Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Whose Ball Is Used in Ryder Cup Foursomes?

Please excuse me while I proudly point out the significant role that the Irish played in Europe’s comprehensive Ryder Cup victory. Despite having only ~½% of Europe’s population, Ireland provided the Captain, two Vice-Captains and two of the outstanding players for the European team. My congratulations to Paul McGinley, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Des Smyth, not forgetting the rest of this magnificent team.

Thankfully, there were no Rules incidents of any note over the three days of competition, although this link shows that an over-enthusiastic forecaddie may possibly have improved the lie of Garcia’s ball in the rough by parting the grass around it. However, I was asked a Rules related question about the foursomes, which I think will be of interest to readers.

Generally, tour events operate the ‘One Ball’ Condition of Competition, which restricts players to using conforming golf balls of the same brand and model throughout their stipulated round. However, back in 2006, this was relaxed for the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup and similar events, so that in foursomes players were permitted to switch types of golf balls between holes. Of course, once the hole is started, the same ball (or type of ball) must be used to complete the hole. This raises the question as to whose type of ball will be used by tour professionals in foursomes (alternate shots), as they use a wide variety of balls. I understand that on the US team, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler both use a Titleist Pro V1x, Jimmy Walker uses a Pro V1. Keegan Bradley plays a Srixon Z-Star and Phil Mickelson plays a Callaway Speed Regime 3. The interesting answer to this question is that the players usually agree to tee off using the ball favoured by the player who will be hitting the shot into the putting green. Apparently, the performance of premium balls does not differ as much when being driven from the teeing ground, as it does when being played with an iron to the green.

Here are some other Rules relating to golf balls;
  • Unless there is a ‘One Ball’ condition, or a condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls issued by the R&A/USGA, a player may use any ball that conforms to the requirements specified in Appendix lll, Rule 5-1. 
  • It is a myth that players may not compete with X-out balls, refurbished balls, range balls or lake balls, providing these balls conform, as above, Decision 5-1/4.
  • There is nothing in the Rules that prohibits a player from borrowing golf balls from another player during their round, Decision 5-1/5.
  • A player must not apply any foreign material to their ball for the purpose of changing its playing characteristics, Rule 5-2.
  • A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape, it is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it, its surface is scratched or scraped, or its paint is damaged or discoloured, Rule 5-3.
Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ryder Cup – Rules Situations to Observe

I guess that like me, many of you who receive my weekly blogs by email will be glued to your televisions from Friday to Sunday, watching The Ryder Cup unfold. This biennual competition is eagerly anticipated by most US and European golfers and usually provides enthralling competition, leading to compulsive viewing. Golf can be a very self-centred game, in which each player competes on their own against the rest of the field, week after week. But in match play, the players are often competing as a team and are just as involved in the performance of their playing partners and team members, as they are with their own. I am taking this opportunity to point out a few of the Rules situations that differ in match play from the stroke play format that we are more used to following.

First, I want to explain a situation concerning players practicing putts after they have completed a hole, which we do not see occurring in tour events, but will probably observe during the Ryder Cup. This is not a difference between the Rules for match play and stroke play, but is due to a Condition of Competition that applies to most PGA and European Tour events (and probably other tours), but not in major match play competitions, or usually, in the amateur game. I presume that this Condition of Competition is implemented to keep play moving, which is to be applauded. Exception to Rule 7-2 states;

Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practice putting or chipping on or near:
a. the putting green of the hole last played,
b. any practice putting green, or
c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7). 
And now for a few bullet points on the major differences in match play Rules to look out for;
  • In match play, players competing against each other are opponents, in stroke play other players in the same group are fellow competitors. 
  • In match play, the general penalty for a breach of the Rules is loss of hole; in stroke play it is two strokes. Breaches of Rules incurring a penalty of one stroke are also one stroke penalties in match play, with two minor exceptions, Note 2 to Rule 6-7 and …
  • … In match play, there is a penalty of one stroke for touching, or causing an opponent’s ball to move, other than during search for it, whereas in stroke play there is no penalty for touching a fellow competitor’s ball.
  • In match play, putts are often conceded and sometimes players will agree that a hole is halved when neither player has holed out, usually because their putts are at roughly equal distance from the hole. In stroke play the player must hole out on every hole.
  • In match play, it is important that the player (or side) whose ball is farthest from the hole plays first. A ball that is played out of turn may be recalled by the other side and then has to be played again in the correct order of play (e.g. Google "Annika Sorenstam reduced to tears at Solheim Cup"). In stroke play, there is no penalty for playing out of turn, unless players have agreed to do so to give one of them an advantage.
  • Finally, an unusual one. In match play, if a putt from the putting green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it belongs to your side or your opponents', there is no penalty, whereas there is a two stokes penalty for the same occurrence in stroke play, Rule 19-5. However, you are unlikely to see this during Ryder Cup matches, as the players are likely to require that a ball that is in a position to assist an opponent is lifted, as is their right under this part of Rule 22-1b;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may:
    a. Lift the ball if it is his ball; or
    b. Have any other ball lifted.

Good golfing,

This is a good time for me to promote my eDocument, “So You Are Going to Play Match Play!”, which details of all the differences in the Rules for this format. It provides an essential guide for match players to avoid loss of hole penalties, or worse, the unnecessary loss of a match. Click here for more details.

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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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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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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.