(L and R) First and latest set of rules
(L and R) First and latest set of rules

Framing rules to set golfers free

This prompted a WAG to wisecrack, “Should there be a proper book of rules for practice and driving range, applicable worldwide?”

CHENNAI: Among the new year dos and don’ts advisories, golfers received numerous WhatsApp forwards on what not to say on practice range or even while pairing with another player for a round of golf. This prompted a WAG to wisecrack, “Should there be a proper book of rules for practice and driving range, applicable worldwide?” This dig at the rule-bound golfer is misplaced in the light of the direction the rules of the game has been taking – towards making it all simpler and popularising the game.

Acing it in drawing the line

The popularity of a game depends on various factors. Accessibility, affordability potential for competitions and the manner in which it is organised, all contribute to a particular sport becoming popular. Golf is not yet accessible to all in the country.

It is a very challenging game to approach and the equipment, even at entry level, is not cheap. However, it is the way the game has been organised that has made it a popular sport across the world and across gender, disability and age groups.

The handicapping system is undeniably one of the key factors contributing to the game’s popularity. This system which enables casual golfers of greatly differing calibre to play against each other and have an interesting contest, is a key ingredient in the mix.

The other, less recognised perhaps, is the way the game has been managed by the organisers over centuries. Clarity of objectives and responsiveness to changing scenarios have characterised the way the golf organisation has functioned.

John Rattary

Golf was already 300 years old when the first known written laws were made in 1744. Everyone agrees it was prepared for a single-day competition by John Rattary and was framed by ‘The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith’ (later known as Company of Edinburgh Golfers) and contained 13 articles.

Starting from that time and through stages of bringing in regulations which would form the basis for the game across the globe in a way that allows for changes in local conditions, the governing bodies have been very proactive. Regulating what is essential and central to the game while allowing space for “local rules”, they have shown the kind of statesmanship that would be the envy of many other international bodies.

Paying heed to feedback

Ishwar Achanta, who has held a number of international posts in golf governing bodies, says that the entire purpose is to simplify the rules so that even the average layman or a young school student picking up the game can understand it.

“We get a huge number of queries on rules and relief, from players playing in various courses under different climatic conditions, every year. We try to understand the questions raised and try to offer solutions in a manner that would ensure the game goes on, uninterrupted. For example, in the new rules (2023), it is now permissible to play the ball moved by natural forces, by simply replacing it without any penalty. Until last year, if your ball, after resting, fell into water, you suffered a one-stroke penalty. “

The biggest step, however, is for the disabled. “I have seen so many changes but nothing comes close to the Rule 25, which is a set of rules for people with disabilities. No matter how far we have all come in inclusivity, we do not fully understand the challenges the disabled face when taking up a sport,” says Achanta. The R&A and the USGA have worked on a common platform since 1952 and though local rules always come into play, the core of the game is clearly defined.

The process of revisions is streamlined and extremely consultative, with inputs from all over the world taken into account in issuing the four yearly revisions. The latest revision is making the game less hawkish and more enjoyable.

(The writer is the Lady Captain at Cosmo TNGF)

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