Patrick Reed’s latest rules imbroglio has again called attention to the sanctity of golf’s rule book. Unlike other sports, where pushing boundaries (or exceeding them) is often an accepted part of the game, the Rules of Golf are sacrosanct.
At least they are to most people, Reed seemingly not being one of them.
Should Reed have been penalized for the embedded ball controversy at Torrey Pines? The powers that be decided not, but given his rather causal relationship with the Rules, Reed’s actions in declaring his ball embedded weren’t a good look.
People don’t lose paychecks over violating some sort of ambiguous “spirit of the game,” but it got us thinking about the type of rule breakers we have played with. Before getting too sanctimonious, our first category involves nearly all of us:
“We’ve All Agreed To Violate Particular Rules, So It’s Not Cheating:” If we are being honest, the overwhelming majority of us fall into this category. If you accept gimmes, don’t play stroke and distance, remove balls from a tree root et al those are violations. If you do that on the regular and post scores during those rounds, you, technically, are posting fraudulent scores. The reality is most of us view that as akin to going 57 mph and in a 55 mph zone. If everyone in your group plays by these rules, it’s no harm no foul.
“I Lost Two Balls and Still Made Double Guy:” We’ve all played with this guy. He hits his tee ball in the water and walks into the woods looking for a subsequent shot. You don’t see him again until everyone is on the green. After three-putting he says, “Put me down for six.” What?! The good thing about this guy is he’s often attempting to protect his own ego as much as he is cheat you out of a hole. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s also easier to ask the violator to recount his strokes, which is a subtle way of telling him or her not to do it again.
“What? Me? I Didn’t Improve my Lie Guy:” This is your Patrick Reed type. You see the guy improve his lie by pushing grass down behind the ball. He denies it. His club brushes sand in the bunker and he swears it didn’t happen. A ball bounces three feet and is magically embedded. This isn’t a guy trying to protect his ego, this is someone who wants to win at all costs. When this type of cheater makes 10, he will tell you, but when you are on the 16th hole of a tight match, watch out.
“The Sandbagger:” We are all aware of the ‘bagger who “forgets” to enter his best scores into the handicap tracking system, allowing him to shave a couple strokes in an important match. Sandbaggers sometimes see it as creating a level playing field. “Everyone else is doing it, and I should get more than one a side against Joe” is a corrosive way of thinking. Enter all your scores and trust the process. Otherwise, sandbagging isn’t any different than changing your score.
That’s way too much time spent on people who don’t follow the rules given that the overwhelming majority of players do abide by them!