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SCGA informs with casual Rules Workshops open for all

February 23, 2017

By Matt McKay

The Southern California Golf Association recently issued an e-mail to its members offering the scenario: “Rules disagreement? What to do when an official isn’t present.”

If the hypothetical players in conflict had attended one of the SCGA Rules of Golf Workshops the association conducts annually, they might have come to a quick, agreeable conclusion without the need for an official.

The SCGA has many responsibilities when it comes to managing the amateur game in Southern California. SCGA Director of Rules and Competitions Jeff Ninnemann said one of those responsibilities is to offer workshops for the wide-ranging number of interested parties. And when workshops are conducted, rules mavens turn up.

“We had a 13 year old at our last workshop, but most people are seasoned golfers, a lot have rules responsibilities at their clubs, and we have a lot of SCGA volunteer rules officials who come just for their own continuing education. Just golfers from all walks of life who are passionate about the rules,” said Ninnemann, who conducted the fourth of four 2017 seminars recently at Classic Club.

“If you play enough golf, strange things have happened to you on the golf course," he continues. "And a lot of people just have a curiosity about the game’s rules. If you’re going to play golf, I think most people want to play by the rules. And I think they’re also interested in things they’ve seen happen, they want to know why is a ruling this, or this happened to a friend once, what should he have done?”

Along with the Classic Club workshop Feb. 22, the SCGA also conducted 2017 Rules of Golf Workshops at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl (Feb. 6), Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook (Feb. 9) and Big Canyon CC in Newport Beach (Feb. 13).

For those who were always tempted to skip classes, the SCGA is keenly aware of your existence, and wants you to put aside your classroom apprehension and give rules workshops a try. It’s apparent from the quick pace and lively interaction the presentation was created with participant engagement in mind. The workshop begins with an indoor session complete with video and PowerPoint presentations, before the group moves outdoors to apply rulings in an on-course setting.

At the stroke of the appointed start time at Classic Club, the workshop began with - Boom! - a creative and engaging SCGA Rules Crew video presentation. The Rules Crew tackled the appropriate ruling when a shot is taken out of turn in match play. In the video, the transgressing player is forced to appeal to the Godfather, his opponent, to allow his well-played but out-of-turn shot to stand. The Godfather then put his benevolence, and his skills, on display.

The indoor portion of the presentation also included graphics, rules breakdowns, questions for the participants and by the participants, and group discussions. Example questions for the participants tested their knowledge of boundary stakes, application of penalties resulting from interaction with hazards and club limits. There was even a question regarding the Dustin Johnson “situation” during the final round of last year’s U.S. Open Championship. Each question was answered by a participant, and followed by discussion regarding why a certain application of the rules was correct, or not.

As the presentation proceeded, it spiced with short videos, including scenes from Seinfeld, network broadcast snippets of professional tournaments, illustrative still photos (the Caddyshack gopher IS a burrowing animal) and more cheeky, informative appearances by the Rules Crew, making it difficult for the Sandman to exert his will.

Once outside, instructors had the opportunity to actually break out clubs and balls, and place them in situations designed to stimulate thought, inspire discussion and determine steps to execute the proper ruling. At Classic Club, it also allowed Ninnemann and his team to reinforce, and better illustrate, points made during the indoor presentation. Examples of the outdoor scenarios taken on at Classic Club included teeing round situations, water hazard rulings, abnormal ground conditions and bunkers/putting green encounters.

Of course, keeping participants fresh and nourished is crucial to the learning process, so a quick break is taken between the indoor and outdoor periods, and a lunch break is taken just before the final “interactive session,” which includes questions fired at participants to test what they’ve learned. Special SCGA party favors were distributed to participants providing correct answers.

Bill Thompson, the rules chairman for the men’s club at Heritage Palms in Indio, was one of the participants at Classic Club. Responsible for rules at several club events annually, he estimates he’s attended a minimum of 10 SCGA rules workshops, and said continuing education was critical to keeping up with changes, and committing existing rules to memory.

“I first came to one of these almost 20 years ago when I wanted to become an SCGA rules volunteer, and I’ve been coming just about every year since,” said Thompson. “I keep coming back because t’s a great refresher. You get to hear particular concerns, changes in the rules, or new decisions.”

Thompson’s story is typical of those who participate in the workshops, according to Ninnemann. While there are a great many SCGA volunteers, rules committee members and tournament directors at any given workshop, others are simply competitors from a wide range of skill levels who want to master the rule book, and possibly avoid that theoretical on-course rules disagreement.

“We talked about claims today, and what to do when there’s no official around and players can’t resolve it. Quite honestly, that’s why we have our online video series, because not everyone can make it out to a rules workshop. And that particular video got 7,000 views on day number one, which was great. It allows us to reach a large number of our members at once,” said Ninnemann. “Here, we cover the most-frequently encountered rules situations both in the classroom and on the golf course. So folks get a good bit of information, they get hands-on experience, and they get to see it on the golf course. All in all, it’s a pretty good format for learning.”

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