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I enjoy Rules discussions.  One learns a few things and also experiences another’s perspective.  I started playing competitive golf late in life (35 or so) but I made it a point to learn the Rules well before I ever entered a tournament.  Frankly, I see no point in playing any game without a clear understanding of the Rules.  Collecting double the rent on an unimproved Monopoly or “castling” in chess are details and one can play either game without knowing the rule.  One is likely, however, to see more success if one is aware of all the “details”.  Still, for all our efforts we all stub our toes on occasion.  A discussion about Rules recently got me thinking about my top Rules snafus.

  1. I cleared a long cross hazard off the tee and got to my ball.  It was just where I thought it would be, having barely cleared the hazard.  Yep, “Titleist” was clearly visible.  I laid up short of the next hazard because of a poor lie.  Then I discovered that the “Titleist” I had hit was not my “Titleist”.  That was the last time I have done that, so far.
  2. I and my other three competitors were finishing up a decidedly indifferent one day tournament. The organization that ran this particular event had a condition of competition that every foursome was to finish the round within 4 ½ hours or, if over that number, finish within 12 minutes of the prior group.  As usual, every group suddenly stepped on the gas with about 3 holes left.  For whatever reason, we just could not be bothered with sprinting between shots on the last holes.  As we turned in our cards, the official said, “everyone in the group has been assessed a one stroke penalty.”  He got ready for a tirade but we all shrugged and said, “okay.” He was momentarily stunned and then smiled.  “I have never had 4 people accept a penalty so easily.”  That was, however, the last time I was penalized for slow play.
  3. In the final round of our three day City Championship, I was surveying my severely downhill putt for par.  As I addressed the ball, it rolled a ¼ turn.  I had not touched it but back in the day, after taking one’s stance and grounding the club, any movement was on you.  I announced the penalty and, fortunately, was aware enough to move the ball back to its original position prior to playing the next shot.  I stopped grounding my club on the green for several decades.
  4. We were playing a tournament at my home course.  I typically played the “White” tees but for this event, it was “Blue.”  The driver of the cart I was sharing drove up and parked next to the “White” tees.  I had honors.  You can guess the rest.  My pre-shot routine now includes checking the tee color.

Of course, I have made both the ride and walk of shame back to the tee after losing my tee shot and neglecting to hit a provisional.  Some might say I hit too many provisionals but honestly, I don’t plan to ever make that walk back again in a tournament.

With the proposed changes to the Rules, I am getting ready to go back to “school.”  There will undoubtedly be fresh opportunities for me to “step in it” a far as Rules breaches.  Still, it won’t be because I did not continue to study and attempt to understand the Rules.


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This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. As you've stated, being knowledgeable about the rules can save you strokes. I'm not sure I'll learn them all, but I've got to get better at it.

After becoming (painfully) aware of the term "Known or Virtually Certain" in 26-1, I'd done some online research and tried to come up with a "standard" for easier, black and white decisions in determining whether a ball is lost, or if it's in a water hazard (there are no officials where I play).

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to be paired up with another single who I've played with a few times over the last couple of years. This would be a round I'd post towards my HC - regardless of how ugly it turned out.

I had already called a penalty on myself for brushing my club against the sand in a bunker. While it wasn't the first time I'd committed that error, it was the first time I'd actually given myself the 2 stroke penalty for it. My playing partner just shook his head in disgust when I told him 6 for my score, and then mumbled something about those rules being for the pros.

There had been a few lost balls through out the round... all no-doubters which called for a provisional and very little effort taken in finding the original. But on the last hole, I hit a drive that went towards a lateral water hazard some 230 yards away from the tee box.

Obviously, I'd have preferred for that tee shot to have been in play, but if not, shooting my 3nd shot from next to the hazard was preferable over re-teeing. Still, with my eyesight and at that distance, I couldn't have possibly seen - with crystal clear certainty - the ball go in. This would be a good test for my "Known or Virtually Certain" logic.

What I did see from the tee box was a ball slowly rolling toward the depression of a hazard before disappearing. It didn't go left or right, and it didn't go beyond. There were no trees that came in to play, and no chance for a crazy bounce. I chose not to hit a provisional. When we walked up to where we last saw the ball, there was a very small area of light rough between the fairway and the hazard... too small for us not to have found the ball had it stopped short (which neither of us believed had happened). We both agreed the ball had to be in the marsh.

My ego wants low scores as much as anyone else's. It can be challenging to learn the rules and more challenging to know I'm supposed to add strokes when nobody else in the world would care one way or the other. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

But my game is exactly what it is and I'm slowly learning not to give a $#!!. Shaving a stroke here or there by fudging the rules isn't going to provide any real sense of accomplishment.

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