Rules Blog: Shona McRae in South Africa

South African Referees SchoolAfter a successful week in Kenya, we flew into Cape Town from Nairobi to conduct the much-anticipated, first R&A Referees School to be held in South Africa. We were heading to Steenberg Golf Club, nestled in the foothills of the Stone Mountains – a perfect venue.

Attending the School were 62 delegates representing their respective provinces in South Africa, as well as officials from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and the Sunshine Tour. All of the participants had already successfully completed a Rules School prior to this so their knowledge was sound, but the objective of the Referees School, however, is to concentrate on the skills and techniques required for officiating at tournaments

The ‘Art of Officiating’ covers everything from examining the committee’s role and duties in producing Local Rules and marking the course, to the giving of rulings in high-pressure situations, so it’s important that an insight into all these aspects of officiating are discussed.

By creating role play scenarios, during which the delegates give a ruling to one of The R&A team whilst their peers watch on, the pressure that officials experience when faced with an awkward player under the gaze of spectators and television cameras can be recreated. Of course, nothing beats real-life experience at any level, but the role play is good preparation and an important skill for inexperienced referees to develop.

On the second day of the School, the delegates sat The R&A exam to test their knowledge.  Whilst very few delegates enjoy taking the exam, even the most experienced officials recognise its importance in ensuring that their knowledge of the Rules is up to date, and up to the test of on-course officiating.

Bringing the delegates together for the School also offers an opportunity for the officials to meet and discuss the matters that are shaping golf in their countries, and share to their knowledge and expertise across southern Africa.  Although the focus is on Rules and refereeing, The R&A always return from such visits with a far greater understanding of the issues faced by the delegates in their regions and the projects they are undertaking to try to develop the game.

And so we left Cape Town behind and return to St Andrews not only with the feeling that the first R&A Referees School in South Africa has been a great success, but that golf will continue to prosper in African hands.