Rules Blog - South America

Shona McRae, Assistant Director – Rules, writes about her recent visit to South America.

First stop – Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

We arrived in the world’s sixth most populated city, Sao Paulo, on a Saturday evening to get stuck in traffic. Traffic is a big issue in Sao Paulo. According to the locals, over 800 cars are sold per day in this huge city and despite the ever-expanding road network, traffic jams are inevitable. 

It was, therefore, with some relief that we had made the decision to return to the Hotel Transamerica. This venue was used in 2008 for the last R&A Rules School and is perfect in terms of a venue for holding the programme as it provides accommodation, presentation and function space and a Par 3 course all within the hotel grounds. So no need to tackle the traffic on a daily basis!

This is my second visit to Sao Paulo to conduct a School and joining me on this occasion was the Chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee, Chris Hilton and the Chairman of the Amateur Status Committee, Keith Andrews.

It was good to see some familiar faces attending the School, including representatives of the Brazilian Golf Confederation. With golf returning to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, there is much enthusiasm in Brazil about the game in preparation for the big event. So much so, two delegates from the Brazil Olympic organising committee joined us to observe at the School. 

The Level 2 Rules School involves presentations on specific Rules and to augment familiarity with the Rules, practical demonstrations. The Par 3 course was perfect for this as it offered everything that we required: putting greens, bunkers, a water hazard, obstructions and plenty of trees and other natural obstacles. All were ideal for demonstrating how to apply the Rules. 

Back in the hotel, the use of video footage from golf tournaments was reviewed allowing the delegates to discuss with us some of the more intricate rulings that can occur on course.

Fifty delegates in total attended the School and 19 of those took the opportunity to sit the Level 2 Exam. For those who had already attended a previous School, they had the opportunity to sit the Level 3 Exam and I am pleased to report that there were some good results.

The Brazilian Golf Confederation led by John Byres and his team made us very welcome. We ventured out to try some of the local produce with the highpoint being a tasting of some of the more unusual fruit grown in the country – certainly not the kind of fruit found in my local supermarket! The Brazilian BBQ, Fogo de Chão, where beef is served until you cannot possibly eat any more, was another highlight.

We completed the School with a session on refereeing skills and gave the delegates the opportunity to try a bit of refereeing first hand. This is a practical stepping stone providing a taster of what it is like to referee at an elite level. With the 2016 Olympics in mind, I am sure it won’t be long before we will return to Brazil to conduct another School.

Next stop – Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This was the fifth time The R&A had visited Buenos Aires to conduct a School (the first School was held in 1997) and we were there to hold the Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School (TARS for short!). Chris, Keith and I were joined by my colleague Grant Moir for this leg of the trip. The venue was Pilar Golf Club, a 27-hole golf course and home to the Argentine Golf Association’s Golf Academy, situated on the north west side of Buenos Aires.

The TARS was attended by 57 delegates from all over South America – delegates came from Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica and of course, Argentina. The focus of the School was on the administration of golf tournaments and all four of us presented on topics including suspension of play and course evacuation, pace of play, the role of the Committee, Local Rules and course marking.

Once the delegates had sat the Level 3 Exam, the attention shifted to the skills required for refereeing.  The delegates were divided into four groups and each was put through their refereeing paces by one of The R&A team. All good fun, but delivering a ruling in front of your peers is not easy as it looks and can be quite nerve-wracking for the delegates to get it right. The aim of this is to simulate the pressure that exists when actually giving a ruling at a tournament.

While we were there, we took the opportunity to meet with the Argentine Golf Association’s Rules Committee. Their Committee meets regularly to discuss the Rules of Golf and debates any challenging areas that they foresee. It was useful to get their views on the new Rule changes that are now in full effect and, in particular, it was an ideal opportunity to discuss the new Rules of Amateur Status with the Committee.

During some free time, the AAG Rules Committee also arranged for us to tour the city to see some of Buenos Aires’ fantastic architecture, including a glimpse of the Boca Juniors stadium. It is clear when you visit La Boca that football is certainly part and parcel of life there, with many of the houses close by painted blue and yellow to match the stadium.

The School finished on the Friday afternoon and after two successful weeks we had to make a quick exit to get to the airport to avoid the traffic. It would seem traffic is an issue wherever you go!

Next stop – St Andrews, Scotland.