Rules School Diary: 18 January 2010 San José, Costa Rica

By Kevin Barker:Assistant Director - Rules of Golf

Our Costa Rican Rules School has just finished. It was the first Rules School of 2010, the first ever Rules School in Costa Rica, the first of three Rules Schools on this trip to Central and South America - Schools in Bogotá and Santiago, Chile to come - and my first time in this part of the world.

Despite all of these firsts,' things began to take on a familiar shape and pattern as soon as I arrived in San José and met up with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee - Alan Holmes and Chris Hilton. Alan and Chris had flown in some hours beforehand, having spent time in Peru visiting a public driving range in the district of San Bartolo that the Peruvian Golf Federation and The R&A have supported.

Earlier that day, Alan and Chris had attended the opening ceremony of the Central American Junior Golf Championship, primarily a team event for 6-18 year olds from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The event was receiving financial assistance from The R&A and was being played at the Costa Rica Country Club and Cariari Country Club: the venue for our Rules School.

Cariari proved an ideal venue: a fully equipped conference room to hold the presentations in, a good-sized practice area in which to conduct our on-course demonstration and role-playing, and plenty of tea, coffee and pastries! It always takes a bit of time to set things up, and this School was no different. There were some inevitable hiccups with the audio-visual equipment but, aside from brushing up on our Rules and looking over our presentations, most of the set-up time was spent assessing the practice area and working out the best places to demonstrate the Rules.

Luckily on this occasion we had all the main things we needed: teeing ground, putting greens, bunkers, cart path, bushes, trees and water hazard. Throw in white, yellow and red paint, some stakes, a few props and some imagination and you can demonstrate most of the more common Rules situations that arise, and a few more besides.

The Rules School lasted 2½ days and we certainly had an international flavour with delegates originating from Costa Rica, Colombia, Spain, England, Germany, Holland and Canada. Delegates included representatives from ANAGOLF, professional golfers, directors of golf, caddies and ordinary golfers - a wide cross-section of the golfing population. I don't know how the translator at the School managed to understand all the various accents in English and Spanish!

We can't make Rules of Golf experts in 2½ days, so instead we rely on delegates doing a certain amount of preparation prior to attendance: each delegate receives a Preparation Guide and a copy of Decisions on the Rules of Golf in advance of Schools to help them get up to speed.

The programme concentrated on the main playing Rules (Rules 13-28) which were explained with the assistance of diagrams and lots of video footage from various professional events. There were also specific presentations on the role and responsibilities of the Committee in organising events and course marking. As usual, the practical demonstration was very popular, allowing delegates to see how the Rules are actually applied on the golf course.

In between all this teaching and learning, we hosted a welcome dinner for the delegates, for ANAGOLF and its sponsors and some members of the media. We were delighted to be joined by both the Minister for Sport and the International Olympic Committee member for Costa Rica. With golf having been recently accepted into the Olympics - Rio de Janeiro in 2016 - we seized the opportunity to explain what The R&A does, and to encourage greater investment and development of the game in Costa Rica. It will be interesting to see how golf develops in Costa Rica and other countries now that golf is back in the Olympics.

And that was it.

A fairly intensive period, getting prepared and conducting the School itself. The delegates kept us on our toes throughout with lots of good questions, a number of which had us scratching our chins and reaching for our Rule books. A good group, and good fun. Hopefully they went away with a better knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the Rules. I'm sure they did.

Our Colombian Rules School at the Lagartos Country Club starts in two days…