Perhaps the most ridiculous of all the ridiculous rules of golf is right there in its very first rule. Rule 1-3 is a very unsophisticated rule that says you have to play by the rules, and if you decide and agree with someone not to play by the rules, that it and of itself is a violation of rules, and you will not be allowed to play anymore.
Got it? Good. But there’s more.
Perhaps Rule 1-3 is the most stodgy of all of golf’s official rules, and it completely puts the kibosh on Charlie Rymer‘s new crusade for a set of “Relaxed Rules of Golf.” In fact, Rule 1-3 makes the entire idea of “relaxed rules” or casual rules of golf impossible, strictly speaking.
On a certain level, I understand the logic behind Rule 1-3’s prohibition against agreeing to waive the rules by competitors. Essentially, a golfer can’t skirt the Rules of Golf by agreeing beforehand to not play by all of the Rules of Golf.
You might be thinking, “where’s the harm in a little gentleman’s agreement?” Not much, except that if a single pairing of competitors plays by a different set of rules than the rest of the field, then the entire playing field isn’t truly level and those competitors would have a distinct advantage.
1-3. Agreement to Waive Rules
Players must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule or to waive any penalty incurred.
However, in the world of golf that 99% of amateur golfers play in, other than in official tournament or league play, there are infinite variations of the rules that have become commonplace.
No one ever really complains about, disqualifies an opponent, or welches on a bet because, say, everyone got a mulligan on the first hole or because they let someone drop where their ball was last seen when it’s lost in the tall stuff rather than making them trudge all the way back to the tee box from 240 yards away.
Nonetheless, under the official Rules and Decisions, even the anticipatory agreement to waive the rules in the future is a violation of Rule 1-3, and the parties to any such agreement are disqualified from play.
When Breach of Rule 1-3 Occurs
Q. While walking to the 1st green, A and B agree that for a ball that is out of bounds they will drop a ball at the spot where the ball went out of bounds under penalty of one stroke, even though they know the penalty is stroke and distance. Someone overhears this conversation and advises A and B that they may not make such an arrangement. Neither player has yet hit a ball out of bounds. What is the ruling?
Even though A and B had not yet acted on the agreement, they were in breach of Rule 1-3 as soon as the agreement was reached during the stipulated round. In match play, if the players in a match agree to waive the Rules before their stipulated round, they are in breach of Rule 1-3 if either of them starts the stipulated round without having canceled the agreement. In stroke play, if competitors agree to waive the Rules before their stipulated round, each competitor is in breach of Rule 1-3 if one competitor who was part of the agreement starts his stipulated round without having canceled the agreement.
Decision 1-3/0.5 is fairly definitive and covers pretty much any hypothetical that would involve players agreeing to waive the Rules or otherwise mutually not enforcing the Rules. However, some of the other Official Decisions on Rule 1-3 make it very clear that you can’t accidentally get disqualified for failure to enforce the Rules.
Rather, Rule 1-3 is a rule that governs intent. If there is no intent by the competitors to circumvent the rules, as in the case of not knowing the rules, then fortunately disqualification may not be the end result of a violation. Take Decision 1-3/2, for example.
Agreement to Concede Short Putts
Q. In a match, the two players agree in advance to concede all putts within a specified length. Is this agreement contrary to Rule 1-3?
A. In order to be in breach of Rule 1-3 for agreeing to waive a Rule, players must be aware that they are doing so. Therefore, the answer depends on whether the players knew that Rule 2-4 only allows the concession of the “next stroke” and does not permit them to agree in advance to concede putts within a specified length.
If the players were unaware that the Rules prevented them from agreeing to concede putts in this manner, there is no penalty under Rule 1-3. If the players were aware that they were excluding the operation of a Rule then they are disqualified under Rule 1-3.
So, Dear Readers, now you know. If you’re getting ready to tee off in your club championship and some high-handicapper suggests something like you all should play lift, clean, and place (cheat) because it rained so much overnight, simply and politely decline his offer.
Your score may suffer, but your integrity will be well in tact.