New rules bring hope to the world of golf

By Vincent Wang'ombe: Friday, November 30th 2018 at 08:02 GMT +3 | Golf
Tankisha Ikue during the South rift Clubs Junior golf tournament at the Nakuru Golf Club in August [PHOTO:Suleiman Mbatia, Nakuru]

I have often wondered how it was to play golf in the old days before the good people at St. Andrews came together to issue the first set of rules of golf.

The days when golf clubs had names like brassies, mashies, baffies and spoons instead of the wedges and numbers that we are more familiar with.

When golfers had to visit a craftsman to make them a club instead of walking into a pro-shop for a branded, off the shelf club.

When two Scotsmen, John Henrie and Pat Rogie, were sent to prison in Edinburgh for “playing of the Gowff on the links of Leith every Sabbath the time of the sermonses”.

Golfers only played for fun as there were no major competitions. I wonder how disputes were resolved without a written set of rules.

Were there some “Sensei” who could resolve disagreements on the course especially when heavy betters were shaking fists at one another? Were the golf “Sensei” of those years regarded as wet blankets when they were out playing?

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It was obvious that some uniformity was required to cover play and to govern the wagers.

In 1754, the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, who were mostly also members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, agreed to adopt the Rules that had been used by the Honourable Company.

This was the first movement towards governing the game. The first set of Rules were 13 in number.

Out of the original 13, a few still remain in one form or another.

Over the years, the good people at St. Andrews had entrusted the Rules of Golf to people who probably had legal training.

By 1984, the year of the last major revision, the total number of the Rules of Golf was 41. After the revision, the number came down to 34.

A slight improvement. Still, the tone used in writing the Rules of Golf was so sombre, its whole aroma like muddy high school sneakers piled up in the dormitory. 

It is no wonder that many golfers have relied upon “Sensei’s” knowledge of the Rules to interpret the various situations that golfers invariably find themselves in.

In my time as a golf referee and teacher, I have learned that knowledge of the Rules of Golf is like underwear. It is important that you have it but it is good not to show it off.

Going through the new Rules of Golf that take effect in 2019, I have found rays of sunshine in the current set up.

The Rules are now down to 24 and the language used is much simpler and modern. They have finally done away with terms like “Casual water” (what can be casual about water?) and replaced it with the more understandable “Temporary water”.

There are many other such examples even in how we will play the game come January 2019.

However, the most important fundamentals of the game will remain; play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it.

This has always been the underlying principle of the game since the first set of Rules were written.

Golf is still expected to be played by ladies and gentlemen who respect the game, the course and their fellow golfers.

Mr Wang’ombe is a Kenya Golf Union Executive

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