Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Did Ernie Els Ground His Club in a Hazard?

There was a Rules incident at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, last Saturday. Four-times major winner, Ernie Els, was reported to have grounded his club in a water hazard on the par-5, 6th hole. However, when PGA Tour Tournament Official, Steve Rintoul, reviewed the video tape of the incident he could not determine that Els had grounded his club, though it was obviously touching the growing grass before he made his stroke from the hazard. You can decide whether you would have agreed with this ruling by clicking on this video.
Embed: For those of you receiving this blog by email you may need to click on this link and scroll down to the video.

As no penalty was assessed, I will concentrate on the applicable Rules affecting the ruling. Most of us know that we cannot ground a club in a hazard, as per this part of Rule 13-4;

… before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) … the player must not:
… b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club
But what constitutes grounding? This part of Decision 18-2b/5 clarifies;
If the grass had been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered grounded.
But shouldn’t the player hover their club above the grass before making a stroke from within the water hazard? No, this is a common misunderstanding. Here is what the Note to Rule 13-4 states;
Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
After Ernie Els had been cleared of any Rules violation, Tournament Official, Rintoul, told a Reuters journalist;
"The tape didn't show that the club was grounded, even though the clubhead was in the grass".
Nevertheless, there must have been some doubt remaining, because the Head Rules Official for the event, Mark Russell, subsequently spoke to Els after his round, who claimed that “he had not soled his club”, so no penalty was assessed.

Some viewers of the video clip may be wondering why Els played his 6th stroke from back on the centre of the fairway. He had taken advantage of Rule 26-2a(i)b, which was the subject of this earlier blog of mine.

Keegan Bradley Was Penalised
The following day, at the same event, a penalty of two strokes was imposed on Keegan Bradley for the most basic of Rules errors. With his ball at rest some yards off the putting green, he brushed sand from the apron of the green that was on his line of play. Check out the (poor quality) short Vine video clip at this link.  Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere, Definition of Loose Impediments. It is worth noting that sand that is on the putting green may be removed by any means (e.g. putter head, back of hand, towel, brush!), providing the player does not press down on the line of putt, Decision 23-1/1.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Hole on the Putting Green

As a Rules ‘enthusiast’ I am repeatedly asked similar questions by players, whatever their golfing ability. Here are five of them relating to the hole on the putting green.
  • “Player 1 chips his ball from off the green and leaves his ball in the cup. Player 2 then chips and his ball goes in the hole. Is there a penalty and if so what is it?”
There is no penalty. 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. The fact that it may be at rest on another ball, or balls, (as in the photo) is not relevant. Definition of Holed.
  • “After holing out, a player smoothes the ragged edge of the hole with his hand. Do they incur a penalty if a fellow-competitor or partner has not yet holed out?”
The player is only penalised if their smoothing of the ragged edge was done with the intention of influencing the movement of a fellow-competitor's or partner's ball, not if it was solely for the purpose of caring for the course. However, it is recommended that a player should only smooth the ragged edge of a hole after all players in the group have completed play of the hole. Decision 1-2/3.5.
  • “If there is an old plug hole on my line of putt on the putting green, which has an artificial cover (e.g. plastic or synthetic grass), may I take relief without penalty?”
Yes, players may take line of putt relief from the artificial hole plug, which is an immovable obstruction. Rule 24-2b(iii) states;
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green. 
  • “Must the hole be positioned at least four paces from any edge of the putting green?”
There is no Rule regarding hole locations, so there is no such thing as an illegal hole location. However, both the R&A and USGA have listed the many factors that they recommend should be considered to select good hole positions and they include the statement that generally the hole be located at least four paces from any edge of the green.
  • “A friend hit his ball onto the green and it landed just outside some GUR marked on the green. He wanted to putt the ball but his line of putt was going through the GUR so he asked for relief, which I would not give him because I said he could chip his ball over the GUR, was I right or wrong?”
You were wrong, the player may take relief in this circumstance! Rule 25-1b(iii) deals with taking relief from an abnormal ground condition (which includes GUR) on a putting green;
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or, if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.
However, there is no line of play relief from an abnormal ground condition on the putting green if the player's ball lies off the putting green.

Good golfing,

If you have any questions on the Rules of Golf, please search my blog site before emailing me. There are over six years of weekly blogs covering most common questions on the Rules and the 'Search This Blog' facility works well.

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

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

McIlroy’s 3-Iron and Poulter’s Pine Needles

Rory McIlroy - Club Throwing
A scuba diver retrieves Rory's 3-iron for Donald Trump
It was disappointing to see world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, uncharacteristically losing his cool last Friday during the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Trump National Doral. Having pulled his second shot from the fairway on the par-5, 8th hole, into the lake, he then launched his Nike 3-iron after it. Players gain nothing from a display of petulance like this and there can be a downside, as such acts encourage publicity, which can prove to be an unwelcome distraction. McIlroy has earned his good reputation with the media and with those of us that love the game of golf, but this may evaporate if he cannot control his emotions on the course. Like it or not, he should remember that he is a role model for many thousands of young golfers.

As far as the Rules are concerned, throwing a club into the water does not incur any penalty. If the player is carrying the maximum number of 14 clubs in their bag they may not replace a club that they have thrown away. If the club can be retrieved during the round they may use it again, providing it has not been damaged to the extent that it is non-conforming. We now know that McIlroy’s 3-iron was recovered by an enterprising scuba diver, but not until the following day, when it was handed back to him on the practice range by the perpetual publicity seeker, Donald Trump. What you may have missed is that the following day, Marcel Siem also threw his club into the water on the same hole, but his action did not receive the same blanket coverage from the media. I understand that the scuba diver was not summoned to search for Siem’s club!

Ian Poulter – Pine Needles
The previous week, during the final round (played on Monday) of the Honda Classic at PGA National, Florida, Ian Poulter caused some raised eyebrows when he meticulously removed pine needles from the area that he had selected to drop his ball in. He was taking relief under penalty of one stroke from the water hazard on the par-5, 14th hole. Poulter was right to carefully remove the pine needles one by one, because if he had swept them away with his hand or club he would probably have also moved loose soil, which would have incurred a penalty of two strokes, as loose soil is not a loose impediment, except when it is on the putting green. Of course, players should ensure that they do not spend too long in clearing the area in which they are permitted to drop a ball, as they could then incur a penalty for undue delay (Rule 6-7), though unfortunately this does not happen very often, either on tour, or in most amateur competitions. It seems that the close  attention that Poulter took in clearing his drop area did not help, as he then hit his ball off a palm tree back into the water, eventually finishing the hole by making a good putt for a triple bogey.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Octopus - Rule 20

Diagram from www.randa.org Quick Guide to the Rules
A reader has drawn my attention to the fact that one of the modules on the R&A Level 2 Rules School is titled, ‘The Octopus – Rule 20’. I had not heard this expression used in connection with Rule 20 before, but the reason is fairly obvious; an octopus has 8 tentacles and Rule 20 cover the 8 circumstances under which a ball that has been dropped must be re-dropped, because it did not come to rest in a place permitted by the Rules. But, I hear some of you say, there are only seven circumstances listed (numbered (i) to (vii)) as to why a dropped ball must be re-dropped. I have not attended this particular Rules course, but from the R&A Rules diagram above it seems that they are counting the (vii)(a) and (vii)(b) as two separate reasons. But, see my comment relating to this at the end of the blog.

Here are the seven (eight?) instances when a dropped ball must be re-dropped under Rule 20-2c;

A dropped ball must be re-dropped, without penalty, if it:
(i) rolls into and comes to rest in a hazard;
(ii) rolls out of and comes to rest outside a hazard;
(iii) rolls onto and comes to rest on a putting green;
(iv) rolls and comes to rest out of bounds;
(v) rolls to and comes to rest in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule 24-2b (immovable obstruction), Rule 25-1 (abnormal ground conditions), Rule 25-3 (wrong putting green) or a Local Rule (Rule 33-8a), or rolls back into the pitch-mark from which it was lifted under Rule 25-2 (embedded ball);
(vi) rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course; or
(vii) rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole than:
(a) its original position or estimated position (see Rule 20-2b) unless otherwise permitted by the Rules; or
(b) the nearest point of relief or maximum available relief (Rule 24-2, 25-1 or 25-3); or
(c) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1).
So, the R&A Rules diagram seems to imply that the above are the eight reasons when a dropped ball must be re-dropped. However, this means that there are actually nine situations in total, as Rule 20-2a states;
If the ball, when dropped, touches any person or the equipment of any player before or after it strikes a part of the course and before it comes to rest, the ball must be re-dropped, without penalty.
In which case this ‘Octopus’ has nine tentacles! 

(Edit 4th March 2015: Several readers have suggested that there are 10, or even 11 reasons why a ball must be dropped under Rule 20. However, I now think that my guess as to why it is called the 'Octopus' Rule is off track. Here is another explanation; 
"I think the reference applies more to the various Rules on which Rule 20 impinges rather than the occasions on which a ball may be re-dropped. Rule 20 tentacles stretches out to affect many of the other Rules and that is my understanding of the reference to the 'Octopus' "
In any case, I hope that you will agree that it was an interesting subject for a blog.)

Good golfing,


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

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,

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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.