“MOST RULES OF GOLF INFRINGEMENTS ARE MADE BY MISTAKE OR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, NOT DELIVERATELY”
Overseeing strict compliance with the Rules of Golf in competitions where it is entrusted with the refereeing is the main role of the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation’s rules committee.
In addition… to develop at the grass roots level respect for the rules of etiquette, answer queries about the rules from clubs and players, battle against slow play, provide training for clubs’ competition committees, organise referees for events, determine the number of members of the refereeing group, regulate the requirements and tests for becoming an official federation referee…
Diego Molina, a Córdoba lawyer who has been playing golf for more than three decades, is the president of the federation’s rules committee and the ideal person to talk about how players behave out on the golf course when it comes to the playing rules.
- What are the most common Rules of Golf enquiries from clubs and players?
- Players’ queries in general tend to refer to the application of specific situations involving nearly all the Rules of Golf, although perhaps most of them are related to how and where to gain relief when the ball has gone into a water hazard, an obstruction or ground under repair. Queries from competition committees tend to deal with the appropriateness of decisions they have adopted or their interpretation of the rules in club events.
- Based on your extensive experience, what are the rules that are broken most often and which ones are for lack of knowledge and which ones in a deliberate manner?
- The most frequent ones, generally because of an oversight, are Rules 13-1 and 13-2, which require you to play the ball as it lies, without improving where it rests and other circumstances surrounding the shot (the player’s position, the swing area and the line of play), Rule 15-3 on playing the wrong ball, and Rules 18 and 19 on a ball at rest moving or a moving ball being deflected or stopped. Personally, not only do I believe this but I also have evidence that most infringements of the Rules of Golf are made by error or lack of knowledge of the rules, and not because of a deliberate intention to break them.
- What level of respect for the rules of etiquette is there, in general terms, on Andalucía’s golf courses? Which are the ones that are most often breached?
- Andalucian golfers tend to be very respectful of the norms of correct behaviour out on the course, which is in effect what comprises the rules of etiquette. There is just one which, unfortunately, does not enjoy this general respect; in fact, on the contrary. I’m referring to the rule of conduct that requires you to let a group coming behind you pass through, not only when yours has lost its position on the course or simply when it is obvious that the group behind is playing faster but also – which does tend to occur – when someone in your group has to look for a ball and it is likely they won’t find it easily. Very few players are willing to let a group through. For most of them I’m not sure if it’s because they think it demeans them, humiliates them or prejudices them, when in reality it is elegant and fair play.
- In order to not devalue the essence of golf, the authorities who rule over international golf (the R&A and USGA) advocate that the use of electronic devices be limited strictly to the measurement of distances and not to check other parameters such as wind direction and speed, the slopes of greens, etc. What do you think about the use of technological devices on the golf course?
- I have hardly any objection to technology applied to golf in general, or specifically against distance-measuring devices. For many years there have distance posts, trees and other elements indicating the distance to greens. In addition, on quite a few courses the distance is painted on the ground and on each sprinkler. Guidebooks are also produced at courses, with numerous reference points. So why not allow distance-measuring devices? As far as other devices that measure other circumstances are concerned, it’s true that the R&A and USGA are currently opposed to them, but they were also against distance-measuring devices and now they’re not. It’s to be expected that sooner or later everything will be allowed.
I would just personally add one “but” that corresponds to the “hardly any” I noted previously: in the end it won’t be “me against the course” or “I’ve beaten the course” but rather “my computer against the course” – or we’ll have to carry a PC in our golf bag. I believe golf like that would be less fun, especially if one day we ended up saying, “Today my computer has lowered its handicap.”
- Slow play has been – and in many places still is – a problem at many golf courses. What would you recommend golf course managers do to solve or ease this stumbling block as far as possible?
- Any detailed study of this subject would require much more space than this interview allows it. To summarise, I can say to you that my own theory in reference to slow play, confirmed in competitions I have refereed, is that a minimal part of it is due to a player’s limited ability, which means they require more shots; but above all else it’s related to the growing number of players out on the course. More players, slower pace – because the groups crowd together. I’ve verified this: if in a competition involving 90 players you calculate for each group a time, for example, of four and half hours for 18 holes, by monitoring it properly all the groups will achieve this time. With 120 players, whatever you do, the last groups will take five long hours; and with 140 players, six hours or more.
I can ask the committees (even if they don’t agree with me) to limit the number of participants. But I can’t ask the golf course managers to sell fewer green fees.
So any concern about avoiding slow play is obviously linked to the desire, or commercial necessity, of having a large number of competitors or as many players going out on the course as possible.