Rules of Golf: Both Frustrating and Fascinating

By Steve Zahn
May 30, 2013


Rules!  I suppose it’s a fair question to ask: why in the world would I select rules as a topic for one of my early blogs?  I mean this is can be a highly controversial topic with strong opinions.  Why enter that hornets’ nest?

There are extremes in every polarized topic.  In this case, at one extreme, there are those who take the application of rules seriously and probably follow every rule all the time. On the other hand, there are people who, through ignorance or choice, do not observe rules to a great degree.  And then there are those in the middle somewhere.  I guess I gravitate more to the first extreme but I certainly understand the others.

Back to the question…. All I can say is that rules both fascinate me and frustrate me.  And without any sort of evidence, I believe there are many who feel this way. For amateur golfers, the topic of rules is the classic love-hate relationship.  But it is a topic we all have to deal with.


So what fascinates me?  It has been my experience that most people do not make a complete mockery of the game or, at least, they don’t try to do so. In general people count their strokes, hit from behind the tees, hit out of bunkers, etc.  But at the same time I also see a group of other rules often overlooked: moving the ball in the fairway, improving your stance (even from people who would never move their ball), not imposing a distance penalty in an out of bounds ball, etc. Why?  As a general public are we making a statement on how the game should be played recreationally?  Are we simply saying: “Hey, I don’t need all of the formality of all the rules.  I don’t post for handicap. I just want to have fun.”  Maybe, but why are some rules almost universally observed and others not?  I mean if you going to improve your stance, why not just kick the ball the way down the fairway as well?  But it just does not happen this way.

So what frustrates me? Rules are hard – or at least I think so.  There could be many reasons for this. Often it is because we just don’t try to understand or we don’t practice it enough to master them.  For me it is the latter.  When I do play golf and I want to post that score, I try to follow every rule to the best of my ability.  But far too often I play in leagues where the application of rules is not strictly observed. And so when I don’t regularly practice something it is hard to get it right when I really need to know it. So a few years ago, and partly because of my involvement with The First Tee, I started to work to improve my understanding of rules. I am still no expert but I have learned that, with the Internet, there is really no reason not to improve your understanding of the rules.  It is really pretty easy and next week I will share some of what I’ve found with you.

I would love to hear your opinions and experiences.  Join the conversation or you can contact me at

Steve Zahn



  1. Steve, I agree. The rules are confusing even for us in the business. Hard to keep it all straight.

  2. Thanks Todd

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