Opening Statements

App translates rules of golf into plain English

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Image from University
of Chicago Press.

So convoluted are the rules of golf that they can confound even lawyers. When first set down in Scotland in 1744, they consisted of just 338 words. Today, the official rules have ballooned to more than 40,000 words, and making sense of them often requires reference to the 700-page companion Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

When Jeffrey Kuhn attended a seminar on legal writing in plain English given by language guru Bryan A. Garner, he had an idea. A corporate lawyer by day, Kuhn moonlights as a volunteer rules official for the United States Golf Association. During a break in Garner’s seminar, Kuhn approached him and said, “What we should really work on is the rules of golf.”

The twosome then produced The Rules of Golf in Plain English. First published in 2004, the book is now in its third edition. It is the authors’ attempt to bring clarity to golf’s Byzantine rules—not by explaining them, they say, but by translating them, faithfully, into plain English. All well and good, but clubs are burden enough for 18 holes without adding a book. For that reason, the golfers among you will be pleased to learn that their book is now available in a mobile version for iPhones and iPads.

With this book teed up on your mobile device, you can forget about bringing your legal skills to the course and focus instead on fixing that swing.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “i-Tee Time: App translates rules of golf into plain English.”


To purchase The Rules of Golf in Plain English app: First, download the free app Rulebook from iTunes. The book is then available for purchase inside the app for $9.99, and accessible on your iPhone or iPad.

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