Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Tips on Match Play Rules

I regularly receive requests for rulings relating to match play situations after a player has lost a hole, or the match, due to a Rules incident that they were not sure about. Most golfers play far more rounds of stroke play golf than match play golf and do not realise that there are several important differences in the Rules of these formats. Below are my 12 tips that every player should understand and remember before commencing a match.

1. You may practice on the course on the day of a match (Rule 7-1).

2. You must not touch your opponent’s ball in play, unless you are helping to search for it (Rule 18-3).
Do not mark an opponent’s ball on the putting green, unless they ask you to.

3. A concession of a hole may be given at any time and cannot be declined or withdrawn (Rule 2-4).
You may putt out after receiving the concession, providing the action is not of assistance to your partner in in a four-ball or best-ball match.

4. Incorrect information (Rule 9-2).
If you give your opponent wrong information about your score you must correct it before they make their next stroke, or you lose the hole. Similarly, if they give you wrong information.


5. Order of Play (Rule 10-1).
If your opponent plays out of turn you may let their stroke stand, or require that they cancel the stroke and play again in the correct order. In four-ball match play, balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order that the side considers best.


6. After a stroke your ball hits your opponent, or their equipment (Rule 19-3).
You may choose to replay the stroke, or accept it and play your next shot from where the ball had come to rest.

7. Putt from the putting green hits a ball at rest on the putting green (Rule 19-5).
There is no penalty in match play, the other ball must be replaced and your ball played from where it comes to rest.

8. Four-ball match play – representation of side (Rule 30-3a).
One partner may play for any part, or all of a match, but if and when their partner arrives they must wait until the start of the next hole to join the match.

9. Four-ball match play – wrong ball (Rule 30-3c).
If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball their partner may continue play of the hole without penalty. If it was the partner's ball that was played they must place a ball where it was wrongly played from.

10. Asking for and giving advice (Rule 8-1).
If a third party gives unsolicited advice no penalty is incurred, but you must request that they do not do so again. You may not give advice to any team member other than your partner.

11. Ignoring an opponent’s breach of Rule (Rule 1-3). In match play, you do not have to call a penalty on your opponent if you witness a breach of Rule by them.
But don’t discuss the breach with the opponent before teeing off at the next hole, or you could both be disqualified for agreeing to waive a Rule.

12. If you are unsure of a Rule or procedure try and resolve it with your opponent immediately (Rule 2-5).
But if you cannot agree, a claim has to be made before teeing-off at the next hole. You must notify your opponent that you are making a claim, agree the facts and ask the Committee for a ruling.

This last point is important. I receive several communications where a player was ‘bullied’ into accepting a ruling by their opponent, which was subsequently found to be incorrect - too late to affect the result. Opponents should not to get into an argument on the course, but should agree on the facts of the situation and seek an authoritative ruling from a Committee member, or someone else whose knowledge of the Rules can be trusted. If a timely official ruling is not received, the match should be continued and played to a conclusion whereby there is a definitive result, depending on whether the eventual ruling for the disputed hole was won by either side, or was halved.

Good golfing,



 

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Monday, 29 May 2017

Two Rules Incidents at BMW PGA Championship

There were at least two interesting Rules incident at last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, both of which involved South African competitors.

Branden Grace Taking (Unfair?) Relief
After eagling his 12th hole, Branden Grace, was tied for the lead at 6 under when he found his ball plugged in the sand on the upslope of a greenside bunker, giving him a very difficult lie to make any reasonable stroke from. He took a stance, as though preparing for his stroke, shuffling and twisting his feet into the sand. But then he stepped away and called for a Rules official. He told him that when he took his stance his feet were touching the rubber lining to the bunker and that he was claiming free relief from this immovable obstruction, which is permitted by Rule 24-2b(ii). There is no doubt that a player may take relief from an immovable obstruction interfering with their stance, but would the lining have been exposed if Grace had taken his stance with less vigour? In the circumstance, the USGA rules official, Mark Hill, had little option but to permit Grace the free relief by dropping his ball in a more favorable area of the bunker, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, but there was much criticism from commentators and players, including Paul McGinley, who as he watched the incident unfold said;

“It was ridiculous. If you twist your feet enough you’re bound to eventually reach the bunker lining. That means anytime a player wants relief from a poor lie he can simply twist his feet until he reaches the bunker lining. That can’t be right.”


Quite! I wonder if the official knew that Branden Grace had used the same Rule to obtain a similarly favourable relief 18 months ago. See this blog of mine for details. 


Incidentally, if an official had observed Grace digging into the sand with his feet and judged that he had done so in excess of what was necessary to obtain a firm stance for the intended stroke, he could have penalised him two strokes for a breach of Rule 13-4, as per Decision 13-4/0.5.

(Edit 30th May 2017: There is a video of this incident at this link. I note from this video that the official permitted Grace to smooth the footsteps in the sand that he had previously made in digging-in for his stroke. In my opinion, this should not have been permitted. In any case, having received relief without penalty, the permitted area of drop was within one club-length of the nearest point of relief from the uncovered lining, which was outside of the disturbed area of sand. My opinion is based on part of Decision 13-4/11, though this refers to footsteps made in searching for a ball).

Ernie Els Penalising Himself for Taking (Unfair?) Relief
Another interesting Rules incident happened at Wentworth on the same day, but this time no official was involved. Having reached the rough beside the green with his second stroke on the par-5 12th hole, Ernie Els was unsure as to whether his ball had plugged. Rule 25-2 only provides relief for an embedded ball in a ‘closely mown area’, but as is now the norm in most Pro competitions, the European Tour extends this relief by a Local Rule to ‘through the green’. Els was aware that he was entitled to lift his ball to determine whether it was embedded, which would entitle him to a relief drop, so he correctly announced his intention to his fellow competitors that he was going to mark and lift his ball to examine the lie. He quickly determined that the ball had not been embedded, so relief was not available. The Rules require that the ball must then be replaced with a fellow-competitor being given the opportunity to observe the replacement.

Despite having to chip from the rough, Els made an excellent contact with his ball and watched incredulously as the ball rolled across the green and into the hole for an eagle 3. The interview that he gave after the round explains what happened next;

"I just felt uncomfortable by the way the ball came out. The ball came out way too good, so I felt I didn't quite probably put it (back) exactly where I should have. Under the Rules you try and put it back the way you think it should be, but I still felt uncomfortable with it, so we took a two-shot penalty. I know deep down the ball wasn't quite where it should be and I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

So, it was the fact he made perfect contact with his ball, resulting in his chip shot being holed, that led him to believe that he could not possibly have replaced the ball in exactly the same lie as to where it had been embedded and although no-one else was doubting the replacement, including a European Tour Official, who he consulted after the round, he ultimately felt that the best resolution was for him to self-impose a penalty of two strokes, under Rule 20-7, for playing from a wrong place. Kudos to a great golfer who is also a great example to those of us that love the game.

Coincidentally, at the same time that many were complimenting Ernie Els for his absolute integrity in strictly following the Rules at Wentworth, others were raising questions as to whether Branden Grace had taken an unfair action to take advantage of them.

Good golfing,


 


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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Armchair Officials in Golf

One of the most controversial subjects relating to the Rules of Golf is how some penalties are imposed retrospectively on tournament professional golfers, following a communication from someone who has spotted a breach of a Rule while watching television. I have expressed my opinions on this subject in previous blogs and in responding to the related comments underneath them, but I am now pleased to reproduce here, with kind permission from the subscriber, a considered opinion, which makes a lot of sense to me.

The Case for Armchair Officials in Golf
Monopoly is different than chess. They have different rules. No one complains. Golf is different than other sports. It calls for different rules. People complain. Let’s start with a principle on which all sportsmen can agree. Referees are charged with GETTING IT RIGHT. We will accept a close call that goes against our guy, but rail over a bad call every time. “Come on Ref, get it right.” Early on golf’s Rules makers realized our sport was significantly different than all the rest. First, all those other sports have the same field. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, bowling, soccer, volley ball – all of their fields are the same and are right there in plain view for everyone to see. Also, they all have one ball. Our fields are all different and we have 150 balls flying around over 170 acres of topography which include hills, valleys, trees, ponds, all sorts of crooks and crannies. How is it possible for referees to “get it right?”

To assist them the Rules makers early on came up with the concept of “ALL AVAILABLE DATA.” Before adjudicating an issue officials are instructed to talk to anyone that can add creditable data, other players, caddies, spectators, anyone, and anything to get it right. They often use TV footage when it’s available. “Hey Johnny, can you see from the video where that ball crossed the hazard line? Yes Rodger, looks like it crossed near that little tree about 200 yards from the tee.” No one complains. I ask, “What’s the difference between the monitor in the 18th tower and the monitor in Cleveland?” Of course logic dictates the answer – there is no difference.

A cousin to the ALL AVAILABLE DATA principle is the theory of lines. When it’s too difficult to make distinctions, too difficult to draw lines, the Rules makers don’t even try. Take the case of Brian Davis tied after regulation with Jim Furyk at the 2010 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head. During play of the first playoff hole Brian’s club during his backswing from a green side hazard hit a reed (a loose impediment) and he incurred a penalty resulting in his losing the tournament. The grill room crowd went wild. “That’s a dumb Rule. It was only a small reed.” I asked what if instead of a reed there was a log 6 inches in diameter right behind his ball and Brian could fit his wedge in there and on his back swing push that log out of the way clearing the area for a clean chip onto the green? The grill crowd responded with “that would be a penalty.” Logical folks now see the issue. Where is the cut off between a reed and a log? Clearly there isn’t one. Or, if there is, it’s not obvious to the majority of golfers. So, we have the theory of lines. When it’s impossible or impractical to draw lines, Rules makers don’t even try. Don’t hit a loose impediment in a hazard – period! If you cause your ball to move through the green, you incur a penalty. Move is move. One inch, one foot or one yard. You can’t play from a wrong place, no lines. One yard, one foot, one inch. When Officials are directed to obtain ALL AVAILABLE DATA, all means all. No commas, no dashes, no semi-colons. If the arm chair guy in Cleveland has data that can help GET IT RIGHT – then bring it on. Remember, he is not making any ruling, he is just providing data. It’s reported that while the arm chair call-ins are reviewed, most are discarded. Also, over the years call-ins have helped players as well as hurt them. Our game is better served by the ALL AVAILABLE DATA principle.
 

Jerry Duffy, Maryland, USA
 

In my opinion, viewers who think that they may have seen a breach of a Rule on a televised broadcast should restrain themselves from getting involved, leaving it to the Rules officials charged with the responsibility. However, once any breach of Rule has come to the attention of those officials in charge, notwithstanding its source, they do then have a duty to impose the appropriate penalty prescribed by the Rules of Golf. Officials have a responsibility to protect the rights of every other player in the competition and on a wider scale to the integrity of the game; they do not have the right to chooses whether to impose a penalty, or not, for a known breach.

Good golfing,


 



The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Stroke and Distance Penalty for Ball Out of Bounds

There has been a lot of discussion in golfing circles about which Rule of Golf players would most like to see changed, in addition to the proposed changes announced by the Ruling Bodies on 1st March. At the top of nearly every informal poll I have seen is a wish to change the stroke and distance penalty for a ball played out of bounds. Players hate to have to return to where they last played from when they unexpectedly find that their ball is the wrong side of an out of bounds boundary line. When this happens there is an inevitable delay in play while the player goes back. Of course, they should have played a provisional ball, but there are occasions when the out of bounds line is not obvious from where the ball was played from and other times when players find that their ball has taken an unusual deflection in the wrong direction. There is only one way to proceed when a ball is out of bounds and a provisional ball has not been played, as in Rule 27-1b;

b. Ball Out of Bounds
If a ball is out of bounds, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).


The appropriate penalty for a ball that has been played out of bounds has exercised the Ruling Bodies for well over a century; it seems that there is general support for a change to be made, but it is far from obvious what that change should be. This is a summary of the various efforts made by the R&A and USGA to address the issue over the past 130 years;

1886: The term out of bounds was first defined by Royal Isle of Wight, with a penalty of stroke and distance.
1899: Defined as being outside the recognised boundaries of the course; penalty distance only.
1908: Redefined as all ground on which play is prohibited. Penalty distance only still, but may be changed to stroke and distance by Local Rule for both forms of play.
1920: Stroke and distance, but now the penalty stroke may be remitted by Local Rule.
1947: USGA (1950: R&A): Distance only, and no provision for change by a Local Rule.
1952: Stroke and distance.
1960: USGA experimentally changed to distance only.
1961: USGA back to stroke and distance. In addition, the USGA allowed an alternative procedure of stroke only, dropping a ball within two club lengths of where the ball went out of bounds, on courses where the penalty of stroke and distance would be "unduly severe".
1964: USGA allowed a Local Rule to be adopted which allowed a stroke-only option if it was felt that stroke and distance would be “unduly severe”. The player could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the original ball crossed the out of bounds line. Reasonable evidence was required both that the ball had gone out of bounds and as to the point of crossing. In the absence of either, stroke and distance was the only option.
1968: Rescinded.
The main difficulty relating to a ball that has come to rest out of bounds is estimating where it last crossed the boundary of the course. Sometimes this may be easy to determine, as in the photo above, but more often it may lead to robust debate between players, officials and spectators. Also, there is little doubt that keeping the ball within the boundaries of the course can be a strategic part of the challenge of playing some holes. This is particularly true on courses that have tight boundaries where some holes have specifically been designed to encourage players to weigh the risk-reward of a shot and play the higher percentage route for safety. In this context, safety may include both avoiding out of bounds penalties and avoiding public liability issues from balls landing outside the course. Adjusting the penalty for balls played out of bounds could lead to players choosing to take high-risk shots towards, or over those areas, with little concern for what is on the other side.

Presently, there is no change in the ‘Draft New Rules of Golf for 2019’ with respect to what to do when a ball is lost or out of bounds; “18-2b: If a ball is lost or out of bounds, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or a substituted ball from where the previous stroke was made.“ However, I would not be surprised if serious representations are made from some quarters to treat out of bounds area the same as ‘red penalty areas’, for which there will be similar relief options to that for lateral water hazards in the current Rules.

Perhaps, the quandary on a suitable penalty for a ball played out of bounds is best summed up by these two statements on the subject by Thomas Pagel, Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA;

“We’ve looked at every angle, but of all the alternatives we’ve considered, we haven’t found one that is workable for all levels.”

“We are committed to identifying a solution. When we hit 2019, there will be solution, even if it’s by a Local Rule, because we recognize the importance going forward.”


Good golfing,



 

If your golf club is anywhere in Ireland, Berkshire & neighbouring counties in England, or Aberdeenshire in Scotland, why not suggest a Rules of Golf social evening to your Committee. I am widening the areas where I give presentations and would be pleased to quote them for an evening’s ‘entertainment’!

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

April Miscellaneous

Unusual TIO:
There is no reference to Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIOs) in the 34 Rules of Golf, but this Definition appears in Appendix L, Part A;

A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or not readily movable. Examples of TIOs include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories.

Supporting guy wires are part of the TIO, unless the Committee declares that they are to be treated as elevated power lines or cables.


So, it was unusual to see a natural obstruction being defined as a TIO during the LPGA’s first major at Mission Hills Country Club, California at the end of March. A large tree on the 9th hole had been uprooted during a vicious wind storm on the first day. It was too large to be quickly removed, but was lying in a position where it was likely to interfere with play. I am sure that the Committee considered declaring the area around the tree as ground under repair, but judged that this would provide insufficient relief from this large obstruction that is obviously not meant to be a feature of the course. By declaring the fallen tree to be a TIO players could take line of play relief from it, which seems equitable in the circumstances, where some players had played this hole before the storm started. On refection, the fallen tree was temporary (it was going to be removed after the round), it was immovable (it would have required several persons to move it out of the way) and it was an obstruction (in the strict, ‘non-Rules' meaning of the word), so in the circumstances I think that the Committee made the right decision.

Moving the Location of a Hole during Masters 2017:
There was an interesting and pretty rare occurrence during the final day of the Masters last week. On the 5th hole Russell Henley hit a stunning second shot that slam-dunked into the hole for eagle, causing material damage to the lip. The damage was so severe that Augusta National’s grounds crew were unable to fix it satisfactorily for the players who were following.

It is this Exception to Rule 33-2b that permits a Committee to cut a new hole for one that has been severely damaged during play of a round;

When it is impossible for a damaged hole to be repaired so that it conforms with the Definition, the Committee may make a new hole in a nearby similar position.


So, the efficient Augusta National greenkeepers re-cut a new hole and filled in the old one in less than 5 minutes after arriving on the putting green, allowing play to continue.

Obviously there are no greenkeepers on hand to repair, or re-locate holes during the large majority of competitive stroke play rounds. In this case Decision 16-1a/6 is relevant;


Q. Prior to putting, a player discovers that the hole has been damaged. What is the proper procedure?
A. If the damage is not clearly identifiable as a ball mark, then:
(a) If the damage is such that the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed materially, the player should continue play without repairing the hole. If he touches the hole in such circumstances, a breach of Rule 16-1a occurs.
(b) If the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, the player should request the Committee to have the hole repaired. If a member of the Committee is not readily available, the player may repair the damage, without penalty.
If a player repairs a materially damaged hole when a member of the Committee is readily available, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a.


Name and Date on a Score Card:
Most golfers that have served on a Golf Committee will know that part of Rule 33-5 states that in stroke play competitions, the Committee must provide each competitor with a score card containing the date and the competitor's name(s). However, this does not always happen in smaller Clubs and Societies, where players are expected to complete these details on their score card before commencing their round, and perhaps also record their entry on a competitions book, or computer, designated for that purpose. The question then arises as to whether a player should be disqualified for returning a score card that does not contain their legible name, and/or the date of the competition.

Of course, the players score card must be signed before it is returned. Decision 6-6b/2 clarifies that it may be signed, or initialled, in a place other than the signature box, provided it is clear from all the evidence that the competitor (and the marker) is doing so for the purpose of verifying their scores for all of the holes.

Note that a Committee may not, as a condition of competition, require that competitors enter their scores into a computer and so players cannot be penalised for failing to do so (Decision 6-6b/8). However, a Committee may introduce a ‘club regulation’ to this effect and provide disciplinary sanctions, such as ruling that a player is ineligible to play in the next club competition for failure to enter their scores in a computer provided for this purpose.

Unusual Tee Shot:
Question: Does a ball played from within the teeing ground have to pass between the tee markers.
Answer: No, provided the ball is teed within rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers, it may be played in any direction and does not have to pass between the tee-markers.

Good golfing,


 


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Monday, 3 April 2017

Lexi Thompson Penalised Four Strokes

Another déjà vu Rules experience. Following a communication from a TV viewer, the Rules officials at the LPGA ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills, had little option other than to apply penalties under Rule 20-7c and Rule 6-6d to the clear breach by the tournament leader, Lexi Thompson. I appreciate that many of my readers will not agree with this opening statement, so I am going to expand on it. If you are not already familiar with the detail of this latest Rules incident to blight a major golf tournament, I recommend that you click on this link to view what happened and then read the official statement from the LPGA.

LPGA Statement Regarding Lexi Thompson Penalty
On Sunday afternoon, the LPGA received an email from a television viewer, saying that Lexi Thompson did not properly replace her ball prior to putting out on the 17th hole during Saturday’s third round of the ANA Inspiration. The claim was quickly investigated by LPGA Rules officials.

After a full review, it was determined that Thompson breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty under Rule 16-1b. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three. She was immediately notified of the breach by LPGA Rules Committee in between holes 12 and 13 of the final round.


This addresses the confusion that some golfers have, as to why Lexi’s penalty was four strokes and not two. Here is the wording of the Exception to Rule 6-6d;

Exception: If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning his score card, he did not know he had incurred, he is not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes for each hole at which the competitor has committed a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.


Note that if the same Rules infraction had occurred prior to 1st January 2016, when this exception was introduced, Lexi would have been disqualified and would not have collected her second place prize money of $250,591.00.

I have a number of points to make regarding this incident and for ease I am going to do so in a bullet point format.


•    As Lee Westwood tweeted, “You know all this rules confusion could have been averted if Lexi just mastered the art of marking and replacing the ball in the same spot.”
•    There is no question that the ball was not replaced at the spot from which it was lifted, as required by Rule 20-3a. Lexi was given the opportunity to view the incident on video after her round and admitted that she had unintentionally breached this Rule.
•    All professional golfers know that the ball has to be replaced accurately, or a penalty is incurred. For example, they know that if they lift their ball that has come to rest in a dent in the putting surface, such as an aeration hole, they must replace the ball in that dent (unless there is a Local Rule that offers relief). If some latitude was introduced to this Rule, e.g. replace within 1cm (4/10ths inch), it would unnecessarily complicate the Rule and would not stop witnesses from claiming that a player had placed just outside this prescribed limit. For this reason there is no latitude built into the Rule.
•    Lexi says that she was not aware that she had replaced her ball at a different spot and no-one seems to be disputing this. But from a Rules perspective the video evidence is uncertain. She appears to be about to make the short, two-foot putt when she sees something; unusually she then marks the ball to the side; lifts the ball and does not clean it; then twists it, without apparently lining up any of the markings to the hole, as she places it in front of her ball-marker. How is an official meant to accurately determine whether this was an unconscious mistake not deserving of a penalty, or a deliberate act of cheating that certainly does?
•    If the officials notify a player of a penalty incurred as soon as they have made their ruling and it occurs during a round they are criticised, but if they wait until the end of the round before passing on the bad news they are also criticised! There is no easy answer as to when the player and the other competitors should be notified.
•    Rules officials do not solicit calls or emails from third-parties, but once they are aware of a suspected breach, they have a duty to the other competitors to follow-up and enforce the Rules. This equally applies to Club and Society competitions. If a Committee turns a blind eye to any reported breach, even if it has no apparent effect on the player’s score, they will find that the next time any Rules incident occurs the player involved will demand the same preferential treatment, because a precedent has been set.
•    Most of the criticism surrounding this incident has been directed towards the person who emailed the LPGA to make them aware of the breach. However, there is another side to this. If the email had not been received during the competition it is probable that Lexi would have won the tournament. Supposing that subsequently someone put the video on-line, highlighting her incorrect replacement and speculating that it had been done purposely. At best this would have put an asterisk (*) against her name as winner and it is very possible that the ‘evidence’ could then have gone viral, bringing it to the attention of a much wider and less forgiving audience. If you don’t believe that this can happen try Googling, “Montgomerie replaced ball in wrong spot” (2005), or “Mark O’Meara admits to misplacing” (1997). These incidents are still being remembered in a negative manner against the players involved, over a decade later.
•    Golf’s reputation is admirably different from almost every other sport, largely due to the integrity of players at all levels, who almost universally abide by a unified set of evolving Rules that are strictly applied, without favour.
•    Finally, the proposed Rules changes for 2019 have this ‘reasonable judgment’ clause that might have absolved Lexi had it been in place today; “So long as you do all that can be reasonably expected of you under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement, your reasonable judgment will be accepted even if later shown to be wrong by other information (such as video technology).”

There is no doubt in my mind that Lexi Thompson has come out of this situation as a stronger athlete with a larger fan base. She handled an extraordinarily emotional situation with amazing dignity and class, even staying on after she knew that the incident had lost her the tournament win, to sign autographs and have pictures taken with her fans. I am pleased to leave the last word to her, copied from her official Instagram account;

“Well it was an emotional day here for me, first off I do want to say what I had done was 100% not intentional at all I didn't realize I had done that. I want to say thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers and Mission Hills for making this week possible at the @anainspiration! Also to the fans out there, words can't describe what you being there for me, meant to me. You helped me push thru those last holes so thank you for always believing in me. A big thanks to my caddy as well for always staying positive and being there for me when it got tough. I played some great golf so definitely a lot of positives to take from the week. Time for a very needed 3 weeks off now. Thank you everybody ❤”


Good golfing,



 

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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.
 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

David Horsey’s Ball Deflected by Official

For obvious reasons Tournament Officials don’t like to be the subject of rulings! So it will probably take a long time for the unfortunate Wanchai Meechai, who was hit by a ball played by English Pro, David Horsey, during the final round of the 2017 Hero Indian Open in New Delhi last week, to overcome his embarrassment. The circumstance was that he was driving nonchalantly down the 9th fairway (!) in a golf cart marked, “Rules 2”, when Horsey’s well-struck ball bounced to the side of him, hit him on the shoulder, rolled across the floor of his cart and dropped back onto the fairway. So what was the ruling? As both the official and the moving golf cart are outside agents and the incident was a true ‘rub of the green’, the ball had to be played from where it came to rest. This part of Rule 19-1 applies;

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.


The surprised TV commentator jokingly remarked;

“… Could have taken it to the green; that would have done him a favour!”

Well no! Note (a) to Rule 19 deals with that circumstance. If the official had deliberately deflected or stopped the ball in the cart and then deposited it somewhere, whether closer to the hole or further away from it, the spot where the ball would most likely have come to rest without the deflection must be estimated and the ball dropped there, without penalty.

To be fair to Wanchai Meechai, the official, he immediately recognised his mistake, turned to the teeing ground and raised his arms in a gesture of apology. No harm done, as the accidental deflection of Horsey’s ball only resulted in it coming to rest just a few yards nearer to the hole than it otherwise would have.

To view this incident click on this video link.

Errors on Score Cards
If you have ever worked on a Golf Competitions Committee you are almost certain to have had a situation where a returned score card included either a wrong hole score, wrong handicap, or has not been signed.

There have been two recent instances where competitors in Tour events have had to be disqualified for returning score cards with such errors. At the Qatar Masters, German Pro, Marcel Siem, had transposed the scores from his 5th and 6th holes, so although the total strokes for the round was correctly recorded, two of the individual hole scores were not. Presumably Siem’s marker had entered the wrong scores for the two holes, perhaps a few holes after they were played, and he had not checked his individual scores before signing and returning his score card.


At last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion, Curtis Luck, returned an incorrect scorecard on day two. He finished his round with a bogey, meaning that he failed to make the cut by a few strokes. However, he entered and signed for a par on his 18th hole, leading to his subsequent disqualification when the error was discovered.

I am sure that most of us can sympathise with players, especially amateurs, who make simple mistakes on their score cards. However, there can be no exceptions in applying the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6b, whatever rationalisation, justification or excuse is offered. A Committee that makes an exception to applying the Rules of Golf for one player will almost certainly regret its decision when it is continually raised by others seeking to receive the same preferential treatment.

Good golfing,


 


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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

More on Rules Modernis(z)ation

At this time, less than a week after the R&A and USGA unveiled their preview of the proposed new Rules of Golf, I have decided not to comment in any detail about my opinions on any of the changes. A lesson that I have learned during the 10 plus years that I have been studying and blogging on the Rules of Golf, is that there is little to be gained by making instant judgements based on personal, limited experiences and preferences, without carefully considering the potential consequences for others, as there are often several implications, which may not be immediately apparent, to absorb and think through. Overall, I welcome the proposals, particularly those that relate to improving the pace of play, which to my mind is one of the biggest issues facing the future of recreational golf.

For those of you that have not seen, or have not been interested in studying the detail of the Ruling Bodies’ proposals at this very early stage, here is my brief outline of 10 of the most significant changes affecting amateur golfers;

1.    There is no penalty when a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits them, or their equipment (e.g. it rebounds off the lip of a bunker).

2.    A ball may be dropped from any height (yes, even one inch!)

3.    Defined relief areas (e.g. for dropping) to be either 20" or 80" (not club-lengths). This translates to 50.8 cm and 203.2 cm!

4.    A ball is lost after 3 minutes search.

5.    There is to be relief for a ball that is embedded anywhere, except in sand.

6.    The flagstick may be left in the hole while putting.

7.    Spike marks and other damage to the putting green may be repaired before making a stroke.

8.    Increased use of red penalty areas (previously known as lateral water hazards), so that lateral relief is always allowed from them, even if they are not areas of water (e.g. deserts, jungles, or lava rock fields).

9.    There is no penalty for removing loose impediments in either penalty areas or bunkers.

10.    A caddie is not permitted to line up their player before they make a putt, or any other stroke.

Please remember that the above outlines just 10 of the proposals, which are not yet in operation and even if they are agreed are unlikely to replace the existing Rules until January 2019. This is the published, estimated timeline from the Ruling Bodies;

  • To March 2017: Gathering feedback on the drafts of the proposals.
  • March 1st 2017: Announcement of the proposed new Rules of Golf.
  • March 2017 to August 2017: Seeking public feedback for further evaluation.
  • August 2017 to spring 2018: Reviewing and approving the new Rules
  • Spring 2018: Announcement of the new Rules
  • January 1st 2019: The new Rules take effect
Apparently, the R&A and USGA have been working on these proposed changes for over 5 years and have gone through 7 iterative drafts. I am aware that many golfers criticise those that are closely involved with the Ruling Bodies as being geriatric, blue blazers’ ensconced in their ‘ivory tower’ and totally out of touch with the playing of the game of golf. My experience is that this is very far from the truth. I can categorically say that all those that I have met and have had dealings with are dedicated professionals of all ages and backgrounds, striving to protect and improve the game of golf for the benefit of all 60 million golfers around the world. They are to be congratulated for this attempt to make the Rules significantly easier to understand and apply, whilst preserving the character of the game and the essential principles that have served players well for more than 270 years.

A good example of this is the outstanding work that has gone into preparing a comprehensive library of resources for easy access to everything surrounding the proposed new Rules. This includes explanatory narratives, diagrams, infographics, videos, Q&As, and the proposed new Rules book. They have even provided a recommended ‘Test Rules’ for use in an unofficial (i.e. non handicap counting) event. You can explore for yourself at these links;

R&A - http://www.randa.org/RulesModernisation

USGA - http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/rules-modernization.html

I strongly recommend that everyone with an interest in the future of golf delves into these comprehensive resources. Not only do they provide the precise, but much improved wording of the proposed changes, but also the reasoning behind them. Having done so, you are encouraged to take the 10 minutes survey, to ensure that your opinions are included in the feedback before the final changes are agreed and announced.

Good golfing,


 


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Modernisation of the Rules

I guess that a majority of those that play competitive golf are expectantly awaiting news of the proposed ‘modernisation’ of the Rules of Golf that has been signalled by the Ruling Bodies. It seems that we should have a good idea of what is being proposed when the first draft of what is expected to be a broad and significant change to the Rules is released next month (March 2017). I want to emphasise that there will not be any change to any Rule of Golf this year and almost certainly not next year. January 1st 2019 seems to be the earliest that any changes will become effective in competitive play. The period in between includes approximately six months for public comment, after which the R&A and USGA will take time to review the feedback and then draw up their revisions, to be revealed in late 2017, or early 2018. Remembering the lengthy discussion, early opposition and eventual acceptance prior to the comparatively simple amendments relating to anchoring a club, I anticipate that this will be a very busy time for everyone involved with the Rules in competitive golf, whether as a Committee member, Rules official or media reporter.

The first recorded Rules of Golf, drawn up in 1744, amounted to just 13 Rules in 13 sentences, hand-written on two sheets of paper (see the extract in the photo above and view the wording at this link). By the time the R&A published the first 'national' (UK) set of rules, in 1899, which were adopted by the USGA the following year, there were 35 Rules, including 17 Definitions. Today there are 34 Rules, subdivided into 126 sections, 61 Definitions, and over 1,380 Decisions on the Rules. I liken the Decisions to the ‘case law’ of the Rules of Golf; they are required to elaborate and clarify the wording of the Rules in every possible circumstance that might occur in the myriad of topographic, climatic and variable course conditions, anywhere in the world. It has taken over 270 years for the Rules to evolve to where they are today, every change and amendment resulting from actual situations that have occurred during competition. And yet, the Ruling Bodies still receive thousands of new enquiries every year from Committees who are looking for an authoritative answer to situations that they cannot resolve themselves.

The primary objectives of the modernisation of the Rules, as stated by both the Ruling Bodies, are to make them easier to read, understand and apply by golfers at all levels, whether the play is competitive or social and wherever their game is played. There has been a leaking of some of the changes that are likely to feature, though these are expected to be the tip of the iceberg.

Reduce lost ball search: 5 to 3 minutes:
This seems to be more a speed of play issue, on which any positive improvement is to be welcomed.

Greens: Allow spike mark repairs.
Great! But will other damage to the putting green also be included, e.g. heel indentations, flagstick scores, etc. If so, will this not adversely contribute to slow play?

Water Hazards: emphasis on red lines and/or stakes.
Designating water hazards as lateral water hazards provides the additional option of dropping within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin, or an equidistant point on the other side. This should eliminate some of the confusion that many golfers have over where they are permitted to drop in taking relief, under penalty, from a water hazard.

Taking relief: Allow drop from any height.
Hmmmm! Say 2 inches from the ground? If the height is not going to be specified, perhaps all references to dropping should be changed to placing.

Taking relief: Eliminate use of club-lengths.
There is not enough detail here to make a judgement. Presumably one change may be to replace club-length(s) relief with some other fixed measurement, otherwise the player would be permitted to drop a ball almost anywhere that is farther away from the hole. Club-lengths don’t have to be measured anyway, providing the player intends to drop well within the permitted area. See my blog on this subject.

Unfortunately, such a major revision of the Rules, though undertaken with the admirable intention of making learning them and complying with them much easier, is bound to create a period of confusion in the short (and probably medium) term. The multiple changes will almost certainly be challenging for Golf Committees, even if they and their members, do take the time to study and understand them. There are many golfers that never reference the existing Rules book and this is unlikely to change, which is bound to result in differences of opinion, increasing the number of issues that Committees will have to give rulings on. These issues do not arise when all competitors are playing together, as in match play, or a casual ‘skins’ game between friends, as they can resolve the situation amongst themselves, but it is obviously a different matter when the rights of the whole field have to be taken into account. It would obviously be inequitable to have one competitor proceeding with a different interpretation of a Rule to another who is faced with the same situation, but playing in a different group. I have said before that I have never got close to winning the annual Captain’s prize at my Club, but if by some miracle I was to come second and subsequently find out that the winner had breached a Rule without including the penalty on their score card, I know that I would be apoplectic!

So, although most golfers obviously wish for a dramatic reduction in the size of the Rules book, this is probably not going to happen. As previously stated, the reason for the existing number of Rules, sections, definitions and decisions is that over the years it has been necessary to update them as a result of what is regularly happening on golf courses all over the world. The welcome modernisation should certainly lead to a reduction in verbiage, but in my opinion, not nearly enough to satisfy most players, who often do not take the time to logically think through the potential unintended consequences that may occur following any change, however minor. From the comments that I receive it is clear that the Rule that most amateur golfers would like to see changed, is for them to obtain relief from divot holes on closely mown areas. I am not privy to any inside information on this, but I would be extremely surprised if this was included in the modernisation for the reasons that I explain in this blog.

Another welcome objective of the ‘Rules Modernisation’, which is expected to be far less controversial, is to identify and put into practice ways that will improve how the Rules are distributed and consumed, including increased and better use of technology. This should involve easier and more user friendly ways of accessing Rules information, for example through the use of audio, images and videos. We can all look forward to that.

Good golfing,



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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.