Professional golf is a highly competitive sport that requires a lifetime of dedication and focus. To be a successful golfer at the professional level you have to have amazing self-discipline and an undying love for the game. I was introduced to the game of golf at age seven in my hometown of Dillon, Montana by my grandfather and have played it seriously since I was nine years old. My grandfather was the only other person in my family to play golf so it wasn’t popular amongst the other members of my family. When I began playing tournaments during the summer months my parents soon realized that I was addicted to golf. I would play golf literally everyday during the summer and was always going to junior tournaments around the state. It only took a few years for me to realize that I wanted to play golf in college and had the dream of someday playing professionally. Living in Montana a golfer has the obvious disadvantage of a shorter golf season than of people in warmer, more golfer friendly locations so it is not an easy road to become a professional but you can never give up on your dream. Now that I play college golf I have learned that playing professionally is much more difficult than a young boy dreams it up to be. Like any professional sport it requires that a person revolves their lives around that sport and gives it their heart and soul. It is a very long road with many ups and downs but is very rewarding.
Golf is a difficult sport to spend a lot of time playing. It is expensive for all of the equipment required to play including clubs, bags, other accessories, and proper golf clothing. It can only be played outdoors so you must be on a course which takes up a large amount of space. You have to schedule times in which you will be playing and many courses are private facilities which make it even more expensive because memberships can be very expensive and are usually not open to the public unless accompanied by a member of the course. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome when trying to be a serious golfer and many rules to abide by when playing and being on a course, those rules are more important for a professional compared to the average player.
Golf is a game that is full of rules and regulations and if the rules are not followed there are consequences that one has to face. The rules of golf are the most complicated in all of sports. There are hundreds of rules that are compiled in a small rules book that is revised every year with new rules being added each year. It is required that a golfer is aware of the rules of the game and the rules of etiquette both on and off the course. Golf involves a large amount of rules; I will list some of the most common that are experienced at the professional level, both on and off the course.
• Out of bounds: When a player hits a ball out of bounds, marked by white stakes, it costs them one stroke and they must hit the next shot from the same location they hit from when the ball went out of bounds. For example, if I hit my first shot out of bounds from the tee box I would have to re-tee my ball and I would be hitting my third shot. Out of bounds penalties are very punishable because they cost a player stroke and distance, meaning that you are in the same spot that you started at, you didn’t gain any forward progress.
• Lateral hazard: Lateral hazards are marked by red stakes, these hazard areas can be water, waste areas, or other areas marked on the course. If a player hits their ball into a lateral hazard they are allowed to play the ball if they can find it and are capable of hitting it. Since it is a hazard the golfer cannot touch the ground with their club, if they do ground their club they are not allowed to proceed with the shot and must take a proper drop and penalty. If the ball is not found the player must agree with his playing partners where the ball first crossed the hazard line. The term lateral means that you can take a drop lateral of the entrance point within two club lengths of the hazard line no closer to the hole, the penalty is one stroke. For example, if I hit my first shot into a lateral hazard and have to take a drop I would drop two and be hitting three, costing me one stroke on the hole. Lateral hazards are manageable because you are allowed to hit your ball out of them if possible and you don’t lose the distance you are from the hole.
• Water hazards: Water hazards are marked by yellow stakes and are strictly bodies of water such as a lake, pond, or creek. If you hit your ball into a water hazard you are allowed to drop anywhere between where you crossed the hazard line and where you hit the shot that went into the water, no closer to the hole. If your ball is inside the hazard line but not in the water you are allowed to hit it, if possible, without grounding your club. Sometimes water hazards have marked drop areas where you can drop your ball also, either option is within the rules and the penalty is the same as a lateral hazard, if you hit your first shot into the hazard you would drop two and be hitting three from where you took the drop.
• Unplayable lie: An unplayable lie is when a player’s ball is in a position where the player does not have a possible shot. In a tree, under a tree, or in some type of foliage is the most common unplayable lie situation. Players are allowed to drop one club length no closer to the hole from their ball with a one stroke penalty.
• Lost Ball: A lost ball is treated the same way as an out of bounds penalty. If a player is unable to find their ball they must return to where they hit the last shot and take a penalty. If a players ball could have gone in a hazard but wasn’t actually seen going into the hazard and cannot be found it is considered a lost ball and the correct penalty must be assesed.
• Speed of play: Speed of play can come into effect when an individual or group of players is noticeably slow and are holding up the pace of play. Players are given a warning and are timed from that point on; if they don’t meet the time given to them they are given a two stroke penalty added on to their final score. A memorable moment of this in a professional tournament is when PGA professional Rory Sabatini of South Africa was playing with Ben Crane of the United States. Ben Crane is considered a slow player and the group was warned during the final round of a tournament that they would be penalized if they did not speed up. Since Crane was responsible for the slow play Sabatini got frustrated and began to play ahead of Crane. Sabatini finished the hole before Crane and was later fined by the PGA for his actions. His actions made Ben Crane pick up the pace and niether player was penalized.
• Contracts: All professional athletes have contracts; it is the same for golfers. Professional golfers’ contracts are both for equipment and money. Players use whatever equipment their sponsors make. Most players have multiple sponsors which gives the player many different options in finding success. A perfect example of multiple sponsors is Tiger Woods. Tiger is sponsored by Nike, Buick, and Gatorade. He gets free golf equipment from Nike including clubs, shoes, balls, and clothing, he even has his own shoes and every other piece of clothing with his name on it, made by Nike. He gets free vehicles from Buick every year and just recently was given his own Gatorade drink. He makes a ridiculous amount of money from his sponsors and along with the money he makes from playing he will more than likely be the first billion dollar professional athlete. Tiger is very respectful and shows that he is a good person by donating millions of dollars to charities around the world.
• Behavior: A golfer’s behavior on and off the course has a large impact on their overall image as a professional athlete. Just like all professional athletes, golfers can be fined for bad behavior and can be suspended from events depending on severity. These instances rarely happen simply because it is golf which explains itself, there are not a lot of opportunities for golfers to act out in a punishable form.
The experience of the rules and laws of golf are usually experienced on the course, resulting in penalties that add strokes to the player’s final score. Overall that is what is important to golfers, it measures their success, how much money they may make, how they handle themselves, it is all determined by how well they play. It is very frustrating to be penalized while golfing because there are strokes being added to your score that you didn’t actually physically execute. Instances that take place off the golf course usually result in a fine or suspension depending on how severe the infraction is. It’s all part of being a professional athlete and you must be responsible for whatever it is you are involved in. Golf is considered a gentleman's game, because when the game of golf originated in Scotland only men could play. It was based on honesty and edict. Failure to follow the rules can lead to disqualification from the tournament for a player. In the professional tournaments most disqualification are a result of misunderstanding of the rules, not because the player didn't want to follow the rules. In most cases there is a rules official on the course to make the right decision on the ruling, so a player does not make a wrong ruling. At the end of the round the player must sign his or her score card as well as their competitors, indicating that both scores are correct. If a score card is signed, and the score is wrong that player is disqualified. The rules of golf are very burdensome, and that is basically what the game of golf is, a game of rules.
In professional golf it is very simple to escape the juridics and the consequences that follow. The on course situations such as rule infractions or penalties all depend on how well the golfer can control their golf ball. If you hit it out of play where rules come into play you have to deal with the consequences. It sounds very simple but can be very difficult to actually do. At the professional level any mistake a golfer makes is almost always a mental mistake. Professional golf is far more mental than physical. The mental game is what separates professionals from amateurs. Professionals have an incredible ability to control their thoughts and emotions on the golf course and are able to go to another level of thinking while playing, it is the most important part of a golfer’s game. Extra time or thought about the moment at hand is what will help a golfer avoid the juridics that are associated with the game. It is a very simple yet complicated solution and must be experienced first hand to be appreciated by any one person. Golf is a game that demands patience and years of dedication and can be very rewarding to those who love it.