No, players can’t be pardoned for breaching rules


Pope Francis is in Kenya this week. His simplicity and humility has reawakened the spirit of many Catholics in Kenya and indeed the world.

In his alluring way, he is preaching the gospel of reconciliation, peace and mercy. However, when you confess your sins of commission and omission while playing the game of golf, don’t expect forgiveness. It is not that golfers are bad people and should not be merciful, but the Rules of Golf are such that the sinner and the forgiver are at risk of being disqualified from the competition.

Recently, one of the readers of this column wrote to me saying that there are many golfers who are ignorant of the Rules of Golf. She went on to say that many times she has a hard time trying to explain the correct way to apply the rules and if the fellow golfers don’t want to listen, she just lets them do as they wish.


There is a problem right there. As a golfer, you are not allowed to waive or agree to exclude the operation of any Rule of Golf. Just because you don’t want to argue with people who are ignorant of the Rules of Golf does not give you the prerogative to grant remission for sins committed on the golf course.

Last year, while playing in a tournament one drizzly afternoon, a player whose card I was marking hit his tee shot out of bounds on the par 4, 9th hole.

The player, a senior member of society who I had a lot of respect for, had not understood his caddie’s signal for ball out of bounds and he proceeded to walk from the teeing ground without hitting another ball. When we reached where the caddies were standing, he was informed that his ball was out of bounds.

After some expletives to his caddie for not giving him clear signals while at the teeing ground, he turned to me and asked if I would allow him to drop another ball where we were instead of walking all the way back to the teeing ground. He promptly picked another ball from his bag as he waited for my answer.

From his demeanour and the way he asked the question, I was certain that he had done it before. I cringed as I told him that he could not do that under the rules and that he had to return to the teeing ground and play another ball.


Since we were playing a medal round, he could not tee off from the next teeing ground without first completing the 9th hole. The man feigned a headache and walked off the golf course claiming that he could not continue due to ill health rather than walk back to the teeing ground.

Had I agreed to the request of the distinguished member of society to breach the rules by dropping a ball where it was not supposed to be dropped, we would have both deserved to be disqualified from the tournament. Rule 1-3 of the Rules of Golf state:

*Players must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule or to waive any penalty incurred.

* Penalty for breach of rule 1-3

Match play – Disqualification of both sides

*Stroke play – Disqualification of competitors concerned.

Fellow golfers, if anyone is looking for absolution for their sins on or off the golf course, please advise them to contact a priest. However, if they come to you after they have made a stroke at the wrong ball or for improving their lie, do not forgive the offender but apply the necessary penalty.