It’s one of the great ways to kill a friendship – pull a Golf Rule on your mate. Usually you’ll be told, fairly directly, that any such rules are “unfair” and “we don’t play that way”.
That’s fine when you’re with your mates have a “friendly” – but if you’re getting into the game in any serious way you’ll find some knowledge of the Rules is essential.
Like most other sports, Golf Rules are complex and can be very hard to interpret quickly, especially when you’re halfway through a hole.
So what do you do?
Firstly decide whether the fate of our world depends on the game you’re playing (this often depends on the stakes you’re playing for). Then, if you’re really sure, state what the Rule allows – what relief, what penalty). If you’re not sure, just get on with the game but make a note to pick up (and read) a Rule Book from the Golf Shop at the course.
Even in highly competitive club matches, Rules knowledge can be fairly sketchy and all kinds of disputes arise. Usually, the one who shouts loudest gets considered to be the greatest Golf Rules authority, simply through their persuasive (or intimidating) tone of voice.
So what’s best when you;re playing casually? First up, agree your own group’s rules before you tee off and make sure everyone knows whether you’re playing the lie, cleaning & placing, etc. Then, when it’s all over and the beers are on the bar, have a discussion about issues that arose during the round and check the Rule Book to see what should have happened.
You can take a Golf Rules course, if you want to bore your mates witless. Better you learn as you go. Just realise that while you may think that the Rules of Golf get in the way of a good time, the reality is that if we all play the same way we’ll have a better time out there.