REWRITING THE RULES
The rules of golf are not really that complicated. It's just that golfers, like those of us who never read the instruction manual before trying to assemble flat pack furniture, cannot be bothered thumbing through the rulebook. And that is why almost every round of golf throws up some conundrum that the locker room lawyers can debate endlessly.
However, occasionally, a situation arises that the experts who regulate the game have simply never envisaged. One of those moments came during the opening round of the Club Championship last weekend. Playing the fifth hole, appropriately known as the Heather, Chris Kelso sent his tee shot deep into the heather. As he trudged through the rough searching for his ball, Chris stumbled into a hole and, before he knew what had happened, he was lying flat on his back with his legs stuck firmly underneath him. His playing partners were oblivious to this; the first indication that something was wrong was that Chris had completely disappeared from view.
Anyone trawling through the R & A Rules of Golf hoping to find guidance on how long competitors in a competition should spend looking for a playing partner before declaring him lost will be sorely disappointed. They will also be disappointed to find that are no specific regulations in the rules index relating to "Rabbit Hole, player stuck in" or Disused Mineshaft, player disappearing into".
Golfing etiquette, as set out by the R & A, does include the advice that players should always show consideration for other players on the course and should not disturb them by moving, talking or making unnecessary noise. It seems fairly clear from this advice that his fellow competitors should have left Chris where he was and moved on quietly. Certainly, one of his playing partners appeared to accept that interpretation because, when Chris was eventually located, a suitably concerned Angus Innes told him, "We'll collect you on the way back".
Since players are allowed five minutes to search for a ball before it is officially lost and, given that the ball is probably the most important component of the game, it would be wrong to spend more time than that looking for a player. Three minutes is probably adequate. On occasions where a golfer is playing poorly, the time spent looking for his ball is often curtailed to just a couple of minutes. The same should apply to the player himself and, in some extreme cases, it may be permissible not to look for the player at all.
Fortunately, Angus Innes was able to put the traumatic events at the fifth hole behind him and he was one of seven competitors with a nett score under par after the first of four rounds for the Club Championship. A week with heavy rainfall took its toll on the course and the soggy conditions added to the challenge in the scratch competition. Colin Macritchie, Donald DJ Macleod and Norrie "Onions" Macdonald all carded 72, one shot adrift of fourth placed Cal Robertson.
Andy Macdonald, who has played very little competitive golf this summer, would have been spurred by his recent victory in the Isle of Harris Open and he eased into third place with a 71. Eddie Rogers is in the runner-up spot after a creditable 70 but it is no surprise that the Club's most impressive player this year leads after a level par round. There will no doubt be some frustration for David Black; with six birdies on his card, he might have hoped for more than a level par 68.
In the handicap section, Calum Moody had an excellent inward half, with birdies on the Ranol, Caberfeidh and Cup, for a nett 65 and third place. One stroke better, Paul Moorby was on track for an embarrassingly low score, until he leaked five shots on the final two holes. Coming immediately after a run of five par holes, his finish should not overshadow an impressive round that shaves another stroke from Paul's handicap.
Matching Paul's nett 64, John Morrison edged into the leading position courtesy of a fine round after a tough start. John was four over par after two holes but steadied himself to finish strongly.
Liz Carmichael leads the Ladies' Club Championship competition by four strokes after the opening round. Donna Young and Jane Nicolson are tied in second place, with Ann Galbraith a further stroke behind.
This weekend sees the culmination of the Club Championships and the Askernish Open.