Rules and Decisions on the Rules…And Someone Please Help Me!

Tom Velarde
Golf Professional
Black Mesa Golf Club
La Mesilla, AZ

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The Rules of Golf can be quite confusing and a bit intimidating to almost everyone. I have it on good authority that in this order: #1- Solving the mystery to the start of the universe and the quest of man; #2 - Being appointed to the Supreme Court Justice bench; #3 - Becoming the Pope; and #4 -Getting to be a Rules Official, who understands the Rules of Golf…these are the four hardest things to do and or accomplish on Planet Earth.

Here is the reasoning that can only come from the mind of the golf professional. When can you take a club out of play?

Your club cannot be taken out of play unless it is bent or broken during normal play. The definition of normal play is listed under the #2 above (I knew that the Supreme Court would rule on this). It can be taken out if it is bent or broken while making a regular swing or practice swing, removing or replacing it in your bag, accidentally dropping it, leaning on it or using a club to search for or retrieve a ball. 

Now I understand the club bending or breaking on a regular practice swing, I see guys all the time, (I have never seen a lady do this), take a practice swing near the cart path that has raised concrete edges. That poor club never had a chance against that curb and hence we need a new 9 iron in the rental set. If you look real close, you can see battle scars on the golf carts from practice swings, as well. If you have ever dropped (by accident) your best putter, you know that less force is required to send the space shuttle into orbit than is required for a dropped club to bend or break.

I have applied for the weight loss program “The Biggest Loser” so I will just eliminate the leaning on the club deal (I know my bride will be happier also, but the ‘all you can eat’ place will have to file for chapter 7). I admit that I have “leaned” on a few waiting for my turn to either slash on into the rough or just chunk top one into the water, but never has one broken on me by leaning on it. I can understand breaking a shaft in a search for a ball, it’s a lot like trying to untangle a fishing reel after it has become a bird’s nest of line. I just do not know how that happened and I now know that cutting the line does not work either. So, this Rule is relatively easy, look at the next one.

I am putting on the sixth hole and notice that on my new PUMA shoes is a cactus or part of what was a cactus. Knowing that this resembles the cactus by the second shots on holes 3, 4 and 5, where I visited areas just a razor’s edge in bounds, most likely on one of those holes I acquired this new playing partner. Now, it’s clear to me that I broke a Rule here, that being you cannot bend or break a living or attached plant while “normally” taking your fair stance. Where do I take the penalty? How do I gracefully take out this cactus without looking like a cat with something stuck in its paw? Here is what I did, I asked for the Supreme Court for a just ruling, while also asking for the Pope to intercede with the big guy upstairs. Then I went to the USGA official for a decision that determined whether I lost or won a dollar, and received an unexpected gift in the answer to #1 on my list. It was right there in the Rules of Golf, all the time… “When you cannot decide what to do, do what is fair.”

Tom Velarde is the Director of Golf at Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, New Mexico, just northwest of Santa Fe. For more information or to reach Tom, email