beware of advancing too far in front of a playing partner — see “Offside.”
• Twelve men in the huddle: I guess it isn’t really a huddle and isn’t 12 men, but when you get a foursome of men lining up a putt in a scramble, well, you get the picture. Throw that flag!
• Any player who removes his helmet after a play while on the field: In golf, removing your cap or hat without the benefit of a hairbrush or comb should be flagged as “hat head” isn’t a pleasant sight.
There’s more where that came from, but space is limited. Anyway, I hope you all have a happy New Year and may all your putts roll true and all the breaks fall for you.
A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the executive director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordpress.com/.