Impunity on the golf course


In an amateur golf tournament held recently in a Nairobi club, the organisers went all out to hold what was supposed to be the best tournament held this year for amateur golfers.

The golf tournament with all the trimmings was supposed to be a great showcase for all the big brands that sponsored the event. But alas, the organisers made a terrible faux pas.

They earned all the participants of the golf tournament a kick in the teeth by potentially losing them their amateur status because they were all playing for a prize that is worth more than is allowed. They have also now dragged their sponsors into the murky waters of controversy.


This is also the season of Captain and Chairman’s prize competitions. These events are held to celebrate the successful end of their term in office. In one such event a winner allegedly received the prize of a bank account with some money.

Had the event organisers of these events read this column on the 30th of October, or read the Rules of Amateur Status, they would have known that an amateur golfer must not win cash, cash equivalent (which the bank account is) or prizes in a game of golf that are worth more than £500 (around Sh80,000). The only exception would be a prize for a hole-in-one made during the tournament.

The sponsor can’t base the value of the prizes on the cost of production, but on the retail value. So for example, if I run a company that manufactures phones and wanted to give them as golf prizes, I can’t base the value of the phones on the cost of the raw materials, labour and my other costs. It has to be the value that I sell the phones at.

For a golfer to play for the prize of a return business class ticket to any destination in the world, which can cost anything from Sh150,000, is a blatant breach of the Rules of Amateur Status. All the golfers who participated in the tournament in total disregard of the rules, forfeited their amateur status and the governing body, in this case the Kenya Golf Union, are mandated to mete out harsh suspensions.


Recently during the Kabete Open, three amateurs signed for the wrong scores. Some golfers were up in arms baying for the blood of the poor golfers wanting them to be banned for life for bringing the game we love into disrepute.

Even before they knew the details of how the talented golfers who have represented our country in the past ended up signing for the wrong scores, they were ready to lynch them. It is however curiously quiet among the golfing circles on the issue of this past tournaments.

Makes me wonder whether golfers condone the breaking of this particular rule or whether they are not aware that a rule was broken.

Amateur golf is largely self-regulating both in terms of the playing rules and handicapping. Amateur golfers should play for the challenge the game presents.

Uncontrolled financial incentive could place too much pressure on some golfers and could be detrimental to the integrity of the game. If such sponsorships are allowed to go on wantonly, then it will not be long before we have people deliberately signing for the wrong scores just so that they can win such prizes.

What is the role of the Golf Captain in all these? It behoves them to protect their golfers from the possibility of losing their Amateur Status and ensure tournaments held at their clubs conform to the rules. However the ultimate responsibility rests with the golfer. The task of upholding the image and integrity of this game rests with all golfers.