Thursday, September 2, 2010


As Jim Furyk overslept, as Dustin Johnson grounded his club in an imaginary bunker and as a young 14 year old handed back his winner's trophy when he discovered there were one too many clubs in his bag, we ask whether golf is a search for the highest form of ourselves or an idiotic amalgam of mandates. Are the rules of golf heaven or hell?

No less a player than Phil Mickelson came out strongly against the disqualification of Mr. Furyk for essentially having a faulty alarm clock and missing his starting time by 5 minutes for a non-mandatory pro-am. Fortunately for the game, and unfortunately for Mr. Furyk, the rule which he broke was stricken from the books immediately after his transgression.

As to Johnson, and our young 14 year old who reportedly said he couldn't have lived with himself had he not reported his error, what efforts did they make to undermine the integrity of the game or take undue advantage? None. Shouldn't the punishment have any relation to the crime? If there is no intent of wrongdoing, and if the alleged infraction did not result in any change in the outcome, what are we doing? Why is golf the setting for a morality play?

How about if we applied the golf code of conduct to other sports? I know we like to watch the players hit batting practice. If A-Rod decided to skip this particular activity, should he be suspended from the game that day? If we said that each batter could only have 6 bats in his personal bat rack but he discovered at the end of the game that he had 7, does his team lose the game?

For years I have been playing golf each Saturday with a number of my friends. We are guided by a set of rules not handed down from above, like commandments given to Moses. Rather, as the self- appointed commissioner, I have established a slightly more flexible way of policing our actions. 2 tee shots off the first tee, one floating mulligan, gimme putts of varying lengths depending on your mood at the moment , limits on the score on any particular hole, treating out of bounds shots and lost balls as if they were located (one shot later) at about where you wanted them to land, all but part of the morally corrupt way in which we chase our egos each week. We would, in the eyes of the purists, be unfit to put a spikeless shoe on the green.

The PGA has set rules in an imaginary world while I have established guidelines for application in a place we actually inhabit. I am not suggesting that the PGA adopt Robert's Rules of Order, but I do think that they should establish a code of conduct that allows for subjective determinations where necessary, and penalties that are not abusive. To the PGA, I say, take a mulligan.


Anonymous said...

And moving balls on the fairway.By the way, it was always fun. Ted

Robert said...

and in the rough.

Anonymous said...

And if you have a poor lie, you are entitled to a mulligan drop, i.e., you can just move the ball to a better lie, even if it is 10-20 yards ahead.

Robert said...

maybe I should create Robert's Rules of Order so there can be no mistakes made which would require automatic disqualification (like declaring that you found your ball in the left rough when the last known siting was 50 yards in the other direction)