The Rules of Golf and the superintendent
A greater familiarity with the Rules of Golf can help superintendents better understand the game and make them more confident in marking the course.
Jack D. Fry, Ph.D.
Read this story in GCM's digital edition
Although golf course superintendents may sometimes
forget, it’s all about a game. And, like it or not, this game has a set of
rules, and the Rules of Golf (3) are rather lengthy, and at times, difficult to understand.
Until about 10 years ago, I had little knowledge or interest in the Rules, although I routinely
taught classes to students who were hoping to become golf course
superintendents. It was only after my son became competitive in junior golf
that I began to really take notice of the impact the superintendent has on the Rules.
In early 2013, a survey was developed to get a
better understanding of golf course superintendents’ perception of the Rules, to find out who at the
course oversees marking of the water hazards and to test superintendents’
knowledge on some basic Rules related to course maintenance.
The electronic survey was developed at Kansas State
University and was made available online for superintendents to complete
between March 25 and May 24, 2013. The link to the survey was included in a GCSAA This Week update to all
members and was also made available through various electronic media, including
turfdiseases.org and distribution through Twitter. As an incentive to complete
the survey, one participating superintendent was randomly selected to win a
case of red hazard marking paint, courtesy of Standard Golf of Cedar Falls,
Superintendents should be familiar with the golfers’ options should they encounter movable (top) or immovable (bottom) obstructions.
Photos by Jack Fry
In addition to the questions noted on the
figures in this paper and the Rules questions in Table 1, superintendents were queried on: their
perceived knowledge of the Rules of Golf on a scale of 1 (ignorant) to 5 (PGA Tour rules official); whether
they had taken the USGA/PGA threeday Rules seminar; and whether they had been through one or more
presentations on the Rules of Golf. Although some basic statistics were run on the numbers, the
survey was not all-encompassing as it ultimately sampled a relatively small
group of superintendents. Nevertheless, the response across a wide geographical
area was impressive.
The survey was completed by 177 superintendents across
10 countries and 42 U.S. states. Of those surveyed, 39% were from private
facilities, 23% from daily-fee, 20% from municipal, 8% from resort, and 10%
from other (most of which were described in comments as semiprivate). Over three-quarters
of those surveyed were at 18-hole facilities, with the remainder evenly
distributed across 9-, 27- and 36-hole facilities.
Perception of the Rules
Over half of the superintendents surveyed thought
that it was extremely important for them to have a good understanding of the Rules of Golf (Figure 1). However,
it was surprising that 38% had never been through any presentation on the Rules. The USGA and PGA jointly
offer a three-day seminar on the Rules at locations throughout the U.S. each year, but only 10
superintendents (6%) surveyed had taken that seminar. Superintendents seeking
more information on the Rules have many options available. If a three-day seminar is too much,
the USGA and PGA also offer a shorter, two-day seminar. State and local golf associations
also frequently offer Rules seminars. In the past, GCSAA has offered webcasts and half-day and
two-hour seminars at the annual conference that address interactions between superintendents
and the Rules.
Over 60% of the superintendents indicated that
golf course maintenance practices have a significant or tremendous impact on
the Rules (Figure
2). I have grown to appreciate the impact superintendents have on the Rules, and have highlighted some
of these in a column (“Through the Green”) that has appeared every other month
in GCM since
Marking hazards on the golf course
In order for a golfer to properly follow the Rules, water hazards and lateral
hazards on the course must be marked with stakes and/or painted lines. Stakes
are used to identify the hazard to the golfer from a distance, whereas the
painted hazard line defines the margin of the hazard. Just over 50% of the
superintendents surveyed indicated that stakes were present on their golf
course, but lines were painted only before important tournaments (Figure 3).
About 24% of superintendents had stakes on the course, and painted lines
regularly, and 7% said they paint, but don’t use stakes.
Regarding who marks the golf course, 71% indicated
that the golf course superintendent (maintenance staff) marked the course,
whereas 19% indicated it was the golf professional (pro shop staff) (Figure 4).
About 3% said the course would only be marked by a golf association before an
important tournament. Just over 7% indicated “other” when asked who marked the
course, and nearly all of them indicated it was a team effort between the golf
professional and superintendent. Taking this into account, 80% of the
superintendents surveyed were involved in marking the golf course, either
individually or cooperatively with the golf professional.
Knowledge of the Rules
The quiz consisted of 10 questions on the Rules of Golf that had some relationship
to maintenance of the course (Table 1). There were five multi-ple
choice questions and five true/false; some of these questions were taken from
“999 Questions on the Rules of Golf ”
(1). Before taking the quiz, over 90% of those surveyed considered themselves to
have average or better knowledge of the Rules.
Some of them were correct. The average score on the quiz was 68%, with the low
score 30% and the high 100%. As a group, the most frequently missed question
was No. 1, which addressed the definition of a loose impediment. By definition,
soil and sand are only loose impediments on the putting green.
Only 50% of the superintendents gave correct answers
regarding the player’s options if the ball crosses a yellow line as it enters a
water hazard (question 3, Table 1). Because they so often work with
establishing hazard lines on the golf course, marking hazards and the golfer’s
options after entering a hazard are areas where more education is needed.
There was a positive correlation between how superintendents
ranked themselves in knowledge of the Rules,
and the score they received on the quiz. In other words, if they thought they
knew more, their quiz score reflected that. It’s also interesting to note that
superintendents who indicated that they had been through one or more
presentations on the Rules had a higher
average quiz score (72%) than those who had not (61%).
As a superintendent, you may be intimidated by the Rules
of Golf, but don’t fret. Improving your knowledge of the Rules
will pay off, especially those Rules
that interact directly with course maintenance. Establishing
a foundation of knowledge of the Rules will
allow you to better understand the game that is responsible for your
employment. In addition, you’ll be more confident in marking the golf course,
and in communicating with the golf professional and golfers.
How do you start? Keep a copy of the Rules
of Golf 2012-2015 in your office. Spend some time looking
over the definitions. Here’s a list of Rules that
is a good place to start (you will affect all of these with course maintenance
practices): 13 (Ball Played as it Lies), 16 (The Putting Green), 23 (Loose
Impediments), 24 (Obstructions), 25 (Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball,
and Wrong Putting Green), and 26 (Water Hazards).
Want to be a better superintendent? Improve your knowledge
of the Rules.
Thanks are extended to Steve Tyler, Standard Golf, for
providing the hazard marking paint to the winner of the random selection. I
appreciate the assistance of Scott Hollister, GCSAA, and John Kaminski,
associate professor at Penn State, in distributing
the link to the survey. Finally, thanks to Kenton Peterson, Ph.D., for
assisting in analysis of the survey data.
- Rhodes, B. 2010. 999 Questions on the
Rules of Golf. G2 Entertainment Ltd., Kent, United Kingdom.
- United States Golf Association. 2011.
Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2013. USGA, Far Hills, N.J.
- United States Golf Association. 2011.
Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status 2012-2015. USGA, Far Hills, N.J.
Jack Fry is a professor in the department of horticulture,
forestry and recreation resources at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.