The Spirit of the Game
I need to talk about the “Spirit of the Game”. I think it’s at the heart of golf and what makes it such a great game.
Here’s what the R&A says it means: “Honesty, Integrity, and Courtesy”. They then go on to say: “Part of that spirit sits beneath the term ‘etiquette’ and part of it relates to the Rules of Golf. But the Spirit of the Game goes much deeper than just those two intangible terms. It is something that every golfer should develop an innate sense of, something that is born of golf’s unparalleled history, and something which lifts golf, one could argue, among other sports.”
You probably don’t want to just read quotes from the R&A, but you have to admit that they did say it well; because without the Spirit of the Game, golf just doesn’t work. You have to be your own referee. And that sense of honor and fair play extends to the etiquette of the game. And etiquette means not just being a courteous player, but also not being a rules Nazi. Too many people need to learn that concept.
I wish that the rules of golf were much simpler. The fundamental rule was to play it as it lies. A rule was needed when the ball was lost or unplayable. But the Rules of Golf have been increased to cover every possible situation and to make it fair for everyone. Everyone is as likely to get a bad break as someone else – that’s fair. The game is about taking responsibility for your shot and then making the best you can out of the next shot.
When golf is too much about the Rules rather than the Spirit of the Game … it’s missing the point.
About 100 years ago … Oswald Spengler wrote a book called “The Decline of the West.” The basic premise is that cultures last about a 1,000 years – they start out with Sprit and energy, and then devolve into just a bunch of rules and regulations, and lose the Spirit and energy that made them vibrant. Too often that happens with golfers – they lose their initial zest for the game and just turn into Rules freaks.
Remember – as the R&A says: the Spirit of the Game means Honesty, Integrity, and Courtesy. The Rules are just a way to play the game – the Spirit is why we play.
GM and Head Golf Professional