Following is an excerpt from The Intelligent Golfer: How to Play a Civilized Game by Scott Martin. The book is billed as “the essential guide to succeeding on the world’s finest courses.” It covers rules and etiquette, dressing for the game, surviving difficult lies, touring courses and more.
By Scott Martin
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
© 2011 Universe Publishing. Text © 2011 Bryan Curtis and Scott Martin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
LET ME INTRODUCE YOU to a gentleman named Nigel Denham, not perhaps the most famous golfer of all time, but nonetheless a better-than-decent player who competed in the 1974 English Amateur Strokeplay Championship at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds, a bustling city in northern England.
Near the conclusion of his round, Denham struck his approach shot to the eighteenth green, only to watch in amazement as his ball went over the green, landed on a path in front of the clubhouse, clambered up some steps, entered an open door, and pinballed to its final resting spot on the bar, which, at the time, was populated with several members who had been enjoying a full afternoon of refreshment and banter.
As Leeds can be a somewhat muddy place, even in a biblical drought, golfers at Moortown must change their shoes before entering certain parts of the clubhouse, including the bar. So Denham dutifully removed his golf shoes and entered the fray to assess the situation.
The clubhouse was not out of bounds. Fortunately, Denham discovered that he had a clear shot to the green, albeit through a window, and simply followed the most important rule of all: play the ball as it lies. He had to move some furniture and ask the members to relocate their libations momentarily.
Denham selected a club from his bag, opened the window, and hit a fine shot that ended up a mere 12 feet from the hole, much to the amazement of the members, who expressed their admiration for the achievement.
Similar situations are, of course, extremely rare. They are so rare that Denham’s initial plight and subsequent recovery created a great deal of headscratching among the people who interpret the rules of golf in the United Kingdom, specifically a group of rules experts in the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Golf has a set of official rules that fit neatly into a small pocket-sized booklet appropriately titled The Rules of Golf. However, the accompanying tome, Decisions on the Rules of Golf, weighs 1.3 pounds and has 670 pages. This proves that while golf can sometimes seem like an easy game to understand, the written rules are usually mysterious, indecipherable, occluded, baffling, foggy, and bizarre.
Thankfully, and ironically, golf’s unwritten rules are much easier to understand. Many people who take up golf leave the game shortly after their first foray because they feel intimidated, clumsy, and very much on the outside looking in, most often because their knowledge of basic etiquette is sparse, which is a pity.
As Dana Rader, the founder of the Dana Rader Golf School in Charlotte, North Carolina, says, the goal of every golfer and everyone in golf should be to grow the game. So this book represents my way of making that happen by helping you feel at ease with the game, its people, and its surroundings so that you feel confident and comfortable wherever you happen to find yourself in the golf universe.