Jamie Wallace, manager of Rules education and digital content for the USGA, recently sat down to answer some questions about his role.
How did you first get involved with the game of golf?
I was lucky enough to come from a family of golfers who introduced me to the game at a very young age. I still remember my very first round of golf, and even remember my very first shot on a golf course. I was about 5 years old and played four holes with my mom and granddad. I hit my favorite club, a cut-down 5-iron, straight into a thick bush full of bees.
Perhaps as a sign of things to come, I distinctly remember being adamant that I needed to play the ball as it lay in the bush. But my mom and granddad forced me to take a drop!
I understand your family’s involvement in the game of golf goes back pretty far, correct?
Yes, my great-great-grandfather was a man named Robert White, who came over to America from Scotland in 1894 and ended up as the first president of The PGA of America in 1916. He was a club professional, greenkeeper, golf course architect, and founding member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA).
Did you play the game competitively? Tell us a little bit about your experience playing the game competitively.
I really caught the golf bug around age 12. Up to that point, I played as many sports as I could fit into my schedule. Those sports gradually fell by the wayside as I got more into competitive golf. I played through high school and then for four years at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
How did you end up in your current role with the USGA?
After graduation, I worked for a digital education company offering online tutoring and test prep services, but I knew that I wanted to follow my real passion and work in golf. I was fortunate enough to land in my current role as manager of Rules education and digital content about a year and a half ago.
What does your role entail?
I work to make the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status as accessible and understandable to the average golfer as possible. These days, the best way to do this is through the digital landscape. Along with The R&A, the USGA writes and interprets the Rules, so we should be providing resources for golfers who have questions about them or want to learn more.
We are currently expanding our educational offerings from the traditional, in-person Rules of Golf Workshop program to include digital education tools such as our Rules of Golf mobile app and our interactive Rules of Golf Experience. We also recently launched a new Spanish Rules of Golf Resources page. Check back soon though – much more to come in the near future!
What excites you about your position in the Rules department?
I am excited by the opportunity to help golfers merge the Rules of Golf with their enjoyment of the game. Many people tend to view the Rules as separate from the sport that they play and part of my role is aimed at removing that divide. The Rules, etiquette and spirit of golf are all integral parts of the game and part of what makes our sport so unique. I am excited to share this content with golfers in new, engaging formats with the goal of having people view the Rules from a new perspective.
What have you most enjoyed in your role up to this point?
The opportunity to combine my love of the game of golf with my experience in digital education has been incredible so far. Simply having a small say in the mission and impact of the USGA is very rewarding. I look forward to coming to work every day.
I recently returned from working my first two championships, the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Amateur. It was invaluable to see firsthand how a USGA championship comes together, both from a Rules perspective as well as from the golf fan’s perspective.
What do you find interesting about the Rules of Golf? Do you have a favorite Rule?
When I first started in this role, I had a view of the Rules of Golf as fairly cut and dry. If you had studied and knew the Rules and Decisions well, there would be a simple answer to every question. That is certainly not the case! I love the fact that there are infinite variables on a golf course – no two courses and no two golf swings are identical. On a daily basis here in the Rules department, we get questions from golfers that we had never heard of or even considered.
Choosing a favorite Rule is hard to do. Coming from a background as a competitive golfer, I always liked the insurance that Rule 3-3 provided. As a junior golfer, I certainly did not know the Rules very well and often invoked Rule 3-3 by playing two balls if I was ever unsure of how to proceed. Junior golf organizations were great about highlighting this Rule to make sure competitors used it when needed.
Favorite golf course?
As far as enjoyment and nostalgia, nothing beats the little nine-hole course I grew up playing with my family and friends, the Moorestown Field Club. It is a short, narrow, traditional golf course with tiny greens that has been around since 1892, and many of my fondest memories in the game took place there. Otherwise, I have been lucky enough to play some great golf courses and would list Merion’s East Course as second to none.
Like nearly every young golfer in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was in awe of what Tiger Woods was able to accomplish. I also admire how much success Jim Furyk continues to have with an unorthodox golf swing and average distance off the tee.
What is one improvement you’d like to see in the game?
I would love to see, and am working toward, a greater public understanding of the Rules of Golf and the objectives behind them. They are not written to trap the golfer or be overly penal – they are simply designed to be as fair as possible and to standardize the game around the world. I look forward to spreading that message far and wide!
Jamie Wallace can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (908) 326-1865.
To ask a Rules of Golf question, call 908-326-1850 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.