The Rules of Golf - Life Lessons for Juniors
By: Tom Carpus, PGA Rules Committee
When it comes to the Rules of Golf and junior golfers, I have always thought that it is best to learn young, no matter how difficult it may be. A ruling that goes against a junior golfer may appear harsh at the time, but the life lesson it may teach them is far more important. In junior programs across the country, PGA professionals not only teach young people how to play the game, but also how to play the game the right way. Rules, etiquette, integrity, honesty, are just a few of the principles that are part of the learning process of this great game.
At a recent high school event at my Club (which was stroke play), a freshman on one of the teams came into the golf shop before teeing off and asked if he could borrow a wind shirt because is was cool and breezy. I gave him a wind vest, wished him luck, and off he went. When he came in, I asked him how he played, and he said he played very poorly. He also said that he was disqualified for failing to hole out on the second hole. He had putted his ball next to the hole and then reached down and picked it up. The group then teed off on the next hole, finished the nine, and one of the players mentioned the incident to his coach when they turned in their scorecards. At this point, it was explained to the young man by his coach that he was disqualified for failing to hole out. As I spoke to him, I could tell that he was very upset, and was having trouble understanding what happened. I then reviewed Rule 3-2, Failure to Hole Out, with him and one of his teammates. The Rule states, “If a competitor fails to hole out at any hole and he does not correct his mistake before he makes a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, before he leaves the putting green, he is disqualified”. I explained that if he had realized his mistake before teeing off on the third hole, he could have rectified his mistake and avoided the disqualification penalty. I also explained that the ruling was correct, and he must learn from this and not let it effect his development as a young player. I mentioned that it’s better to learn these lessons now, than when he is playing at a higher level where there is more at stake. After our conversation, he was still very upset, but I think he realized the importance of knowing and understanding the Rules of Golf. On the more humorous side, the wind vest that I loaned him had “PGA Rules Committee” on the left chest. When he returned it to me, we both laughed, and went home for dinner. Yes, this young man was my son TJ. He just turned fifteen years old, and he is a wonderful son. He has a bright future and also has a lot to learn. Since that day, he and I have talked at length about the importance of this learning experience. In fact, we were watching the President’s Cup, and he saw a player pick his ball up near the hole and he immediately asked me why the player was allowed to do it. I then explained the difference between Rule 2, Match Play and Rule 3, Stroke Play. This was another “teaching moment” as it relates to the Rules of Golf. As a PGA member and parent, this was quite a learning experience for me too. As golf professionals, we have to be aware of the additional pressure this puts on our children. The best thing we can do for our children, as well as the young people we teach in our junior golf programs, is to use these “teaching moments” to help them play the game of golf the right way. The life lessons that can be learned through the game of golf are priceless!