Even before I held a golf club in my hand for the first time, there were friends who wanted to proselytize me for the game on the long courses. One very special couple once took me out for a round. I was just a spectator, but quickly got an impression of how much the game with the small ball is subject to special rules.
I thought, you hit the ball in one direction, there is enough space, and you just count the strokes. Oh, gullible me. There are a lot of things to consider. And quickly the two players also got into a situation that is directly affected by more rules than I could imagine: A ball was played into the densest rough.
Before we started to look for it, I became a victim of the famous open knife: "How would you proceed now?", I was asked on the way to the thicket. "Well, I'm looking for the ball - and hopefully I'll find it," was my amateurish answer. And I had already walked into the knife, so to speak.
Because before the search could even begin, the first of the many and still unknown rules took effect: Simply searching is not an option. First and foremost, look at the clock, because: The search was not allowed to last longer than five minutes. Today this has been tightened again, only three search minutes are allowed, then the ball must be counted as lost.
So we searched. One, two three, finally five minutes passed without us finding anything. "And now?", I was asked again. The grin on my friend's face widened, because: how was I supposed to know. There were several possibilities, I reasoned.
On the one hand, one could hit the ball again, starting from the place of the earlier stroke. "Right," was the answer. But that should be done right when you realize that the first ball is unlikely to be found. "Provisional" would then be the name of this second ball and would only come into play if the first one is really lost.
It would be possible to play from the place where the first ball was lost, I speculated. This is also possible, I was praised. And there were other important rules: Where do you place the ball? How do you place it, lay it down or drop it? And what else do you have to pay attention to?
I learned to drop (at that time from shoulder height with an outstretched arm, today only from knee height), learned that the new ball must of course not be dropped closer to the hole, that one must also not cheat oneself out of a clear advantage by placing the ball further away from the hole, but in a more favorable playing position.
I learned that club lengths can also play a role here when it comes to the radius drawn around an unplayable ball. But that again, it doesn't matter whether you take the short putter or the much longer driver as a measure of the drop area thus determined. And finally, I learned that all of these measures would of course be penalized - with an additional stroke added to this course just played.
It quickly became clear to me from this example how strictly regulated the game is, and must be, in order to allow fair competition. There would be too many possible interpretations if the players had a free hand in moving around the courses.
I asked for a rule book, which should find a place in every golf bag in case of disagreements during the game. I quickly discovered that you can't learn the theory of golf theoretically. On the one hand, the rules are sometimes not easy to understand without examples. On the other hand, it all seems too dry.
So I stopped reading the books and instead had one or the other rule explained to me in a practical way during the round. I learned something about the meaning of the white, red or even yellow wooden stakes that can be found on some courses.
I learned that in some situations (for example, in the sand bunker) the club must not be placed behind the ball for shot preparation. I learned what is meant by "loose obstructive natural materials" or "moving obstructions" and how to deal with them. I learned that a ball can also be declared "unplayable."
At the end, while having a drink in the clubhouse, my head was buzzing. But: Not bad. Because at that time I still thought that this walk in the company of two golfers would be my first and also only contact with this sport.
Later, when I actually completed the golf course, I was taught a lot of things in passing. Our trainer and teacher, Nick, had the right way of not only teaching me how to play, but also always including a bit of theory.
For example, I remember very well the fright he gave the group when he taught us the warning to shout if other players might be put in danger by a stray ball on our part.
His yelled "FORE!!!" at the top of his lungs came so abruptly after Nick's deliberately bad tee shot that everyone literally flinched and it still hangs in my bones today. But that's why I've never forgotten it and yell the same way whenever a ball threatens to land on someone else's course. I even really enjoy it and warn rather too often.
Of course, the rules learned in this way were to be tested in a written exam at the end of the course. That's why we always listened very carefully to Nick's explanations, especially since he could often contribute a humorous story from his coaching life.
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