Onus on everyone who plays golf to know the basic rules
‘They are not designed to catch them out; and they are not stupid, despite what Rory McIlroy might think’
The Rules of Golf – actually 34 in number with additional decisions and appendages– are, believe it or not, there to assist and protect players. They are not designed to catch them out; and they are not stupid, despite what Rory McIlroy might think.
Understanding the rules might seem like a chore or an inconvenience, when all anyone really wants to do is to get out onto the golf course and hit the ball time and time again. But, really, it is worth having a knowledge – however basic – of the fundamental rules which merely seek to bring equity to the sport.
There’s a quote from the Dali Lama, who probably didn’t have golf in mind, when he proposed: “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” Yet that remark, however ironic it may seem, is actually well-founded when it comes to the rules in golf. Indeed, you only have to look to the late, great Seve Ballesteros who, rather than breaking the rules, sought to use them to his advantage.
One famous case was British Open in 1979 at Royal Lytham and St Annes when Ballesteros hit his tee shot on the 16th hole of the final round into a temporary car park and his ball came to rest behind a parked car, which was deemed an immovable obstruction as the owner was not present. Seve got a free drop, pitched to 20 feet and rolled in the birdie putt that ultimately led him to victory.
For the vast majority of players who take up golf, the rule book is something to be flicked through. But it is worth noting the message at front of the Rules of Golf, where the R&A – who govern the sport – recommend that a player, “play the ball as it lies, play the course as you’d find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf”.
In truth, it is unrealistic to expect most club players to know all the rules. However, if you are going to play, the onus is on you to at least take the time to learn the basic rules . . . to play by them.
A guide to the basic Rules of Golf
Check you have a maximum of 14 clubs in your bag . . . .
You must not start a round with more than 14 clubs (Rule 4-4), all of which must conform to the R&A’s manufacturing guidelines. Don’t worry, the clubs sold in golf shops all meet such standards. The maximum number of clubs in a player’s bag is 14, although if someone starts a round with fewer than that number then other clubs can be added during the round as long as the total number does not exceed 14.