Tour Chief welcomes new Rules changes

John Paramor, the European Tour’s Chief Referee, has spent the past 35 years administering the Rules at the highest level of the game and has been present at some of the defining moments in the sport’s history.  He has taken time out from his very busy schedule to discuss the recent changes for 2012-15 and talk about his own role in the Rules making process.

Q. What role do you and the European Tour have in the revising and updating of the Rules of Golf?

A. Many years ago, The R&A Rules of Golf Chairman, John Scrivener, invited The European Tour to send a Rules representative to attend at least one of the Committee meetings and participate fully during Committee discussions. I now try to make all R&A Rules Committee meetings and if I cannot make it, Andy McFee, my senior Rules colleague, is a more than able replacement.

Q. Are you happy with that role and has it changed over the years?

A. After just a few years, it was evident that there was much interaction between the Tour’s representatives and the Rules of Golf Committee. Indeed many of the discussion points arise from incidents seen at the televised tournaments and often the Tour can bring a unique perspective due to personal involvement.

Q. What are your views on the current system and the work of The R&A?

A. The R&A must agree any changes in the Rules with the United States Golf Association (USGA). This can have its frustrations when one group feel strongly about a topic only for the other body to prefer the status quo. However, this is generally a good thing and prevents wholesale changes to the Rules every four years which would lead to much confusion and possibly a loss of trust in the Rules makers. It is quite amazing the depth that both Committees go to try to make the Rules fairer and easier to understand – and sometimes that is very difficult!

Q. How do you go about discussing the Rules with your tournament referees?

A. On the Tour, most of the Tournament Referees work at between 22 and 28 Tournaments each year which represents working over 100 days at events administering the Rules. Being so involved with the Rules in such a way often leads to lively debate between colleagues and sometimes some good ideas will be put forward through to The R&A for consideration.

Q. How do you go about discussing the Rules with the players?

A. Most Players are very supportive of the Rules of Golf – until a high profile player is penalised for doing something that some regard as really quite innocent. Often this will lead to the player calling the Rule “stupid”! Once a period of time elapses and the passion has ebbed away, we will often try to explain to the disgruntled player why the Rule has been written in the way it has been and why the penalty is appropriate. Usually this results in a somewhat begrudging agreement that perhaps the Rule was correct after all!

Q. How do you think the changes will be received by both players and officials?

A. The main changes to the Rules in 2012 will be the waiving of a penalty if the ball is moved by a gust of wind even if the player has addressed his ball, and that a player (or his caddie) can now rake certain parts of a bunker before a shot is played from the bunker - both of these topics will be very well received by players and officials alike.  It was also reassuring that the Rules will now give a five minute extension for somebody arriving late before the penalty escalates from two strokes to disqualification – something the Tour has been operating through a Condition of Competition for many years.

Q. What impact will the changes have on professional tournament golf?

A. The really positive part of the changes for 2012 is that we may have to issue less penalties in the future. This is always a good thing. I will also be actively promoting the Quick Guide to the Rules which was added at the last edition of The Rules booklet but almost went unnoticed. The slightly revised version in the 2012 booklet will provide the reader with a very good insight to playing under and understanding The Rules of Golf.

Q. What changes would you like to see in The Rules?

A. I firmly believe that there is very little wrong with the current Rules. However, Golf is a game which should be enjoyed and to enjoy it, you need to keep playing. There are many situations where a mistake could cost you a penalty of disqualification. So therefore I would love to see fewer situations where you have to stop playing! The problem will possibly be to identify which Rules they would be!

To view the new changes to The Rules of Golf, click here.