Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Rory McIlroy’s Ball Lands in a Trouser Pocket

I am only too aware that the majority of golfer’s think that today’s game has too many Rules and that they are unnecessarily complicated. 270 years ago (1744) the very first Rules of Golf, consisted of just 13 Rules written in 349 words. However, as instances occurred on the golf course the Rules have constantly evolved to deal with the ever-changing circumstances of a sport that is now played by over 60 million players in almost every country in the world.

This week, another unusual Rules incident occurred during the Tour Championship by Coca Cola, in Atlanta, Georgia. Rory McIlroy hit a wayward drive from the 14th teeing ground and his ball bounced off a tree and literally dropped into a spectator’s pocket. Click here for a YouTube video of the incident.

In fact, the ruling did not even require reference to a Decision, as the circumstances are covered by Rule 19-1. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Outside Agency (a spectator is an outside agency);

If a player’s ball in motion 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, except:
a. If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole
So, the Rules official checked that the spectator had not moved from where he was standing and enquired which of his pockets the ball had fallen into. He then asked Rory to mark the spot on the ground immediately beneath that place. Someone suggested that Rory should give the ball to the spectator, but the official clarified that he must continue play with the same ball, as it was obviously easily recoverable.

Some readers may be wondering what the ruling would be if the spectator had run up the fairway towards the hole, taken the ball out of his pocket and dropped it onto the green. A note to Rule 19-1 confirms that if Rory’s ball had been deliberately deflected or stopped by the spectator, the spot where the ball would have come to rest must be estimated and the ball dropped as near as possible to that spot.

Good golfing,


My eBook, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' is available for all eReaders, tablets, smart phones and computers. You can buy from Amazon, but if you purchase direct from this web page I will send you two files, a .pdf for computers and .mobi for other smart devices.

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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Golfers and the "Should" Word

This paragraph is copied from a section at the front of the Rules book. Note that I have highlighted that "should = recommendation" and "‘must is an instruction, with a penalty if not carried out." So, as in life, there is an important difference between what a golfer ‘should’ do and what they ‘must’ do. However, whilst a penalty is not directly incurred for ignoring the ‘should’ recommendations, players are encouraged and advised to do so, to avoid other consequences, which may be costly in terms of their scores.

The following are the most relevant references to where ‘should’ is used in the Rules book;

Definition - Nearest Point of Relief

In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.
Note: if a player does not use the club with which they would have made their next stroke to determine the nearest point of relief and as a result drops and plays a ball from outside the permitted area they incur a general penalty for playing from the wrong place.
Definition – Out of Bounds
Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.
Definition – Referee
A referee should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.
Rule 1-4, Points Not Covered by Rules
If any point in dispute is not covered by the Rules, the decision should be made in accordance with equity.
Note: Equity only applies in golf rulings when circumstances are not already covered by the Rules of Golf. It is nothing to do with achieving a result which a player thinks is ‘fair’.
Rule 4, Clubs, Rule 5, The Ball and Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices
A player in doubt as to the conformity of a club / ball / artificial device should consult the USGA or R&A.
Rule 6-2, Handicap
Before starting a match in a handicap competition, the players should determine from one another their respective handicaps.
Rule 6-5, Ball and Rule 12-2, Lifting Ball for Identification
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
Rule 6-6, Scoring in Stroke Play
a)    Recording Scores. After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it.
b)    Signing and Recording Score. After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee.
Rule 9-3, Stroke Play
A competitor who has incurred a penalty should inform his marker as soon as practicable.
Rule 20-1, Lifting and Marking
The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball. If the ball-marker interferes with the play, stance or stroke of another player, it should be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to one side.
Good golfing,


Many of the questions that I receive can be answered by reference to the ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015’. The R&A version can be purchased via this link. The price is the same as purchasing elsewhere, but if you do use the link provided I make a few cents affiliate commission from Amazon. If you do not want your personal copy you should consider of purchasing one for your Club or Society, as it will definitely resolve many arguments.

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

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Removing Loose Impediments

I have been asked to clarify how loose impediments may be removed, a subject that I am aware can cause many arguments between fellow golfers. As a great believer in the use of questions and answers to test one’s knowledge of the Rules I am posing these 10 quick questions on the subject. Answer either Yes or No.
  1. May a player use a towel to remove loose impediments on the putting green?
  2. May a player use the back of their hand to remove loose impediments through the green?
  3. May a player remove sand lying on the putting green?
  4. Does a player incur a penalty for removing loose soil around their ball through the green?
  5. May a player use the head of their putter to remove loose impediments from their line of putt?
  6. If a player moves their ball while removing a leaf lying by their ball on the putting green may they replace the ball without penalty?
  7. May a player use a brush to remove loose impediments on the putting green?
  8. Is a player is penalised for removing a loose impediment from a hazard if their ball lies in the same hazard?
  9. Does a player incur a penalty for moving a loose impediment that might influence the movement of a ball that is in motion?
  10. Is a player penalised for pressing down on their line of putt while removing loose impediments?
Did you correctly answer, “Yes”, to all 10 questions? It is Rule 23 that deals with loose impediments and any breaches incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play. Note that there is no penalty for causing your ball to move while removing a loose impediment on the putting green, but there is anywhere else (Rule 18-2a).

Please do not deduce from the above that I recommend that golfers should carry a brush in their bag to remove loose impediments. In fact, using a brush for this purpose other than on the putting green would almost certainly incur a penalty, as sand and loose soil are only loose impediments on the putting green and must not be moved at the same time that loose impediments are being removed elsewhere. I use the brush illustration to reinforce the principle that loose impediments may be removed by any means, except that, in removing loose impediments on the line of putt, the player must not press anything down. Decision 23-1/1 is the reference;
Q. Worm casts are loose impediments. By what means may such casts be removed?

A. Loose impediments may be removed by any means, except that, in removing loose impediments on the line of putt, the player must not press anything down (Rule 16-1a).
Good golfing,

If you enjoy testing yourself on the many Rules scenarios that may occur during your 18 holes of golf, you will like my Rhodes Rules School ‘How Many Strokes?’  format. All 99 issues are available as a single, .pdf downloadable and printable, eDocument at this link.

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

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Wrong Putting Green - Noh!

Seung-Yul Noh plays from the middle of a wrong putting green
In 30 years of playing amateur golf as a high handicapper I have never seen anyone try and play a stroke from a wrong putting green (i.e. a  putting green other than the one that they are playing). I would have bet good money to say that it could not possibly happen on a Tour event, but I would have been wrong!  23 year-old, South Korean, Seung-Yul Noh, who turned professional 6 years ago, and is currently ranked 107th in the world, was penalised two strokes for doing just that. It happened last Friday, during the 2nd round of the Barclays at Ridgewood CC, Paramus, New Jersey, when following his drive on the 11th, his ball came to rest on the 3rd putting green. Believe it or not, nobody stopped him during the time it took for him to walk onto the green, assess the distance and line of play for his next shot and address his ball with an iron, before taking his second stroke to the hole; not his caddie, David Brooker, who has been a full-time tour caddie for more than two decades; not the Rules official, who was apparently standing 20 – 30 yards away; not the spectators (presumably there were some); not the three players who were putting out on the 3rd green when Noh’s ball landed amongst them and not Noh's fellow competitors, Graeme McDowell and George McNeill, who to be fair to them, were probably walking to their balls on the 11th fairway and might not have been fully aware of the situation. It is unacceptable to me that Noh and his caddie did not know the Rule. It was not an aberration, such as Tiger suffered when dropping his ball outside the permitted limit at last year’s Masters, because after the penalty was imposed they both admitted that they were unaware of the Rule, which is Rule 25-3, Wrong Putting Green;
a. Interference
Interference by a wrong putting green occurs when a ball is on the wrong putting green.

Interference to a player’s stance or the area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

b. Relief
If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief, without penalty, as follows:

The player must lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the wrong putting green and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green. The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.
You can view this embarrassing episode at this PGA Tour link, which to make matters worse, shows Noh casually stamping down the large divot hole that he had made, his caddie then retrieving the divot and replacing it and subsequently, the greens staff officials arriving to properly repair the damaged area where Noh had hit from. The ensuing conversation between the Rules Official and the clueless TV commentator is almost as embarrassing as the incident itself; “Is that a Local Rule, or is it a Rule of Golf?", asks the commentator. Where do they get these guys from?

Some readers might remember a blog of mine from March 2010 (click here) where I reported on a European Tour initiative, outlined by Senior European Rules Officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee, to educate Tour players on simple rulings. They announced that if any player called on a referee to make what was considered to be a frivolous ruling, they would be given a specially produced DVD to study and also be required to attend a Rules seminar. If they failed to attend this seminar within the next three tournament weeks they could be barred from entering another event until they did. Coincidently, I emailed the European Tour only a few weeks ago asking whether this sanction had ever been effected and if so how many times? I did receive a reply, confirming that the policy was introduced some four years ago and that until recently it has acted as a deterrent with few of these rulings requests, but that they were quite willing to firstly remind the players that this policy is in force and that the Tour is ready to enforce it where necessary. Perhaps I am being too skeptical, but my interpretation of this response is that no players have ever been sanctioned under this initiative. It is a shame that Seung-Yul Noh isn’t a European Tour player, or their resolve could have been tested!

Yet Another Bizarre Rules Incident
The Chella Choi infraction, at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, reported at this Golf Channel link (with video clip) merits a blog of its own, but I have already said enough for this week. To whet your appetite, Choi refused to accept the penalty imposed and chose to withdraw instead. It’s worth watching!

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Three Rules Breaches on Tour

Morten Madsen dropping his putter on his ball
This week there are three interesting Rules incidents to report on. The first concerns Dane, Morten Madsen, who accidentally dropped his club on his ball during the ‘Made in Denmark’ European Tour event on Friday. No mystery about this ruling, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a(ii), for his equipment causing his ball to move, and he has to replace his ball where it was. If you would like to view Madsen’s embarrassing bloomer click on this link.

The second incident involved French golfer, Julien Quesne, who was disqualified mid-round from the same event as above, on the same day. Apparently, he was seen to be using a ‘swing stick’ on a teeing ground, while waiting to play. This is a breach of Rule 14-3, which states that during their round players must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment that might assist them in making a stroke or in their play. Obviously, Quesne does not read my blog, or he would have known about this Rule, following similar, widely reported breaches by Judi Inkster (Aug. 2010) and more recently DA Points (Feb.2014).

The third incident was a little different, involving Californian, Cameron Tringale, who was disqualified from the previous week’s PGA Championship, several days after the competition was over (well done Rory!). Tringale made contact with officials to admit that he had probably returned a score for a hole lower than was actually taken, due to his failure to include a penalty that he thought he had probably incurred. His reported explanation was;

"While approaching the hole to tap in my 3-inch bogey putt, the putter swung over the ball prior to tapping in. Realizing that there could be the slightest doubt that the swing over the ball should have been recorded as a stroke, I spoke with the PGA of America and shared with them my conclusion that the stroke should have been recorded. I regret any inconvenience this has caused the PGA of America and my fellow competitors in what was a wonderful championship."
Although the competition had closed several days before this admirable admission, one of the exceptions to Rule 34-1b (iii) meant that the only possible ruling was the penalty of disqualification, as he had not included the stroke he made that missed his ball.
Exceptions: A penalty of disqualification must be imposed after the competition has closed if a competitor:

… (iii) returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d) for any reason other than failure to include a penalty that, before the competition closed, he did not know he had incurred …
Tringale finished the PGA Championship tied for 33rd place in this final major of the year and had to forfeit his $53,000 prize money. The places and earnings of those players who finished below him will have been adjusted accordingly. (Edit 25th August 2014: In his very next tournament Cameron Tringale tied for 2nd place in the Barclays, earning prize money of $597,333.33!)

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Butch Harmon Errs on the Rules

Butch Harmon is rightly recognised as one of the best golf instructors in the game and I regularly enjoy his incisive contributions on the UK’s Sky Sports Channel, but it does seem that he needs to brush up his knowledge on the Rules of Golf. Many readers will have seen the extraordinary incident on the 2nd hole, during the 3rd round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla, when Jason Day’s drive hooked across Floyd’s Fork, a lateral water hazard with an infinite boundary to the left side, coming to rest in deep vegetation. Instead of taking the option of a penalty drop within two club-lengths of the place where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, which was not far from where he had teed-up, Day’s caddie, Colin Swatton, took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers and waded across the creek in a seemingly impossible task of finding the ball amongst the calf-high weeds. Amazingly, the ball was found within the permitted five minutes search time in a lie that Swatton thought could be playable. So Day then removed his shoes and socks and crossed the creek to play his tricky, second shot on the hole in bare feet. As he addressed his ball, I had flashbacks of Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie and was predicting a similar outcome.

It was during this episode that I think I heard the TV analysts make four incorrect statements regarding the Rules, but unfortunately the commentary has not been made available, so I cannot check their exact words. The four statements, two of which were from Butch Harmon and two from ex-Tour Golfer, Howard Clarke, who was the on course reporter, can be summarised as follows;

  1. You cannot push aside long grasses surrounding a ball to identify it. – Howard Clarke
  2. You cannot make practice swings in a hazard if it means touching the long grasses while you do so. – Howard Clarke
  3. You cannot play a ‘wrong ball’ from a hazard. – Butch Harmon
  4. You cannot take clubs into a hazard. He also intimated that when a wedge was thrown across the creek by Swatton to be deftly caught by Day, a penalty would have been incurred if it had been dropped inside the margin of the hazard. – Butch Harmon
Let me address these erroneous comments in turn.
  1. In searching for a ball anywhere on the course, the player may touch or bend long grass, rushes, bushes, etc., but only to the extent necessary to find or identify the ball. Rule 12-1.
  2. When making a practice swing, a player may touch, with their club or otherwise, any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing, providing they do not improve the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing, or the line of play. Rule 13-2 and Note to Rule 13-4.
  3. Since January 2008, when Rule 15-3 was amended, a player is penalised for playing a wrong ball from a hazard. At the same time a related change was made to Rule 12-2, permitting a player to lift a ball in a hazard in order to identify it, providing they follow the correct procedure.
  4. Players are permitted to take clubs into a hazard and lay them down. Exception 1b to Rule 13-4.
Against all the odds, not only did Jason Day extricate his ball from the 'jungle grass' bordering the creek, he then hit a magnificent third shot onto the green and sank the putt to make a very unlikely par and provide more evidence that my predictions are often wrong.

Be Fore-warned!
This link is to a report in the Irish Times of an award of almost €275,000 ($370,000) to a lady who was hit by a golf ball whilst standing on the terrace of her own Clubhouse, located South of Dublin, by a ball struck by a player who happened to be playing in the same group as her husband. This substantial award took into account the fact that no-one had shouted the customary warning of “FORE”.

Good golfing,


P.S. Congratulations to Rory McIlroy (and Rickie Fowler). The future of golf is in very good hands!

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

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Miscellaneous Q&As on the Rules of Golf

Here are a few interesting questions that I have received over the past few weeks, slightly edited for clarity;

•    I notice that my fellow competitor is about to play their tee shot from in front of the tee markers. Should I tell them, or would that incur a penalty for giving advice?
You should tell them. Information on the Rules is not advice, Definition of Advice.

•    May I remove a weed or strand of long grass from behind my ball before playing my first stroke on a hole ball from the teeing ground?

Yes, under Rule 13-2, it is permissible to eliminate irregularities of surface on the teeing ground, which includes removing something growing. However, this only applies to irregularities on the surface of the teeing ground and not to anything overhanging the teeing ground which is rooted outside of it, such as an overhanging branch of a tree.

•    The group playing ahead of us mistakenly left the flagstick lying on the green a few feet from the hole. Would it have been a penalty if one of our group’s balls hit the removed flagstick as they played onto the green?
No, the penalty for a ball hitting a removed flagstick only applies when the flagstick has been removed with the player's authority or prior knowledge by someone in the player's match or group, Rule 17-3a.

•    In stroke play, is there penalty if a player’s ball hits the foot of a fellow competitor attending the flagstick?
Yes, the person making the putt incurs a penalty of two strokes for a breach of Rule 17-3.

•    A player lifted their ball from a newly seeded area in the rough. Were they then entitled to drop a ball on the fairway if it was within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole?
Yes, the Rules do not distinguish between fairway and rough (except in Rule 25-2, Embedded Ball), they are both ‘through the green’.

•    Playing a mixed foursome, the two men drove, the two ladies played from the fairway, the two men played, one man chipped on to the green ... and now one man realised that they must have both played the wrong ball from the fairway for their second shots. What is the ruling?
In match play, the opponents should work out who played the wrong ball first and that side lost the hole, Rule 15-3a. It did not matter that the other side also played a wrong ball as they had already won the hole. In stroke play, both sides incurred a penalty of two strokes and must return to the point where their fellow competitor played their ball from, drop a ball and play out the hole from there, Rule 15-3b.

•    On one or two of our fairways we have the odd mushy area and a ball can be hit there. The players are virtually certain that the ball is lost in the boggy area.  Can we make a Local Rule for this so there is no penalty…?
First, I should confirm that there is no relief for ‘mushy areas’ whether on the fairway or in the rough, Decision 25/1. If a Committee decides that these areas are local abnormal conditions that interfere with the proper playing of the game they can define them as ground under repair, with either a permanent or temporary Local Rule. See Rule 25-1c for the procedure to follow when a ball is known or virtually certain to be lost in GUR.

Many questions that you may have on the Rules of Golf can be answered by reference to my previous blogs over the last six years. Just enter an abbreviated phrase on my blog home page in the 'Search This Blog' box, located in the top right hand corner. Or, even better, you can click here and purchase my book, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’
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Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Rules Are Rules in Golf, or Are They?

In my blog last week, which related to Rory McIlroy turning down an autograph request from a young fan while making his way to the scoring area, I said that in my opinion Ian Poulter was wrong to use the misleading hashtag, #RulesAreRules, in his tweet in defense of Rory. My point was that this implied that a Rule of Golf was involved. This reminded me that I have received several queries over the years indicating confusion over the various roles of Rules, Decisions, Conditions of Competition, Byelaws and Handicapping Systems in arriving at rulings for various circumstances. In this blog I will try and clarify the differences

First, the term ‘Rules’ includes;

a) The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’.
b) Any Condition of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I.
c) Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I. d) The specifications on;
(i) clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in ‘A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls’; and
(ii) devices and other equipment in Appendix lV.
Rules of Golf: There are 34 Rules of Golf, jointly written and administered by R&A Rules (spun off from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and USGA.

Decisions on the Rules of Golf: This book contains over 1,200 Decisions clarifying matters that may not be entirely clear from the Rules of Golf, in a well-indexed format that is easy to read and understand. (I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have 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 will help me to meet my costs. Note that I think that I am right in saying that the USGA publication is only available from USGA Publications, but the content of both publications are the same, only some spellings are different.)

This reminds me to stress that there is only one ‘Rules of Golf’. Do not believe those that tell you that there are differences between R&A and USGA Rules, amateur and professional Rules, or Club and Society Rules, because there are not. Anyone playing the game of golf must abide by the same 34 Rules; conversely, anyone that chooses to ignore any of these Rules is playing a different game to golf.

Local Rules:
The Committee may make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I to the Rules. Some Local Rules operate on a permanent basis, e.g. allowing the removal of stones from bunkers by declaring them to be movable obstructions. Other Local Rules are temporary, e.g. those introduced to deal with adverse conditions in winter for the protection of the course, or to promote fair and pleasant play.

Rhodes Rules Tip: No golfer should commence a round of golf without knowing what the Local Rules are for the course, both permanent and temporary.

Conditions of Competition:
Rule 33-1 provides that the Committee must establish the conditions under which a competition is to be played. The conditions should include matters such as method of entry, eligibility, number of rounds to be played, etc. Tour events often have conditions of competition that do not usually apply to amateur competitions, such as the ‘one ball’ Rule and line of play relief from temporary immovable obstructions. I wrote a blog on this subject at this link. http://www.barryrhodes.com/2011/07/conditions-of-competition.html

There are four Appendices at the back of the Rules book covering these subjects;

Appendix I - Local Rules; Conditions of the Competition (see above)
Appendix II = Design of Clubs
Appendix III - The Ball
Appendix IV - Devices and Other Equipment, Rules of Amateur Status, Policy on Gambling
Some Clubs have byelaws and/or sanctions that can affect the play. For example there may be areas of the course where players are not permitted to enter, e.g. environmentally protected areas, neighbouring gardens, water courses that have steeply sloping banks.

Whilst Committees have no power to waive or modify a Rule of Golf without permission from the R&A or USGA, they may introduce ‘club regulations’ that require competitors to follow certain procedures in order to assist in the administration of the competition. Failure to follow these procedures may result in the application disciplinary sanctions, e.g., ineligibility to play in the next club competition(s). An example of this is a requirement for players to enter their score in a computer after their round. Committees may not penalise a player under the Rules of Golf if they fail to do so (Decision 6-6b/8), but they may impose a disciplinary sanction to take effect in the future, e.g. not being permitted to enter any competition for the next four weeks.

Handicapping Systems:
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary greatly. When playing competitive golf outside their own country golfers should ensure that their handicap is recognised for the purpose of the competition.

Good golfing,

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

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Glory Rory! The Open Champion 2014

From the photo above, it seems that I am not the only one that was delighted that Rory McIlroy banished his (imaginary!) Friday demons and went on to win The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Please don’t join those who make the mistake of miscalling The Open, ‘The British Open’! He is obviously a popular winner all over the world and is now a very positive icon for the future of golf, because as well as being an exciting golfer, he is young, photogenic, articulate, plays pretty quickly and is knowledgeable about golf.

My understanding is that there were very few Rules issues of any note over the four days play, although the R&A’s unprecedented decision on Friday evening, to send players out at 9.00 am in three-balls, from both the 1st and 10th teeing grounds, caused apoplexy amongst some traditionalists. However, even they had to admit that it was an inspired decision, when unusually heavy rains quickly flooded the putting greens immediately after play had finished for the day, around mid-afternoon.

There has been a lot of misinformation about a minor incident that occurred as Rory walked from the 18th putting green to the scoring hut, having just secured his two strokes win. An enthusiastic young fan pushed his way past the officials walking with Rory and asked him to sign an autograph. Rory shrugged and the youngster was quickly guided away by a tour official and two suited security personnel. Apparently, Twittersphere went crazy, with some saying that Rory was wrong to blank the young fan and others saying that the entourage should have protected him better from an over-enthusiastic public. Some even claimed that Rory could have incurred a penalty if he had stopped to sign an autograph, which they presumably think would have led to a play-off. Ian Poulter probably fuelled the speculation about whether this would have been a breach of Rules when he tweeted;

In my opinion Poulter was wrong to use the misleading hashtag, #RulesAreRules, as this implies that a Rule of Golf was involved. There is nothing in the Rules that penalises a player from signing an autograph after their round has finished. Rule 6-6b is the only relevant one;
Signing and Returning Score Card
After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.
Now, I am not doubting that tournament players are asked not to sign autographs until their score cards have been returned, but I suspect that this is advice from the authorities to assist players and is not a Condition of Competition that could result in a penalty. It is certainly not a Rule of Golf. I would be interested to hear if any subscriber to this blog knows of any competition hard card that contains anything relevant to the signing of autographs, either during or immediately after a round.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Most Interesting Man in Golf and the Rat

Photo: Getty Images – Jiminez examining the rodent
Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is increasingly known as ‘The Most Interesting Man in Golf’, was photographed closely examining a ‘lifeless’ rodent in a bunker at the Scottish Open in Royal Aberdeen last Thursday. Having scoured the available reports and photos, I still have not been able to confirm whether, a) Jiminez’s ball was in the same bunker as the rodent, and b) if the rodent was alive or dead. What I have determined, is that most of the reports of the incident are confused about any ruling that may or may not have applied. For example, two of them quoted the fact that Rule 23-6 applied; not only has there never been a Rule 23-6; but Decision 23/6, which dealt with the subject of a dead land crab in a bunker, was withdrawn from the Decisions book In January 2012.

So, what would the ruling have been if Miguel’s ball had been lying against a dead rodent in the bunker? He would have had four options; play the ball as it lay, deem the ball unplayable and drop a ball in the bunker within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole, drop a ball in the bunker behind the point where the ball lay keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or return to where he played his last stroke from under penalty of stroke and distance. If the rodent was alive it would have been an outside agency. The player may not remove an outside agency, as it is not an obstruction, which by definition is an artificial object, but they may ‘encourage’ it to move, e.g. by waving a club over it or by gentle prodding. If it will not move, either play the ball as it lies or take one of the penalty options already described. (Edit 17th July: Following interesting correspondence with a small number of subscribers, I now believe that there is nothing in the Rules that prevents a player from removing an outside agent from a hazard. However, note that this does not apply to an insect, which is a loose impediment, as well as an outside agent, and may not be touched or physically removed from a bunker when the player's ball lies in the same bunker, Decision 23-1/5.5)

Building a Stance in a Bunker
South Korean Ahn Sun-ju finished equal 9th at the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale, Southport, last week. She may have finished higher had she not incurred a penalty of two strokes on her 18th hole on Saturday, for the unusual breach of building a stance. Her ball lay in a greenside bunker and she dug her left foot into the soft sand while taking her stance. Rule 13-3 states;
A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance.
There does not seem to be any video evidence of Ahn’s breach but Decision 13-3/3 may be relevant;

Q.A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level. Is this permissible?

A.No. Such action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.
A player can also incur a penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4a if they dig in with their feet in excess of what would be normally be done for making a stance for a stroke or a practice swing, as this would constitute testing the condition of the hazard.

After she was advised of the penalty that she had incurred Ahn said that she was unaware of the rule.

"I didn't know about the rule. All I was trying to do was make a stance," she told ESPN, speaking through an interpreter.

"It's my mistake. If that's the rule, I have to abide by it."
Good golfing,

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