The Dilemma of Golf

Every golfer has to deal with the dilemma of golf. The challenge is not whether to play more, practice more or to fully commit to this amazing sport, but it hovers on the moral challenges golfers face each time we tee up. Golf is a self regulating game that requires each player to, first and foremost, be their own rules official and secondly to provide over watch of the players in your group. Regardless, of which of these situations you are faced with on the course, each player is expected to play with the highest level of integrity and honour. For me, I have two standards. One during a friendly and one during a competition. I realize I should not have a double standard, but I am not afraid to admit that I do and ultimately, I think you do as well.

All joking aside, I do not feel a dilemma about the enforcement of the rules. The reason I say this is because I know what my line in the sand looks like and I think most experienced players will feel the sam way.

Firstly, during a friendly I do not enforce any rules on anyone. If someone asks, then I am more than obliging to explain my interpretation (I phrase it this way because I only have my level 1 rules certificate from Golf Canada and do not consider myself an expert) and I think is the proper ruling. If no one asks, I carry on my merry way and enjoy the round. I would be a liar if I did not say that I have broken a rule or two over the years, however when I feel I follow the spirit of the game as much as possible.

Second, during a tournament, I now enforce the rules completely. I have no dilemma calling a rules infraction on myself or my opponent. I believe that this approach is perfect for anyone who takes golf seriously. There can be no room for letting an infraction pass. I can honestly say that earlier in my career, I was less confident calling a rules infraction, but I was burnt once and it will not happen again. I think that it is important to protect the field by calling a rules infraction. Additionally, if every golfer is playing the same way, it creates a level playing field.

The golf dilemma is not really a challenge for experienced players. I think the largest challenge occurs with players are competing for the first or second time. They do not want to make waves and it is a feeling every golfer has when starting to compete. Now, I do not sweat it. I have been wrong in the past, but that is rare. Enforcing the rules of golf is important, especially during a match. As a matter of fact, it is incumbent on each player to know the rules and play/enforce them as required.

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


12 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Golf

  1. I am an amateur golfer and I have only started playing competitively this year. There have been a couple of instances where the people I played against tried to cheat and I had to speak up on the matter. There are definitely times when I do feel nervous to speak my mind in case I am wrong just like many other amateurs do as you have said in your blog. I really enjoyed this and I could really relate to your playing style.

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  2. Jim, I’m a Rules Official for some high level golf tournaments in Arizona. Two things that I notice when I’m officiating is that (1) many top level amateur players do not understand some of the rules and (2) that hardly any player even thinks about timing their 3 minute search for ball. Earlier this month I was working the Arizona Championship which was at the Outlaw course at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. Lots of desert and many places to lose a golf ball. The sentence that used most often was “Sorry but your 3 minutes is up”. Not one of these players (or caddies) had even looked at their watch.

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    • David,

      That is frustrating as an official for sure. The expectation, IMO, is that professional or elite amateurs play and understand the rules. What you described is a blatant disregard for the rules of golf. If you were to warn them, then penalize them they would feel pick upon…..which is crazy! Even during lower level events stuff like this bothers me.

      Cheers Jim


  3. Too many of today’s golfers have never played in any individual competition. All the Scrambles in the world do nothing to foster learning the rules. Enforcing the rules protects the field.

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  4. Jim, good thought-provoking post. I’ve got no problem with your double standard and do it myself. In the friendlies, what are the most common rule infractions you encounter? I see three. First is how to play and count for a lost ball. Second is taking putts, and third is improved lies. For the sake of speed, I’ll regularly partake in the first two but not the third.

    In competition, you are right to enforce every rule. Where it gets tricky is when you are the “committee” and have to resolve a dispute. When I worked at a club, I was instructed to always keep a rule book handy, especially if you were situated in the pro shop or course marshal. Sometimes members would ask you to resolve a dispute and if it wasn’t clear if they were playing in an organized event or a friendly, you could get on the wrong side of somebody with a ruling. We were taught to always refer to a rule’s infraction in the third person. I.e., your answer was never, “Mr. Smith, I’m sorry but you broke a rule and should incur a two-stroke penalty.” It was always, “Let’s see what the rule book says,” and you’d pull it out and refer to it even if you knew the answer.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian,

      To answer your first question, taking putts and where to drop on a red and yellow staked hazard. We play improved lies most of the year around here. The courses have many unfair and challenging spots, improving our lie in a friendly is a given. During a tournament, whatever the local rules say is what we use.

      I too carry a rule book, although it is on my phone now. I have used it many times during a tournament and found that it does protect our it integrity with the other players. I never want to be “that guy” who acts like a know it all. I hope you are playing and playing well.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t much care about the rules today. I was on a quest. I did something on the range before the round that has me excited. And I was doing more testing during the round than playing. My score was 83. It played it by the rules to get that score. But my mind was on something else entirely.

    One little adjustment at setup. I opened my hips. Just that. Nothing else. It changed what happened with my weight. The things I guard against starting off the swing just weren’t there. My weight didn’t try and move off the inside of my trail foot instead it wanted to stay there. My lead leg didn’t cave so much towards the ball but back away from the target. My lead shoulder dropped lower. And the transfer began differently and my hips went toward target earlier which caused my arms to lower and put me under the plane. I could feel all that which is amazing to me in itself. And I could recreate it on demand.

    I couldn’t control it as well of course, but I was hitting fades and draws or straight down the fairway all day just by adjusting where I had my hips before I started the swing. But I didn’t hit any snap hooks or huge slices. Just overdid a few a little too much. And with the draw swing I was pounding it and saw room for more because I was having a bit of trouble getting my strikes centered. I finally managed that on the back nine with a move a inch closer and dropping the tee height down a little more.

    Close the hips and I’m over the top and slicing it. A little fade from a more or less standard placement, open just a tiny bit to straighten that out and more for the draw. It’s like the holy grail. Maybe. Hopefully. I know I wasn’t waiting until tomorrow to get some more swings in. I was out there tonight at 10 o’clock with my seven iron making sure I don’t lose it. lol

    Liked by 1 person

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