The R&A’s three-tier Rules education programme has been in place since 2012 and since then more than 100 Rules Schools have been conducted by The R&A and its affiliated associations around the world.
In 2013 The R&A also launched the online Rules Academy, which has allowed thousands of individuals to complete the online Rules course from home.
At a recent Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School held in Athlone in the Republic of Ireland, we met up with Derek Ervine from Greenisland Golf Club, Carrickfergus. Derek recently developed a keen interest in the Rules of Golf after discovering the Rules Academy and within a year found himself at the Level 3 School in Athlone.
Derek very kindly took the time to answer some questions relating to his experience of The R&A three-tier education process.
What is your golfing background?
I played normal club golf as a juvenile up to the age of 16 then got side tracked for 20 years with motor rallying as a co-driver achieving reasonable success. Golf was on the back burner as the motor sport became too time-consuming with a young family on the go. I took up golf again and now I go through hedges and trees looking for golf balls! Since re-joining Greenisland Golf Club in the late 80’s, I have been match and handicap convenor, club secretary, club captain and now hold the position of a trustee in the club.
How did you find out about the Rules Academy?
I found out about the Rules Academy basically from The R&A website. I often clicked onto the quiz section to test my general rules knowledge and saw the Rules Academy section. I thought, “Hello, what is this about?”, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What encouraged you to learn more about the Rules of Golf?
In any sport you play or compete in you need to know the Rules. You need to know how not to break them and also how to use the same Rules when required, sometimes to your advantage. Probably like most club golfers I had a reasonable knowledge, but in answering the Rules quizzes, it was obvious there were gaps in my knowledge. Old school reports spring to mind “Derek… could do better with a bit more studying”.
What did you think about the Rules Academy?
My first thoughts were, is this really for people like me? The answer is clearly yes. I thought the Academy website was well laid out and very inviting saying come on and have a go. It took you through the tutorials in a structured manner. The test at the end gives you the chance to test your knowledge.
What encouraged you to further your knowledge and attend the Level 2 School and now the Level 3 course?
Probably it was my wife Moya. “If you are thinking of retiring next year you’ve got to find additional interests to keep you occupied”, were the words ringing in my ears when the email arrived asking if I would be interested in attending the Level 2 School run by the Golfing Union of Ireland at Carton House. By now the “Rules thing” was becoming more than a passing interest. I saw the opportunity to attend the Level 2 School and get more experience too good to miss. Level 3 was something that I thought would be outside my scope for a few years.
How did you find your experience at the Level 2 and then the Level 3 courses?
When the itinerary arrived through the post with the words “exam and role play sessions” in the schedule, as a 60 year old who last sat an exam 40 plus years ago I thought…. well you can imagine! Fear not. Having now completed it I can honestly say go for it. At the Level 2 School, the instructor’s humour and enthusiasm put the class (a mixture of ladies and gents from all four provinces of Ireland) at ease. I felt that whilst to pass the Level 2 exam was the main focus, the overall objective was to try and get people to buy into the overall process of officiating. The role play sessions also gave a great opportunity for people like me, who have no refereeing experience, to give it a go.
Things began to get a bit more serious when I was asked to attend The R&A Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School held in Athlone. There was no going back now. Revision time! Level 3 was a similar format however I did notice two significant changes in that there was a delegation from The R&A in attendance, and this time there were people attending from all over the UK who were clearly much more experienced in this field.
The Level 3 School, as well as a longer exam, deals more with tournament administration and officiating. Once again, I found the role play sessions very good. I suppose I had gained a little bit of experience and confidence in my knowledge by now.
Former European Tour player, Gary Murphy, was involved with the instructors and shared with us his experiences of receiving rulings when on Tour. He was also the person I had to give a ruling to in the practical session and he clearly knows how to put a novice referee under pressure. The knowing wink from him at the end suggested that perhaps I had not let him away with his suggested drop and had kept him within the Rules. Phew!
Overall I would say that by attending the two courses, irrespective of your mark in the exam, you will come away a much more informed and better equipped golfer.
Tell me a bit about how you have used your new found Rules knowledge in your own club.
It is still early days yet but already we have had a Rules quiz evening. We also put together an evening dealing with specific places on our own course where rules infringements are likely to happen. This was a brave move as it was in front of 40+ ladies, many of which have been playing golf for rather a long time.
The juvenile section is also where I hope to be able to have an impact. We are planning on having an on course session with the juniors during the summer holidays. They will play a few holes and we will cover various Rules as we go.
Derek is even getting his new grandson, Hugo, started early on the Rules of Golf!
Are you hoping to get involved in refereeing in the future?
Yes I would hope to. Going forward it will be about getting involved at a local level, in my case with the Ulster Branch of the GUI, and gaining further experience. You should always have an objective so mine will be this.
Royal Portrush Golf Club has been added onto The Open rota. Wouldn’t it be good to be at a level where I could be inside the ropes doing something worthwhile as a result of my time spent on the Rules Academy?