Rules Column: Russ Wing

Golf’s new rules cover both player conduct and integrity

At this year’s European Tour event in Saudi Arabia, Sergio Garcia was disqualified for damaging several putting greens in anger. Let’s take a look at how the new Rules give Committees more flexibility in dealing with personal conduct issues that can arise during events.

Under the old Rules, Committees had very limited discretion to deal with personal conduct issues. Old Rule 33-7 stated in part “if a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this rule”. But the Committee could not impose any sort of stroke-based penalty for offenses that didn’t meet the threshold of “a serious breach of etiquette”. So the Committee’s choices under the old Rules were to either give the player some sort of verbal or written admonishment, without any stroke-based penalty attached, or to DQ the player. Committees needed more flexibility.

Under the new Rules, Committees have more flexibility. Rule 1.2b Code of Conduct states “The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule. The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty. The Committee may also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards.” This is the type of flexibility that Committees need.

In order to use this new flexibility, golf organizations or Committees need to write a Code of Conduct, outlining the standards of conduct expected of players and any associated penalties for a violation of those standards. So you should expect to see all major golf organizations that conduct tournaments issue a new Code of Conduct. To be on the safe side of things, you should review those Codes of Conduct and keep them in mind whenever you are playing in a tournament.

For the European Tour, I have not seen their Code of Conduct. The fact that Sergio Garcia was disqualified from the Saudi Arabia event, rather than receiving an admonishment and a stroke-based penalty, tells me that his actions in damaging several putting greens were judged to be serious misconduct.

The USGA and R&A Infographic accompanying this article outlines this and other elements of the new Rules dealing with player conduct and integrity. Get to know the new Rules of Golf. You’ll be glad you did, and sorry if you don’t.