Why I’m taking the next step in my R&A qualifications


We like to call him our Rules of Golf expert and, if he passes this R&A exam, he might even believe it himself. Let Steve Carroll enlighten you about his latest journey through the world of subsections and definitions

Level 3. What’s it really like? I’ve sent refereeing friends of mine to near distraction by asking this question parrot fashion over the last couple of years.

Now, I’m going to find out. And, if you’re willing, I’d like to tell you all about it.

Just before the pandemic struck – in what seems another world ago – I went from a Rules of Golf dunce to distinction.

In 10 weeks, I managed to take myself from someone who had no more than the knowledge many of us carry to get round the course in one piece to a 90% mark in The R&A’s Level 2 exam.

I found out a couple of things about myself along the way. I realised I enjoyed the challenge of solving rules puzzles but also desired to use my newfound skills in the real world as a tournament referee.

While Covid has limited that dream, a week spent as part of the team officiating the North of England Amateur only reinforced my ambitions.

So what’s next? For those with a passion for the rules and for running competitions, that’s Level 3 TARS.

It’s a neat acronym and it stands for Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar. As the name implies, it’s about far more than merely finding the correct answers to a set of multiple-choice questions.

TARS gives guidance and practical advice on running tournaments and refereeing. It covers course set-up and marking, pace of play and suspensions, and starting and recording.

Role playing refereeing situations – exactly the type of pressure-cooker I’ve largely missed over the last two years – are also a crucial part.

In just a couple of weeks, at Formby Hall, I will attend this seminar and try to pass the Level 3 exam.

It is a privilege to do so. The TARS seminar is generally by invitation only and I am hugely grateful to The R&A for extending me the opportunity.

What I can tell you is that I will leave no stone unturned in my bid to make the best of this chance. 

As I write this, I’ll have had my head back in the book for more than a month. I want to say that getting back into studying has been like slipping on a comfortable pair of jeans.

But what surprised me a little is how much I’d forgotten – and that’s despite writing a weekly column and regular articles on the rules.

This time the reading material is also a little more comprehensive. We’ve gone from the 200-page Rules of Golf to the 522-sheet Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, replete with meaty interpretations on aspects of the 24-rules and definitions themselves and nearly 150 pages of Committee Procedures and Local Rules.

I began this with a question. The answer, from almost everyone, was “another step up”. But what I hope to show you is that it is achievable and that, for those who want to take a higher road in their rules education or are just beginning on the journey, you should take that step forward.

Let’s get started. 

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