When it comes to the Rules of Golf and junior golfers, no matter how difficult it may be, it’s best to learn early in life. A ruling that goes against a junior golfer may appear harsh at the time, but the life lesson it may teach the child is far more important. 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 and honesty, are just a few of the principles that are part of the learning process of this great game.
A high school stroke play event was recently played at Kennett Square Golf & CC, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. A freshman on one of the teams came into the golf shop before teeing off, and asked if he could borrow a jacket because it was cool and breezy. With a wind vest in hand, off he went. After the round, he came back into the golf shop to return the wind vest. When asked how he played, he said that he was disqualified. At the second hole, he putted his ball within inches of the hole. Thinking his next stroke was “good”; he reached down and picked up his ball. The group then teed off on the next hole, and finished the round. When they turned in their scorecards, a fellow competitor mentioned the incident at the second hole to his coach. After a short coaches’ meeting, the freshman’s coach explained to him that he was disqualified under Rule 3-2 (Failure to Hole Out).
One could tell the freshman was very upset, and he was having trouble understanding what happened. This was a “teaching moment”… an opportunity to break out the Rule Book and review Rule 3-2. This 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”. If he had realized his mistake before teeing off on the third hole, he could have rectified his mistake by replacing the ball and holing out. In this case, he would have just incurred a one stroke penalty (for lifting his ball without making it), instead of the disqualification penalty. For a young player, 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 upset, but 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. 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. Since that day, we have talked at length about the Rules of Golf and their importance. In fact, last fall we were watching the President’s Cup, and saw a player pick his ball up near the hole. TJ immediately asked: Why was that player allowed to lift his ball? This was another “teaching moment”, an opportunity to explain the difference between Rule 2 (Match Play) and Rule 3 (Stroke Play).
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 our junior golfers, 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!
Written by: Tom Carpus, PGA
Tom Carpus is the Head Golf Professional at Kennett Square Golf & CC and a member of the PGA of America Rules Committee.