From The Inbox

Rules whistleblower often pays a price, too

Everybody loses when it's golfer vs. golfer in a rules dispute

Gary Van Sickle is correct that Christina Kim was in the right to notify a rules official of an infraction, but as someone who has done the same thing as Kim, I will think long and hard the next time before I do (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

A few years ago, I was playing in a Champions Tour pre-qualifier in North Carolina. A fellow competitor in my group had his son caddieing for him, but on the third hole he directed his wife to also drive the cart – a clear violation of Rule 10-3a (“Player Allowed Only One Caddie at a Time”). I told him after we putted out and that we needed to seek out a rules official. We found one on the fifth tee and explained the situation. After the hole was completed, the rules official said that they were going to give him a break by ruling that his wife, on her own volition, drove the cart, but they told him not to let it happen again.

This guy went ballistic, using F-bombs and yelling how the previous week they allowed multiple drivers, etc. He then kept screaming at the rules official as it was my turn to hit, and was screaming at me that I should have waited until the end of the round. His wife also got in on the act, too. Predictably, I blew the tee shot into a hazard, and my day was shot. I proceeded to have words with him, too. After the round, I told him that I wasn't trying to be a jerk, but at this level, you can't pick and choose which rules to enforce.

Rulebreakers almost always turn it around to blame the whistleblower, and they usually are aggressive in their ire. At some point, if it's basically a “no-harm, no-foul” infraction (which, I want to stress, was not the case in the LPGA’s Kim/Dye/Weber incident), it simply might be the best course of action to ignore it. Yes, I realize that golf rules purists might say I'm cheating now, too, but is it worth it to potentially ruin my competitive round for an infraction that basically was harmless?

Mark Harman
Ridgeland, S.C.
(Harman is the national course director for the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.)

Weaponized rules
I feel vindicated after reading Gary Van Sickle’s article (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

All too often I find myself fuming at advantages afforded touring professionals. Always credited with knowing the rules and “taking advantage” of knowing the rules, the players have come to use them as a weapon. A perfect example came during the third round of the 2018 U.S. Open, when Phil Mickelson struck his still-moving ball on the 13th hole, knowing that the penalty would be less punitive than the outcome of his “potential” lie.

Another “know the rule” issue is the situation referenced by Van Sickle when a player launches a ball (presumably) toward the pin and it ends up behind the infamous temporary immovable obstruction, or TIO, covered in Rule 16-1 (“Abnormal Course Conditions”). It was perhaps evidenced best by eventual winner Jordan Spieth’s wayward tee ball at the 13th hole in the final round of the 2017 British Open.

Privilege seems to beget privilege in golf.

Change the TIO rules. Make it an unplayable lie, assess a penalty and give a drop. If the ball is still “behind” the grandstands, then take an additional shot to get around the object.

If something is in the way, don’t hit it there.

Steve Hoffman
Bonita Springs, Fla.

Golf builds character
How refreshing to read Gary Van Sickle's piece on breaking the rules (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

Golf's insistence on individual responsibility and ethical behavior has been at the heart of the game's attributes. The idea that we should now try to avoid responsibility for infringing the rules is an affront to the spirit of our unique sport.

Golf is unfair, and that's why it's so attractive. Trying to overcome the obstacles in our path (bad lies, divots, et al.) is part of the reason why we play. It gives us a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when we do well despite these obstacles. In the old days, it was called character building.

Play the game as it always has been played. You might enjoy it even more.

Paul Sunderland
Los Angeles

‘A game of integrity’
I read Gary Van Sickle’s article about the rules violation that occurred recently on the LPGA (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4). I thought 90 percent of it was spot on, but couldn't for the life of me figure out how a guy who seems to love golf could bring himself to say that a rules violation should be reported by people not even playing.

I have long loathed fans’ ability to affect the outcome of golf. They can purposely deflect a ball one way or another, depending on who is hitting the ball. They can shout in someone's backswing, albeit only once if security does its job. Before a ban by the USGA, R&A and major professional tours took effect in 2018, they were able to call in about something that they thought they saw on TV from the comfort of their couch.

Golf is supposed to be a game of integrity in which the players call the fouls, even on themselves. So how is it that this game of integrity becomes a free-for-all when it comes to rules violations? It's either about integrity or it's not. Either the players call the fouls or get refs for each group. You can't have it both ways.

Rob King
Savannah, Ga.

’Burghers agree … to a point
While I agree with my fellow Pittsburgher Gary Van Sickle that Christina Kim did nothing wrong, it's a silly rule (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

How many of us before we tee up on a par 3 ask our friends what club they are going to hit? Don't tell me that it protects the field. If you took a poll of the participants, they probably couldn’t care less that it even took place.

Chris Ferrara
North Versailles, Pa.

Give touring pros an annual rules quiz
Ignorance is not bliss (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

Have the players take a 20-question quiz each year. Officials can pick the most common rules violations from the previous year. It should take a pro or a skilled amateur 10 minutes, at most, to complete it.

Bill Driscoll
St. Augustine, Fla.

Play by golf's golden rule
Very good article by Gary Van Sickle, and good points regarding the responsibility of playing by the rules (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

I would add the responsibility of good course stewardship to something that seems to be fleeting from the game, at least on public courses.

When I was taught the game as a 12-year-old, I remember distinctly my dad and the muni-course pro going over how important it is to repair your ball mark(s) on the green, your divots on the tee and fairway, and to properly rake your sand-trap voyages so that the players after you do not have an unfair disadvantage.

It was and still is the golf version of the Golden Rule.

Kevin VanderKlay
Arlington Heights, Ill.

No 2 snowflakes are exactly alike
Spot on, Gary Van Sickle (“Don’t blame Kim for playing by rules,” Nov. 4).

The snow has not yet started to fall here in Ontario, Canada, but the flakes are everywhere.

How did the road we loved that brought us to golf, among other wonderful sports, get so covered by this kind of snow? Could it be the natural growth of politically correct thought, by which schoolkid competitors all win a trophy?

Howard Gross
Pefferlaw, Ontario

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