Playing by the Rules?
The Rules are set by The R&A and the USGA.
We support and promote their authority to do this, and we believe in the concept of a unified set of Rules i.e. we all play the same game, amateur or professional. And that includes the equipment with which we play : current regulations still allow play with a ball whose power can be modified to fit a course, rather than modifying the course to fit the ball.
But the consent which allows the authorities to set the Rules surely assumes that they embrace responsibility to all the game – TOP and REAL golf.
The Rules booklet, on its inside cover, states :
“Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it – and if you cannot do either do what is fair. But in order to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf”.
The Rules booklet is 208 pages long. Add in the Decisions book and you have 1000 pages.
Are the needs of REAL golf best served by such an emphasis on “fairness”? We would suggest not.
Focus is on TOP golf
In truth, the focus on “what is fair” is driven largely by the needs of the TOP game, where large amounts of money are ultimately at stake. Hence the need for very detailed Rules, and extra features such as Referees – which have no place at all in REAL golf.
Nicklaus : golf not a fair game
REAL golfers surely do not need 208 pages to know what is fair. In the words of Jack Nicklaus: “ Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game.” Life in general is not always fair, but we hope that the good breaks will even out the bad ones. As a release from such trials and tribulations, we spend some of our leisure time trying to enjoy golf – not worry about breaking Rules which even the best players sometimes cannot understand.
Challenge for The R&A and USGA
The challenge for The R&A and the USGA is to set Rules which promote and do not hinder the enjoyment of REAL golf. In our view, the central pillar of the recreational game is enjoyment, not fairness.
As things stand, the needs of the TOP game seem to dominate the thinking about Rules. In the medium term, there is a priority to embrace the needs of REAL golf, both in terms of Rules of Play and also Equipment Rules ( i.e. ball and clubs ).
If the Rules do not satisfy both parts of the game, it becomes more likely that they will evolve into different sets for different groups of players.
We think that would be a great pity.