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Structure of GC Refereeing - Consultation

[<<] [>>] by Martin French
15th July 2014 (CA Official News)

Association Croquet has Assistant Referees, Referees and Championship Referees. Golf Croquet just has Referees. (Both codes also have Examining Referees, concerned with the running of courses and examining candidates.) Should GC now also adopt some kind of structure for its on-court refereeing?

Who is being Asked?

  • all GC Referees
  • players
  • GC Rules Committee
  • GC Tournaments Committee


Your thoughts are appreciated by the end of September 2014. Please send them, in whatever form is easiest for you, to martin.french#btinternet.com. The intention is for the GC Rules Committee, with the help of the GC Examining Referees, to finalise any changes during the winter and - with Council approval where necessary - to introduce those in time for the 2015 season.


Bill Arliss has trained and appointed many (most?) of the current GC referees, and is to be thanked. He has written the current examination papers and striven to set a high standard - to show GC is a serious sport. I would like to build on this basis and develop further how GC referees are appointed in the Domain.

In recent years, at least one GC Examining Referee has been appointed in every Federation (bar one).

Currently, the GC rules exam has the "pass mark" bar set quite high and consequently, many enthusiastic club and federation GC players have failed to become approved GC referees. On some courses, less than half the candidates have passed the exam. For some this may have been a demoralising and demotivating experience - and could represent a loss to our sport and to their clubs and federations. The counter-argument is that it would be wrong to water-down the pass mark to become a basic referee - there is no particular shortage of GC referees at this time (there are just over 100) so it can be argued there is no need to offer a lower pass mark to allow more people to become a GC referee. Your thoughts are requested on this particular matter of the appropriate minimum standard to be an official referee.

This structure leaves all of our GC referees as apparently of 'one standard' - which seems unlikely. Clearly, someone who has been a ref for a few years, played in several championships, got a low handicap and a reasonable ranking grade is likely to be better qualified to referee our premier events or a world championship than someone else who has either only just qualified, or who has a high handicap and has never played in a ranking event.

In AC for many decades, there have been three tiers of referees, with some of the most experienced referees who regularly play in top class events becoming AC Championship Referees (by taking a follow-up tougher on-lawn test as well as having 2+ years' experience as a full ref). The third tier - AC Assistant Referees - are not a lower grade than full AC Referees, but rather are qualified to act only for the more commonly occurring situations, rather than those needing extensive knowledge of the laws (which are more complex than the rules of GC).

The GC infrastructure and circuit in England has matured to the point where we could also consider introducing some distinction between referees depending on their experience and skill.

The most obvious improvement is to create a tier of more experienced refs and call them "GC Championship Referees". These would be the referees we would be happy to be on call during the Open Championship or a World Championship, and who would be prepared to officiate in these high-profile events.

It is likely - as in AC - the majority of referees would remain as GC Referees.

It's more debatable whether to create a third tier equivalent to the "AC Assistant Referee". If we did, perhaps a better term might be "GC Federation Referee" or "GC Club Referee"? In the following I call them "Tier 3 Refs" as a working title. A Tier 3 Ref would be able to officiate at club events and federation matches, but not at CA calendar fixtures for example - or like in AC, might be limited to the kinds of situation they are qualified to resolve.

Criteria for Each Grade

If it were decided to make either or both of these distinctions, we would need to be clear on the criteria for each tier. Below are some first ideas:

Tier 3 Referee

We might, for example, introduce two pass marks for our GC refereeing exams. Those who passed the higher bar would become GC Referees, and those who didn't score so highly but still passed a respectable level including passing the on-lawn test would become Tier 3 Referees. Currently, the pass mark to become a Referee is 70%, so Tier 3 pass mark might be set at 60% perhaps?

This approach would have the merit that the existing style of exam and on-lawn test (and course) would work for both Tier 3 Refs and GC Referees. Alternatively, we might develop a simpler exam for this tier that focuses more on the kinds of everyday issues that come up in club and federation play, and avoided the most complex situations on which a full GC Referee would be expected to officiate.


No change from the current situation is envisaged. Passing the exam and on-lawn test with over 70% required. A qualified GC Referee would continue to be able to officiate at all events in clubs, federations and the CA Calendar, apart from designated top-grade championships.

Championship Referee

Criteria to be considered as a Championship Referee could be:

  1. Been an active GC Referee for at least 2 years, and
  2. Low GC handicap (cut-off somewhere in the 2-4 range), and
  3. Evidence of playing in top class GC events (say ranking grade of >1800).

Candidates could apply to the GC Rules Committee for consideration at any time, and there would be an initial one-off exercise to consider the experience and playing level of all existing referees, from which some would be invited to become the initial tranche of Championship Referees.

Alternatively, or additionally, we might consider an additional more thorough on-lawn test for candidates, much as AC does.

The GC Tournament Committee is currently reviewing the GC calendar with a view to reducing the number of "championships" that are not really top class events. This will likely produce the list of truly top-class events for which Championship Referees would be required.

Downsides of Any Changes

It is inevitable that some people who are currently referees will be disappointed not to be included in the "top tier" - so we must be open about the criteria used and apply them fairly and consistently. This would indicate that having a further on-lawn test would be worthwhile, to avoid any concern of "cronyism".

We would need to devise a suitable more thorough on-lawn test, and run any test sessions required.

Potential Benefits

The chief benefit is that we should be more confident that the decisions at our major events are taken by the most experienced and qualified referees.

Likewise, enthusiastic candidates who attend our courses and (today) go away have just failed to reach the grade, could now be credited with becoming a Tier 3 Ref and so remain active in their club and federation.

It will be easier to target additional training in new laws, rulings and commentary on the tier of referees most likely to be affected by each change.

What Events Would Use Which Kind of Referee?

Although I have indicated above a suggested allocation, this is ultimately a decision for the GC Tournament Committee, the Tournament Director or Tournament Referee - and will always have to be shaped by what's practically possible with the resources available.

Sometimes, there will be sufficient Championship Referees, for example, to require that only they may officiate at a championship. Other times, it may be necessary to use the approach seen at recent AC championships, when the TR appoints the available Championship Referees to cover all duties and specifies a more limited set of things other Referees might decide.

Martin French

GC Rules Committee

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