Playing by the Rules

I confess to being something of a golf purist, in that I’m not fond of the technical advances that have made the game much easier to play than in days of yore and that have obsoleted so many classic courses.

It’s bothered me greatly over the years that another aspect of pure golf has been seriously neglected by many players. I’m referring to playing the game according to the rules. I’ve seen many of my fellow competitors loosely interpreting the rules in the course of a round and others cheating outright.

Those actions only lead to self delusion, believing yourself to be a better player than you actually are. For example, improving your lie before hitting a shot doesn’t prove your worth as a player, it simply gives you an unfair advantage over those who refuse to shave the rules in that manner.

The game of golf is meant to be played without adjustments of any kind, aside from those granting relief from ground under repair, immovable obstacles and the like. A player is not allowed to touch or move the ball through the green. And although that can often mean dealing with treacherous lies, that is part of the game.

Golf, like life, isn’t fair. But in the long run, good breaks will equal the bad and things will even out. Interestingly, playing the ball ‘down’, that is, as it lies, will probably make a player a better ball striker overall. More concentration is called for when the lie is less than ideal, along with a stronger swing strategy.

Professionals who play for truly big money these days, never intentionally bend the rules. There are myriad instances over the years of players calling penalties on themselves, even in instances where no one other than themselves observed the infraction. In many cases, these self-called penalties have cost the players involved large amounts of prize money and even tournament titles.

If the professional golfers can police themselves to that degree, the rest of us should do no less. Playing golf strictly by the rules not only levels the playing field, but also gives a player a higher degree of satisfaction and accomplishment. Wrapping up a good round is made all the more enjoyable when you know that you’ve done it the right way.

Pick up a copy of the USGA Rule of Golf and carry it in your bag to consult whenever a situation presents itself in which you aren’t sure of the correct procedure. And prod your foursome members to police both themselves and their fellow players to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the rules of the game. It may present some tense moments early on, but in time, it will become second nature.

Let’s all enjoy the game of golf the way it was meant to be played.

By Jim Nettleton

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