Royal and Ancient enshrines the 'unwritten' rules of golf

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The Independent Online

Shouting "Fore" after a wildly struck shot that is in danger of hitting someone, a centuries-old tradition, is to be enshrined in the rules of golf for the first time.

The instruction that a warning is required in such situations, along with advice over the traditional wording, is included in an expanded section on etiquette and behaviour on the course, which could also lead someone shouting another four-letter f-word too often into trouble.

The section contains much on how players conduct themselves on the course that was previously "unwritten" but which will now be a part of the new rules of golf which come into effect on 1 January, 2004. Although set out as advice to participants, the section has a sting in the tail. It recommends to the committee, the body responsible for running any tournament, club or professional, that disciplinary action be taken against anyone who "consistently disregards these guidelines during a round or over a period of time to the detriment of others".

For the first time, the committee will be allowed to disqualify a player for a "serious breach of etiquette".

The opening to the section says: "The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the rules.

All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be."

Safety, pace of play and care of the course form the main thrust of the guidelines, which include instructions to keep up with the group in front, to let through a faster moving group behind, to hit a provisional ball if the original might be lost or in a hazard, to replace divots and to repair pitch marks on the green. Anyone who regularly endures fourball rounds of five and six hours and greens rutted with pitch marks, especially in a dry summer, knows that greater awareness is required of the traditional etiquette. David Rickman, the rules secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, said that this is particularly the case in countries with little history of the game.

"We received requests from a number of sources to clarify what have always been unwritten rules," Mr Rickman said. "A lot of developing countries where there are no traditions to be passed on needed clear guidelines of what is expected." He added: "There is a concern that standards are falling. We set our standards high. We make no apology for that and we want it to remain the case."

Mr Rickman thought it possible in an extreme case for a player to be disqualified from the Open Championship over etiquette but not for a one-off outburst, such as Sergio Garcia slamming his club into the ground during the 2000 Open at St Andrews or Tiger Woods using the f-word after a poor drive on the 18th at Pebble Beach in the 2000 US Open.

In what Mr Rickman describes as the most comprehensive review of the rules for over 20 years, the language used has been updated and simplified. "This is an attempt to make the rules easier to understand and to use, which is essential in a self-regulating sport," Mr Rickman said.


* The length of all clubs, except putters, limited to 48in (122cm). Appendix II

* The size of the head of "wooden" clubs limited to 470cc. Appendix II

* Penalty for having more than one caddie is amended from disqualification to loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play with a maximum of two holes in match play or four strokes in stroke play. Rule 6-4

* When play is resumed after a stoppage, if the spot on which the ball is to be placed is not determined, it must be estimated and the ball is placed on the estimated spot. See corresponding Exception to Rule 20-3c; Rule 6-8d

* The value of a prize that an amateur golfer may accept in an event is £500. Rules of Amateur Status 3-2a