China Rules School Blog

Shona McRae, Manager – Rules of Golf, writes following her recent visit to Taizhou in China for the China National Referees School.

After arriving in the dark at the OCT Yunhai Wetlands Golf Course and Hotel, approximately three hours north of Shanghai, it was a surprise to see a large golf and holiday complex the next day. Yunhai offers an 18-hole golf course, two hotels, villas, hot springs (the Chinese equivalent of a swimming pool and spa), shops and restaurants for its residents. However, despite the hot springs being a pleasant way to spend some time, it was the golf course that I was here for as this was where the China National Referees School was to take place.

The National School is the culmination of a Rules education programme that The R&A has been supporting for over four years now. For the students attending the National School, it is the final stage of their studies in Rules after successfully completing the introductory and intermediate levels run by the China Golf Association. As part of the National School, the students have the opportunity to take a practical exam in refereeing to gain an “A” classification and this is a passport to refereeing at national level for the China Golf Association at major events. 

My first task was to review the areas where the practical demonstrations and role-play exercises would be conducted, locate the lecture room where the presentations would be made and test out our technical requirements. Jackie, the head green keeper from Yunhai, a former student at Elmwood College, showed me around the golf course, which has been open now for over a year. The course certainly lives up to its “wetlands” name with water on every hole providing a challenging from the tee.  From most holes it is possible to view a huge bronze and gold Buddha from the nearby temple – looking down on the course, I am sure there are a few golfers who have offered up a prayer to the Buddha when faced with a testing shot over the water!

My colleague Grant Moir joined me the following day, along with Chris Feng from the China LPGA Tour, who was supporting us with the instruction and presentations at the National School. With preparations complete, we were ready for Day 1 of the School. Forty three students attended and had travelled from all over China to be at the School.

Day 1 consisted of Grant, Chris and myself demonstrating the key Rules relating to obstructions and abnormal ground conditions, water hazards, the putting green, out of bounds and bunkers. Following on from this I gave a presentation on the role of the Committee in running competitions. Grant then discussed the importance of establishing Local Rules and collectively the group reviewed videos of Rules incidents that have occurred in professional tournaments. Day 1 concluded with a welcome reception and dinner hosted by The R&A for all the students and invited guests.

Day 2 started with the part of the School every student dreads – the written Exam! However, with that over, the students were able to concentrate on the skills required to referee and learn how to handle the “non-rules” side of being an official. 

For the 21 students that excelled in the written Exam, there was the opportunity to take the practical Exam on Day 3. This consists of Grant and I acting as players and the students are called one-by-one to give us a ruling, not knowing what the situation might be. We look to see how the potential referee handles the situation, their approach to the player, the clarity of communication and the accuracy of the ruling, and we grade the students based on this criteria. It is by no means an easy task for the students considering English is not their first language, and of the 43 attending, four passed this final part of the qualification process and gained the National A certification.

Lu Hong Cen had more than one reason to celebrate after achieving her A certification as it was also her birthday that day.  “I am so happy to have achieved this. It is has been a goal of mine since I started learning about the Rules. I hope now to be able to referee more. I am 22 so will graduate soon and to be a referee would mean a lot.”

With the School over and with some time to spare before the flight home, I had an opportunity to visit the temple and Buddha beside the golf course. I understand the Buddha represents “life prolonging and disaster dispelling.” Something many golfers will hope for as they take on the challenge of the water when playing the 17th hole at Yunhai!