Confessions of a Rules Snob*
By bkuehn1952 on 3/10/11
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Brian "56" Kuehn didn't disappoint. This is his 14th article to oobgolf. He's probably going to expect to be on our payroll soon... You can read the other 13 here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Note: Please read cjgiant's "Are You A Golf Snob?"

Bring a group of golfers together and often the talk will get around to a discussion of the Rules of Golf. Many decry the multitude of rules and the even greater volume, Decisions on the Rules of Golf. Personally I like the rules. I suspect deep down inside me, the complex nature of golf and its rules is one of the things that hooked me on the game. I am a "Rules Snob."

I wasn’t always this way. When I started out, I was like most hackers; I did not have a clue about the finer points of the rules. Lateral water hazard versus water hazard, what is the difference? They are both wet. Can't ground your club in a bunker? Huh?? Those white stakes mean what?

My awakening to the rules came when I got a bit more serious about the game and joined a league. After playing in the league for a time, it became apparent everyone had their own set of rules and interpretations. Bob would take a mulligan when his tee shot soared into the woods. Joe would drop a ball in the fairway about even with his missing ball and add a stroke. Tony would hit a provisional and take a stroke and distance penalty if he did not locate his ball. This haphazard approach was unsettling for me. Eventually, my need for some degree of uniformity led me to the Rules of Golf.

A copy of the Rules of Golf came into my possession as a USGA "Member". I read the whole darn thing from cover to cover. Each year I would attempt to ace the USGA's rules quiz. In fact, one year I actually scored 100% and have the certificate to prove it! Eventually my knowledge of the rules became fairly good. However, this new knowledge did not come without a cost.

My friends in the league began to call me Mr. Rules. Somewhat to their dismay, I actually accepted their derisive title with some degree of pride. I knew everyone else considered my interest in the rules as weird and even vaguely threatening. It did not matter to me because I was pure. While I made it a point to never "call" a penalty on anyone, I always played by the Rules of Golf. Everyone else was free to mangle the game as they wanted but not me. It was almost funny the way the league members would start to feel sheepish about their lack of proper play when they got stuck with me in their group on Wednesday night. Inevitably the following exchange would occur:
"Hey, Mr. Rules, my tee shot is in the lake, what should I do?"
"Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear or do you want to know how to proceed under the Rules of Golf?"
"Yea, tell me the right way."
"Okay, mark the spot where your ball last crossed the hazard. Then..."
"Never mind."
Soon, I found myself playing more and more as a single. Frequently my friends found attending their wives' book club more attractive than 4 hours under the harsh spotlight of Mr. Rules. As I descended further and further into the pit of Rules Snobbery, I found myself almost calling in a perceived violation during a golf telecast. My God, what had I become?

Thankfully, an incident a few years ago put things in proper perspective. My fellow competitor was about to take an illegal drop. Recognizing what was about to occur, I intervened and explained how he should proceed. After my careful and proper explanation, my competitor looked up at me and said, "But Grandpa, I just want to play!"

Admittedly I am not totally cured. I still weigh in on rules discussions from time to time. I still try to adhere to the rules when playing. But I am making progress every day.

. . .

So who else is a "Rules Snob" or knows a non-recovering snob? Who has a copy of the "Rules of Golf" in their bag? What is your reaction when you hear "line of flight" in relation to a water hazard? Confess!

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
ppinkert says:
I'm learning the Rules of Golf, however, not a snob as of yet. I'll guard against becoming a snob, if I can, I figure I should at least know what the rule is when I'm breaking it. ;-))
dottomm says:
Good One Brian! Keep up the quality writing.
homermania says:
Agreed, this is a quality article. As for the confession: I always carry the current rule book in my bag. The only rule I knowingly break is stroke and distance where a provisional is in order.
goods73 says:
If you don't follow the rules, you are a cheater. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse. Am I a 'snob' because I follow the rules and ask my friends to do the same? It's funny - guys that get upset about not being allowed a mulligan will later throw a fit if someone bets out of turn playing poker. Can you name another game where the _majority_ of casual players cheat on a regular basis?
Kurt the Knife says:
this rules thing got me browsing the PGA rulebook online and I starts to read about immovable obstructions and i begins to remember Miguel Jimenez and his off-the-wall shot (literally) in the 2010 British open.
Couldn't he have taken relief from that wall?
eventHorizon says:
I love the game the way it should be played. However, I'll admit, there are times on a golf course where just playing is very appropriate, however I too struggle to do that. I would, however, make the argument that on a casual day on a busy course, stroke and distance should be removed.
wrhall02 says:
The rules are important if you take the game seriously. Rules of Golf are especially important if you play in a money game (bets) and keep an index.

Homermania: I always hit a provisional if my tee shot has a chance of being O.B. or lost. It helps me in two ways: avoid the dreaded walk back to the tee box, and also let's me take out some of the frustration.
wrhall02 says:
The Immovable object rule applies to "Temporary objects." E.G. Camera towers, grand stands, sound equipment, rope to keep spectators off the course etc etc. The rule offers relief from these. Walls, houses, trees, boulders etc are considered permanent features and no relief is giving (Jimenez could have declared the ball unplayable and taken a stroke).
Bryan K says:
I've found that the better I'm playing, the more strict I get on the rules. Most of my failed landmark rounds have been foiled because I have been forced to call penalty strokes on myself. However, if I'm in danger of shooting 120, a score that's not going to affect my handicap anyway, I tend to get a bit lax on what I will call on myself. In my eyes, a 115 is just as bad as a 120.
Bryan K says:
Here's an example of a penalty I called on myself. Early last year, I had three strokes to give to beat my best 9-hole round ever at one of my home courses. I had a terrible lie under a tree about 15 yards off the green. Smart play? Take the stroke, pull it out, and try to go up and down. I went for the glory and tried to stick it next to the pin standing in the branches. My practice swing inadvertently popped the ball out. No one say me up until the point where I went to get the ball and replace it under the tree. I could have said the ball was never under the tree. I could have also said "I meant to do that". But I called the penalty stroke, took a second penalty stroke to pull it out, and then went up and down to tie my best ever. My friend was miffed. I had to explain what had happened several times before he finally got it.

I've since beaten that score, so it's well behind me. But that decision haunted me for the greater part of last summer.
Kurt the Knife says:
pays to read the definitions.
the way Ive been playing, anything that gets in my way is an obstruction.
seems reasonable in a dictionary kinda way.
Kurt the Knife says:
for me, the rules are part of a solid foundation upon which I measure my my progress. If I make the foundation all fluffy, then I'll never really know if I'm getting better.
so there.
MiddleAgedGuy says:
I like following the rules because it helps me measure improvement. Guy I play with a lot regularly beats my score by 20 strokes. Funny, though, in a scramble we tend to use my shots more than his... I'm not sandbagging, I just don't treat white stakes like yellow etc.

But I resist temptation to offer unsolicited advice. Guys I play with know I know the rules, and think it's handy when they ask. But if they don't ask I keep my mouth shut and we all have fun.
Neo says:
Kurt nailed it. How do you know if you're improving if you keep moving the bar each time you play? Did you really score better that round, or did you just cheat a little more?
JuKu says:
Just what MiddleAgedGuy said. I know the rules and play by them to measure my progress. I cheat myself once in a while, but I know when I'm doing that. I had to put in a 15 for one hole here, so that the score wouldn't appear as my personal best! (My drive was a yard or two off the fairway, in light rough. It didn't occur to me to hit a provisional, but we didn't find it and I didn't want to walk back and hold up the course.

In a casual round, I don't care how others play. Sometimes they ask "Is it ok to drop here?" And I answer "Fine for me, as long as we are not playing bigger money than we are". (We don't play for money.) Sometimes they get the hint and ask, sometimes they don't, sometimes I know that they know the rules, but are just having a good time. Fine for me, having fun is the point.

In a competition, I bring up rules violations if I notice them; I feel I'm obliged to do so for the other players.
indigno says:
I am guilty!
One of the most typical dialogues with my friends in a golf course is:
"-What should I do?
-Well, u should...
-But this is like a little unfair...
-Just phone St Andrews and tell them
-Ok ok, but I am not going to do that I think I am just going to put here my ball and keep going.
-ok, but did u came to play golf or did u came to play whatever you call that stuff u r playing?..."
Then I just hear some backbiting...
bducharm says:
We had a guy who was a USGA certified rules official as a member of our club. He was a great resource to go to for rules questions. However, when people played with him they HATED him! He was completely overbearing with rules interpretations and really got under peoples skins. I think there is a way to approach people about rules and not have it be confrontational.
wrhall02 says:
I hear ya bducharm...most clubs I know always seem to have at least one "Mr. Rules" that gets carried away and becomes the player no one wants in their group.

My pet peeve are the players that know and apply all the rules to others, but then can't figure out what the ruling is when they have to take a penalty.
Banker85 says:
i know the rules more than most people i play with but am not nearly even close to being a semi-expert. I try my best to stick to what i know and be consistnet in my rules. If others ask me i will tell them otherwise i usually stay quiet or if its a good pal i might nicely hint at what they should be doing to play right...
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