Written by Adam Schwartz
Why so many rules? Life is full of rules; without them, we would have chaos. With them, especially in golf, whether to follow the rules determines a person’s character and self-worth. In the rules of golf, the absolute general rule that has endured through time is “play the ball as it lies and leave the course in condition that you played it or better.”
The first set of rules of golf became known 270 years ago in Edinburg, Scotland, where the Royal & Ancient Club was established in St. Andrews. At that time, 13 rules made up the game. Then, in 1894, the United States Golf Association was established in the states. Not until 1951 did all the global golf associations come together to form a global agreement on rules. All of this decision making by major committees throughout the world ensures clarification and universal acceptance of what are currently 34 rules of golf.
I believe many golfers think some rules can be overlooked. This game is supposed to be the most enjoyable game in the world. Why ruin a great game with a bible’s worth of rules? The answer is integrity, honor and humility. It’s the only game where a player is his own referee. The difficulty in being your own referee is knowing you are the only one that will see your infraction. Knowing the rules is important to playing this game, but upholding the rules is what determines a person’s character.
When tournaments are held, either professionally, as seen on TV; at your club during member-guest; at a four-person charity scramble; or just a casual Sunday afternoon nine holes, there is a form of etiquette involved when playing with competitors, your team, or your wife and kids. Etiquette is discussed in the rules of golf and should be considered as an integral part of the game. Knowing where to stand when other players hit, playing ready golf, fixing divots, fixing ball marks, raking bunkers, etc., are all important details to maintaining a certain sense of etiquette and to always leaving the course in better condition than you played it. As a former caddie for five years during middle and high school, this was essential for me to get a big tip from the player. But what I learned back then was essentially the backbone of how to conduct myself on the course for the rest of my life.
As PGA club professionals, we are given the opportunity to grow the game by offering private lessons, clinics and group lessons on learning how to swing the golf club. I will contend that when we grow the game through these channels of instruction, it is essential to learn how to play the game by advocating proper etiquette and a common knowledge of the rules.