April 29, 2021

TEE TIME: It takes a lawyer to understand golf rules

TEE TIME: It takes a lawyer to understand golf rules


Can I make you jealous for a few minutes?

While some of you are reading this, perhaps while at work, I am sitting under a shade tree with my feet propped in a golf cart.

And getting paid to do it.

Actually, today is the third day of the Mid-South Conference golf championship at Bowling Green County Club, and I am working it as a rules official, but actually there is not a lot of work to be done. Maybe answer a few questions and ride around and enjoy the weather.

This is my second tournament of the year, and I have probably another 20 on my schedule.

As many of you know, I’ve done this for several years, and spent more time studying this past winter on the Rules of Golf than I ever had. There was a $375 outlay — and damn that hurt to pay — for a week-long daily webinar rules class, plus spending more hours than I could count watching videos and then listening to a podcast from the Wisconsin State Golf Association most every day I spent walking at the Lebanon County Club. Oh, and I probably answered thousands of questions from different websites.

And while I feel like I have sharpened my knowledge of the game, I sometimes shudder to realize how much I didn’t know while working tournaments in previous rules (I knew just enough to be dangerous) and how much I still have to learn. I did score better than average on a USGA 80-question exam but still thought I should have done better after the countless hours of study.

But the more I study these rules, there are times I feel like I am even more confused. I have come to the conclusion a group of high-power attorneys wrote them. The rules were supposedly simplified a few years ago, but my 10 year-old grandsons could have done a better job than the USGA and Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

For example, if two players hit their balls from off of the green and they collide, whether in the air or on the ground, they must be played from where they came to rest.

On the other hand, if two players hit their balls at the same time from the putting green, and they make contact, they get to place them back on the original spot and putt again.

Or, after you hit a ball out of a bunker and rake your mess, and then leave the rake on the collar of the green, if you notice it is there while looking at a 15-foot downhill putt and don’t move it because it might stop your ball from returning to the sand, you are penalized if your ball strikes the rake.

However, if someone else left the rake there and you notice it while looking at the same 15-foot downhill putt and don’t move it, it is your lucky day if the ball strikes it, perhaps keeping it out of the bunker. You can play it as it lies.

Most of you know if your ball is touching the out of bounds line, but if a sliver of it is overhanging onto the course, it is deemed to be in-bounds. It doesn’t even have to be touching the inside of the course.

But if your ball is on the red or yellow penalty line and that same sliver is overhanging or touching a part of the course, well, good luck hitting out of the penalty area.

I am not finished.

If your ball is on the collar of the green and that doggone sliver is overhanging the green, you cannot mark it and clean it because it is deemed to be on the collar if it is not actually touching the green.

Clear as mud?

I thought so.

Oh, I get paid to come back to Bowling Green next week and that will be one of those events I should pay the Mid-South Conference for the privilege of working.



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