A former professional player and leading golf officials were among those who attended a truly global event focused on refereeing in St Andrews this week.
Almost 100 delegates from over 40 countries met at the Home of Golf for the annual Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar (TARS), organised by The R&A.
The Level 3 seminar, which has been running since the mid-1990s, is the last stage of The R&A’s three-tier qualification process designed to help candidates achieve the standard of tournament official or referee.
Former European Tour player
Among the delegates attending at Fairmont St Andrews included former Scottish European Tour player Peter Whiteford, who offered ‘The Professional’s Point of View’, while an insight into ‘Refereeing on the European Tour’ was provided by experienced European Tour official Kevin Feeney.
The four-day event (4 – 7 February) featured practical demonstrations and role play scenarios, instruction from R&A referees and discussions on the new Rules of Golf, which took effect in January last year. Other topics included Starting and Recording, Course Marking, Pace of Play and Equipment Rulings.
Shona McRae, Assistant Director – Rules at The R&A, said, “The Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar at Level 3 is our annual, flagship event staged every February in St Andrews. We also hold others in different regions of the world, including in Latin America and South Africa this year.
“We welcomed delegates from all over the world to St Andrews, all representatives of their golf unions and associations. This year we had 96 delegates from 44 countries attending, including from Australia, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Pakistan, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe and across Europe and the UK.
“The delegates enjoyed a variety of experiences and were also put into practical role play situations where they felt the pressure of giving rulings while their peers watched on. Going forward, the qualification may help them to referee for their national governing bodies or at international level in the future.”
Feeney, who attended his first Rules School in 1998 and started working for the European Tour in 2007, provided his experience of refereeing on a professional tour on a regular basis and the skills required.
“I tried to offer the experience of what life is like working with the top players on the European Tour,” the Tour’s Senior Referee said. “We enjoy ourselves and have fun on Tour, but it’s also a very serious business working with the best players in the world and they expect the best referees.
“I talked about the qualities that we would expect from being a referee with the Tour – including knowledge, integrity, courage and experience. I also helped The R&A with the role play aspect, putting the delegates into practical situations that I find myself in every day.
“Many of the delegates already have fantastic rules knowledge and our job was to bring that knowledge beyond the rulebook, help them with the practical side of things, such as how to deliver a ruling and how to communicate with a player. A lot of refereeing is about communication. Overall, refereeing is about the same as any other career – it’s all about gaining experience.”
Fife’s Whiteford, who was disqualified from a European Tour event in India over a rules incident in 2012 that was the catalyst for an improved change to the ruling, also provided a unique insight for those assembled.
“I’ve played on the European, Challenge and EuroPro Tours and, to me, referees are all there to help,” he added. “My job at the seminar was to bring the player’s perspective, on how I think they as referees should conduct themselves to players. The people aspect and communicating is so important nowadays.
“The delegates were all well versed in the rules, but I tried to highlight the importance of how to give a ruling and what they can do on top of that.”
The TARS was chaired by R&A member and Rules of Golf Committee Chairman, Doug Norval. The week closed with dinner in The R&A Clubhouse for all delegates on Friday 7 February.For more information about The R&A’s Rules of Golf Education programmes, please click here