Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bird Flies off with Golf Ball

I guess that there are many readers that have had their golf ball in play moved by a bird or an animal, e.g. crow, gull, dog, fox, or even a kangaroo. It has happened to me twice and it happened to Queensland professional golfer Sam Eaves last Thursday, at the Australian PGA Championship.

You can watch the crow (or was it a raven?) pick the ball off the fairway at this link. So, what is the ruling in this situation? The first point is that the ball does not have to be recovered. If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball at rest has been moved by an outside agency, no penalty is incurred and either the original ball or another ball must be replaced at the spot that the ball was moved from, Rule 18-1. I have used the word ’replaced’, as does the Rule, but this often causes confusion with players. A ball can only be replaced if the exact spot and lie are known. Obviously, when an outside agency has moved a ball it is highly unlikely that the player will know the exact spot or lie, as they could have been some distance away when it was moved. In a majority of cases, the exact spot and/or lie will not be determinable, which means that a ball has to be dropped as near as possible to the estimated place where it lay, Rule 20-3c, except on a putting green where the ball must be placed as near as possible to where it lay.

(This paragraph was edited on December 17th 2014) It is different if the ball is still in motion when it is deflected or moved by an outside agency. Rule 19-1 states that if a player makes a stroke from off the putting green and their ball 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. However, if the outside agency (e.g. a dog) picks-up a moving ball and runs off with it, the player should drop a ball (or place it if it was from the putting green), without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was when the dog picked it up. The ruling is different if a ball is putted from on the putting green and is accidentally deflected or stopped by any moving or animate outside agency. In this case the stroke is cancelled, the ball must be replaced where the putt was taken from and replayed.

So, going back to the Sam Eaves video clip, he was permitted to drop another ball as near as possible to the place on the fairway where the crow had picked it up, without penalty.

Fox Sports (US)
In 2013, Fox Sports signed a 12-year, $1 billion deal for televising USGA events, replacing NBC Sports, which has broadcast every US Open since 1995. In securing this contract, Fox promised to bring fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. In my opinion, they have made a great start with the announcement that their broadcasting team includes a full-time rules expert, David Fay, who was executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) for 21 years until he retired in 2010. Fay is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Rules of Golf and has previously made occasional guest appearances on US TV with informed commentary and analysis on Rules situations. This has to be a welcome move; there have been too many instances when TV commentators have confused the viewing public with misleading and sometimes incorrect interpretations of the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mental Interference in Golf

Most players are aware that they can only take relief from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2) or abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) when their ball lies in or touches the obstruction or condition, or when it physically interferes with their stance or their area of intended swing. There is no relief for mental interference under either of these Rules. This is confirmed by Decision 24-2a/1;
Q. A player's ball lies several inches to the side of a sprinkler head. The sprinkler head does not physically interfere with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing. However, the sprinkler head bothers the player mentally. Is the player entitled to relief under Rule 24-2b?

A. No. See Rule 24-2a.
However, there is one Rule where mental interference is relevant. The start of Rule 22-2 states;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.
Note that there is no mention as to how far away the other ball must be. In fact, Decision 22/1 states;
Q. In order for A to be entitled to have B's ball lifted because of interference, does B's ball have to be on or near A's line of play and thus in a position to interfere physically with A's ball? Or may A also have B's ball lifted if it is off his line of play but catches his eye and thus constitutes mental interference?

A. A player may, under Rule 22-2, have another ball lifted if the ball interferes either physically or mentally with his play.
Not quite the same as mental interference, but along the same lines, are mental distractions that occur while a player is making a stroke. Decision 1-4/1, in the section on points not covered by the Rules, states;
Q. As A was making his backswing, B accidentally dropped a ball, which rolled within six inches of A's ball. The appearance of the dropped ball startled A, causing him to top his shot. In equity, should A be permitted to replay his stroke?

A. No. Distractions are a common occurrence which players must accept.
A related point to clarify on this subject is that, in equity, a player does not have to play their ball that has come to rest in a situation that is dangerous to them, e.g. near a live rattlesnake or a bees' nest, Decision 1-4/10, but they may not take relief from a situation which they dislike; unpleasant lies are a common occurrence which players must accept, Decision 1-4/11.

I have one last point, which is not backed-up by any Decision on the Rules. In my opinion, a player should not be penalised under Rule 6-8 for discontinuing play due to fog. Having played in foggy conditions on more than one occasion, there is definitely mental interference for the players, as well as the obvious possible danger for anyone on the course while play continues. Whilst Rule 6-8a states that bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play, there is an exception which could be used when there is limited visibility due to fog; “the player must not discontinue play unless: … there is some other good reason such as sudden illness”, which I think any Committee would be wise to apply.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Accidentally Moving a Ball in Play

I am sure that it has happened to most of us, probably more than once. We are addressing our ball in play somewhere on the course and we accidentally touch it with our club, causing it to move, or not. How do we proceed?

If the ball does not move from its spot when we touch it with our club, it has not moved. Even if it rocks from its spot but returns to the same place it has not moved, according to the Definition of Moved;

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
If the ball does not move there is no penalty, even if it is lying in a hazard when we accidentally touch it with our club, which is a point that is frequent misunderstood (Decision 13-4/12).

However, if a ball in play does move from its spot and comes to rest a dimple or more from where it was, then a penalty of one stroke is incurred and the ball has to be replaced, Rule 18-2a. Note that part of this Rule states;

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player’s ball is in play, if
(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:
• lifts or moves the ball,
• touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or
• causes the ball to move, or
(ii) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move,
the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.     
The implication is that if a player purposely touches their ball with their club other than in the act of addressing their ball (why would they?) a penalty is incurred. Probably one of the most common breaches of this Rule is when a player purposely touches their ball in play with their fingers, usually in order to identify it. Of course, you may identify your ball before playing it from anywhere on the course, but you must follow the correct procedure to avoid a penalty. See this earlier blog for the correct procedure.

You may have noticed that the above relates to a ball in play. Before you make your first stroke on a hole from the teeing ground, the ball is not in play and so there is no penalty for accidentally causing it to move in this circumstance, e.g. with a practice swing. A ball may then be replaced anywhere within the teeing ground to continue play.

If you are interested in seeing an example of a player accidentally moving their ball in play on the putting green, I recommend that you click on this link to view a European Tour video from 2013 of Danish Professional golfer, Thorbjørn Olesen, who unfortunately seemed to get the yips as he addressed his ball while trying to avoid taking his stance on his fellow competitor’s the line of putt. (Edit December 4th: It is not clear from the bizarre commentary, but Olesen was penalised one stroke for accidentally causing his ball to move, under Rule 18-2a).

Good golfing,


My eDocuments on the Rules of Golf may not be for everyone, but if you know someone that is eager to obtain a better understanding of the Rules, then check them out at this link. Whilst all my documents carry a copyright notice they may be purchased for someone else as a gift and forwarded to them.

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Questions Relating to ‘Winter Rules’

At this time of year, I receive several questions on the Rules from subscribers in the Northern Hemisphere, for which there are no definitive answers. The reason being, they concern situations that may or may not be covered by Local Rules, which form part of the Rules of Golf. Although I have covered this subject in more than one previous blog, it is obviously an important one and bears repeating, because it is obvious to me that some players do not realise that Local Rules, established by Club or Society Committees under Rule 33-8, can vary considerably.

Here are some examples of what I am referring to;

  • May I tee my ball off a winter mat if it is still within the permitted two club-lengths behind the tee-markers? (As illustrated in the photo above.)
It depends on the precise wording of the Local Rule.
  • May a player take relief from a ball that is embedded in the rough?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that extends such relief from closely mown areas only, as in Rule 25-2.
  • If winter Rules are in operation, may a player remove mud from their ball at rest in the rough?
(Edited 28th November 2014) It depends whether there is a Local Rule that permits a ball lying through the green to be marked, lifted, cleaned and replaced without penalty. Note that some Committees incorporate this into a Local Rule on preferred lies through the green (i.e. not just from closely mown areas), where a ball may be lifted, cleaned and then placed (or dropped) within a specified area (e.g. 6 inches or a score card width). The latter is not recommended and is not approved by the R&A.
  • If my ball comes to rest on an aeration hole on the putting green, do I have to replace it on that hole?
Yes, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.
  • May I use a distance measuring device during my round?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits their use.
  • May I take relief from damage made by course maintenance equipment that is not marked as GUR?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take line of play from sprinkler heads at the side of the putting green?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take relief from crushed stone cart paths?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that declares crushed stone cart paths as integral to the course.
  • How do I proceed if my ball in flight hits an overhead power line?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule covering this situation.
  • Do I have to take relief if my ball lies in an area marked as ground under repair?
Only if there is a Local Rule in operation that makes it mandatory to take relief.

I hope that you will now recognise that one of the most important tips in my eDocument, ’99  Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’* is;

“Before commencing a round of golf familiarise yourself with the Local Rules that are in operation.“
* Click here for details.

Good golfing,


P.S. I strongly recommend that, where relevant, Committees follow the specimen wording in Appendix l to the Rules of Golf when making Local Rules for local abnormal conditions.

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

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Aguilar Penalised Four Strokes in Turkey

There was an unusual breach of Rules at the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek, Turkey last week. Chilean, Felipe Aguilar, who has won over 30 events in Chile and who celebrated his 40th birthday last week, has been playing on the European Tour since 2006. So, it was surprising that he was unaware that players are not permitted to switch one club for another during a round of golf if they start with a full complement of 14 clubs. To be fair to him there was a mitigating factor, in that his round started on Friday and was suspended because of bad weather, resuming on Saturday morning.

Reports suggest that it was Aguilar’s fellow competitor, Magnus Carlsson, who noticed the different club in Aguilar’s bag and asked him if he had made a switch. So, before signing his card Aguilar asked a Rules official if he had committed a breach (duh!). It was this part of Rule 4-4a that Aguilar breached;

The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
Note that he did not have more than 14 clubs in his bag at any one time, but the effect of switching one club for another while play was suspended, was that he had carried 15 different clubs during his stipulated round.

So, why was the penalty 4 strokes? This paragraph from the penalty statement under Rule 4-4a explains;

Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round – Four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred).
The maximum penalty of four strokes applied because Aguilar had carried the switched club for all of the six holes he played on Saturday morning to complete his round. Because he was not aware that he was carrying a club in breach of a Rule the penalty of disqualification did not apply, even though he may have used the switched club. If he had realised that he was carrying a club that he should not have, before finishing his round, he would have had to declare it out of play, as Rule 4-4c prohibits the player from using the club for the remainder of their stipulated round;
Any club or clubs carried or used in breach of Rule 4-3a(iii) or Rule 4-4 must be declared out of play by the player to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred. The player must not use the club or clubs for the remainder of the stipulated round.
Ironically, when Aguilar was informed of his breach, he was also told that he was disqualified. It was not until 10 minutes later that this mistaken ruling was corrected and that the penalty incurred was not disqualification, but was a four-shot penalty. The penalty eventually cost Felipe Aguilar 16 places on the final leaderboard, from 48th= to 64th=.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Margins in the Rules of Golf

I don’t like these weekly blogs to be too complicated, as my objective is to make the Rules easier to understand for the majority of golfers and not to confuse them. However, I have been asked a question about the vertical limits of margins, which can trouble the best of us. I hope that I can some shed light on their significance by describing some scenarios that you may encounter on the course.

First, let me summarise what the Definitions say about margins;
  • The margin of ground under repair (GUR) extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.
  • The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards. 
  • The margin of a (lateral) water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.
  • The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.
And now for some scenarios to help explain the differences;

Ground Under Repair (GUR) Margin:

A ball lies against the root of a tree that is growing inside GUR, but the root is outside the white line margin.
Ruling: There is no relief available, without penalty, because the margin only extends downwards.
Although a player is standing well outside an area of GUR there is still interference to their swing from on overhanging branch of a tree that is rooted in GUR.
Ruling: As the tree is growing in GUR it is part of GUR and because the margin does not extend upwards the player may take relief without penalty.
Bunker Margin:
A ball enters a burrowing animal hole in a bunker and rolls underneath and past the margin of the bunker.
Ruling: The ball is not in the bunker because the margin only extends downwards. The player may take relief, without penalty, from the abnormal ground condition outside the bunker.
A ball lies on the edge of the bunker overhanging, but not touching the sand.
Ruling: The ball is not in the bunker, because the margin does not extend vertically upwards.
(Lateral) Water Hazard Margin:
A ball lies in the branches of a tree inside the margin of a (lateral) water hazard.
Ruling: The ball is in the water hazard, even if the tree is rooted outside it, because the margin extends upwards.
A ball enters a burrowing animal hole and comes to rest underground, but within the margin of a (lateral) water hazard.
Ruling: The ball is in the hazard, because the margin extends downwards.
Line of play Margin:
A player’s ball lies a few yards away from a tree which has mosses hanging from its branches that are directly in the line of play.
Ruling: The player may not move the mosses, which are considered to be part of the tree (Decision 13-2/37), as this would improve their line of play, which extends vertically upwards.
Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Leaf in Motion Blows Putted Ball off Course

A comment made recently, during a televised US golf tournament, has stimulated a discussion on the Rules that I think readers may find interesting. The commentator suggested that if a leaf that is blown by the wind across a putting green, deflects a ball in motion that was putted from the putting green, the stroke must be cancelled and taken again. Many viewers thought that this cannot be correct; that the deflection of the ball was a ‘rub of the green’ and the ball must be played from where it came to rest.

For once (!) the TV commentator was right. The relevant Rule is 19-1b;

If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by, or comes to rest in or on, any moving or animate outside agency, except a worm, insect or the like, the stroke is cancelled. The ball must be replaced and replayed.
On being pointed to this Rule, readers may think that it does not apply, because a leaf is a loose impediment and not an outside agency. However, there are many situations where an item or person may have more than one status under the Rules. A leaf blown by the wind it is obviously still a loose impediment but it can also be a moving outside agency. Decision 18-1/6 is relevant, but note that in this case it deals with a ball at rest that is moved;
Q. A tumbleweed blowing across the course strikes a ball at rest and knocks it into the hole. What is the procedure?
A. In the circumstances, a tumbleweed is an outside agency. Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty.
I hope that the above is clear. The stroke may only be cancelled in the unlikely event that a ball in motion from a stroke on the putting green is deflected, i.e. moved from the direction that it was rolling, by a leaf that is also in motion. It does not give licence to players who miss putts in autumnal conditions to claim that their ball was diverted by a leaf, or anything else at rest on the putting green.

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.
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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Rules of Golf Are Not Always Black and White

Anyone who takes an interest in the Rules of Golf will know that, despite the preciseness and complexity of the 34 Rules and the 1,200+ Decisions on the Rules, there are still many subjective areas, some of which may require an understanding of the intent of the player before a ruling can be assessed.

One example of a situation for which a subjective ruling may have to be made is when a player claims that they are entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction, or abnormal ground condition, that only interferes with their intended stroke if they adopt an unusual stance, or direction of play. Normally, they would not be able to claim relief just by adopting an unusual stance for the stroke, because of the exception that is quoted at the end of this paragraph, but there are instances where it may be justified, because an unusual stance is reasonable in certain circumstances. So, if a player’s ball lies immediately behind a tree they may choose to play it left-handed, or in a direction that is not towards the hole. If a nearby path does not interfere with a stroke to the hole, but does come into play if the stroke has to be made in a different direction, or with a different stance, then it may be reasonable for the player to be seek relief. However, in many cases, it is these Exceptions to Rule 24-2, Relief from an Immovable Obstruction, and Rule 25-1, Relief from Abnormal Ground Condition, that prevent the player from taking unfair advantage of relief by claiming that they will have to use a non-orthodox stance or swing, or play in an unlikely direction.

A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play. (The exception to Rule 25-1 relating to interference by an abnormal ground condition is similarly worded. I have highlighted the key words).
The purpose of these Exceptions is to prevent the player from fortuitously obtaining free relief when it is clearly impracticable for them to make a stroke because of interference by something from which free relief is not available. In the diagram above, I have tried to illustrate a scenario where there is an artificial path close to the tree that the player’s ball lies behind. In adopting their normal right-handed stance the path does not interfere, but the player claims that to extricate their ball they would have to adopt a left-handed stance for which the path would interfere, allowing them to take relief without penalty by dropping a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief that avoided the path, not nearer the hole (point X in the diagram). In many cases, after taking the drop away from the path, the ball would come to rest where the tree was no longer in the line of play and the player could play their next stroke right-handed, having turned an ‘impossible’ stroke into a relatively straightforward stroke, without incurring a penalty. So, before the player takes relief the marker, fellow competitor, opponent or official must decide whether, in their opinion, the left-handed stroke would be reasonable in the circumstances. The question that has to be asked is if the path was not there would the player have decided to play to the side of the tree with a left-handed stroke, meaning that they would have to reverse the club face (assuming that the player did not carry a left-handed club). Most players would not have the ability to be certain that they would; a) hit their ball using this unnatural stroke, and b) advance their ball far enough to ensure that their next stroke was unobstructed. (Note in the diagram that if the player misjudges their left-handed stroke their ball could end up in dense trees). So, in many (most!) cases, the stroke would be unreasonable and relief would not be available. However, it has to be accepted that there are rare occasions where the 'manufactured' stroke could be deemed reasonable and relief could then be taken from the path if it interfered with the stance for the left-handed stroke. The ruling is obviously subjective, depending on such factors as, the position of the ball, the size of the tree, the line of play to the hole, other adjacent features (e.g. trees, bunkers and water) and the ability of the player; scratch players are obviously more likely to successfully execute this type of stroke than high handicappers. Where there is doubt, the ruling should be against the player taking relief. If they disagree, they should play a second ball, carefully following the procedure laid down in Rule 3-3, which includes reporting the facts to the Committee as soon as the round has finished.

Some other potentially subjective areas of the Rules include;

  • Where did a ball that comes to rest in a water hazard last cross the margin of the hazard?
  • Was the area of intended swing improved to the advantage of the player after they had knocked down some leaves from an overhanging tree branch during a practice swing (see this blog)?
  • Did a conversation about weather conditions (public information) constitute advice because it may have convinced a player to change their club selection after it started?
  • Did a player address their ball by grounding their club immediately behind (or in front of) their ball just before it moved (see this blog)?
  • Where was a ball at rest when it was mistakenly played by another player in a different group?
  • What was the exact position of a ball at rest on a putting green when it was moved by a fellow competitor’s ball played from the fairway?
  • Did a player cause their ball in the rough to move as they approached it, or was it due to the wind, gravity, or vibrations as a train passed?
  • Does placing a ball in a pocket breach Rule 22-1, which states that a ball lifted because it is interfering or assisting in the play of another ball may not be cleaned by the player, unless it was lifted from the putting green (see this blog)?
  • A player may not repair a spike mark that is in the vicinity of a hole until play of the hole has been completed. How far does this area extend?
  • And perhaps the most subjective of all golfing situations, has a player unduly delayed play by their slow play?
I hope that readers will see that not all Rules situations are black and white; players must examine all the facts and make their best judgement. Where there is doubt seek the opinions of others and do not try and take advantage.

Good golfing,


As your season gets under way in the Souther Hemisphere, why not focus your Club or Society members on the Rules of Golf by running a social event including a Rules Quiz. I have done all the hard work for you and my three quizzes (General, Juniors and Match Play) include all the questions and answers, with references to the relevant Rules to prevent arguments. Click here for details.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Teeing Grounds

Staggered tee boxes at Branson Creek Golf Club, Hollister, Mo. USA
First, let me clarify the distinction between a teeing area (or tee box), which is the whole area (or areas) that have been prepared by the greens staff for locating various teeing grounds, and the teeing ground itself, which is defined as follows;
The “teeing ground’’ is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
Committees, or those taking responsibility for running a competition, should give careful consideration to the siting of teeing grounds. As I have no expertise in course set-up, I have taken much of the following content from the excellent R&A publication, 'Guidance on Running a Competition’.

Ideally, teeing grounds should be located in different places for each competition, to ensure that the whole teeing area is worn evenly over the course of a golfing season. Committees should decide on the teeing grounds to be used for each hole in advance of any major competition, to allow the greens staff to protect them from play in the run up to the event.

If players are playing practice rounds before a major event, it is suggested that the Committee places the tee-markers for practice as far back on the teeing areas as possible, while still enabling a stroke to be made. As the teeing ground is an area two club-lengths in depth, when placing the tee-markers for a competition they should never be closer than two club-lengths from the back of the tee. So, if the tee-markers are a club-length from the back for practice rounds, the area that will be used for the competition will be unaffected. This allows the players to play the course at its full length when practicing. Whereas, if the tee-markers are placed well ahead of the competition course length during practice, the players are more likely to go back and play from where they think the tee-markers will be for the competition, potentially causing damage to that area instead of protecting it.

Whether it is the Committee or the greens staff setting the tee-markers on the competition days, it is important that the markers are set pointing towards the ideal hitting line. This can be achieved by eye or, to be absolutely sure, by using something like a T-square. It is also preferable that, where possible, there is consistency in terms of the width of the teeing areas. The R&A recommends that tee-markers are positioned six or seven yards width apart (seven tends to be for par 3s). If the tee-markers are much farther apart, it increases the area of damage and also increases the likelihood that a player may tee up in front of the tee-markers. If the teeing area is small, and there is, for example, four days of competition, it is necessary to plan out where the tee-markers will be for each day to ensure that there is enough undamaged space remaining for the last day.

The person(s) responsible for running the competition should keep a close eye on the weather forecast. If there is a strong wind forecast, it could mean that players may not be able to reach the fairway from the planned teeing ground, so serious consideration should be given to moving the tee forward for that day’s play. Another recommendation is that once the tee-markers are positioned, a mark should be painted beside them, in case they are accidentally moved or go missing. This also provides a useful reference for the following day.

Here are some bullet points from Rule 11, Teeing ground;

  • The ball must be played from within the teeing ground and from the surface of the ground, or from a conforming tee in or on the surface of the ground. 
  • A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it.
  • If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in these circumstances, whether the ball is moving or not, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty.
  • In stroke play, if a competitor, when starting a hole, plays a ball from outside the teeing ground, they incur a penalty of two strokes and must then play a ball from within the teeing ground. If the competitor makes a stroke from the next teeing ground without first correcting their mistake or, in the case of the last hole of the round, leaves the putting green without first declaring their intention to correct their mistake, they are disqualified. The stroke from outside the teeing ground and any subsequent strokes by the competitor on the hole prior to his correction of the mistake do not count in their score.
I am aware that many Committees think that they can further protect their teeing areas with a Local Rule that makes it mandatory to take relief when a ball comes to rest on a teeing area other than the one being played. I am strongly against the introduction of such a Local Rule for the reasons that I explained in this earlier blog.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

“My Ball Is Lost, It Must Be in the Water Hazard!”

Photo: Getty Images
This headline comment, or something similar, is regularly heard on the golf course and provides a good starting point for this week’s blog.

For a ball to be lost in a water hazard (which includes a lateral water hazard) it must be known or virtually certain that it has come to rest within its margins. A player may not assume that their ball is in the water hazard simply because it cannot be found in the vicinity and so there is a possibility that the ball may be in the water hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball lies in a water hazard, a ball that cannot be found must be considered lost somewhere other than in the hazard and the player must proceed under Rule 27-1, by returning to where their last stroke was made from under penalty of stroke and distance. To put this into perspective, if players are searching for a ball outside a water hazard, e.g. in long grasses, bushes or trees adjacent to the hazard, then logically  they must have thought that there was a good chance that the ball may be at rest outside of the hazard. Unless a ball has been seen to splash into water from a height, with no chance of it bouncing across the surface, ‘dambusters’ style, onto the other bank, or can be seen to lie at rest within the margin, then there is at least a possibility that it may not have come to rest in the hazard. An example of a rare situation where it may be assumed that a ball is lost in a water hazard is if it has been struck down a fairway with a ditch running across it, marked as a water hazard, and the ball cannot be found on either side of the ditch near the line of flight. In this case, where there is virtually no possibility that the ball could be lost outside of the hazard, the player may take relief from the hazard by choosing one of the three relief options under Rule 26-1, for a penalty of one stroke. Even in this situation, if there are many fallen leaves lying on the fairway then the strict, known or virtually certain requirement may still not be satisfied.

To summarise, a player may not assume that their ball is lost in a water hazard unless it is known or virtually certain that the ball could not have come to rest anywhere outside of the margin of a hazard. If it cannot be found the ball must be treated as lost.

Don’t sign your score card until….
Rule 6-6b, Signing and Returning Score Card, states;

After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.
So, the very last thing that a player should do before returning their score card to the Committee is to sign it, formerly attesting its accuracy and completeness. This was a hard lesson learned for 23 year-old English professional, Holly Clyburn, at the LPGA Qualifying School two weeks ago, when she was disqualified, due to her marker leaving the scoring area without signing her card. Holly checked and signed her score card and had it verified by the officials in the scoring tent, but neglected to ensure that her marker had also signed it. When the officials realised that the marker’s signature was missing they had no option other than to disqualify Holly Clyburn for her breach, Rule 6-6b. So, the lesson is, do not sign your score card before your round, during your round, even immediately after your round. Wait until you are in the designated scoring area, check that your marker has entered all your gross scores correctly, and has signed the card, check that your full 18-hole handicap has been entered correctly and then sign it and return it to the Committee as required for the competition (e.g. by depositing it in the competition box).

Finally, I recommend an interesting article by European Tour Chief Referee, John Paramor, on his experiences at last month’s Ryder Cup in Gleneagles. Click on this link.

Good golfing,


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