The game of golf has 34 rules and numerous interpretations in order to help all players post an honest score and protect playing partners and competitors from indiscretions or even honest mistakes. The number one rule in golf is “Play the course as you find it, and play your ball as it lies”. This simply means, don’t complain about the course setup, it’s the same for everyone, and don’t touch your ball unless you’re on the teeing ground or the putting green. I find that if you follow this rule, everything else will fall into place. It’s a good idea to own a $3.00 rule book and have a look at it from time to time; you might be surprised at how many times in a round of golf the rules will work in your favor. The largest abuse of the rules of golf and the honor system is the current state of the handicapping practice. The system itself isn’t flawed; the computerized handicapping system in my club works great when players enter their information correctly. The problem lies in what information goes in the system for computation, and what information never makes it in. The handicap system is designed to create an equal playing field for all levels of players in competition. This will allow an occasional player the opportunity to compete on a head to head basis with a champion golfer and will also group players of the same golfing abilities together for competition. This can’t happen in any other sport, tennis, hockey, football…there is no way an average athlete could compete head to head with the top players in any of these sports, this is one of the reasons golf is the greatest participation sport. There are two kinds of “Rules infractions” associated with handicapping, the first being the player who is too proud to enter a poor score for fear of ridicule from peers. This player is really only cheating him, or herself when competition time comes and they are paired with much better players. The other player is the one who omits his/her best scores from the handicap computer in order to inflate their factor and give them an edge in the competition. This practice is no different from an Olympic athlete using a banned substance in order to gain an advantage over his peers. This habit is wrong, and if caught, the athlete will always be branded as a cheater. As a Golf Professional, I am asked often to verify handicaps for competition and on some occasions have refused to sign player’s cards at the handicap they have posted as it may compromise my reputation as an honest professional.

As a fellow golfer and lover of the game, I ask everyone to do three things;
1. Post all your scores to your handicap system, good or bad.
2. Ask your Pro about “equitable stroke control” and apply it to your scores.
3. Ask your playing partners to do the same.

If everyone will do these three simple things, the RCGA Handicapping system will sort everything else out and our competitions will be fair, and more fun. For more information on your handicapping system, ask your local Pro or your local RCGA official.
Have a great rest of the season, and keep it on course.