Rules and Rants
Back to school with the R&A
Golf Canada’s Mary Beth McKenna shares her experience from St. Andrews and the R&A's Tournament Administrators and Referees School.
Mary Beth McKenna, Golf Canada Competitions Coordinator
Published on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 01:13PM EST
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is entrenched in golf history. It’s also an ideal locale for maintaining the game’s traditions and striving to educate people on the game through the rules of golf.
The R&A, along with the USGA, are the governing bodies of golf in the world. They strive to “work for golf” around the world. As a result of The Open, a portion of the revenue is allocated to countries around the world to introduce the game to juniors, pay for coaching, and of course, developing referees.
The R&A annually host the Tournament Administration and Referee School which involved delegates from 41 associations around the world convening for a 4 day seminar. Participants learn best practices for refereeing, information the rules of golf and tournament administration.
As a tournament administrator with Golf Canada, I was fortunate to attend such a prestigious school in early February. Diane Barabe, a member of our Rules Committee also attended and represented Golf Canada. The school provided an excellent opportunity to meet other tournament administrator and referee’s from associations around the world. Not only were delegates able to learn from the R&A staff, we were able to exchange information how each country approaches conducting a tournament. We also shared ideas on how to grow the game as well as the development of junior and elite amateur programs.
The school kicked off the evening of Tuesday, February 5th with a dinner reception held at the Fairmont St. Andrew’s, host of the school for the week. The international flavour was immediately evident as I was sat with delegates from; Denmark; France; Scotland; Austria; England and Sweden; as well as with Grant Moir, Director of Rules for the R&A.
On Wednesday, we dove right into the rules of the game with the R&A staff providing practical demonstrations. The demonstrations covered water hazard, bunker, temporary immovable obstructions (TIO’s) and miscellaneous rulings such as ground under repair, cart path and casual water relief.
The school was held indoors, however, the accuracy of each station was remarkable. There was a bunker with sand and stacked earth, a TV tower, and other props to make the experience ever so realistic.
The morning session concluded with presentations on course marking, the role of The Committee, and how to create Conditions of Competitions and Local Rules.
The afternoon session began with small group discussions on video incidents which have occurred on the PGA, European and LPGA Tours. This video session provided us a chance to discuss the ruling itself and the methods of each referee who had given the ruling.
Wednesday (Day 2) ended with presentations on important aspects of conducting a competition; starting and recording, suspension of play and course evacuation. Dinner was short lived, as all delegates took the evening as last minute preparation for the R&A Level 3 exam, which was to be administered Thursday morning. The exam is the ultimate benchmark to determine how well your know your rules. The goal is to pass with distinction, where one would need to obtain a mark of 90% or greater.
On Thursday morning, the R&A staff began with some brief advice on how to take the exam. All the months of preparation for the exam finally came together as the next two and half hours delegates furiously worked through the five part exam. There was an enormous sense of relief that came with the conclusion of the exam.
In the afternoon, we were given a chance to simply listen to a sessions on amateur status and pace of play. Pace of play is a hot topic throughout the world of golf right now. It was interesting to hear how different associations are trying to combat the common problem of slow play in golf.
The USGA has recently released statements on their initiatives for pace of play. As well, the R&A have started to implement their pace of play policy at their championships. Their policy differs from Golf Canada’s as they focus on the group’s pace for each hole with the timing of and individual only if it is evident one particular player is the problem. Golf Canada’s pace of play checkpoint system has proved successful for our organization and many other associations were interesting in learning more about our system.
Chief Referee on the European Tour, Andy McPhee then ran through numerous videos from the European Tour explaining scenarios and methods of officiating.
The day concluded with presentations about the R&A’s initiatives to introduce the game around the world in supporting junior golf, emerging coaches and golf in the 2016 Olympics. Chief Executive Director of the R&A, Peter Dawson, explained the potential format of the Olympics, the building of the course and how players would be selected. It is exciting to see the game’s exposure is growing in developing countries since becoming an Olympic sport. And most importantly, that Canada is defending Olympic Champion.
On Friday, roles were reversed and delegates had to give rulings on various scenarios. Each delegate was given three different scenarios to act as a referee. R&A staff acted as players in the rulings. Their acting skills likely deserved an Oscar, as they proved to be difficult players when being given a ruling. It was a valuable experience to be put on the spot in front of the other delegates and critiqued by your peers.
The school ended with dinner at the R&A clubhouse – a prestigious invitation and once in a lifetime experience. The view of the 18th hole and Swilken Bridge, seen from Peter Dawson’s office, is the most historic view in golf. Only a few days earlier, Diane and I were attempting to navigate our way through The Old Course. To see it from his office was quite a memorable experience.
The R&A truly put on a world class seminar, providing a wealth of information on all facets of tournament administration and rules. The R&A staff were genuinely interested in meeting all the delegates and proved to be great hosts. The entire school was an amazing opportunity to meet delegates from around the world and further my education in golf’s rules and tournament administration. I truly will never forget it.
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