David Rickman - Director of Rules
David Rickman has spent 22 years at The R&A. Having joined the organisation in 1987 as a 23-year-old who split his time between Rules administration and championship administration, he now assumes responsibility for the laws of the game on behalf of 30 million golfers in 123 countries. For Rickman, who has been The R&A's Director of Rules and Equipment Standards for 14 years, it's a responsibility with which he will never tire.
When I came to The R&A, although I was a single-figure golfer, I didn't know the Rules particularly well. However, as strange as it sounds, I think that stood me in good stead: I know what it's like to be unsure of the Rules and I always try to bear that in mind.
But I've always been fascinated with the game. Golf is unique in that there is no marked pitch: it's just played on a piece of ground where climate, vegetation and even wildlife are factors to bear in mind. And as I became more knowledgeable on the Rules, the more that fascination grew. Thanks to the wonderful idiosyncrasies of golf courses all over the world, we have to consider so many different situations and eventualities - that's one part of the job that I really enjoy.
It was a steep learning curve for Rickman. He was promoted to the post of Director at the age of 31 and by that time, he had already faced plenty of challenging situations.
I remember officiating at the then Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth in 1990 when Howard Clark asked me for relief from a pile of grass-cuttings deep in the trees. He was a big name at the time and, although I knew the answer to his question - no relief -, it was non-the-less a daunting experience. It was what I'd call my first ‘big' ruling in a professional event: at the time it seemed pretty significant, but much less so now!
There are still moments on-course when you realise that a ruling will be important and high-profile and that does get the heart going a wee bit but, on most occasions, the course of action is relatively straight-forward. The Rules aim to strike a balance between the traditions of the game, simplicity and fairness, and I think we manage that reasonably well.'
As part of a wide-ranging brief, Rickman also oversees changes in golfing equipment, an aspect of the game that has changed more than most during his tenure.
I think the technological innovation that we've seen over the last decade or so has been extremely positive for the game. The fact that clubs are easier to hit for juniors and allow seniors to continue to play the game for longer is undoubtedly good for the growth of the game. Our challenge as a governing body is to create a set of Rules for all golfers where, no matter at what level, skill is the determining factor in success.'
And in his spare moments he still finds time to indulge a passion for the game that he has harboured ever since he was a boy growing up in St Andrews.
It's always a pleasure to stop talking about golf and start playing it! Getting out and playing ensures that you retain a sense of perspective. The majority of Rules deal with real but rare cases and its only when you're out there on the course that you realise that golf is fundamentally a simple game: get the ball from the tee to the hole in as few shots as possible. That's it!
The Rules have always been about people playing golf and they provide an essential structure to a worldwide sport. It has been a pleasure to be a part of it.'