Playing by The Rules of Golf can save friendships
21 May 2010
by Katie Denbo


Had a great convo last night with my dad, an avid golfer who plays with a set foursome twice a week. Well, they're actually down to three now -- the democracy of the group (excluding my dad) recently voted one guy out. Survival of the fittest. Anyway, the topic of our discussion? How pissed he was at his golf group for their disregard, then denial of disregard, of The Rules of Golf.

I felt a little twinge of pride that my dad would hold to strongly to the ethics of the game. The Rules, after all, are what sets golf apart from other sports. I mean, sure, we've all fudged a bit in a round or two. Maybe we thought we were doing something correctly and weren't. Maybe we took a mulligan or improved a lie. Whatever. In golf related to the Rules, players are held accountable for their own actions, and must sometimes make a call against themselves. I think it's noble.

So to make a long story short, there was some drama on the golf course in yesterday's round: Some rulings regarding provisional balls, as well as one club- or two club-lengths drops, were questioned, some penalty strokes were recorded incorrectly and final results were compromised. And when final results are compromised...so are the beer hole results. Most importantly, of course.

Things got a little heated out there.

"It's the way we've always played it!" proclaimed the Aussie during one offense ("No it's not," was my dad's response).

"I'm positive I can drop over here and take two club-lengths," argued the one with the moustache on another ("I don't think that's right," replied Dad - afterward asking and receiving confirmation of a breach in the golf shop).

As the debates and debauchery continued into the grill afterward, the festivities ended by my dad packing up his stuff hitting the pavement, ignoring the cries of his friends in the background. No words, no swearing, no middle fingers. Just a calm exit.

"I just don't know what they were talking about," he tried to sort out in the aftermath. "One of them actually said we were playing by group rules, but we've never played THOSE rules in all the year's we've been golfing together. They were defensive over silly things. It was crazy."

"You know what they say, Dad," I interject. "If you're not playing by the Rules, you're not playing golf. You tell them that."

"Hmmpf," he says.

Conversation over. But it made me come to a realization: A lot of groups, probably most, develop their own set of special rules. Maybe it's a lift-clean-replace rule. Maybe it's the distance of gimmies (my radius is 12 feet; I'm fun to play golf with). Maybe it's using a foot or hand wedge out of a bunker instead of a sand wedge -- oh wait, that's my own rule. Regardless, it happens, and it's fine, as long as everyone is having fun and knows what's going on.

But for consistency sake, how much easier would it be if everyone just played by the Rules as the way they were written? Then people don't have to remember all the exceptions and hey, there is that nifty little Rules book too.

In closing, will my dad play with these guys again? Yes. Will he on Sunday, their next scheduled outing? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, his exit of silence will speak volumes amongst his cohorts, and The Rules will be honored once again.

Or not. We'll see.

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