Turning A Blind Eye To Rules Infractions

I have played thousands of rounds of golf. I generally do not focus on what my playing partner is doing unless we are in a competition. If a players wants to bend the rules so they can enjoy their round, who am I to douse their flame of enjoyment. And like all amateur golfers, I have stretched the rules from time to time while playing a friendly. In the big scheme of things, I do not think it is a big deal……unless you are in a competition! Then we play straight up with no exceptions!

Yes, this article was inspired by the Patrick Reed incident at the Farmers Insurance Open. Without going into great detail, technically Reed did not break any rules. He followed procedure properly and was awarded a free drop under Rule 16.3 – Embedded Ball. However, the discussion about the suspected rules infraction was the process Reed went through while over his ball. Personally, if a professional is going to investigate if the ball was embedded, a rules official should have been present for the entire time. This issue is more about his actions not passing the ‘smell test’ or ‘globe and mail’ test. However, it was deemed that he did not break any rules by the official, so this matter is now closed for me.

I believe that all golfers, at one time or another, intentionally or unintentionally turn a blind eye to the rules. Sometimes we are having a poor round, an unexpected bad bounce, or just playing for fun where the rules are a secondary concern. When playing with higher handicap players who do not know the rules well, I often ignore their infractions (for the most part) because no wants to play golf with ‘that guy’ who is always pointing out the rules infractions. However, if a player consistently breaks a rule like teeing their ball up in the wrong position (ahead of the markers), I will strike up a casual conversation about the rule. Generally, I relate a story about the rule during competition to help expand their knowledge. If they are receptive, the player will normally ask more questions, if not, I let it pass and focus on my game. I am not their to police any player during a friendly round; they are expected to do that themselves.

During competitions, however, that is a different story. My focus on everyone (especially myself) following the rules is heightened. I believe that understanding the rules and playing by them helps level the playing field and protects the field during a tournament. Because most amateurs do not play with rules officials, it is the responsibility of each player to enforce the rules in a fair and equitable manner. This situation has come up many times during competition and I have call penalty strokes on players (and myself) when I saw an infraction. This is an integral aspect of competitive golf.

As an aspiring rules official, it believe that all golfers should have a general idea of the rules of golf. I have said in the past that knowing them does save strokes. Understanding your options for any potential rules infraction is very important to deciding what shot to play next. It just makes sense, in my mind anyway, that if we are going to play a sport, we read and have a basic understanding of the rules in order to enjoy the game as it was intended.

I do turn a blind eye from time to time during a friendly match. It is not my station in life to always be policing other players. I have a hard enough time looking after myself most day! 😉 However, during competition, that is a completely different story. The rules are strictly enforced in my groups and I hope they are in others as well. Ultimately, golf is meant to be fun and rules are definitely part of the game.

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


8 thoughts on “Turning A Blind Eye To Rules Infractions

  1. I had an experience during a match-play event where my opponent hit a tee shot down the left hand side of the fairway, where there was an out of bounds. Not being sure if it was in or out, he hit a provisional, which went on the same line. We found one ball, and he stated it was his first tee shot. I asked him how he would know this as the two balls came out of the same sleeve, same number, and personal markings, they were identical. When the pro’s .hit a provisional do they use a ball with different markings?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pete,

      For sure I would call the penalty, no way of knowing which ball was which the first. I have actually been in this situation before and made the call.

      As for the pros, likely they would use a different number with the same personal markings.

      Lastly, when hitting a provisional ball, I always tell my playing partners what make and number I am playing. Helps eliminate any confusion before a provisional ball is played.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 2 people

  2. All said, a good perspective. We’ve been studying habit formation, which would apply to golf in many ways. Here, the habit of implementing rules and the responsibility of being our own referee comes to mind. Unfortunately, I believe Patrick Reed “has the habit” of making rule decisions for himself as a first step. As amateur players, we are obligated to make our own decisions because it is our obligation to know the rules. But how many of us look to our playing partners to make calls for us? Is this good or bad? I feel it is my responsibility to know and implement the rules for my own play. But, when the ‘big public eye’ is watching, the habit of making your own calls is then subject to much greater scrutiny. Patrick Reed’s ‘habit’ has gotten him in hot water more than just a few times.


    • What habit do we want to develop when playing our rounds, whether it be friendly, club, or sanctioned? It will not be easy to suspend or adopt a habit for particular scenarios. Patrick Reed’s pattern is evidence of that.


      • Michael

        As a golfer, following the rules is important. As players become more experienced, they can adjust their application of the rules to meet all scenario. One other aspect of forming any habit is the perceived intent of the player. This is where, unfortunately, Reed seems to fall a bit short. Personally, the rules official said he did the right thing, so I have not qualms with the decision.

        Cheers Jim

        Liked by 1 person

    • Michael,

      I have no problem with any professional or amateur making a rules call. Asking for an opinion is not a bad thing at the amateur level. Forming a habit of following the rules is expected in golf, especially in competition. During a friendly, I have a slightly more laxed approach.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The last time I mentioned a rule break was only to provide knowledge. It happened to be Rule 20-1. My friend had a habit of placing his marker in front of and not behind the ball. A bad habit he picked up somewhere and wasn’t aware of. I haven’t really noticed if he’s changed the pattern since though. It’s not something I would call anyone on normally unless they weren’t replacing the ball where it started in a friendly match which he wasn’t doing. But he follows the rules pretty well most of the time so I figured he’d want to know that one.

    It really depends on the situation as to how much I care about following the rules. If I’m out with the goal of practicing my game, the rules don’t matter so much. I’m sometimes just throwing down balls and hitting them until I get the one I want. But I’ll follow them most of the rest of the time. But I see no reason to force others to follow them and in fact often suggest they skip certain rules to speed play. I’ve suggested people tee up every shot before for instance. It’s a game. It should be fun. Rules have a purpose, but they don’t always have to apply.


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