Rules Blog - Australia, China & Hong Kong

Fresh from his trip to the World Golf Championships – 2012 Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, Kevin Barker, The R&A’s Assistant Director – Rules, was back on the road again this time visiting Australia, China and Hong Kong…

Golf AusGolf Australia - Advanced State Level Rules & Competitions Course

G’day. I left St Andrews on a Wednesday and arrived in Melbourne on a Friday. I’m not quite sure where the Thursday went, but if anybody finds it could these please return it.  

I had been in Melbourne once before, in 2004. I recognised a few things but I was surprised by the number of tall buildings that had sprung up in the city centre in the intervening years. 

The Advanced State Level Rules & Competitions Course was something new as well. Now in its third year, the Course is a joint initiative of Golf Australia (GA) and The R&A and it was a pleasure to join Simon Magdulski (GA), and Andrew Langford-Jones and Graeme Scott (both PGA Tour of Australasia) at Peninsula Country Golf Club, Melbourne to help with the course.

I’ve known all three for some years: Simon is GA’s representative on The R&A’s Rules of Golf and Amateur Status Committees and always has some really difficult questions (“Simon, I don’t know the answer. Can I get back to you on it?”), Langers is Chief Referee on the Tour and is full of stories of refereeing (some of which are even repeatable in mixed company). As for Scotty, originally from Montrose on the east coast of Scotland, he was for many years Golf New Zealand’s representative on the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status Committees before joining the Tour a few years ago. I was looking forward to meeting Scotty as we used to make a point of playing a match against each other whenever we met…more later.

The course is conducted annually, and this year participants were from the state golf associations – there was a delegate from Humpty Doo Golf Club in the Northern Territory (you’ve got to love a name like that) - the Australian PGA and GA. A mixture of employees at those organisations and volunteers.

Simon did a great job in organising the course which comprised a mixture of indoor classroom-style components on subjects such as officiating, local rules & conditions of competition, course set-up and equipment, as well as outdoor practical components on pace of play, temporary immovable obstructions and role-play. Suitably informed by my seven-year-old son that Australia was the home of the red back spider and more venomous snakes that you can imagine, I conducted my role-play session from the safety of the bunker and semi-rough…no trooping into the long grass for me, thank you very much. Strewth.

Amongst other things, the course aims to enhance refereeing skills and improve knowledge of international refereeing practices, to further develop and identify referees for GA’s major events, and to maintain the number of talented and trained elite referees. The delegates were really enthusiastic, evidenced by the fact that they asked lots of really good questions and were completely involved in each session. Hopefully they will continue to develop their Rules and refereeing knowledge and to participate in the game. Despite what some people may think, tournaments do not run themselves and golf is lucky to have such committed people – I’m sure every country would be happy to have more people though, so the message is get involved if you can! 

You can’t go to Melbourne without playing golf though; the “sand-belt” courses being some of the best in the world. Whilst getting over my jet-lag I was fortunate enough to play The Metropolitan and the West course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Both were superb, the bunkering at each really catching my eye – so natural looking and cutting into greens waiting to catch a less than perfect shot (and there were quite a few of those). I was fortunate enough to have a game of golf over the West course at Royal Melbourne, designed in 1926 by the renowned Scottish golf architect, Dr Alister MacKenzie, and won my game with Scotty at the last hole: trees are not 90% air Mr Scott.

Faldo Series, Mission Hills, China

Next stop Mission Hills for the 6th Asia Grand Final – which The R&A supports - where I also met up with my colleague Dominic Wall (Director – Asia Pacific).

Mission Hills is a huge golfing resort, 12 courses at the last count with an enormous clubhouse, and, appropriately, the final was played on its Faldo course. No refereeing this time for me though, so I got the chance to watch some golf, following the final group on the last day for most of the round.

From the various R&A Rules Schools that we have conducted over the years in Asia I knew a few of the officials that were working the event and it was good to catch up with them. There were no major Rules issues but the course had suffered a little from a very wet winter: as a result there were quite a few areas that had been marked as ground under repair and the preferred lies Local Rule was in operation – not a Local Rule that should be in place all the time but it can be highly useful when the conditions warrant it.

Masamichi Ito of Japan claimed the third Faldo Series title of his career with a final round 67.  He may only be 16 years old but he’s very composed, hits the ball a long way without too much fuss and plays with a smile on his face. He gave a charming speech in Chinese at the prize presentation that was clearly appreciated by the hosts. One to watch…

Hong Kong Golf Association

Final stop – a seminar with the HKGA at the Hong Kong Golf Club.  Hong Kong Golf Club has hosted many professional events over the years and what a lovely facility they have with three courses at Fanling and a nine hole course at Deep Water Bay.

It had been some time since we had did anything Rules related in Hong Kong and so the fact that I was in the area was the perfect opportunity to present on the new 2012-2015 Rules of Golf and Amateur Status to HKGA referees and a few others involved in the game. It was also a chance to discuss Rules education and our plan to increase our Rules education in Asia over the next few years in conjunction with our affiliates – the many national golf associations. The HKGA will actually be using our Level 1 Introductory Rules School materials towards the end of the month and the Malaysian Golf Association have a number of Level 1 Schools planned.

Dominic, who is based in Hong Kong, informed them about The R&A (who we are and what we do; particularly our golf development role and our message about sustainable golf), and we conducted a session on the “art” of refereeing as well as a short practical demonstration. It was certainly a worthwhile exercise.

Next stop? Home. Now what film will I watch on the plane…