Successful Rules Schools in Laos and Singapore

Shona McRae, Assistant Director – Rules, writes about The R&A Rules Schools held recently in Asia.

Lao Country Club, Vientiane, Laos


Lao Country Club was the host venue for the first ever R&A Rules School to be held in Laos, conducted with the Lao National Golf Federation. 

Laos  hosted the 2009 South East Asian Games and the legacy of golf in the Games has seen a rise in the number of people taking up the game.  With eight golf clubs boasting excellent facilities and over 2000 golfers playing on a regular basis, golf is growing in popularity. It was the perfect time to conduct a Rules School.

It was pleasing to have 39 delegates from all over Laos attend the Level 1 Introductory Rules School held on 7 March 2013.  Many are employed within golf operations at the various clubs and were looking to further their knowledge of the Rules to assist them in their roles.  Others were keen just to understand more about the game that they enjoy.

My colleague, Kevin Barker and I presented the one-day course, which focused on the Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf (the most commonly occurring Rules) and etiquette. The School included a practical demonstration on the golf course – always the highlight and the point at which, hopefully, everything “comes together” - giving the delegates the chance to ask questions (lots of very good ones) about the Rules. 

The day finished with a short exam which most people passed comfortably.

During our stay in Vientiane, the attractive and laid-back capital city of Laos, the Lao National Golf Federation challenged Kevin and I to a match at Lao Country Club.  LNGF v The R&A: game on.

On the first hole we conceded a short putt and Kevin mentioned to our opponents that it was a “gimme”.  There was some confused looks from our opponents, so we explained that it is common to call a conceded putt a “gimme” when playing matchplay.

This term was new to our opponents but they quickly grasped the meaning of it.  At the next hole, our opponents conceded a putt and, as Kevin picked up his ball, one of them said, “Kevin, that’s a give you!”   

“Give you’s” are now the latest thing on the fairways in Vientiane!

Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore

RulesLeaving the traditional and relatively slower pace of life in Vientiane, we headed to the fast-paced modern metropolis of Singapore, the venue for the 2013 Asian Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School (TARS).

Hosted by the Singapore Golf Association, 58 delegates from all over Asia met at Sentosa Golf Club for the School, held from 12-14 March 2013.  With such a large and knowledgeable group to look after Kevin and I were joined by Chris Hilton, the Chairman of The R&A Rules of Golf Committee, and J R Jones, a highly experienced R&A referee and former Deputy Chairman of our Championship Committee.

Due to heavy rain being a common occurrence in the afternoons (often accompanied by thunder and lightning), the School started outdoors on the morning of 12 March, with a practical demonstration session.  Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, we demonstrated and explained most of the common Rules, and some of the not-so-common Rules…well, you have to throw the occasional curve ball to get people thinking!

There were presentations on the role of the Committee, course marking, and starting and recording before the delegates had a free evening to prepare for their Level 3 Rules Exam. The Exam is not meant to be the most important aspect of the TARS but, understandably, delegates are keen to achieve the best possible marks that they can, and there is always some tension in the air beforehand.

RulesOnce the Exam was out of the way – you could hear an audible sigh of relief! - the School concentrates on the skills and practices that are useful for referees and administering tournaments.  With further presentations on suspending play, pace of play policies and guidance on refereeing, it was a full and intense day.

That evening, The R&A hosted a dinner for the delegates and presented the Singapore Golf Association with a specially engraved quaich - a traditional shallow two-handled Scottish drinking cup - to mark the occasion.   This is the third Tournament Administrators and Referees School that has been held in Asia and the support of the SGA in organising the event was invaluable.

The final day was devoted to role play. The R&A instructors act as players – usually well-behaved but not always - and the delegates act as the referees and take turns to give rulings.  Held out on the practice area, it can be a challenging task for the delegates to say the least, as each ruling is conducted with their peers watching on and they have no idea what the ruling may involve.  To a degree, the session attempts to recreate the experience, and some of the pressure, that occurs when actually refereeing at a tournament.  For many of the delegates, this is the session that is most helpful.

We always stress that at one of our TARS we are very fortunate in that we gather together in one place very experienced referees. As a result, keeping sessions on track can be somewhat “challenging”, but the enthusiastic contributions from the participants in the School are vital. With over twelve countries represented at the School, it was a great opportunity to build international friendships and share experiences in running events and refereeing from around the Asian region.

RulesAnd that was it. Nearly.

After the School had closed, Kevin, Chris, JR and I had the opportunity to play the Serapong Course, venue for the recent HSBC Women’s Champions tournament.  Situated opposite Singapore port – one of the largest and busiest ports in the world – huge cargo ships form a compelling backdrop to a very good and pristine golf course.

We had to suspend play (for lightning) after completing the 7th hole – luckily we had covered this during the TARS. And, with that problem solved, we continued our match with the odd “give you” here and there.