January 13, 2008

Absence of Rules is chaosÖ

Simon Tinkler at Sea Links Golf Club in Phan Thiet sent me an article about a club on the edge of losing control over the members and asked the question, "Go by the book, or throw it out?"

Sorry, but that isnít even a question worth considering because the absence of rules is chaos.

Human nature, being what is it, results in most people to try and get away with as much as they can unless a rule is there to stop them and even then it must be enforced. This is why the Ten Commandments are so important; they provide a basic structure of right and wrong.

The Commandments and Rules of Golf have something in common as well...they both force people to control and accept responsibility for their own actions, ala threat of eternal damnation or worse...being DQíd.

In the article, a lot of members didnít just break the rules; they stomped all over them with impunity. It sort of reminded me of the movie Caligula. The members didnít give a damn because even the Club President and his wife were rule breakers.

With that kind of example to follow, itís obvious why the rest of the membership body felt it was alright to do the same.

In golf, as in life...it is best to lead by example and to imply that people should "do as I say, not as I do," is asking for trouble.

This simple idea of setting a good example is not just for golfers, but for parents, teachers, government officials, religious leaders and even countries. It is a notion that everyone should apply without a second thought.

Yet, I have always been confused how one country, can outlaw smoking almost everywhere and even support corporations sacking employees for smoking at home...but continue to strong-arm other counties into accepting imports of their cigarettes and threaten like hell when the other countries refuse.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Club owners pay the manager a lot of money each year to ensure the club is run properly, profitable and the members happy, yet they themselves do whatever they want in the belief that "they are the owners, so itís ok."

Sorry, but itís not ok. Their action makes the managerís job a lot harder and irritates the hell out of the people who paid money to join the club. Eventually, the members say, "Screw it, they donít follow the rules, why should I?" and the system begins to break down.

I have a reputation for being a bit of a hard-ass when it comes to rules and while some people think I should be more like bamboo than steel, I cannot see how that can be truly possible without violating my own personal code of ethics. The most I can do is to be as polite and pleasant while enforcing the rules, something which I admit is difficult sometimes.

Rules are not meant to be broken; they are to be enforced in a fair and unbiased manner across the board. Yes, you can show leniency by refraining from the urge to execute a player for parking a buggy too close to a green and give them a polite reminder or warning instead, but you cannot turn a blind eye to it.

The old phrase of "silence gives assent" has never been more true. Turning a blind eye condones the act and makes you an accessory to the violation.

In a tournament, it is the duty of ALL players to protect the rest of the field. If you see a fellow competitor infract on the rules, you should make sure the other player applies the correct penalty strokes and if not, bring it to the attention of the tournament officials.

To remain silent makes you as guilty as the player who violated the rule and could result in a loss to someone who actually deserved to win.

Here in Vietnam, golf is still relatively new, so rule infringements and poor etiquette is more common than weíd like to admit, but that is where the club managers, golf directors and more experienced members need to work on educating the members of the golf community...

And lead by example.

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