Girl golf player with driver teeing-off from tee-box to shoot over lake, view from behind.

by Jim Corbett

There are lots of rules and sub-rules and sub-sub-rules in the Official Rules of Golf, and they cover all kinds of circumstances and situations. And I’m sure that there are lots of parallels between all of these rules and the rules of life that we could all benefit from understanding. But there is one rule in particular that I think merits special attention because of its tremendous insight into the way that we conduct our lives.

The rule that I would like to discuss is Rule 10: Order of Play. Rules 10-1 and 10-2 basically say the same thing, but 10-1 pertains to Match Play and 10-2 pertains to Stroke Play; the concepts, however, are exactly the same (this is why the rules take up 215 pages instead of the front and back of one sheet of paper). So for purposes of this discussion, I’ll treat them as the same.

In a nut shell, what Rule 10 says is this: the one who hits first is said to have “the honor;” the “honor” at the first tee shall be by the order of the draw; thereafter, the “honor” will go to the one who had the lowest score on the previous hole; other than on the tee, the player farthest from the hole plays first.

This is a terrific rule! This simple combination of concepts embodies an awful lot of what we should strive for in our society. First off, no preference is given in order of play at the beginning. It is drawn by lots. Everyone has an equal opportunity. That is good. That is the way it should be.

But next, we recognize accomplishment. If you had the best score on the previous hole, we “honor” that. We have respect for the good work you have done, and we will celebrate that by giving you the honor of hitting first on the next tee. That’s wonderful! Sort of a meritocracy — let’s reward accomplishment.

But, just as importantly, other than on the tee, the one whose ball is farthest from the hole hits first. The one who is having the hardest time, the one whose game may not be as polished or may not be right on track today, is not forgotten or abandoned. They are not left to find another foursome to take them in and give them shelter. No. Their game is given respect too. We nurture them and we recognize that our group, as a whole, will move ahead only when these people are ready to move ahead too.

This is the measure of a strong society, that we will accommodate the weakest members at the same time we reward the strongest. Golf is deep.

All you have to do is read your history books or the headlines of your local newspaper to realize that civilization is not what we “do.” Civilization is what we are striving for. But civilization remains a worthy goal of humanity and we should continue to strive to achieve it. And here, right here in the rules of golf (make that, “The Official Rules of Golf”) is the model for the civilization that we crave. Golf is a lot like life — the way it was meant to be.

Rule 10