Rules of Golf - DecisionsI strongly believe that Tom Gorman has the capacity to read and comprehend. He must because he regularly writes the losing side of our debates. Even though much of what my NEMG colleague pens is inane drivel, it points to his ability to somewhat comprehend the written word. Like Tom most of those who play the game of golf also know how to read.

And that’s all it takes, folks, to understand the rules of golf. Each year the United States Golf Association gives away little booklets entitled “The Rules of Golf”. You get one, along with a nice U.S. Open cap and a personalized bag tag, when you join or renew your membership in the USGA. Mine sits in my bag where it seldom is needed because most of the people with whom I play golf have a basic understanding of the rules. If there is a question we look it up in the index, thumb to the appropriate section and read the rule. Now I will agree that some of the language used to describe the rules could be modified, but by in large you don’t have to hold a law degree from Harvard to understand them.

Yes, there are a lot of rules in the game of golf. So what? Every game has a lot of rules. Think baseball is simple? Go take the test that they give umpires. You’ll have blood leaking out of your ears. When those Scotland shepherds first began whacking rocks along the ground with their staffs, trying to put them in holes in the ground, they probably had no rules. But as the game evolved rules were put in place and like the law they expanded as situations cropped up and regulations were devised to deal with them. The question is are the rules of golf too complicated for the average golfer?

Answer: Are you kidding? I’m the most average golfer there is and I understand most of the rules without having to go to the book. Certainly things need to be amended when playing on courses that are not pristine and perfectly manicured. That’s when local rules kick in, such as rolling the ball over in your own fairway or getting relief from an area that has a lot of tree roots (to prevent injury). And if you are playing a friendly (if there is such a thing) match among your buddies you often have your own set of specialized rules (like getting relief in a bunker if your ball is resting in the footprint of a neanderthal who neglected to rake the bunker after visiting).

I know that there are many out there who could care less about any rules. They use the foot wedge almost as much as they look for the cart girl and if they don’t like the shot they just hit they drop anotherball and hit ‘til they’re happy. Usually those people are very large and menacing and enjoying hitting things other than Titleists. Here’s a tip. Don’t play with them. But once you tee it up in a club or any other kind of tournament you have to play by the actual rules of the game. If there are circumstances that prevent that, they are addressed by local rules. All it takes is the ability to read and digest. Every rule set down is there for a reason, because something in the past has come up and had to be resolved. But the rules of golf are not quantum physics and the last time I checked they didn’t stop teaching that in school because it’s too complicated.

(Tim Geary is a R.I. Based freelance writer. He never studied quantum physics, but he has read the rules of golf and his head did not explode).