Tuesday, 27 January 2015

John Paramor's Memo on Provisional Balls

John Paramor (Photo: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie)
I want to begin this week’s blog by emphasising that I have taken the information from an article in last Sunday’s Scotsman newspaper, penned by the respected golf media reporter, John Huggan. I have not been able to verify the core detail, despite searching my usual sources. However, I do know that John Huggan was present in Abu Dhabi for the HSBC Golf Championship and on a guest podcast, he claims to have spoken to about 40 of the competitors there, so I have absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of his article's content;
Last week in Abu Dhabi, the European Tour’s chief referee, John Paramor, distributed a memo to every player. The first two sentences of Paramor’s missive read as follows: “In recent weeks, there have been a number of occasions where players have not played a provisional ball when their original ball has not been found. Some of those players when asked for the reason why they had not played a provisional ball stated they were unsure that they were entitled to do so.”

This beggars belief. These players are the sporting equivalent of lollipop ladies who have neglected to read even the first page of the Green Cross Code. That’s bad enough, but their lack of knowledge of Rule 27-2 surely adds – at a conservative estimate – as much as 20 minutes to tournament rounds.

And there’s more. Further down the page, Paramor cites another example of the sort of things he and his overworked team have to deal with. During last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, an unnamed individual pushed his approach to the 15th green way right of the putting surface. Only after walking forward did he ascertain that the ball was out of bounds.

Having done so, Player X trudged all the way back to where he hit his original shot. He then hit his next ball right of the green into a similar area. Here’s where it gets really bad though. Without either hitting a provisional ball, or walking forward as he had done previously, X simply stood and waited for news. That’s waited. And waited. And waited. What a dope. Eventually, he was penalised two shots for “undue delay of play”. All because he clearly had no idea what he was doing.

So what’s going on here?

“The current generation of young players is the first who don’t seem to have learned the game on the golf course,” points out Ogilvy, who is 37
(Geoff Ogilvy, Australian Pro golfer). “These days, they seem to learn golf on the range, with the Trackman machines and their coaches beside them. But that’s not golf, of course, it’s just hitting.

“All I ever did growing up was play golf. And when you do that you learn the rules as you go. Every few days, a rule comes up. Things happen. But when all you do is hit balls on the range, you never learn rules. And there’s too much of that in the modern game, certainly compared with what has gone before.”

“I’m not saying guys shouldn’t hit balls in an effort to improve,” says Ogilvy. “But there is a knock-on effect when a guy spends more time on the range than on the course. It would be interesting if part of gaining a tour card were passing a basic rules test. Maybe the only thing I can say in defence of players is that the rules on tour often vary from those everyone else plays by. Then again, we’re not really talking about such things here. It’s not asking much for us to understand and deal with situations that come up during nearly every round.

“There are what might be called ‘core’ rules, those we all have to know if the game is to be played properly. Just a working knowledge of those is going to make you safe 99.9 per cent of the time. And if something really extraordinary does happen, by all means call for a referee. Bottom line: we just need to know a few of the rules.”
  - John Huggan, Scotland on Sunday, 25th January, 2015.
Some readers may remember that back in March 2010, I wrote a blog titled, ‘Tour Players to Go ‘Back to School’ over Rules’. At that time, the European Tour had announced plans to educate players on simple rulings, so as to reduce the number of times that they delay play by waiting for a referee to make what usually turn out to be a straightforward ruling. Click here to read the blog. Unfortunately, when I queried the R&A, last June, on how many times they had imposed a sanction on a tour player following the introduction of this plan, they would not share any details. But their spokesperson did comment, “Until recently, this has acted as a deterrent and we have had few of these rulings requests, but we are quite willing to firstly remind the players that this policy is in force and that we are ready to enforce it where necessary.”

Hmmmm. Perhaps the time has come to re-visit this plan and either enforce it, or come up with some other solution. One suggestion is that players who ask for a referee, when it is obvious as to how they should proceed under the Rules, should be penalised under Rule 6-7 if they cause in excess of a two minutes delay, by having to wait for an unnecessary ruling. My guess is that it would only take a few instances of penalties being imposed for delaying play by waiting for a ruling on a trivial Rules issue, before players would realise that it was in their financial interest to take time to learn the basics for themselves. You may remember from another earlier blog of mine, George Peper estimated that by learning what he called the ‘10 Golden Rules of Golf’, players would be able to resolve 90% of the Rules situations that are routinely encountered on the course (check this link).

One of the many ways to help resolve the slow play problem is to learn the ‘10 Golden Rules of Golf’.

(Edit January 27th, 2015: A reader has pointed out that rather than causing a delay, by waiting for a ruling from a referee who may take some time to arrive, the player should play a second ball, strictly following the procedure in Rule 3-3. See this blog for details.)

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Non-Conforming Club - Matt Every

Getty Images; D.J. Piehowski/PGA TOUR
There was an unusual disqualification at the Sony Open in Hawaii last Friday and to the credit of the player involved, it was he who drew attention to his transgression. Matt Every, last year’s winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA Tour event, was disqualified for a breach of Rule 4-1, because he used a club that he had damaged other than in the normal course of play, which made it non-conforming. The circumstance was that Every had substantially bent his 4-iron, “out of frustration”, on the 18th hole of his opening round on Thursday. The following report of Every’s explanation, as to how the club remained in his bag on the second day of the event, is taken from Stephanie Wei’s excellent ‘Wei Under Par’ blog;
“There’s no good a bent club can do in my bag, obviously, so I was planning to throw it away (after the first round),” said Every. “Then on the range this morning, I was using it as an alignment stick because it’s only bent on the bottom and you can’t really tell.”

Once again, Every wanted to throw it away, but instead, he ended up putting it upside-down in his bag, so you could only see the butt of the grip.

“At some point between then and my 9th hole (18) today, it got turned back to normal,” he said. “I was looking down and just grabbed the 4-iron out of the bag. It wasn’t bent bad, just at the bottom there was a curve. If you were setting it up to hit a shot, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

“I was giving the club back to (my caddie) Derek (Mason) and my hands went to the middle of the club and I could tell it was bent. I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I knew a new 4-iron didn’t get put in the bag overnight.”
Every admitted that he was familiar with the Rule and knew right away that it was a breach. He then called over an official who confirmed that he was indeed disqualified. What surprises me about this conversation is that another report on the incident quotes PGA Rules official, John Mutch as saying;
“He asked for a second opinion on the bend. The bend in this club was about 10 inches up from the neck. It was substantial.”
So, Every was familiar with the Rule, knew that he had breached it, asked an official to confirm the penalty, but he still sought a second opinion!

Had Every taken the club out of his bag after finishing his round on Thursday he would not have incurred any penalty. However, as it was a stroke play competition, as soon as he started his round the following day with the non-conforming (bent) club he was subject to a penalty of two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes; but because he used the club in its damaged state on his 9th hole the penalty incurred increased to disqualification.

To summarise;
  • It is Rule 4 that deals with clubs.
  • A club that has a significant bend in its shaft is non-conforming.
  • If the club is damaged during the normal course of play it may be used, repaired or replaced during the round, but not otherwise. (Note that Decision 4-3/1 * clarifies what is meant by normal course of play.)
  • A player incurs a penalty for starting a round with a non-conforming club.
  • A player is disqualified for using a non-conforming club during a round.
Good golfing,


* I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have easy access to the R&A’s 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015'. If you do not want it for yourself you should consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. If you are going to purchase this book, or anything else from Amazon, please use this link, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which helps me to meet my costs.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Through the Green

I received a simple question this week,
“How does ‘through the green’ affect the Rules, could you provide an example?”
It made me realise that whilst many of my blogs have included references to ‘through the green’, I have not discussed the meaning of this golf term in detail.

The area ‘through the green’ is often misunderstood by golfers. Common misconceptions are that it is; when a ball goes over the back of the green; another way of describing the fairway; another way of describing the rough; or another way of describing the fairway plus the rough.

Here is the Definition from the front of the Rules book;
“Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except:
a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and
b. All hazards on the course.
Here is an example of how understanding the meaning of ‘through the green’ may affect your play. If your ball lies in the rough, just off the closely mown fairway, and you are taking relief from an immovable obstruction, or an abnormal ground condition (e.g. GUR or casual water), the relief procedures outlined in Rules 24-2b(i) and 25-1b(i), Relief - Through the Green, require that you must drop the ball within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief, which must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. So, if the permitted one club-length relief takes you from the rough to the fairway you are entitled to drop the ball onto the fairway (Decision 24-2b/8). Similarly, if your ball lies on the fairway and a Local Rule for Preferred Lies is in effect, you may place the ball onto the first cut of rough, providing that spot in the rough is within the distance you are entitled to prefer your lie (e.g. within 6 inches, or the width of the score card).

It is worth noting that Rule 25-2 only permits players to take relief for a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in a closely mown area (see this blog for more detail). However, many Committees extend this relief to ‘through the green’. It is my understanding that USGA invokes a Local Rule permitting relief without penalty for embedded balls 'through the green' in all their championships and that most US Clubs follow suit.

Although they are uncommon in Ireland, where I play most of my golf, there are many courses around the world that have ‘waste bunkers’, or ‘waste areas’. These are typically sandy areas, often very large, that might also contain rocks, pebbles, shells and various types of vegetation. Unless otherwise covered by a Local Rule, a waste bunker is not a hazard under the Rules of Golf and is therefore ‘through the green’, meaning that players may ground their club in these areas. (Edit 14th November, 2015: However, note that the specimen local rule in Appendix l, Part B, 4a., which extends Rule 25-2 to areas through the green, excludes a ball that is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.)

I have a little test to finish, to see how closely you have been paying attention! What areas of the course are included in the term ‘through the green’, other than what are commonly referred to as fairways and rough? The answer is below my copyright statement.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Answer: Teeing area (boxes) other than the teeing ground of the hole being played; and putting greens other than the one that is being played. However, note that Rule 25-3 deals separately with a ball that comes to rest on a putting green other than the one being played.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

More Myths about the Rules of Golf

I have previously blogged on the subject of the many myths and misunderstandings that pervade the Rules of Golf. Here are 9 more;

You may not place your hand behind your ball on the putting green to test for wetness.
False. Decision 16-1d/4. The Rule only prohibits rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the putting surface for testing purposes.

You may not draw an unbroken line around the circumference of your golf balls.
False. There is no restriction as to how you personally identify your golf balls.

You may not use a tee pushed into the putting green to mark your ball.
False. Decision 20-1/16. However, whilst this method is permissible, it is not recommended.

You have to place a marker at the two club-lengths limit before taking a penalty drop for an unplayable ball under Rule 28c.
False. The permitted limit does not have to be marked, providing the ball is dropped within the permitted area.

When dropping a ball under the Rules you must face the hole.
False. There is no restriction as to the direction that a player may stand when dropping a ball.

You must use the back of your hand when removing loose impediments from your line of putt.
False. Loose impediments may be removed by any means, providing you do not press down on the line of putt. Decision 23-1/1.

It is against the Rules to have a wager on a game of golf during a stroke play competition.
False. This myth may arise from the fact that the Rules do not permit the play of a match, on which bets are commonly placed, at the same time as the players are participating in a stroke play competition.

In Stableford competitions you may not continue play of a hole if you cannot score any points.
False. Rule 7-2. Strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes.

A ball is not holed unless it is resting at the bottom of the hole, e.g. if it is at rest on another ball in the hole.
False. A ball is “holed” when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole. Definition of Holed.

Good golfing,


P.S. I received several emails questioning the accuracy of Q4 and Q9 in last week’s Rules teasers. I am standing by my answers, but others are trying to get an official response from the Ruling Bodies.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year Rules Teasers

It has been my custom to set a few Rules teasers for readers to think about over the New Year holiday. This year I have 9 questions that may require a little more thought/knowledge than those in my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. Don’t be tempted to check my answers below until you have arrived at an answer of your own.

1.    How can a player win a hole in match play when their opponent has not made a stroke, no concession was made and they did not incur any penalty?

2.    What are the two occasions (edit 4th January 2015: make that three) when a player is not penalised for making a stroke at a ball that is moving?

3.    After a putt for birdie on a par-4, the player’s ball balances on the edge of hole, the player walks up and makes a one-handed stroke at their ball but misses it. The ball falls into the hole anyway. a) Was the ball holed, or does it have to be replaced on the edge of the hole and tapped in? b) What is the player’s score for the hole?

4.    A Local Rule permits taking relief for a ball that is embedded through the green. A player’s ball lands in soft ground entering just inside the out of bounds line, but comes to rest out of bounds. May the player take relief?

5.    Rule 21 details three situations where a ball may not be cleaned when lifted under a Rule. What is a fourth situation?

6.    In a stroke play competition a player did not record any gross score on their score card for their 14th hole, but they were not disqualified and won the competition over the stipulated 18 holes. Explain.

7.    Which Rule is regularly breached at Club level but is rarely penalised because the players, their markers and probably the Committee, do not realise that they have breached a Rule of Golf?

8.    In stroke play, which Rule can be breached without incurring a penalty?

9.    Which of the following statements is incorrect?
a)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their golf balls before their round.
b)    Players may keep their golf balls warm during their round.
c)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their golf balls during their round.
d)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their hands during their round.
 .......or do you think that a), b), c) and d) are all incorrect?

1.    The player had a hole-in-one with a handicap stroke and their opponent did not have a handicap stroke on that hole.
2.    When a player is making their first stroke at a ball on teeing ground (Rule 11-3) and when the ball is moving in water (Rule 14-6). (Edit 4th January 2015: A reader has provided a third occasion; when wind moves a ball after the player has commenced their backswing and it is still moving as they make their stroke at it.)
3.    a) The ball was holed. b) 4 strokes.
4.    The player may take relief. Decision 13/4 clarifies that an embedded ball is considered to be lying in the part of the course where it entered the ground. 
5.    A player may not clean their ball when they lift it to determine whether they are entitled to relief under a Rule, e.g. to determine whether the ball is in a hole made by a burrowing animal, or is embedded (Decision 20-1/0.7).
6.    It was a Stableford or Par/Bogey competition, in which it is not required to mark a score for a hole where no points are scored, or the hole is lost (Decision 32-1/2).
7.    When they start before their scheduled starting time (Decision 6-3a/5).
8.    Rule 10-2c. Competitors may play out of turn, providing they have not agreed to play out of turn to give one of them a competitive advantage.
9.    c) is incorrect. An artificial device may be used to warm golf balls before the round and they may be kept warm during a round, but an artificial device must not be used to warm them during a round. Decision 14-3/13.5. Players may use an artificial device to warm their hands at any time.

How did you do?

Good golfing,


P.S. Apologies that my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site was compromised over the Christmas/New Year holiday period. I am hoping to have it working again very soon.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Excuses for Bad Golf That We Have Probably Used

It is Christmas week, so I am going to skip the Rules for once and hope that you enjoy something much lighter. I am a fan and follower of the very humorous Twitter account, @golfclubwankers (apologies for their name, but I didn’t choose it)! The following excuses made by golfers have been shamelessly copied from their tweets over the past few months. I wonder how many of them you have heard, or used.

“I’m usually better than this”
This excuse is usually a desperate attempt to save face with playing partners, especially if you’re playing with people for the first time. It can also be accompanied by, “I never do that at the range”.

“The wind changed on my back swing”
The perfect excuse to use during even the calmest of days. The change of wind is usually your club whooshing past your ear which is coincidentally the reason you hit the bad shot.

“I just didn’t know how it was going to come out”
Usually reserved for thick lies in the rough, this classic excuse usually comes after you hit a perfect Phil Mickelson escape flop shot, the only problem is you were hitting a 4 iron.

“I haven’t been playing much recently”
A classic excuse that plays on the empathy of all those we play with. Having a baby will definitely ruin your golf game, but it will give you a plethora of additional good excuses.

“That putt would have been in two weeks ago, bloody rain”
There’s no excuse for leaving a putt short, but we seem to invented plenty, blaming the speed of grass seems to be the easiest. A poor excuse but we have all done it.

“I just can’t swing it properly in waterproofs”
Another wet weather excuse, this line is frowned up on at all times, especially if the person saying it has recently spent big money on new Galvin Greens.

“There’s too much / not enough sand in the bunkers”
If you haven’t said this you don’t play enough golf. People will go into a bunker hit one yard behind the ball then complain… Classic!

“These greens are sh*t”

A popular blanket excuse that covers all aspects of putting. Also available in this category are: “The holes are crowned” and “It’s too bobbly.” Just be sure nobody else makes a putt on the same green if you intend to use this excuse.

"I've got the ability to be a good golfer, just not the time".
The higher the handicap the more likely you are to hear this one.

Yes it is an impossible game - but we love it!

Happy Holidays to all my readers,


If you find my weekly blogs useful and/or interesting, then it is likely that you know someone else that will. You can do me a favour be recommending that they sign-up for the free, weekly emails (at the top right hand corner of my web site pages), or give me their name and email address and I will do the rest.

Note that the above material was copied from the @golfclubwankers Twitter account.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bird Flies off with Golf Ball

I guess that there are many readers that have had their golf ball in play moved by a bird or an animal, e.g. crow, gull, dog, fox, or even a kangaroo. It has happened to me twice and it happened to Queensland professional golfer Sam Eaves last Thursday, at the Australian PGA Championship.

You can watch the crow (or was it a raven?) pick the ball off the fairway at this link. So, what is the ruling in this situation? The first point is that the ball does not have to be recovered. If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball at rest has been moved by an outside agency, no penalty is incurred and either the original ball or another ball must be replaced at the spot that the ball was moved from, Rule 18-1. I have used the word ’replaced’, as does the Rule, but this often causes confusion with players. A ball can only be replaced if the exact spot and lie are known. Obviously, when an outside agency has moved a ball it is highly unlikely that the player will know the exact spot or lie, as they could have been some distance away when it was moved. In a majority of cases, the exact spot and/or lie will not be determinable, which means that a ball has to be dropped as near as possible to the estimated place where it lay, Rule 20-3c, except on a putting green where the ball must be placed as near as possible to where it lay.

(This paragraph was edited on December 17th 2014) It is different if the ball is still in motion when it is deflected or moved by an outside agency. Rule 19-1 states that if a player makes a stroke from off the putting green and their ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. However, if the outside agency (e.g. a dog) picks-up a moving ball and runs off with it, the player should drop a ball (or place it if it was from the putting green), without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was when the dog picked it up. The ruling is different if a ball is putted from on the putting green and is accidentally deflected or stopped by any moving or animate outside agency. In this case the stroke is cancelled, the ball must be replaced where the putt was taken from and replayed.

So, going back to the Sam Eaves video clip, he was permitted to drop another ball as near as possible to the place on the fairway where the crow had picked it up, without penalty.

Fox Sports (US)
In 2013, Fox Sports signed a 12-year, $1 billion deal for televising USGA events, replacing NBC Sports, which has broadcast every US Open since 1995. In securing this contract, Fox promised to bring fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. In my opinion, they have made a great start with the announcement that their broadcasting team includes a full-time rules expert, David Fay, who was executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) for 21 years until he retired in 2010. Fay is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Rules of Golf and has previously made occasional guest appearances on US TV with informed commentary and analysis on Rules situations. This has to be a welcome move; there have been too many instances when TV commentators have confused the viewing public with misleading and sometimes incorrect interpretations of the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mental Interference in Golf

Most players are aware that they can only take relief from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2) or abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) when their ball lies in or touches the obstruction or condition, or when it physically interferes with their stance or their area of intended swing. There is no relief for mental interference under either of these Rules. This is confirmed by Decision 24-2a/1;
Q. A player's ball lies several inches to the side of a sprinkler head. The sprinkler head does not physically interfere with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing. However, the sprinkler head bothers the player mentally. Is the player entitled to relief under Rule 24-2b?

A. No. See Rule 24-2a.
However, there is one Rule where mental interference is relevant. The start of Rule 22-2 states;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.
Note that there is no mention as to how far away the other ball must be. In fact, Decision 22/1 states;
Q. In order for A to be entitled to have B's ball lifted because of interference, does B's ball have to be on or near A's line of play and thus in a position to interfere physically with A's ball? Or may A also have B's ball lifted if it is off his line of play but catches his eye and thus constitutes mental interference?

A. A player may, under Rule 22-2, have another ball lifted if the ball interferes either physically or mentally with his play.
Not quite the same as mental interference, but along the same lines, are mental distractions that occur while a player is making a stroke. Decision 1-4/1, in the section on points not covered by the Rules, states;
Q. As A was making his backswing, B accidentally dropped a ball, which rolled within six inches of A's ball. The appearance of the dropped ball startled A, causing him to top his shot. In equity, should A be permitted to replay his stroke?

A. No. Distractions are a common occurrence which players must accept.
A related point to clarify on this subject is that, in equity, a player does not have to play their ball that has come to rest in a situation that is dangerous to them, e.g. near a live rattlesnake or a bees' nest, Decision 1-4/10, but they may not take relief from a situation which they dislike; unpleasant lies are a common occurrence which players must accept, Decision 1-4/11.

I have one last point, which is not backed-up by any Decision on the Rules. In my opinion, a player should not be penalised under Rule 6-8 for discontinuing play due to fog. Having played in foggy conditions on more than one occasion, there is definitely mental interference for the players, as well as the obvious possible danger for anyone on the course while play continues. Whilst Rule 6-8a states that bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play, there is an exception which could be used when there is limited visibility due to fog; “the player must not discontinue play unless: … there is some other good reason such as sudden illness”, which I think any Committee would be wise to apply.

Good golfing,


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Accidentally Moving a Ball in Play

I am sure that it has happened to most of us, probably more than once. We are addressing our ball in play somewhere on the course and we accidentally touch it with our club, causing it to move, or not. How do we proceed?

If the ball does not move from its spot when we touch it with our club, it has not moved. Even if it rocks from its spot but returns to the same place it has not moved, according to the Definition of Moved;

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
If the ball does not move there is no penalty, even if it is lying in a hazard when we accidentally touch it with our club, which is a point that is frequent misunderstood (Decision 13-4/12).

However, if a ball in play does move from its spot and comes to rest a dimple or more from where it was, then a penalty of one stroke is incurred and the ball has to be replaced, Rule 18-2a. Note that part of this Rule states;

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player’s ball is in play, if
(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:
• lifts or moves the ball,
• touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or
• causes the ball to move, or
(ii) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move,
the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.     
The implication is that if a player purposely touches their ball with their club other than in the act of addressing their ball (why would they?) a penalty is incurred. Probably one of the most common breaches of this Rule is when a player purposely touches their ball in play with their fingers, usually in order to identify it. Of course, you may identify your ball before playing it from anywhere on the course, but you must follow the correct procedure to avoid a penalty. See this earlier blog for the correct procedure.

You may have noticed that the above relates to a ball in play. Before you make your first stroke on a hole from the teeing ground, the ball is not in play and so there is no penalty for accidentally causing it to move in this circumstance, e.g. with a practice swing. A ball may then be replaced anywhere within the teeing ground to continue play.

If you are interested in seeing an example of a player accidentally moving their ball in play on the putting green, I recommend that you click on this link to view a European Tour video from 2013 of Danish Professional golfer, Thorbjørn Olesen, who unfortunately seemed to get the yips as he addressed his ball while trying to avoid taking his stance on his fellow competitor’s the line of putt. (Edit December 4th: It is not clear from the bizarre commentary, but Olesen was penalised one stroke for accidentally causing his ball to move, under Rule 18-2a).

Good golfing,


My eDocuments on the Rules of Golf may not be for everyone, but if you know someone that is eager to obtain a better understanding of the Rules, then check them out at this link. Whilst all my documents carry a copyright notice they may be purchased for someone else as a gift and forwarded to them.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Questions Relating to ‘Winter Rules’

At this time of year, I receive several questions on the Rules from subscribers in the Northern Hemisphere, for which there are no definitive answers. The reason being, they concern situations that may or may not be covered by Local Rules, which form part of the Rules of Golf. Although I have covered this subject in more than one previous blog, it is obviously an important one and bears repeating, because it is obvious to me that some players do not realise that Local Rules, established by Club or Society Committees under Rule 33-8, can vary considerably.

Here are some examples of what I am referring to;

  • May I tee my ball off a winter mat if it is still within the permitted two club-lengths behind the tee-markers? (As illustrated in the photo above.)
It depends on the precise wording of the Local Rule.
  • May a player take relief from a ball that is embedded in the rough?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that extends such relief from closely mown areas only, as in Rule 25-2.
  • If winter Rules are in operation, may a player remove mud from their ball at rest in the rough?
(Edited 28th November 2014) It depends whether there is a Local Rule that permits a ball lying through the green to be marked, lifted, cleaned and replaced without penalty. Note that some Committees incorporate this into a Local Rule on preferred lies through the green (i.e. not just from closely mown areas), where a ball may be lifted, cleaned and then placed (or dropped) within a specified area (e.g. 6 inches or a score card width). The latter is not recommended and is not approved by the R&A.
  • If my ball comes to rest on an aeration hole on the putting green, do I have to replace it on that hole?
Yes, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.
  • May I use a distance measuring device during my round?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits their use.
  • May I take relief from damage made by course maintenance equipment that is not marked as GUR?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take line of play from sprinkler heads at the side of the putting green?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take relief from crushed stone cart paths?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that declares crushed stone cart paths as integral to the course.
  • How do I proceed if my ball in flight hits an overhead power line?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule covering this situation.
  • Do I have to take relief if my ball lies in an area marked as ground under repair?
Only if there is a Local Rule in operation that makes it mandatory to take relief.

I hope that you will now recognise that one of the most important tips in my eDocument, ’99  Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’* is;

“Before commencing a round of golf familiarise yourself with the Local Rules that are in operation.“
* Click here for details.

Good golfing,


P.S. I strongly recommend that, where relevant, Committees follow the specimen wording in Appendix l to the Rules of Golf when making Local Rules for local abnormal conditions.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.