A lack of knowledge about golf rules can be embarrassing. Worse yet, it can cost a player valuable strokes on the course.
A surprising number of golfers reflect a cavalier or dismissive attitude about the rules.
“The rules are too complicated,” they might say. Or, “I’ll just call a rules official or a golf pro if there’s a problem.”
There is, of course, another point of view: Golfers who talk endlessly about the golf swing should be able to talk with equal authority about the rules that govern the game. It is the obligation of every golfer to know the rules.
The rules are compiled in a booklet called “The Rules of Golf.” The 2006-2007 version is widely available
for $1. Many savvy golfers carry one on the course.
There is another way to become intimately familiar with the rules. Every year the U.S. Golf Association conducts a series of rules workshops around the country.
Donna Mummert, eight years out of college, was holding court at a workshop here at the Rosen Centre Hotel. When it comes to the Rules of Golf, she is Judge Donna. Nearly 100 people listened intently to Mummert, the youngest person in the room.
A USGA employee, Mummert is manager of the Rules of Golf and amateur status. A former golfer at Winthrop College, she is a walking, talking encyclopedia of golf rules.
This rules workshop lasted four days, although two-day versions also are held (the fee is $250 for four days; $175 for two days). Every workshop is presented by two rules experts, one from the USGA and the other from the PGA of America.
The PGA representative here was Mark Wilson, head professional at Watermark Country Club
in Grand Rapids, Mich., and an experienced international rules official. Another PGA member, David McAtee of Helfrich Hills Golf Course in Evansville, Ind., kept the workshop on schedule by acting as coordinator.
The balanced presentation of the workshop was apparent from the beginning. Whereas Mummert was more academic in her approach to the rules, the fiery Wilson was more of a hands-on teacher who talked about his experiences in the world’s most important golf tournaments.
Arguably, the most popular workshop instructor has been Tom Meeks, the recently retired senior director of rules and competitions for the USGA. Meeks is a wonderful storyteller who loves to refer to his experiences on the course.
“I signed up for a rules workshop because Tom Meeks was teaching,” said Bob Moore of North Hollywood, Calif. “I went out of my way to attend that workshop because I wanted to learn from him.”
Meeks isn’t the only celebrity teacher. Mike Davis, who replaced Meeks at the USGA, teaches regularly. So does Lew Blakey, a USGA Executive Committee member widely regarded as one of the leading rules authorities in the game. Former USGA president Reed Mackenzie is another instructor.
All 34 rules are discussed in depth at a workshop. Outdoor sessions on courses often are held. The class structure is completely interactive, so students can match minds with instructors.
One of the students at the Orlando workshop was Pat McKinney, a real estate developer from Kiawah Island, S.C., and a new member of the USGA Executive Committee.
Student can be a misleading word, because many of the attendees bring a long list of golf credentials with them.
The Orlando workshop included Marcia Luigs, a member of the USGA Women’s Committee. Luigs is typical of USGA volunteers who treat a rules workshop as a refresher course.
Veteran club professional John Spiroplaus, who served 26 years as head pro at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, was in Orlando to assist with the workshop and reinforce his rules knowledge.
Rules workshops are open to anyone, but they generally fill quite fast. For online information, visit http://www.usga.org and click on “rules.”
For those interested in becoming a rules official, a score of 85 on an optional final exam is required for admission to a separate advanced class. Hint: The exam, with 50 closed-book questions and 50 open-book questions, is perhaps more difficult than Winged Foot Golf Club from the tips. Allotted time for the exam is 31⁄2 hours.
As an alternative to a workshop, golfers might consider purchasing a spiral-bound book called “Decisions on The Rules of Golf.” Available for $15.95 (www.usgapubs.com), it is a must for any serious golfer.