Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Before Dropping a Ball

I guess that most readers know how to drop a ball under the Rules. If you are not sure then this blog of mine will remind you. However, there may be some questions that you should think about before you drop a ball; 
  • Should you mark the outside extent of where you are permitted to drop your ball?
Whilst the Rules do not require you to mark the permitted area (e.g. within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole, for one of the options for taking relief under penalty of one stroke for a ball that is deemed unplayable; or within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, when taking relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction), it is wise to do so if you want to take advantage of the full area of relief. If you do not and your ball first strikes the course outside of the permitted area, you will be playing from a wrong place if you then make a stroke at your ball. Rule 20-2b.
  • May you remove loose impediments from the area before dropping a ball? 
You are permitted to move any loose impediments, such as leaves, twigs, stones, droppings etc., but remember that loose soil and sand are not loose impediments, except on the putting green. It would be wrong to use a brushing motion to clear away leaves from the dropping area, as that would inevitably mean moving loose soil at the same time. So, the loose impediments should be picked off in this situation. Rule 23-1.
  • May you improve the area of intended drop in any other way? 
Apart from moving loose impediments you may not improve, or allow to be improved, the area in which a ball is to be dropped. This includes; pressing a club on the ground; moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed; creating or eliminating irregularities of surface; removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position; or removing dew, frost or water. Rule 13-2. 
  • May you clean the ball before dropping it? 
Yes, the ball may be cleaned. Rule 21.
  • May you ask a fellow competitor, opponent or outside agency what options you have before making your drop? 
Yes, information on the Rules is not advice. Definition of Advice.

Remember that when you drop a ball in the correct way and at the right place it may still roll to a place where it has to be re-dropped under the Rules. I will cover this in a separate blog in the near future.

Good golfing,

Thanks to those of you that purchased one or more of my three quizzes after last week’s blog. For those of you that were going to order but never got round to it, here is the link again. ($8, £6 or €5).

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

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Matt Jones Chips from the Putting Green

The flagstick was on the right-hand side, above the ridge, last Sunday.
I was advised of an incident that occurred during the fourth and final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. Matt Jones was playing the Par-5, 2nd hole with Jim Furyk and had played his second stroke onto the putting green, some 24 yards from the hole. Unfortunately, although his ball was on the putting green, it seems that there was a ridge of rough between his ball and the hole, which must have been on the top right side of the green in the photo above. Apparently, from the angle he was playing, there was no way that Jones could putt his ball close to the hole, so he opened up his sand wedge and chipped it. This is unusual, but is certainly not prohibited by the Rules. A player may use any club they carry to make any stroke from anywhere on the course, providing it is within the Rules. This obviously excludes any putting green other than the one being played, as a player may not make a stroke from a wrong putting green (see Rule 25-3 and this earlier blog of mine). What was even more unusual regarding this incident, is that Matt Jones left the flagstick in the hole while he played his chip from on the putting green. In itself this does not incur a penalty, but if his ball had hit the flagstick, he would have been penalised two strokes under Rule 17-3c;
The player’s ball must not strike: …
… c. The flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green.
So, Matt Jones ran the risk of incurring a penalty and his caddie did not step in to advise him (surprise, surprise!). Should a walking referee, if there was one, have stepped in to prevent the possible breach? This is from the R&A’s ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
"This raises the question of the referee’s ethical position when he sees a player about to break the Rules. The referee is not responsible for a player’s wilful breach of the Rules, but he certainly does have an obligation to advise players about the Rules. It would be contrary to the spirit of fair play if a referee failed to inform a player of his rights and obligations under the Rules and then penalised him for a breach that he could have prevented. The referee who tries to help players to avoid breaches of the Rules cannot be accused of favouring one player against the other, since he would act in the same manner towards any player and is, therefore, performing his duties impartially."
So, if there was a referee watching Jones and Furyk, who as the overnight leaders were the last pairing on the course, he should have intervened before Jones made his chip from on the putting green. As it happens, Jones’s ball missed the flagstick, took a big hop off the down slope and came to rest 12 feet from the hole. He missed his birdie putt and went on to finish one over par for the round and tied for 7th place.

Good golfing,

It’s that time of year again for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. The season is soon to start (with the Masters at Augusta?) and Clubs and Societies are wondering how that can get their members to, a) speed up play, and b) have a better understanding of the Rules of Golf. I cannot help with a), but many clubs have found that running a social evening, based around one of my Rules Quizzes, is a great way to make a significant contribution to b). Click here for details.

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

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Playing a Wrong Ball

Bill Kimpton's print reproduced from www.golfun.com
I am taking a rest this week, as I received a weekly newsletter by Paul Kruger, PGA, The Landings Club, Savannah, GA, on a subject that I have not previously covered in detail. Rather than write a similar blog from scratch I have obtained Paul’s permission to copy his article about playing a wrong ball, in full and without change.

Per Rule 15-3 -Wrong Ball, the penalty for playing a wrong ball is loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play. One of the most demoralizing penalties one can incur is that of playing a wrong ball. Why? Because Rule 12-2, Lifting Ball for Identification, gives you the authority to identify your ball anywhere on the course. Thanks to this Rule, you can be absolutely sure you are playing your own ball, thereby avoiding the ignominy of playing a stray ball or someone else’s ball in play by mistake. To assist you in identifying your ball, Rule 12-2 recommends that you should put an identification mark on your ball.

As long as you are sure that you are about to play your own ball, what could possibly go wrong? Believe it or not, under certain circumstances, you can be penalized for playing a wrong ball despite the fact that you have played your own ball! Strange as that may seem, consider the following:

  • In match play, if you are doubtful of your rights or the correct procedure to follow when taking relief, you must resist any temptation to play a second ball. Playing a second ball under Rule 3-3, Doubt As To Procedure, is restricted to stroke play only! According to Decision 3-3/9, Second Ball Played in Match Play, if you play a second ball in match play, you will be incur a loss of hole penalty for playing a wrong ball. 
  • If you mark and lift your ball on a putting green and then set it aside, you must remember to replace your ball before playing your next stroke with that ball. Per Decision 15/4, Player Lifts Ball, Sets It Aside and Plays It from Where Set Aside, when you lift the ball pursuant to Rule 20-1, Lifting and Marking, that ball is out of play. The Definition of Ball in Play advises that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is lifted. If you then make a stroke with your ball while it is out of play, you will have played a wrong ball. The Definition of Wrong Ball states, in part, “A ‘wrong ball’ … includes … the player’s original ball when it is no longer in play.”
  • If, after a brief search for your original ball, you put another ball into play under Rule 27-1, Stroke and Distance; Ball Out of Bounds; Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes, you must continue play with the substituted ball, even though you then find your original ball within the five minute search period. Per Decision 15/5, Original Ball Found and Played After Another Ball Put into Play, your original ball became lost when you put the substituted ball into play under Rule 27-1. If you then abandon the substituted ball and play a stroke with the original ball, you will have played a wrong ball. See also Decision 27-1/2.3, Original Ball Found Within Five-Minute Search Period After Another Ball Dropped; Original Ball Played.
  • If you play a stroke at your ball which is lying out of bounds, you will be playing a wrong ball. See Decision 15/6, Stroke Played with Ball Lying Out of Bounds, and Decision 18-2b/9, Ball Moves After Address and Comes to Rest Out of Bounds; Player Plays Ball. The Definition of Ball in Play indicates that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is out of bounds.
  • Decision 15/9, Ball Thrown Into Bounds by Outside Agency and Played; Caddie Aware of Action of Outside Agency, describes an unusual set of circumstances wherein a caddie withholds vital information from his player. Choose your caddie wisely so that you do not unwittingly play your original ball after it has been tossed back in bounds!
  • If you find your original ball after a search exceeding five minutes, that ball is lost (see Definition of Lost Ball). Should you then play that ball, you will be playing a wrong ball. The Definition of Ball in Play indicates that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is lost. See Decision 27/8, Ball Found After Search Exceeding Five Minutes Is Then Played.
  • If you play a provisional ball pursuant to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball, for your original ball that may be lost or out of bounds, be careful not to continue play with your original ball after playing your provisional ball from a point nearer the hole than where your original ball was likely to be. See Decision 27-2b/5, Original Ball Played After Provisional Ball Played from Point Nearer Hole Than Original Ball Is Likely to Be, and Rule 27-2b, When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play.
A good, comprehensive coverage of playing a wrong ball. Thanks Paul!

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Ball Played Provisionally Under Rule 26-1

Occasionally, I use my weekly blog to try and interpret demanding subject areas of the Rules of Golf that many players find confusing. This blog concerns one of those areas and if you are a casual golfer you might want to skip straight to my next heading (re Patrick Reed), as this somewhat complicated issue is unlikely to be of interest to you. Conversely, if you are a Committee member, Rules official, or just a Rules enthusiast like me, keep reading.

Some Committees may assume that they have the authority to make any Local Rule that will assist their Club or Society members to enjoy their golf, particularly if it helps to speed up play. This is incorrect; Rule 33-1 states;

The Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf.
So, for example, a Committee may not assist players who cannot drive their ball over a water hazard, by adopting a Local Rule that allows them to drop a ball, for a penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone located across the hazard (Decision 33-8/2). This is by way of an introduction to my main point, which concerns the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 1. This permits a ball to be played provisionally, under Rule 26-1, when the original may be in a water hazard of such character that, if it cannot be found it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard, and it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play. I want to emphasise that Committees must understand that there are two important restrictions before they may implement this Local Rule (which I will reproduce in full later on) and they are;
The water hazard (including a lateral water hazard) must be of such size and shape and/or located in such a position that:

(i) it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play, and

(ii) if the original ball is not found, it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard
These restrictions mean that the Local Rule may only be introduced where it is virtually impossible that a ball could be lost outside the water hazard. This rules out most of the water hazards that I have ever encountered, because there are usually trees, bushes, reeds, fescue, deep rough or marshy areas in the vicinity of the hazard, where a ball could be lost. In the relatively rare cases where this Local Rule may be applicable this is the specimen wording from Appendix l, Part B, 1;
“If there is doubt whether a ball is in or is lost in the water hazard (specify location), the player may play another ball provisionally under any of the applicable options in Rule 26-1.
If the original ball is found outside the water hazard, the player must continue play with it.

If the original ball is found in the water hazard, the player may either play the original ball as it lies or continue with the ball played provisionally under Rule 26-1.

If the original ball is not found or identified within the five-minute search period, the player must continue with the ball played provisionally.
There are three points here that I would like to draw your attention to. Firstly, note the different wording in this specimen Local Rule compared to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. It is the use of the phrase "ball played provisionally" (3 times), as opposed to "provisional ball", highlighting that the ball is being played under Rule 26-1, Water Hazards, and not Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. Secondly, this is a very rare instance in the Rules of Golf (unique?) where the player may have a choice of which ball he wishes to continue to play with; the ball found inside the water hazard or the ball played provisionally. Thirdly, note that if a player is uncertain as to whether their ball has crossed over the water hazard, or has landed in it, they may proceed to where their ball last crossed the margin and drop and play a ball provisionally, under option 26-1b, dropping it outside the hazard, on a line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin. In short, the ball played provisionally does not have to be played as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played, though that is still an option.

I hope that I have sufficiently emphasised that this Local Rule is not relevant to most courses and certainly cannot be applied to all holes with water hazards, as seems to be the case in the photo above. I strongly recommend that even if a water hazard does meet the two important qualifying conditions for its introduction, Committees should consider very carefully before implementing it, as it is bound to lead to confusion amongst players, especially visitors to the course. For example, a player may think that they can play a ball provisionally when it is obvious that their ball has come to rest in a water hazard. In that situation, the Local Rule is not applicable and if another ball is played that is the ball in play, even if the original is subsequently found to be playable in the hazard.

I started by warning you that this is an obscure and difficult area of the Rules! My principal reason for covering it is to warn Committees against its introduction, unless they are absolutely certain that a water hazard on their course fully meets the restrictive conditions. If those requirements are ignored it is possible that its introduction could invalidate the course rating for handicapping purposes.

I promise to return to a less esoteric subject next week!

The Villain - Patrick Reed

Love him or hate him you have to admit that Patrick Reed, currently ranked No.16 on the Official World Golf Rankings, is an interesting character. Whichever side you are on this article by Shane Ryan is definitely worth reading.

Good golfing,


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

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.