Golf Rules Illustrated

Golf Rules IllustratedThe USGA publications tend to be dry, button-down, corporate presentations that are about as much fun to read as the obituary columns in your local paper.  But they stepped out of their blue blazer mode in the publication of Golf Rules Illustrated 2012-2015-The Official Illustrated Guide To the Rules of Golf.

Every one who plays the game is confronted with rules conundrums whether it is from their Saturday group, an outing they are playing, or the live action they are watching during the Sunday tournament broadcast.  The first person they are likely to ask is the head pro at their place and the second person is probably a single digit guy they barely know walking through the locker room.  More often than not they come away more confused about the rules then when they posed the question.

Sure there are on-line sources like Barry Rhodes Rules School who is probably the reigning authority outside of the USGA/R & A tandem when it comes to answering rules questions.  You could check resources like our Keepers Rules Education Initiative which explains frequently asked rules incidents with on course scenarios to clarify the nuances of rules in your day-to-day game.

But for coherent answers to all golf rule questions you need only have a copy of the Golf Rules Illustrated book at your disposal to get meat of the matter in a hurry.  The book is organized with color-coded index for each chapter that covers one the 34 rules in the game.  For each rule and it includes an explanation of the rule and it’s related sub-cases with a combination of easy to understand text, simple illustrations, relevant photos, and real incidents and frequently asked questions.

A simple visual explains what you are prohibited from doing in a bunker

Ball In Bunker Prohibited ActionThe table of contents makes it easy to find what you are looking for and once there you will find yourself perusing the related sub-cases as well as real incidents from the tour that will bring the rules to life for you.  The FAQs help to fill in the gaps so you reconcile the obvious questions that come to mind as you start to understand the rule at hand.

Let’s say you need to know if the pile of rabbit poop your ball landed in can be removed without penalty as Loose Impediments (Rule 23).

This illustration defines Loose Impediments vs Movable Obstructions

Loose ImpedimentsYou recall that crazy situation when Tiger got to move a boulder in Arizona, a loose impediment in his way that took an army of people to remove.  Check the incident section of Rule 23 for an account of that crazy affair and the logic that supported the ruling.

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It then occurs to you, can you remove sand on the putting even though your ball lies off the putting surface….check the Frequently Asked Questions at the end of the chapter.

Maybe you were playing with your buddies the other day and one of them hit a ball off a steep upslope that came straight up and deflected off this body.  Any penalty for that?

Happened to Jeff Maggert at the 2003 Masters and cost him a one-stroke penalty

Ball Hitting A PlayerBut this leads you to wonder about other incidents where a ball is stopped or deflected by hitting your opponents bag or another ball in motion.

Ball In Motion DeflectedDropping the ball whether for free relief or in implementing a penalty can lead to all kinds of variations of events.  In the chapter on Rule 20-Lifting, Dropping and Placing-it clearly explains a litany of scenarios including cases when you must re-drop.

RedroppingUnder the FAQ they address whether a player is required to mark the position of a ball he is going to drop before lifting it.

Remember Van de Velde’s choosing this option from the water hazard at the Open

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This book is an invaluable reference for getting the rules right because it cuts through all the legal language to present an intelligible understanding of the rules and related issues as well as providing simple visuals to reinforce the logic of how the rules must be implemented.

For about 15 bucks you can get this from any number of the on-line book purveyors. Golf Rules Illustrated should have a front row spot on your golf library shelf.  The pages will become dog-eared in no time.

(Illustrations and photos from Golf Rules Illustrated 2012-2015)

February, 2015


Zen Golf: Mastering The Mental Game

Don’t let the title scare you, no need to assume the lotus position and repeat incantations as part of your pre-shot routine.  What is presented in this book by Joseph Parent, a PGA Coach and Buddhist instructor, is a pragmatic approach to managing the mental aspect of your game to get out of your own way and let your golf skills provide you with the best chance for success on the golf course.

A good pre-shot routine is essential to getting consistency out of your intended shots but the mental aspect of that routine is the part many players seem to ignore.  We have all experienced how being impulsive, indecisive, and anticipating a bad result can wreck all the good intentions of our plan.  The question is how do you clear your mind, achieve focus on your intent, and play each shot within the moment to delimit the effect anxiety and fear can have on your results.

How do you deal with the negative thoughts that creep into your head that can predispose you to a bad outcome? His suggestion is that all thoughts going through your head are like traffic on a busy street, you cannot control them coming into the picture so you should not try to control them by forcing them out.  He says, “Simply let them come up and go by, neither inviting them to stay nor trying to get rid of them.”  The key is to allow ”last time I was here I  hit in that nasty bunker” to come and go and to let stay “left center ten feet left of the pin with an uphill putt”.  It is a simple process of mental sifting.

A corollary principle is cultivating “unconditional confidence” in your intentions.  This means not being overly judgmental based on your performance at any point during a round.  We cannot expect to hit every shot perfectly and we must be able to handle the result no matter what occurs.  With unconditional confidence “instead of assuming something (mechanical) is wrong ….and trying to fix it, we reflect on what may have interfered with our intention on that shot.  This approach makes it possible to quickly turn things around and play well again.”

His central thesis in this book is a mental management process he calls the PAR Approach-a way of thinking that focuses on Preparation, Action, and Response to Result.

Preparation requires clarity-a vivid image of the shot intended, commitment-being free of doubt and hesitation of intent, and composure-being focused and poised as you prepare for a shot.  Together these three elements give you total confidence in the intended outcome of your shot.

Action is about developing, honing, and trusting a process of swinging the club that turns over control from your thinking mind to your intuitive mind.  Trying to guide your swing with swing thoughts and principles has to be left on the practice ground. When you are on the course you have to trust a process you have developed that works.  As he says, “take care of the process and the results will take care of themselves”.

Response to Results is probably the most overlooked aspect of managing your mind on the golf course.  Most of us have a tendency to focus on the negative part of our results and vocalize the flaws to ourselves.  His advice is “the best responses are those that reinforce successes and help you learn from mistakes without getting down on yourself”.  We need to take the time to appreciate a good shot and focus on how well we executed what we planned.  He says, “reinforcing good shots with positive feelings….a minimum of emotional distress around poor shots….and refraining from beating yourself up, those ways of responding to results give you the best chance of success.”

I am sure a thoughtful reading of this book will help your performance on the golf course.  It will also increase the pleasure you get from playing the game by giving you a more reasonable perspective on expectation and evaluation of performance.

The proper view this book encourages is that  “our self worth as a human being doesn’t depend on how well or poorly we strike a golf ball.  We see our nature and our abilities as basically good and the difficulties we encounter as temporary experiences.”

These are words to live by and words to play by.

Zen Golf
Dr. Joseph Parent (2002)