A gentleman's game bound by a different set of rules
ATLANTA – One of the fundamental tenants of our game is that golfers call penalties on themselves and police fellow competitors, to protect the field.
It’s a concept as old as the game itself.
Of course, golf has changed over the years, and technology has become a big part of the game, on and off the course.
So big, in fact, that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Tiger Woods have suggested that the Tour consider using high-definition TV to help enforce the rules – or at least ask the governing bodies to deliberate on the matter.
But the next step really is simpler than that. Does a sport that trumpets its integrity need to get every ruling correct, using HDTV or not?
Of course this discussion is really a smoke screen for the real question: Should fans watching at home be able to call in and suggest that a breach of the rules has occurred?
Detractors argue that other sports don’t allow their games to be bogged down with such examinations, so why should golf? The answer is simple: Golf is a gentleman’s game.
Golf doesn’t have spit balls, corked bats and stick-um. Golfers don’t play defense and don’t fight with the opposition on the field of play.
Golfers shake hands before a round and after; they converse with civility while competing; and they embrace a fundamental responsibility to protect the field from violations of the rules.
The four major sports – football, basketball, baseball and hockey – feature officials who call the game and often use instant replay or HDTV to confirm a ruling, even if the game is postponed while they do it.
A PGA Tour event usually includes four rules officials – not to police or call rules infractions but to be available to assist a player should a question arise.
It all gets back to the players. They are the only ones who can help police the rules on the course, and as we have found, they are either unwilling to call a penalty on a fellow competitor, too focused on their own game to bother with what their fellow competitor is doing or have a general lack of knowledge of the rules.
In these limited circumstances, the caller is just as impartial as the rules official using HDTV. They desire only to get the call right.
Surely in a gentleman’s game, we can’t ask for any more or any less.