Rulebook Fall 2021 – It’s Over. Now What?

Dean Ryan provides a ruling at the RBC Canadian Open (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis)

by Rich McLean, Golf Canada Referee

Well, it’s almost that time of year again (unless you’re lucky enough to migrate South with the geese). It’s time to put the clubs away and settle in for a long winter’s nap. Such is the nature of golf season in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Go, go, go, and then stop, stop, stop.

While you’re thinking about stopping, maybe it’s time this off-season to take a closer look at the rules. Perhaps you’ve even considered becoming more involved in the game as a referee. Golf associations are always looking for folks like you who want to give back to the game, and the rules are a great way to do it. There are great resources available online through Golf Canada for furthering your formal rules education and becoming certified at the local, provincial and national levels. Add in a couple of really great smartphone apps available through the R&A and USGA, and you’re off on your journey. At the very least, being able to see the game from the other side of things. It really is a very different and unique perspective. I encourage you to visit the Golf Canada website and explore the options available to you for expanding your rules knowledge.

Even if you’re only interested in a better understanding of the rules in general, the off-season is a great time to dig into those questions or situations you’ve encountered throughout your golf year. There are even websites that allow you to explore the historical side of the rules, all the way back to the beginning. It can be fun to explore previous rules codes to see those things that are still basically the same, those that are different, and those that just make you scratch your head (look up the word “stymie”).

If you are truly serious about becoming more rules-savvy, and applying this knowledge on-course, the very first place in the rulebook you should head is the Definitions section. Every definition listed there, from Abnormal Course Condition to Wrong Place, is the key to a proper understanding of the intent of every single rule in the book. Trust me, understanding here equals a better understanding of the rest of it.

Once you’ve mastered the definitions, it’s time to delve into the heart of the rules. Starting with Section I – Fundamentals of the Game, the book is laid out in a logical flow for the next seven sections, guiding you through everything from how players are expected to conduct themselves, the course, the player’s equipment, playing the round, playing a hole, and how to handle the many situations that may crop up during play. Section VIII will even give you guidance on how to proceed in those rare occasions the rules don’t contemplate. Not that you’ll ever use it, because NOTHING strange ever happens during a round of golf, right? (insert winking emoji…)

Finally, Section IX gives you a look at what we sometimes refer to as the “boutique rules”. These are the other forms of play that we don’t see as often, but are just as important, and interesting as the rest. At the very least, I encourage you to try some of these other games in your rounds. They are very fun to play.

Now that you’ve done all of this…do it again. Okay, I’m kinda sorta kidding here, but also kinda sorta not. Some of us soak things up like a sponge, so a once through may very well be enough. However if you’re anything like me, your sponge is always a bit wet and needs to be wrung out a few times before it’ll absorb more. They really do encourage you to read the rules more than once through to help them sink in before you try for your certification.

Other great prep materials, like rules quizzes, can be found on the R&A and USGA websites so you can further hone your knowledge blade.

Alrighty then. Now that you’re soaked with rules knowledge, and you’re ready to take the first step, head over to, click on “CLICK HERE to begin Level 1” and you’ll be whisked off to the R&A website to begin your certification journey. Best of luck!

Have a great winter, stay safe, and we’ll see you on the links in Spring 2022.

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