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!