Header Image Courtesy of Slugger White. On the April 19th Episode of Stick & Hack On Air, Adam and Mike chat with Head Rules Official Slugger White. This interview has been edited for clarity and space. Check out the full interview below. 

SH: Let’s get right to the first important question, slugger. What’s the worst rule, in your opinion, in golf today?

Slugger White: Since 2019, a lot of things have changed. And there’s a lot of player-friendly rules there now. I think one of the worst was at one time was conforming clubs, when you played with it, you got disqualified. I never liked the ball being blown away when you marked on the putting green. It was one of my pet peeves. But now, that’s all changed. So there’s a lot of it that has become much more player-friendly now.

SH:  So Slugger, in your job, you’re only needed when there’s trouble at hand. What would people be surprised at hearing about your job that they don’t even know you actually do? 

Slugger White: That’s the thing about behind the scenes. You never liked that red light looking at you. I think the big thing is to make sure that everything is in play, that television is taken care of. We deal with TV a lot. In the past we had to make sure that we’re on time, finishing at six o’clock. We have to deal with the weather. Weather is probably the biggest thing we deal with a lot of times.

SH: You’ve been inside the ropes with literally all of the golfers in the last 40 years. Who are some of your favorites?

Slugger White: Oh, some of the favorites. I mean, you gotta go with Rickie Fowler or Justin Thomas. It’s just on a personal basis at times. Like, Gary Woodland. They don’t get any better than that. Just guys that you see that just come across really, really good on the air. 

SH: Those guys, they don’t like fighting with you and with the rules officials because they know that at the end of the day, the rule is the rule. It’s not your rule. You didn’t make it up there on the spot, but they don’t like the interpretation of the rules sometimes. And that’s where the argument can come into play. Have there been times where you remember thinking to yourself, oh my god, this is escalating quickly here, I need to defuse this situation?

Slugger White: I think probably it has, but not to an escalation that would garner anything discipline wise. I know later on I’ve had issues that I would come to guys and say, Look, you and I can go behind the tent or behind the scoring area, and we can settle it back there.

SH: Settle it behind the scoring tent. I don’t Slugger White telling me that on the course. That’s the last thing I want.

Slugger White: Well, you know, my whole thing was, I’ll never embarrass you. Please don’t embarrass me. It’s a gentleman’s game, and that’s the thing about it. These guys are so good. And yeah, everybody has their times. But for the most part, these guys are professional at all times.

SH: What are some of the rule snafoos that you can remember from people that should have known better?

Slugger White: I think the biggest thing probably is temporary and immovable obstructions. They don’t know whether it’s intervention, or just interference. Interventionist is when you’re behind it. Interference is when you’re beside it. They don’t know what to do with that. ANd again, they’re playing for a lot of money, and they don’t want to make a mistake. And when they know that they made a mistake, they have to pay for it. If one of us happens to make a mistake, we can live with that. And they can too.

SH: There’s so many rules. Is it even fathomable that a golfer should know all of them? Or are they really relying on you guys to say, hey, here’s, here’s what your options are?

Slugger White: I don’t think that they do know the ins and outs. I think that they do depend on one of us to guide them through. They don’t want to make that mistake. Justin Thomas used to ask me rules all the time, even during playoffs. And I’d say “you know what, you need to go ahead and keep playing, Okay? Let’s talk about this later.” But it was unbelievable. And Jimmie Johnson was caddy for him. Jimmy looked to me and said, “I listen to this all day long.” So I said, “Well, God love you, man.” Because he’s got to just keep playing.

SH: You have been able to connect with a lot of those golfers and become somewhat friendly to them, even though you are the one ultimately in charge of the rules and the competition itself.

Slugger White: And I think they know that, and that’s the good part about it. I go back a long time with a lot of these guys– 40, 45 years with some of these guys. I like the idea of knowing their names, or caddies names. It’s nice to walk into a situation and say what can I help you with? And, we’ll just go from there.

SH: Do you know what’s happening in the game at the time of a call? Or do you just roll up on your cart and go, Yeah, you hit you move the pebble in the sand trap, and I’ll tell you, you’re plus one now.

Slugger White: I think we all roll into situations where you’re dealing with a golf ball, and the golf ball does not have a face on it. And when you deal with that, you don’t think about whether there’s something down the line that is going to happen. You just have to deal with it at that point in time. Tell me what you’ve done, and we’ll go from there. Let’s work this out.

SH: You know you were named VP of rules and competition for the LIV Entertainment Golf League back in November of last year. This is after you retired in your current role. And you said, “I’m not quite done giving the world of golf the Slugger White treatment.” So you were named a VP of rules and competition for LIV Entertainment Golf. Now that’s Greg Norman’s operation. And we all know that it’s had an incredibly bumpy start here at the beginning of 2022. Has this been blown out of proportion in your mind? Or do you see the issues at hand between the PGA TOUR, LIV Entertainment as this rival golf league that is trying to upstart itself?

Slugger White: I kind of stay out of that situation, which is a good thing for me. There are a lot of positives that come from Greg. All the concentration right now is on Asia. There’s a lot of upbeat to it. And we’ll just have to see where this takes us.