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Know the (Golf) Rules

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Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland

I'm tired of reading about Tiger but alas most of the golf reporting fraternity are still at. Maybe they're like me and can't find anything more interesting to write about at this less exciting time of the year, golf-wise

However Dan Jenkins did try with his reflections on what year(s) constituted the worst  collection of winners, from a journalist's point of view

I also read somewhere that a famous tree at Torrey PInes has got blown over and that's about it folks. And so having very recently received a complimentary remark about a chapter in my book Life's Lessons Frae The Links. I thought I'd post a wee selection of my thoughts from the chapter containing anecodotes about the rules.

Hole 5 — Draco

—Know the rules—

In ancient times, long before the Royal & Ancient was given the task to formulate the modern rules of golf (the original rules of golf were drawn up by the Leith Link’s gowfers in 1744) there lived a man called Draco.
 Ancient Athens was in pretty bad shape and Draco was asked to revise the laws of the land. But he got kind of carried away and nearly every offence became punishable by death.

 And today his name lives on whenever we speak of an autocratic authority coming up with draconian rules and regulations.

 A lack of knowledge of the rules of golf won’t cost you your life but it could lose you a tournament or that match against that ‘auld bugger’ you’ve always wanted to beat but who knows every rule in the book.
And draws to your attention a very minor infringement you’ve just made and it has major repercussions. You’ve lost to him again. 

What follows is not intended to suggest the august body of the R & A have a licence to kill. But there have been occasions when someone could’ve been killed while attempting to play by the rules.

 Take for instance Harry Bradshaw. The Irishman who had what Henry Longhurst described as  “An agricultural swing.” —Not pretty but effective.

 Harry was playing in the 1949 Open at Royal St George’s. A golf course which has been described thus.
 ‘What a glorious place it is for golf. When sunlight is dancing on the waves of Pegwell Bay, the white cliffs of Ramsgate shining in the distance, the larks singing as they always seem to do at Sandwich, and a sea wind stirring in the sand grasses.’
 What was to follow after Harry’s fine first round of 68 was less than glorious and involved some stirrings in the sand grasses.
 Pushing his tee shot at the 5th in the second round into the sand grasses of the semi-rough. Harry still felt pretty good. His state of mind in sync with this ‘glorious place’ for golf. However upon reaching his ball he saw it had come to rest in the bottom half of a broken beer bottle.

If it had been a ginger beer bottle like many of the bottles consumed over the years by the members of the Royal & Ancient, maybe there would have been a clear-cut ruling. As it was what followed has the taste of being somewhat draconian.

The Bradshaw beer bottle incident is an oft-told story. But here we have it in Harry’s own words—A description given many years after the event.

‘Had the rules been clear cut I would have lifted and dropped, even at the expense of a penalty shot. But the ruling then stated that ‘the ball is unplayable if a player considers he cannot make a stroke at it and dislodge it into a playable position.’ My main concern was not to risk disqualification
I decided to play it as it lay. I picked my blaster, closed my eyes tightly and let fly.
The bottle was smashed to pieces and the ball went about thirty yards. It took another two to reach the green, where I eventually holed out in six.
I must admit that it upset me a bit. It was not so much that I cracked up or anything like that, but I’d been playing with great calm and was really in a perfect relaxed state of mind—the kind of feeling you get all too rarely.’

Many years after the event, Larry Smith, Bradshaw’s caddie who’d emigrated to Canada caught up with Harry in his pro ship at Portmarnock and said.
“If I’d known what was going to happen, the ball wouldn’t have been in that bottle when you got there.”
The luck of the Irish wasn’t with Harry and he eventually lost in a play-off with Muffin face Bobby Locke and the moral of this story is know the rules. 
And if you don’t or are not sure of a ruling, here’s a story to help you.

 Arnie’s acumen

 The year is 1958, the place Augusta National, the event The Masters, the exact spot, midway between the back bunker and the front edge of the green on the ‘toughest par 3 in tournament golf.’
The famous 12th hole so loved by the august members of Augusta who although never having been accused of being draconian, they do have a reputation for being heavy handed. Just ask Robert Townsend the ex-member, famous businessman and author of ‘Up The Organisation.’ Asked to resign because of the book’s title and its inferences even though he wasn’t referring to the organisational capabilities of Augusta National.
And then there was the case of the TV commentators who transgressed during live transmissions of The Masters.
In 1966, CBS commentator Jack Whitaker in all innocence described the huge crowd around the 18th green as “a mob.”
Innocent or not he was found guilty as charged.
One never ever refers to the crowds at The Masters as a mob. Even if they have contravened the prominently displayed sign advising spectators they are not permitted to run on the course
Whitaker was run out of town, well at least Augusta National, and asked never to return.

 Then there was the case of Gary McCord—one funny guy with a wonderful turn of phrase. Someone with a feel for the game and captures the feeling of what it would be like if we were out there playing and not just watching.
 Gary described the very fast greens as being so slick they looked like they’d been ‘bikini-waxed.’
Once again an unacceptable choice of image and come next year he’d have the opportunity to be on the beach beside bikini clad babes. Because he’d not be back commentating at crunch time on the back nine of The Masters.
Like Jack Whitaker, Gary was asked (wrong-he was instructed) never to return. 

 One simply doesn’t do or say anything to get offside with these august Augusta Nationals—and having said that, there goes any chance I ever had of being invited to play Augusta National.

 Now that you’ve got a feel for their culture and thinking you’d need balls of another kind to question a ruling at Augusta.  And some help from ‘Arnie’s army’ to back you up. I ask you, how’s this for courage under fire?

 Leading by one shot at the 12th during the final round of what had been a very wet year at Augusta, Arnie’s tee shot ended up plugged midway between the back bunker and the front edge of the green.
 Arnie advised the official, Arthur Lacey that since wet-weather rules applied he was entitled to a clean and lift without penalty.
 Lacey then shook his head.
 “You don’t do that at Augusta.”
 Arnie reminded Lacey the competitors are playing wet-weather rules as set out in the local rules for the duration of the tournament.
 “No sir. You can’t do that. You’ve got to play it as it lies.”
 Arnie then advised Lacey he intended playing two balls. The plugged ball and a provisional ball and let the rules committee, sort it out.

"No sir. You can’t do that either.” Came the curt reply.
 Your call Arnie, but remember if you get it wrong you may well not get a call to come to the Masters next year.
Arnie decided to play two balls and finished with a 5 with the plugged ball and a 3 with his provisional ball.

 Cometh the hour cometh the man with common sense and who better than Robert T. Jones Jnr.
 Bobby, who now had to use a cart to get around his ‘dream course’ was spotted by Arnie as he played the 13th.
 At the 15th Arnie was still ‘nervous as hell’ when summoned to meet with Bobby and the rules committee.
 The die is cast and Arnie’s a dead man if proven wrong.
 “Mr Palmer”—Now that sounds kinda serious coming from committee chairman Jonathon Winters.
We would expect to hear “Mr Hogan” but come on everyone calls him Arnie.
 ‘The committee has ruled in your favour. You will have a three at the twelfth hole.’
Arnie’s acumen had accurately assessed his options and he went on to win. As for Harry Bradshaw we have to ask did he ever consider playing two balls instead of one bash at the bottle with his blaster?

Incidentally the chapter concludes with my thoughts on how long it can take for change to take place in the golfing arena

Finally a word of warning.

Finally a word of warning.
If you’ve dug in your spikes and demanding justice, don’t hold your breath waiting for a decision.
When Walter Travis won the 1904 British Amateur using his centre-shafted Schnectady putter it was then banned from use for many years in Britain.
It took until 1951 before it became acceptable to both the USGA and the R & A.





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