was just about to retire and spend the rest of his days in pursuit of birdies
and aces when wife Cindy remarked, “You can’t spend every day playing
have blinked for a moment like a deer in the headlights. “I think my first year
of retirement I probably tried,” he says. It even occurred to him that he might
shave a few strokes off his index (now 16.1 at Indian Peaks) if he knew the
rules better, so he went to a rules school at the USGA’s New Jersey
met Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jim Bunch, who told him, “If you want to give
back to the game and really learn the rules, call the CGA and start
were those headlights again. Brad took Bunch’s words to heart and has since
become a top rules official for not only the CGA, but the NCAA and USGA. In
addition to not playing golf every day, he’s officiating 50 to 70 tournaments a
year – while also teaching rules classes and seminars and continuing to attend
“My wife is right,”
says Brad. “You can’t play golf every day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be
on the golf course most every day.”
sense that the Rules of Golf are unendingly fascinating to Brad Wiesley. He
retired after 35 years in law enforcement. Policies, procedures and
communications expertise seem to be strong prerequisites, from the likes of his
colleagues on the CGA Rules of Golf committee. There’s Tom Kennedy, a retired
judge. Karla Harding, a retired traffic engineer. Sandy Schnitzer, a retired
public school educator.
actively recruiting one or two pilots who are close to mandatory retirement,”
Brad says. “Pilots deal with rules and procedures as part of their job.”
Are you a
closet rules nerd, rules geek, or rules volunteer? Whatever the label, if you review
the CGA Referee Training and
and decide to get official, here are three of your kind.
might sound familiar because Laura was executive director of the CWGA before
the women’s and men’s associations became one in 2018. Kate Moore, then the
CWGA director of competitions, told her, “If you’re going to be the executive
director of a golf association, you should know the rules.” So they signed up
for the USGA’s four-day class in March 2017 in Pomona, Calif.
hadn’t really looked at the rules,” Laura remembers. “To me, the rules were
this skinny little book that you put in your golf bag. And then I discovered a
thing called the decisions book, which was over 500 pages long and had all the
exceptions to the rules. And I realized that while the rules might be easy at
the 20,000-foot level, once you peel back the layers, you see that there are
all these different variables, and different, unique things that can happen.
That is because the golf course is not a tennis court or a basketball court,
where things are fixed.”
retired now and plays recreational golf as a member of Hiwan for the season,
evacuating to Florida for her winter golf. But she hasn’t gotten over her
fascination with the rules of golf, serving as a rules volunteer for both the
CGA and the FSGA while enjoying solving “rules geek” scenarios with a mentor
and fellow volunteers.
natural problem solver,” she says. “I started my career in credit card
operations for American Express. And operations is all rules, policies and
procedures. I was with Amex Europe when the Berlin Wall came down. West Germany
had credit cards, but East Germany did not. And so all of a sudden we had to
figure out the policies and the procedures for East Germans, when there was no
credit history to make decisions.”
rules officiating sounds just as rewarding – especially working junior
tournaments, where the young players need lots of help navigating rules
I worked a junior tournament, and on the last hole the last group, two young
men, 13 years old, hit their second shots within six inches of each other,” she
says. “And they called me over, asking, what do we do?”
the player closer to the hole how to mark and lift his ball so the other could
play first, and the boys were smiling and happy at the solution. “A father came
over and said, thanks for helping out. That happens a lot. We’re there to help,
and to make it fair.”
officiating really isn’t like his old job in law enforcement, says Brad. “If
you stop somebody for a traffic violation or have some kind of criminal
behavior, they’re not writing themselves the ticket or arresting themselves.
The officer makes the call whether to send the person to court, give them a
warning, do what is appropriate to the situation. The officer actually has some
discretion about how the enforcement happens.
there’s no discretion. I can’t walk up and say, well, this is just a warning
for hitting the ball in the pond. No penalty on this one today, that’s your
warning, let’s not do it again.”
says, “Most golfers want to play within the rules and do the right thing. Very
few are trying to get away with stuff. Generally, if people aren’t applying
penalties, it’s because they don’t know about them.”
Brad says he
doesn’t levy penalties, the rules do. He prefers officiating at the college
level, where he spots future superstars like Collin Morikawa and can help save
strokes even for players who know the rules.
there are situations where really good golfers can head down a path where they
just have no idea about the rules and how they apply,” he says. And then he tells
of a college kid who got into such trouble on a par-3 that he was coming up
with a score of 14 or 15. “I got there and listened to the whole story and got
some help from some other rules officials because it was all so complicated.
But by the time we got done with it, his actual score was an eight. So I ended
up saving him about six strokes by applying the rules correctly.
“A lot of
the satisfaction in this comes from helping somebody to get it right,
especially when they’re not sure.”
executive director of the CGA wears his badge as “ultimate rules nerd” of the
association with pride. He and Director of Rules and Competitions Lewis Harry
enjoy bantering about this rule or that one, often humorously, on their monthly
Spirit of the Game YouTube episodes. He oversees the association’s rules programs
and volunteers, and attends Rules of Golf committee meetings.
“I love the
term ‘nerd,’ “ he says. “I mean, nerds are some of the coolest people in the
world. They’re cerebral, and curious, and they take a deep interest in going
beyond the surface of something. I close my eyes and picture our rules
committee, and they’re all nerds and I love them for it.”
affair with the rules began when he had to know them in his job as PGA section
tournament director. He needed a score of at least 92 for credibility’s sake,
so he memorized the “definitions” section of the Rules book because, he likes
to say, “The rules define golf and the definitions define the rules.” The
strategy worked, and since then his rules expertise carried over to CGA
tournaments and even to U.S. Opens.
that lawyers make good rules officials, with one caveat: “Helpfulness is the
human quality we look for. You really are there to help. And the people there
to ‘gotcha,’ the mall cop with the chest puffed out, officious, ‘I’m in charge,’
they’re the worst. Every time I go into a rules situation, I always say, ‘How
can I help you?’ Instead of going in with an attitude of, ‘Oh, what’s this guy
trying to get away with?’ “
valuable quality: the ability to operate a radio and cell phone and the
willingness to use them. Rules volunteers on the course can always radio a
captain – someone like Brad Wiesley, for instance – for help in a complicated
situation. And championship competitors can themselves reach out directly to CGA
staffers by calling the number on their scorecard.
lunches, uniforms and thank-you gifts among the rewards rules volunteers can
expect, but he says the biggest one is intrinsic. “These are almost all retired
people, looking for something to do that they find meaningful and a community
to stay engaged with. And rules officiating keeps your brain sharp.”
The best of
the best might ultimately be reimbursed for expenses and even paid, as Brad is
for his NCAA work, or catch the eye of the USGA and officiate events as big as
the U.S. Open.
pretty much word of mouth,” says Ed. “You just do good work and good things
Get started in
the apprentice program by visiting the CGA’s Volunteer Center.
journalist Susan Fornoff has written about golf for publications including the
San Francisco Chronicle, ColoradoBiz magazine and her own GottaGoGolf.com. She
became a CGA member when she moved from Oakland, CA, to Littleton in 2016, and
ghost-writes as “Molly McMulligan,” the CGA’s on-course consultant on golf for
fun. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.