Andy Farrell: So just what is a non-conforming tee? Rule book provides the answers to golf's vital questions

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Helpful as ever, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have come out with a range of new publications in time for Christmas. "Guidance on Running a Competition" and "Decisions on the Rules of Amateur Status" are probably only for the committed administrator in your life.

But following another little temper tantrum on Saturday it was widely suggested that Colin Montgomerie might be a likely recipient of "Don't be a Golf Menace", a booklet on etiquette.

Etiquette forms an important part of the new Rules of Golf, which are due to come into force on January 1, 2004. For the first time many of the unwritten rules about how players should conduct themselves have been written down. There is even the ultimate sanction that serious, or serial, breaches could lead to disqualification.

The Royal and Ancient are never likely to rebrand themselves as Rules 'R' Us, but all 34 have been rewritten in an attempt to make the language simpler. There are still not a lot of laughs, although one assiduous comber of the rule book in the press room did raise a chuckle when he discovered Rule 11 now talks about "non-conforming tees", the penalty for possessing such an item being disqualification, obviously. No doubt there will soon be a huge new appendix defining at length the expected properties of the humble wooden peg.

To get the Rules into the hands of those who play the game, the R and A will be giving away four million copies. They could start with the Tour professionals but that is another story. There are versions translated into 21 different languages and the free distribution would not be possible without sponsorship. Rolex have just taken over the task from Royal and SunAlliance, who were involved for 94 years, surely one of the longest-ever associations.

When the Rules of Golf are updated, which occurs every four years, so the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf", the game's case law, needs to be amended. The 562-page tome will now contain a further 45 new decisions, 48 which have been extensively redrafted, and 150 other alterations. Sounds like a fun quiz for Boxing Day.

The season's major rules rumpus, of course, came at the Open Championship, when Mark Roe, then two strokes off the lead, and Jesper Parnevik were disqualified after mixing up their scorecards. It was a bureaucratic blunder of huge proportions and created a fearful stink.

The Royal and Ancient say they will have new recording procedures in place for next year's Open. As part of their review they studied the European Tour operation. The most striking difference would have been that at the Open the recorders were volunteers from the host club, while all manner of other bods are in the room. At a European Tour event, only a professional recorder meets the players as they walk off the 18th.

David Rickman, the rules secretary of the R & A, said all the scorecard rules were being reviewed. But though sympathetic to the view that Roe's punishment was extreme, he added: "If you cannot rely on the scorecard, it makes running strokeplay tournaments at all levels very difficult." Any irregularity on the card - except addition, which is the responsibility of those running an event - can lead to disqualification. Making sure it is your name at the top of the card is a fairly basic responsibility and solely that of the player. Since the Roe incident, there has been talk on the European Tour that these injustices should be overlooked where genuine mistakes are to blame. Greg Turner even brought it up at a Tournament Committee meeting. People's livelihoods are at stake, after all.

But the European Tour maintains that they should not be in the position of judging whether a mistake is inadvertent or an attempt to seek advantage. Their view was put by John Paramor, their chief referee, in Golf Weekly magazine and it is unashamedly unequivocal.

"When we have a spate of disqualifications there are always calls for change because people see it as 'unfair'," Paramor said. "But we are a rules administering body, not a rules making body and either we play by the rules or we don't. I don't think there is any leeway.

"If we start changing which rules we want to use on a particular week and disregard the others, then it wouldn't be golf we are playing. One of the great strengths of the European Tour is that we play by the rule book."

The wishy-washy lobby is also dismissed by one of the men who pay the players their vast fortunes. "I admit I am a stickler," said Mel Pyatt, now the president of Volvo Event Management but in a former life a golf professional himself. "The perception of golf for sponsors is a game with integrity, good values and good performance.

"This can only come from a game's roots. The Rules of Golf provide a framework which is clearly defined and followed by everyone, whether professional or amateur. It is the same for us in companies like Volvo. We have to be professional, have clear procedures and stick to our strategies. We have to keep consistent. Where there is fluctuation, confusion creeps in.

"Consistency is a tremendous strength in communication, whether it is within a company, or in a sport." The Rules of Golf. Out now. This time it's serious.

For a free copy of "The Rules of Golf', visit