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Golf: Silly Rules and The Status of Saliva

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Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland

“Bodenhamer (John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s head of rules) said the USGA receives about 8,000 phone calls per year from people with rules questions, 10 or 15 of which have never been asked before.”
That’s from Brian Costa at The Wall Street Journal who advises us that, “The sport’s governing bodies are working together to overhaul the rule book to make it more accessible—without fundamentally changing the game.”

There’s the rule book and then there’s another book
Brian starts with, “On the second day of last month’s PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth found himself in a situation only a jurist could enjoy. After his tee shot landed in a puddle on a cart path, he spent nearly 10 minutes consulting with a rules official about his options for relief under Decision 24-2b/1, which exists to further explain the 474-word text known as Rule 24-2b.”
And then Brian asks the question, “Does golf really need to be this complicated?”

Given that the first known Rules of Golf were drawn up in 1744 in Edinburgh for the world's first 'open' golf competition at Leith by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh and there were a mere 13 simple rules. And now there are currently 34 rules, with many sub-rules, and sub-sub-rules.
But wait there’s more mayhem. “In addition, the USGA and R&A publish a book called Decisions on the Rules of Golf, which are specialized rulings that have been standardized over the years, based on questions that have come up in competitive play.”

The status of saliva
Brian writes, “Technically, there are two documents: the book of rules and the book of decisions, which clarifies questions raised by the rules. The decisions cover the legality of such acts as removing a stone from a wall (not OK), using a cane to step down into a bunker (mostly OK) and swatting away an airborne insect (totally OK!). There is also a 488-word explanation of the meaning of the word “improve” and an answer to this question: “What is the status of saliva?” (Look it up.).
And so I did.

Applying Saliva to Face of the Club
4 – 2/4

Q. A player spat on the face of his club and did not wipe the saliva off before playing his next stroke. Is this permissible?
A. If the purpose of doing this was to influence the movement of the ball the player was in breach of Rule 4-2b as saliva is "foreign material”.

It may be hard to swallow for someone who’s a saliva spitter and been adjudged to be in breach of the rules but that’s the golf rules book.for you.

Link to Brian Costa and the International Golf Federation

Quote of the Day
“Golf is game of respect and sportsmanship; we have to respect its traditions and its rules.” - Jack Nicklaus


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