Date: 11 May 2017 23:26
One Thursday afternoon in 2008, I made my way to Karen Country Club, Nairobi, to meet the Golf Captain to discuss an upcoming sponsorship that I was involved in.
We had agreed to meet at 6.30pm but after a hectic day at the office, I could not wait to get away from it. I arrived at the club one hour earlier than my appointed time but since I had a book that I was reading, I didn’t mind waiting.
I reported at the reception and the gentleman manning it dutifully went through a book to check if I was registered. When he saw my name written in the book, he masterfully led me into the club house.
He ushered me into the empty club-house and told me to take a seat anywhere and that he would inform the captain as soon as he finished his round of golf.
I immediately identified what I thought was the perfect corner. It was far from the entrance and I thought that it would be out the members’ way. A few minutes later, as I was enjoying my book, I saw someone walking towards me from the corner of my eye.
When I looked up, I saw a senior member of the society walking straight towards me with a curious look on his face. This is a man who had served the country in many capacities and sat on a few boards of blue chip companies.
I stood up to shake his hand and I immediately sensed that he was accustomed to sitting in that particular corner. By the time we sat down, his drink had been served. He courteously offered me a drink and we started talking.
The moment he learnt that I was a golfer he warmed up even more. By the time the captain arrived, you would have thought that I had known the gentleman for a very long time. By virtue of being a golfer, I was accepted by a senior member of society and made to feel at home.
Unfortunately, this same goodwill that I enjoyed then, is not being felt on golf courses. Many golfers are today viewed with suspicion especially if they commit an act that is remotely resembles forbidden acts. A few have suffered penalties for lack of knowledge.
Testing the green: Testing the surface of the green is an act that is expressly prohibited in the Rules of Golf. A player must not test the surface of any putting green during a round by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.
With that in mind, which of the following would you consider to be acts of testing the surface of the green?
1. A golfer marks and then picks his ball from the green. He tosses the ball to his caddie who misses it. The ball falls on the green and rolls for a few yards.
2. In a match play competition, the player concedes the next putt of his opponent and casually knocks the ball back to him with the back of his putter.
3. A player wipes the mud off his ball by rubbing it on the green.
These are some of the situations where the intention of the golfer counts more than what may be apparent. If the intention of the golfer was to pass the ball in scenario 1 and 2, and to clean the ball in scenario 3, then there is no penalty. The only way to establish intention is to ask the player.
“How do I know what the player intended?” one angry golfer asked me the other day. When I told him to ask his opponent, he claimed that the opponent may lie about his real intention. My advice to him was to never play with his opponent again.
Golf is a game that is played by people of integrity. It is expected that when they err, they will call a penalty on themselves. This is irrespective of whether anyone else has seen or not. I am sure the good gentleman from Karen Country Club would not have welcomed me so warmly had he been playing with fellows he did not trust. He welcomed me warmly because he saw me as a golfer.