Television has made him almost as famous as some of the players, and a couple of his more notable rulings – refusing Seve Ballesteros relief from the base of a tree at Valderrama in 1994 and penalising teenager Guan Tianlang at The Masters to name just two – are sporting folklore.
So who better to ask about the changes to the Rules of Golf than the man who spends his life immersed in them?
John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief referee, talks to Steve Carroll from our partner National Club Golfer about the 2019 Rules of Golf – and why we’ll just have to put up with divots.
The rules can be quite difficult to understand so how long did it take you to get the grasp of them?
There are obviously a couple of ways to learn the Rules of Golf. One is to learn them almost parrot fashion, so you can recite them and recite any part of the Rule Book.
That’s fine but it’s actually putting them into practice. I looked at it kind of differently.
I started going through the Rule Book and reading a sentence and saying, ‘Why have they put that sentence there? What does that mean and what’s that trying to stop you doing? Is the player going to receive an advantage if he does the opposite to what that sentence is telling you to do?’
By trying to understand why the rule was there I think it helped me a lot to understand the Rules.
Once you understand the logic running through them, they are good common sense in an awful lot of what they say.
You might not always agree with the penalty and it might look very harsh in the circumstances but, when you look at the overall reason for why it’s there then you then realise WHY it’s there and you understand how the rules makers have got to that particular decision.
The easiest way is you start with the definitions. Once you read all the defined terms, of which there are a lot, and understand what they mean, it makes it very much easier to understand what the Rule means.
If you don’t understand the defined terms, what chance have you got of understanding the overall sentence – the Rule – which contains that particular definition? You’ve got no chance.
You’ve got to read them, question them: ‘why is that there?’ and you will be able to answer your own question after a little bit of analysis of golf and realise that’s why they do that. That’s when it starts to become a lot easier.
The new Rules were designed to be simpler for players to understand. Do you think they’ve achieved that?
I do. As golfers, we get ourselves into situations and sometimes someone is brave enough to get out a Rule Book and try and find the answer during a competition.
It’s very difficult for most people to find it in the current Rule Book. In the new book, you will find it a lot easier – in the way it has been ordered and the way it has been written.
The current rules are very much correct English but we all know what reading a contract is like. It’s quite difficult if you’re not used to that to get your head round all the different terms. But it is accurate.
One of the reasons behind the new rules is that we wanted to make them easier to be understood and easier to be read. It has become more conversational English, rather than what’s correct in law and correct English, to put it that way.
It is quite wordy but, to make it easier to understand and more intuitive, it is written that way.