Rules and Rants

Behind the scenes with a Masters Tournament rules official

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Dale Jackson (Oregon Golf Association)
Dale Jackson

Dale Jackson

That most magnificent rite of the spring, the Masters Tournament is finally upon us. Given the winter Canada and the United States has suffered through, I’m sure it’s not a moment too soon for all golf fans.

Having said that, I write this from Augusta on the Monday prior to the tournament and it is absolutely pouring with rain and the course was forced to close due to lightning.  Not an auspicious start to the week but the forecast going forward looks good and hopefully by Sunday we will have a stirring finish in warmth and sunshine.

The Masters, as the saying goes, “is a tournament like no other” and that goes for us as rules officials too.  Augusta National offers officials from all over the world the opportunity to work on the Masters Rules Committee and I have the pleasure and honour of representing Golf Canada this year.  This is my second Masters so I am familiar with some of the traditions at the tournament and I am eagerly awaiting the start of the event.

This year, I look forward to renewing friendships with officials from all parts of the globe, Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia, South America and of course, the United States.  All the major professional tours are represented, as are all the main golfing countries in the world.  Collectively, there are hundreds, if not thousands of years of experience here this week and I am fortunate to be working with this incredibly talented group of people.

The week for us begins officially on Wednesday morning, when we attend the Rules Committee meeting.  It is there that the various rules details for the tournament are reviewed and assignments are given out.  Each day we are assigned a different hole at the championship, with a total of perhaps two to five officials on each hole.  Working with a team on each hole ensures players have ready access to an official if a ruling is required.

From a personal perspective, being positioned on one hole is a unique opportunity to really study Augusta National and to take in the nuances television cannot reveal.

I have always regarded the 13th hole at Augusta National as one of the best holes in golf and I was fortunate to be assigned that hole on Friday of last year’s tournament. Having had the opportunity to spend a day there, I am now inclined to believe it might be among the greatest holes the game has to offer. Needless to say, I am looking forward to seeing which holes I will be assigned to this year.

With the large number of officials the golf course is very well covered, therefore, each of us will not handle too many rulings.  We are positioned well off the line of play, often just into the pines and out of sight unless needed.  The majority of rulings requested will be quite straightforward, usually assisting with relief options for a water hazard or perhaps relief from an immovable obstruction.  The officials representing the professional tours are always close by to assist with more complicated rulings, if required.

I am looking forward to the upcoming week as it promises to be filled with great golf played on a fantastic golf course and there will be opportunities to socialize with old and new friends.  Most of all, for me, it will be a privileged opportunity to represent Canada and to be just a small part of one of the greatest sporting events in world.

I hope everyone is able to take in some of the Masters and have the chance to turn your back on winter and face towards summer.