High School Golfers & The Rules of the Game


By Serena Thiede

The game of golf is known for its rules. In high school, these rules help to shape players and often are vital to their attitude and success on and off the course. But what happens when a student-athlete does not comply with them?

Sportsmanlike conduct is an essential aspect of any sport but in golf it may count just as much as one’s score. When someone starts playing the game, the frustrations of a slice or a fast green can get under even the toughest athlete’s skin. Yet no matter how difficult the game gets, certain rules cannot be broken. Just like any other rule, they are in place to not only teach the athletes how to behave but also keep the game safe, courteous and enjoyable. 

Big triggers of unsportsmanlike conduct are actions such as throwing your club, purposely breaking a club, profanity, and damaging property. All are counted as unsportsmanlike conduct under the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) as well as in many states around the country. These actions are avoidable and show a lack of respect for the game, one’s playing partners, and the course hosting the tournament.

Grand Rapids’ Forest Hills Central HS varsity golfer Philip Murdock commented on inappropriate conduct saying, “It’s really unfortunate how much unsportsmanlike conduct impacts rounds in junior golf. It is simply embarrassing sharing a course with someone so disrespectful to the game and it ruins the experience as a whole.”

MHSAA oversees high school in Michigan

MHSAA oversees high school golf in Michigan

Upon receiving a report of unsportsmanlike conduct, the Tournament Manager and Rules Committee will investigate the circumstances with the player and his/her playing partners to confirm the facts and exercise the following options: Option one, if the conduct is deemed to be inappropriate but not serious, a warning, followed by a one-stroke penalty is satisfactory with subsequent sportsmanship violations resulting in a DQ; Option two, issue the general penalty on the player;  Option three, a DQ for the remainder of the day/round only; Option four, if the conduct is deemed to be a flagrant unsportsmanlike violation under MHSAA Regulation V, Section 3, a DQ is issued with the player also suspended from the next day of competition, a decision to be made jointly with the Tournament Manager and MHSAA. A Tournament Manager may proceed immediately to Option four, if the conduct is flagrant and unsportsmanlike.

The Mines Golf Course owner and long-time high school and college golf coach Chris Sobieck shared his feelings towards the athletic code of conduct saying, “I think the code of conduct is pretty important for young golfers; all athletes need to hold themselves to a very high standard.” 

There is no doubt that these rules and standards enrich not only the athletes but also the game of golf.  Whether you follow the sport or not, the values instilled in high school athletes are some of the most important on and off the course.

This is a guest column by Serena Thiede, a senior at Forest Hills Central HS in Grand Rapids where she’s the editor-in-chief of the FHC Sports Report and played two years on the golf team.


images courtesy of the USGA and MHSAA

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