Badges, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges!

The famous quote in the article title is from the movie ‘Blazing Saddles’ by Mel Brooks. This iconic movie from 1974 has many famous lines, but this one is probably one of the most well-known. It can be used in different facets of my day, but more importantly, it signifies a part of golf that escape many beginners. In golf, everyone wears an imaginary badge and everyone is an official. Yet, we do not need to wear one to enforce the rules.

For most beginners, I realize they are focused on just playing golf and not if their playing partner is following the rules. I can accept that because golf is meant to be fun. However, as the beginner starts to become more experienced, they unwittingly accept the responsibility of being a rules official every time they tee it up. This responsibility becomes even more apparent when they enter their first tournament.

Recently I asked the following question and I was surprised by the low number of golfers who actually enforce the rules during a tournament:

I realize it is difficult to call your playing partners on a rules infraction, but that is an integral part of golf. Yes, personal honesty is a tenant of golf, but sometimes players do not understand the rules, so they do not call themselves on an infraction.

Just last weekend Phil Mickelson called a penalty on himself after consulting with a rules official:

My point is that everyone must follow the rules during a tournament and it is important that playing partners monitor each other to protect the field. What happens when there is a discrepancy between players as to the proper application of the rules? Arron Bruce asked a very good question.

Aaron is partially correct. I cannot force anyone to apply any rules, but if a player is called on a rules infraction and there is a disagreement, the following should happen (of course we do not have rules officials following us, so this process is for amateurs in low-level golf tournaments):

  1. Identify that there was a possible rules infraction
  2. If the player agrees, apply penalty and move on.
  3. If the player does not agree, then the player must play two balls.
  4. The first ball is from where the ball is currently; the second ball is from where the drop would occur after the penalty is applied.
  5. After the round, before signing the scorecard, report the discrepancy to the rules committee. (In most cases it is the golf course professional)
  6. Both sides explain the situation, the committee rules and the scorecard is signed with the proper adjusted (if required) score.

I have used the process many times in a golf tournament. Both myself and my playing partners had to play two balls and ask for a ruling after the fact. I have won and lost in the ruling, but I can say that everyone involved understood that it was nothing personal.

The above process is how the rules are applied if there is a dispute over a rules infraction. This process can cause emotions to run high, but rules are rules. If anyone wants to play in a tournament, they must first understand the rules and second, play by all the rules. It is the only fair way the ensure that everyone is playing off the same sheet of music. As a golfer, it is my responsibility to enforce the rules to protect the field.

Have you ever followed the above process in a golf tournament? Did you use something different?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links.

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