Prepare yourself for the golf rules stickler

I do like a stickler for the rules. Especially in golf.

There are so many rules because there are so many ways to cheat and it takes a lot of golfing experience and knowledge to know them all. Almost 98% of the rules are common sense but there are a few that defy logic.

Our Boston correspondent, Clint Liebenberg alerted me to this article from the Boston Globe which ran a few weeks ago now which highlights some of these absurd rules and one in particular that saw Stewart Cink disqualifying himself from this years Zurich Classic in New Orleans. It concerns him playing a shot where his ball was in the rough very near but not in a fairway bunker.Now you can read the article, it’s got some nice examples of other crazy situations to have arisen in tour events but I’ll summarise Cink’s story.

Before playing his shot he first stepped into the fairway bunker and then stepped out to play his shot. His shot went into a greenside bunker some 180 yards away (164.6metres for those outside the US) and on he went. The problem was that before he played that next shot from a very different bunker his caddie raked the previous fairway bunker he’d stepped into. The caddie is deemed an extension of the player and that’s breaking Rule 13-4: testing the hazard conditions.

It seems ridiculous but it’s still a rule. I’m assuming that if his ball was actually in the fairway bunker and he played it he could rake it before moving on to the next one. They should be deemed different hazards though surely?

I suppose the rule is there because when a golfer sees he’s in a bunker for his next shot, he could test the conditions in the bunker nearby. Either way, it’s silly. You think that someone is going to go play the greenside bunker shot THEN run back to the fairway bunker and rake it when the field is backed up on a Saturday morning club competition round?

My personal involvement in this story comes by playing with a rule stickler at my golf club. Upon bringing this up after a game a few weeks ago, the stickler claimed it was no longer a rule and had been changed by the R&A a year ago.

I must admit, I thought something got changed but the stickler was adamant my story wasn’t true. Being a stickler and one who should know the rules well, I backed down a little and wished I had read the article just one more time to have more confidence to argue.

So where does this all leave us?

Well, it seems the rule hasn’t been changed and be careful not to rake bunkers that you haven’t played out of, especially if your next shot is from one. Secondly, beware the rules stickler, while they can be most helpful in assessing rules, answering questions and rooting out cheats, there’s too many golf rules to know them all.

Learn them yourself and beat the stickler in an argument at the 19th hole next week.

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