August 4, 2009

Book Review: 999 Questions On The Rules of Golf

Golf's rules are simple and can fit in the back pocket of any typical player. Reading through the USGA Rule Book might take two hours from cover to cover, and they are written in relatively plain and understandable language. The R&A's rules are essentially the same - easy to read. But as it is with all things, the devil is in the details, and the "details" of the Rules of Golf are in its various "decisions." Those, known as the Decisions on the Rules of Golf, fill a relatively thick tome, and can cover anything from dangerous course conditions like snakes or hornets to smacking a ball back at the a member of the trailing foursome that just hit into your group...for the fourth time.

How well do you know them?

Why should you? For your own good as a golfer.

We, as golfers, are expected to be relatively familiar with these rules and decisions and abide by them. When we attest to a score on a card for our Sunday foursome, we are attesting that the match was played according to Rules of Golf, the Decisions, and also to the local rules that cover the course we are playing. We then enter them into our handicaps, where again, the assumption is that an honest score was attained.

So how well do you really know the rules? The decisions? How to fairly play by them in a given situation? Some of us, like the venerable One-Eyed Golfer, Vince Spence, can probably say "quite well." Vince is a member of his club's handicap committee and undoubtedly has experience in many areas regarding the Rules of Golf. The rest of us probably cannot say that much. So we have a lot to learn.

Remember, the rules are in place to protect you. They are eminently fair, and in a match, will provide an equitable solution to nearly any situation. By knowing them well, you'll keep your opponent from possibly pulling the wool over your eyes, and at the same time, you'll know the right thing to do and not set yourself back by breaking them.

The thing is, the official Decisions publications can read like the U.S. Code, the laws that govern this land. They are not exactly something you can curl up in bed with and have a good read before it's time to turn out the lights, even if you are an attorney. You are still expected to abide by them, and there are indeed penalties for trespassing the law. Fortunately, as far as golf is concerned, author Barry Rhodes has simplified things for us. Rhodes is a bona fide expert on golf's rules, and was the first person to achieve a 100% score on the Public Advanced Rules of Golf Examination run by British PGA. He's an expert on golf's sometimes arcane rules, and he's done an excellent job in making them understandable.

In his new book "999 Questions On The Rules of Golf" you can learn about the rules and decisions in an easy way: Rhodes presents a given situation, ask a question about what to do, and then gives you the answer in a clear, understandable and non-legalese manner. Your brain won't be taxed reading through his 999 questions, and you'll find yourself learning as you go.

In the book, Rhodes presents 333 questions about simple situations that every golfer should know how to handle , no matter their skill level; 333 more challenging questions that tournament players and more serious golfers should know the answers for; and finally 333 advanced questions for people wanting to go in-depth and gain a deep understanding of the rules. The 999 questions are presented in three formats: true/false, Q&A and multiple choice, which keeps things lively and completely unlike a final exam. 999 Questions also features a thorough index makes finding a given situation a simple matter that takes only a few seconds, thus making it a handy reference book that one will visit time and again through the years. Rhodes writing is clear, concise and easy to follow. In short, the book is organized in a logical, sensible way, making it easy to locate something that you might be interested in, and easy to read when you do.

For example:
"Tee markers are deemed to be fixed and may not be moved under any circumstances. True or False?"
Do you know the answer? I didn't. And once upon a time, it cost me dear.

Rhodes answer cites Decision 11-2/1, where the answer is false. The tee markers may not be moved until a player tees off. Afterwards, they are obstructions. So if you whack a tree and send your ball behind the original teeing location, you are entitled to move the marker if it is an obstruction to your next shot.

Bet you didn't know that. As I said, I didn't, and a couple of years ago, the exact situation that Rhodes describes happened to me in a match play event. There, I hit a perfectly awesome pull hook into a sign that flung my ball four inches directly behind one of the tee markers in a match play event. Funny, yes I know, but not at the time, not in the heat of battle. My opponent swore I couldn't move the marker so I had to chip over it, and thus I couldn't get my ball to the green on a par-3 as a result. He won the hole, I was steamed and now I wish I had known the relevant decision. I probably would not have had it memorized, but it would have stuck in the back of my mind, and I could have asked the Tournament Committee to clear matters up. But I had to have some familiarity with this particular oddball situation, which I didn't. That left me at the mercy of an opponent, a bad situation in any event.

That's why I can't recommend Rhodes fine book enough. He covers that, another 998 situations and you will undoubtedly come across one or more situations that have happened to you on the golf course that was handled incorrectly. The next time you run across it, you'll know, and you will be a better golfer for it. At $15.99 plus shipping from, this book is a bargain, and it should be a well-visited member of your bookshelf. I have had mine a little more than two months, and already it's been used three times to settle on-course discussions. That's saved me some Nassau money, and has paid for itself twice over already.

You can also read Mr. Rhodes' fine web site at If you are like me, you will quickly add it to your bookmarks and will find yourself visiting again and again.


  1. EXCELLENT recommendation !! The rules are simple in themselves, but the bizarre situations we seem to find ourselves in through the years are infinite. This is a great read and a great web site.

    Thanks, CB !

  2. What a great idea to get the "unknowable" rules and decisions into a readable, understandable format. I play with a couple of guys who are constantly bickering over rules they don't really understand. This sounds like just what they need. ;)

  3. Thanks for a great review Charles.

    Special Offer: If anyone reading this blog would like to buy a personally signed copy of '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf', at the same price as Amazon, please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com.

    Good golfing,


  4. Enjoyed your review Charles.

    I have a copy of 999 Questions On The Rules of Golf and can highly recommend it.

    This is a book for every clubhouse and keen golfe.



  5. Thanks, Charles...

    You are so right. Knowing the rules has helped me far more often than hurt me. Even the pros do not know all the rules, but the basics are a must if you call yourself a golfer.

    The rule I think I see most 'abused' is when it calls for "NEAREST point of relief, no closer to the hole". There is only ONE nearest point and you have to use it or exercise the other available options.

    I interrupted this comment to go to Amazon and order the book. Thanks you again.


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