Depending on your own personal leanings, golf’s rules are an important, necessary, inflexible barrier designed to keep competition on a level playing field, or an absurdly nitpicking set of gotchas whose penalties far outweigh the “crimes.” You’ll probably guess which way a dozen Oregon high school players are leaning right now.
Rules are rules
Our scene: the Oregon high school golf championships, where the best players from the highest-ranked schools in the state duel it out at the Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks, Oregon.
The first four threesomes of the day on Monday, representing Rogue River, Columbia Christian, and Grant Union high schools, began on the back nine. Players had been instructed to hit off the blue (boys) tees. But when the players came to the 13th hole, there was a discrepancy: the yardage of the hole was listed at 172 yards, but the blue tee was placed at 210 yards. The red tee, meanwhile, was at 172 yards, so the players — per the scorecard — teed off from there.
And that’s where their troubles began.
By the time tournament officials realized the scorecard’s mistake, the four threesomes had already finished the 13th hole. The fifth group, and all subsequent groups, were sent to the proper tees.
Problem was, according to the rules of golf, the first 12 players played a “different golf course” than the remainder of the field. And thus, the tournament organizers disqualified all 12 players for a mistake the tournament itself had made. All the players, and their teams, are out of the individual competition.
Oregon School Activities Association executive director Peter Weber said he had no choice in the matter, because all players are told that they are to play the blue tees. “It is the first bullet point on the rules sheet,” Weber told The Oregonian.
Yes, the players should have played from the blue tees, or at least called over a rules official to sort out the problem. But given the fact that this was fundamentally the tournament’s mistake, printing the wrong yardage on the scorecard, there ought to have been some recourse that didn’t levy such a brutal penalty.
The players were still in the midst of their round when the problem was discovered; they could have easily replayed the hole from the proper yardage. But such reasonable, lateral thinking isn’t in the provenance of golf rules, and thus, 12 players get a death penalty on their season for the crime of playing from where they were told. Ah, golf.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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