In the most recent issue of Golf Monthly, Luke Norman has written an interesting column about the rules. For those who haven?t read it (yet) the general gist is this: Luke has a scratchy knowledge of the rules that he thinks is healthy as it promotes a spirit of sportsmanship so instead of trying to catch people out with the intricacies of each rule he does whatever he thinks is fair in any rules-related situation. This is an endearing attitude albeit totally naive. So I am going to use this blog to explain to you as well as to Luke, why he is wrong.

There is an ugly side to human nature that appears in almost every sport. Take footballers for instance. Diving, feigning injury, trying to get other players booked and bullying the referee are all means by which players attempt to manipulate the outcome. This is cheating (not gamesmanship) and it happens in every form of the game, from Premiership to Sunday league. Because everyone is doing it, there?s a general level of acceptance.

Of course, it is not just footballers that knowingly break the rules. Bowlers appeal when they know a batsman?s not out, rugby players gouge and stamp their way over an opposition pack and formula one teams will order lesser drivers to take out major opponents.

Much as we might like to think it, golfers are not morally superior beings. We are made up of the same flesh, blood and vices as everyone else. Importantly however, our game relies on us policing ourselves. To compete fairly it?s imperative that we have a clear and strict set of guidelines that we each understand and follow. If every golfer was to take Luke?s ill-informed approach to the rules, we?d soon start pushing our collective luck. Knowing that we?d probably get away with taking an extra club length for a crucial drop or treating a clump of mud on the ball as a loose impediment, we?d all start taking regular ?relief?. Before long an independent, unbiased ref capable of taking barrage of abuse on the chin, would be required for every single match. The point I?m trying to make is that the current rules work perfectly to remove temptation. Because they are so strict and because there are enough of us (I?m including myself in this) around who know them well, we are all able inhabit the sporting moral high ground.

So to sum up I?m going to leave you with a rather elaborate analogy. Think of yourself as Adam in sport?s the Garden of Eden. At the moment, life is good. You are not tempted to go anywhere near that tree with all its plump, juicy apples because the repercussions would be bad. For now the evil snake remains caged (I?m not sure where I?m heading with this) but if you (or your wife???) let your guard slip, temptation will be too strong to resist. We will inevitably fall from our paradise into an ugly world of cheating, spitting footballers. That would be bad.

I rest my case.