Viet Nam News
by Robert Bicknell
Yes, but is it golf?
I was having an interesting conversation with one of the LinkedIn golf chat groups regarding the Rules of Golf during the last few months and, as you can imagine, it can get quite heated as many people have different opinions on the subject. Some believe that the Rules of Golf are restrictive and the leading cause to the decline of the game in some countries, others believe that without the Rules, it’s simply not golf.
Despite my reputation for being a strict fundamentalist, I am actually caught in the middle of this subject.
For example, I have no problem with a friend taking a mulligan now and then, or taking two penalty strokes in lieu of stroke and distance penalties when we are playing informally because golf is supposed to be fun. In fact, if not a tournament or a betting game, I never bother to keep score. I don’t have to turn in scorecards to get a handicap because I will remain zero hdcp until the day I die. Such is life.
The discussion / argument on line was exactly this subject. Some people don’t want to obey the rules of golf and just want to have fun out there. Some said, “that’s fine, but just don’t call it “golf” because you’re not playing golf as it was meant to be.”
And therein lies the problem. Is it still golf, of something else?
When we play half-court basketball, it’s still basketball. When we play “home-run derby” it’s still a form of baseball. Ice hockey is still ice hockey regardless if played in a real rink or on a frozen pond, so can people still play golf without following the rules?
From my side, I am personally torn. As I said, when I play for fun and don’t keep score, I really don’t consider that to be “playing golf”, but rather practicing or just having fun. It’s not serious golf.
So, should we call it “serious golf” and “recreational golf” instead? Do we actually need to add signifiers to the name of the game to differentiate the type of golf?
In some ways, we already do this through the type of event, such as a “Skins Game” and also we signify what type of organized event it is with titles such as 4-ball, scramble, etc., but those are organized serious events even though they can also be fun.
So, when a player is not following the basic rules, can we say they are not really “playing golf” but rather a different version of it?
In my view, they are not, in the strictest sense, “playing golf.” But that doesn’t mean they aren’t playing golf loosely speaking. This is what is known as “semantics.”
Hey, as long as they are dressed somewhat appropriately and seem to be having fun without destroying the course or upsetting other people, so be it. Life is too serious as it is.
However, they cannot put those “recreational golf” scorecards in for handicap purposes as that would be a violation of the Handicap System Rules, and this opens another can of worms.
But this time I am not budging. They cannot put those scores in and that’s the end of the argument because handicaps are used for tournament and competitive play and it’s the only fair way to compete. False scores simply are not allowed.
One another note, I got into an argument with someone over Rule 27 regarding both OB and Lost Ball statutes. During informal play here in Vietnam, most players accept dropping where the ball went OB and taking two strokes instead of walking back and taking the stroke and distance penalty.
This is ok during informal recreational play, but of you do this during a real tournament, you will be DQ’d (disqualified), so you’d better learn the actual rules instead of relying on what a friend tells you. In most cases, those friends also don’t know the rules and learned them from another friend.
Every golfer should have a copy of the Rules of Golf either in their bag, or on their nightstand for bedtime reading. The rules do not always hurt you and sometimes offer you unexpected relief, but if you don’t know that, then it doesn’t help you.
Lastly, 4th of July is my birthday, so hoist a pint for me! VNS