As Cosmo Kramer says, without rules there’s chaos

09/16/2010 12:00 AM |

In an episode from the television show “Seinfeld,” Cosmo Kramer had played a round of golf in which his opponent picked up his ball in the fairway and cleaned it — an obvious rules infraction. Kramer, furious with his opponent for a complete disregard for the rules of the game, penalized him a stroke. Elaine asked, “So, what’s the big deal?”, to which Cosmo replied, “Hey, a rule is a rule, and without rules there’s chaos.”

There are some who think golf has too many rules. Just how many rules do you think there are? The fact is, golf has fewer rules than baseball, basketball, football, soccer, rugby and cricket — 34. That’s it. Surprised, aren’t you?

The rules of golf recently became golf’s leading story (spare us Tiger’s every move in the FedEx Tournament).

At the PGA Championship held at Whistling Straits Golf Club in Wisconsin, Dustin Johnson, who had the lead going into the 18th hole of the final round, was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a hazard, aka bunker or sand trap. The problem was, at this tournament, unlike other tournaments, spectators were permitted inside the hazards. (Don’t ask. I don’t have a clue.)

Johnson’s drive off the 18th tee found a hazard. Sizing up the situation, Johnson thought his shot had landed on a sandy part of the golf course and not in a hazard since there were spectators standing all around the ball. He placed his club behind the ball, touching the ground twice before hitting his shot. Perfectly O.K. if you’re not in a hazard, but unfortunately for Johnson, Rule No. 13-4 had been violated: “The player must not touch the ground in the hazard with his hand or a club.”

Johnson bogeyed the 18th hole, forcing the tournament into a playoff. Johnson thought he would be in the playoff, but as he was leaving the green he was informed by a rules official that he would be assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in the bunker on the final hole. His hopes for his first major championship were denied by the golf police.

This situation has created much discussion about whether or not Johnson should have been penalized. I went out and spoke to some folks to get their thoughts on the subject.

Dave Haurus of Cutchogue: “If I recollect, the rules were printed. The player or his caddy should have read them. Johnson was a real sportsman.”

Lynne Webster of East Marion: “There was a sign in the clubhouse. He should have asked for a ruling or assumed it was in a sand trap.”

Charles Sidorowicz of Mattituck: “He should have read the rules. It’s unfortunate. The bunker should have been marked off to indicate it was a hazard. I would not have thought it was a bunker, but rules are rules.”

Kevin Webster of East Marion: “I heard the rules were even posted in the stalls in the players’ bathroom. Allowing spectators to stand in the traps, though, was a bad idea.”

TEE TIMES Henry Stasiukiewicz of Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue called me with a few recent holes-in-one at his course. Sean Kinane aced the sixth hole, 10-year-old Conor O’Neill holed out on the third hole and Judy Broderick had her ace on the eighth hole. Congratulations, folks.

Recommended reading: “Dream On — One Hack Golfer’s Challenge to Break Par in a Year”, by John Richardson (192 pages, Skyhorse Publishing). A fun read about how a determined 24-handicap golfer strives to break par in one year’s time. ” ‘Dream On’ can inspire and motivate you to push yourself to set and achieve any goals you may have,” said

19TH HOLE “Golf is a game of body and mind — a merger very few can conquer.”