The R&A - Working for Golf

The Role of Open Championship Rules Advisor

Jin-Woo Kim, Rules Manager at The R&A, discusses his experience of being a TV Rules Advisor at The 148th Open Championship.

My first Open experience was as an invited guest referee at Royal Birkdale, followed by my second as Rules staff at Carnoustie, which was quite a dramatic change being involved in all aspects of The Open.  However, receiving the news that my assignment for my third Open would be as a TV Rules advisor for Sky Sports at Royal Portrush was another a huge surprise and an even bigger challenge.  Unlike my first two roles, it was something that I’ve never done or even thought about doing.


A TV Rules advisor’s main duty is to assist the broadcasters with any Rules questions or incidents that may need some clarity during the Championship days.  The role at Sky Sports became vacant, as my predecessor Ian Pattinson, who has been doing the work with BBC and Sky Sports for more than a decade as the former Chairman of The R&A’s Rules Committee, had now became the Chairman of The R&A and retired from his TV role.  It surely was big shoes to fill, and with both excitement and nerves, it was something that I had to do – a new challenge – though I knew that it would be one of the best things I would do in 2019. 


Fortunately, not long after hearing about the new assignment, I was able to see Ian in Japan when we were both attending the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific.  We sat down together for a while, and Ian shared stories about his experience as a TV Rules advisor, and also gave me some advice and guidance on how to prepare and what to do once on-site.  I was also able to speak to other colleagues who have done the same for other broadcasts in recent years, and in general, it seemed like everyone was enjoying the role, which made me feel much more comfortable.


Rules advisors were assigned to the three main broadcasts on-site at The Open – Sky Sports, NBC/Golf Channel and the World Feed.  A team of two consisting of staff and Committee cover this role and my partner was Doug Norval, Chairman of The R&A’s Rules Committee.  Being experienced with the role, Doug kindly helped me with my preparation by showing me daily routines, introducing me to the team and also sharing his experience from the year before.  After all this, I could draw a clear picture in my mind, almost feeling ready to go.


The overall preparation was not so different from what we would normally do when refereeing, such as getting familiar with the golf course and the Local Rules.  However unlike refereeing, inside the commentary box, we would only have very limited information on what is actually happening on the course, and therefore we had to be aware of all possibilities on what could happen on each and every location on the course.


I had to sit in the commentary box next to Sky presenters Ewen Murray, Rich Beam, Richard Boxall and Laura Davies, wearing a Rules radio on one ear and the headphone from the TV crew on the other.  There was a microphone standing in front of me, which at the beginning I was hoping not to use at all.  To be fair, quiet is good a thing, at least in terms of the Rules of Golf, as the golf should be the main story.


It was on Saturday afternoon when I finally got my first on-air experience, when Jon Rahm asked a referee for relief from a sprinkler head close to the putting green that was interfering with his line of play.  It was a simple case covered by a Local Rule, but once I got called in, I could feel my heart racing faster than ever even before saying a word.  I was asked to explain what was happening and what the procedure was, and at the same time, I could see my name popping up on the screen.


Knowing that the ruling wouldn’t take long, I had to try hard to make it as simple as possible and to say everything within a very short time.  Luckily, I was able to finish my last word exactly when the camera was directed to another player, and just a few seconds later, I’ve started getting emails from the other side of the globe, saying that everything sounded pretty good on television.  What a relief!


After successfully being on-air for the first time, everything felt surprisingly comfortable and soon, I could find myself hoping for more to come.  I had a few more chances throughout the weekend, including one when Brooks Koepka’s ball was moved by another ball on the fairway and another when Lee Westwood’s ball was lodged in the bushes.  There was one particularly challenging moment when I was called in with no clear coverage on what happened or what the player was looking for.  Thankfully, I could hear through the Rules radio that a walking referee was calling a rover for a second opinion, which helped me to explain at least what would we do in that sort of situation.


Only covering the morning session on Sunday, I had the privilege to be at the 18th grandstand when Shane Lowry was marching up the fairway in front of the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen.  Congratulations to Shane Lowry for his stunning performance on a beautiful course and on becoming the champion golfer of the year!  It was an Open of firsts for both of us!

Jin-Woo Kim, Rules Manager – Asia Pacific