Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Does a Local Rule Override a Rule of Golf?

I have been asked this question.

“In a circumstance where a Committee has introduced a Local Rule that modifies a Rule of Golf, can a player choose which one to follow? Do they operate separately or does the Local Rule override the Rule of Golf?”

In most cases the above situation does not arise, because the Local Rule offers additional options to the Rules of Golf. Examples are;

The Rules do not permit a player from removing stones (loose impediments) from a bunker, but a Local Rule may offer this option for player safety reasons.
The Rules do not permit a player to prefer their lie, but a Local Rule for 'Preferred Lies' does give the player this option.
The Rules only permit a player to take relief if a ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area, but a Local Rule can extend this relief to a ball that is embedded through the green.

However there are Local Rules that do limit what the Rules allow. Examples are;

The Rules state that a player may take relief from GUR, but a Local Rule often makes it mandatory to take relief to protect certain areas of the course.
The Rules do not provide free relief from trees, But a Local Rule often makes it mandatory to take relief from young trees, identified with stakes, to protect them from accidental damage.
The Rules allow any ball that is in bounds to be played, but if the course is divided, say by a public road that is defined as out of bounds, it would be unfair that a ball that lands on the road is out of bounds and a ball played over the road and back onto another part of the course is in bounds, so a Committee may introduce a Local Rule to deal with this circumstance. 

Rule 33-8 states that the Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I. In addition, a statement in this Appendix adds that, if local abnormal conditions interfere with the proper playing of the game and the Committee considers it necessary to modify a Rule of Golf, authorisation from either the R&A or the USGA must be obtained. However, I am aware of many instances where Committees have introduced a Local Rule that is not allowed by the Rules. For example;

A Committee may not adopt a Local Rule to assist players who cannot drive over a water hazard hazard by allowing them to drop a ball, under penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone that is located on the green side of the water hazard. Decision 33-8/2.
A Committee may not make a Local Rule allowing a player to replay a stroke, without penalty, if their ball has been deflected by course furniture, e.g. direction signs or sprinkler heads. A deflection of a ball by such an outside agency is a rub of the green and the ball must be played as it lies. Decision 33-8/12.
A Committee make not make a Local Rule providing relief without penalty from divot holes. Decision 33-8/34.
A Committee may not make a condition of competition requiring that a competitor must enter their score into a computer. Decision 6-6b/8.

The Oswald Academy
Thank you to the 1,300+ readers who have already subscribed to The Oswald Academy newsletter on the Rules of Golf. Let me remind others that I am now working in association with Brian Oswald to bring you the latest content on the Rules, presented in a variety of formats to assist you in understanding the new Rules of Golf that become effective on 1st January next year. Click here to make sure that you do not miss out. The newsletters are free, you can unsubscribe at any time and your email address will not be shared (Brian is a lawyer who lectures on GDPR!).

Want to Learn the New Rules Numbers?
For those of us that need to familiarise ourselves with the new Rule and Section numbers (99 of them!), a valued subscriber, Martin Fraga, has uploaded them to Quizlet, a useful application that provides a novel and even entertaining way of approaching this task, I especially recommend this free tool to all those that are studying for the R&A and USGA exams; check it out and save it to your smart devices for easy reference whenever you have a few minutes spare; Quizlet flash cards. Thank you Martin for responding so quickly to my request and once again providing this excellent resource for Rules of Golf enthusiasts.

Good golfing,



The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

My Intentions Re the New Rules of Golf 2019

Apologies to those of you that have already received this important update from me, because you are also subscribed to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. However, there are a significant number of subscribers to this fortnightly blog who do not receive these other emails from me.

It is obvious that Golf Clubs, Societies, Committee Members, Rules Officials and all serious and recreational golfers, are going to require a lot of information and assistance to properly understand and apply the new Rules of Golf, which become effective everywhere in the world from the 1st January 2019. From different interactions I am having I realise that many golfers are underestimating both the scope and the consequences of the radical changes that will have to be observed, applied and governed in all formats of golf competitions.

I recently made a decision to continue with my commitment to assist golfers of all abilities to learn and understand the new Rules of Golf with a mix of ‘no cost / low cost’ Rules resources. However, in view of the size of this task, I am pleased to say that I will be entering a partnership with Brian Nygaard Oswald, founder of The Oswald Academy - ‘A world of nothing but the Rules of Golf’. Check out Brian’s web site at www.golfrules.com for information on his past performance and evolving success in this area. Brian and I believe that we are ideally matched when combining our individual expertise and ambitions and that the opportunity to work together will benefit both of us and more importantly, benefit our subscribers and customers.

Soon after the first meeting that Brian and I had to discuss how we could jointly advance our interests, I realised that it was imperative for me to follow up on my previous ‘999 Questions’ books with one that addressed the new Rules. I am still convinced that an excellent way for golfers to better their knowledge of the Rules is by learning how they are applied and testing themselves through questions and answers, with accurate references and explanatory notes to support the answers. I have already made good progress with this and hope to publish ‘?99 Questions on the New Rules of Golf – 2019’, in the 3rd quarter of this year. The “?” is because I do not yet know how many Q&As there will be when I have finished; it will be more than 499 and less than 999!

Brian and I also intend to merge our emails to subscribers on the Rules of Golf. Some of you have already received the last ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly email from me, having reached the end of the ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’ series. However, you will start receiving new emails from us, mainly addressing subjects on the new Rules and incidents relating to them that happen on the Professional Tours. I have never subscribed anyone to my lists without their permission, nor have I passed on anyone’s email to a third party. As always, if you want to be removed from the new emails you will be able to unsubscribe at any time, by clicking on a link at the foot of every email, or by emailing me personally at rules@barryrhodes.com.

I hope that I can encourage you to stay involved with our combined Rules resources, as there is much to learn and those who gain a good understanding of the changes will benefit from avoiding unnecessary penalties and being a source of information to club or society fellow members and casual golf companions.

After sending the above email to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ subscribers last week many of them have already signed up to receive the Oswald Academy emailed newsletters on the Rules of Golf (one or two each month). I strongly recommend that you too subscribe to this newsletter, which will replace mine over the next few months. Between us, Brian Oswald and I will be endeavouring to keep you updated on all things related to the Rules of Golf, including explanatory articles, incidents and rulings on the Pro Tours, quizzes, book recommendations, teaching materials and tips, seminar information and much more!

Subscribing is free, you may unsubscribe without question at any time and your email address will not be passed on to any other party. Please click here to ensure that you keep up to date on the new Rules.

Kelly Kraft’s Tee Shot Strikes Bird in Mid-air
I think that those of you that, like me, are interested in Rules incidents that happen on the Pro Tours will be interested in what happened to Kelly Kraft’s ball after his drive on the 14th hole at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA, on Friday 13th April. Normally, I write my own overview of these rulings, with references to the relevant Rule or Decision, but on this occasion, for brevity, I am providing this link to an account of the incident from the PGA Tour web site. 

I cannot let this opportunity go without reminding you that my new book, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’, recounts 99 similar, interesting Rules situations. It is available direct from me as an eBook (low price!) at this link, or from Amazon, as a more expensive paperback.

Good golfing,



The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Marking a Ball on the Putting Green

I am often asked whether marking the position of a ball on a putting green with the toe of a putter head is permitted by the Rules. Personally, I wish that it wasn’t, as in my opinion it is an unsatisfactory, lazy practice that should be discouraged, especially in competitive golf, but this part of Decision 20-1/16, clarifies that it does not incur a penalty.

Q. The Note to Rule 20-1 provides that "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." Is a player penalized if he uses an object that is not similar to a ball-marker or small coin to mark the position of his ball?

A. No. The provision in the Note to Rule 20-1 is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with the Note.

Examples of methods of marking the position of a ball that are not recommended, but are permissible, are as follows:
  • placing the toe of a club at the side of, or behind, the ball
  • using a tee
  • using a loose impediment
  • scratching a line, provided the putting green is not tested (Rule 16-1d) and a line of putt is not indicated (Rule 8-2b). As this practice may cause damage to the putting green, it is discouraged.
However, under Rule 20-1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of a ball. For example, it is not permissible to mark the position with reference to a blemish on the putting green.

Prior to the recommended Local Rule relating to the accidental movement of a ball, or ball-marker, on the putting green being adopted by Committees at the beginning of 2017 (see this blog), there was always a chance that the player could be penalised if they then lifted their club from the putting surface, e.g. while cleaning their ball, but that does not now apply, providing the action was accidental.

Decision of Ties in Stroke Play
Rule 33-6, Decision of Ties states;

The Committee must announce the manner, day and time for the decision of a halved match or of a tie, whether played on level terms or under handicap.

This is a subject that is often ignored by Committees, until they are forced to address a situation that has arisen when two or more players finish a stroke play competition with the same scores.

The 34 Rules of Golf do not specify how ties should be decided, though there is a guide that most Committees would do well to follow in Appendix l, Part B, Conditions of the Competition, Section 10, which can be found at the back of the Rules book. The whole of this section should be read by Competition Committees, but in handicap competitions where the handicap stroke table is relevant and there is no playoff, the following is the recommendation;

(c) If a play-off of any type is not feasible, matching score cards is recommended. The method of matching cards should be announced in advance and should also provide what will happen if this procedure does not produce a winner. An acceptable method of matching cards is to determine the winner on the basis of the best score for the last nine holes. If the tying players have the same score for the last nine, determine the winner on the basis of the last six holes, last three holes and finally the 18th hole. If this method is used in a competition with a multiple tee start, it is recommended that the “last nine holes, last six holes, etc.” is considered to be holes 10-18, 13-18, etc.

In my experience this is the most widely used condition of competition relating to ties in Club and Society competitions and is easy to administer.

Good golfing,



To sign up for my current "Rhodes Rules School" free, weekly email series, 'Pros Getting it Wrong!' click here. To purchase the full set of 99 issues of 'Pros Getting it Wrong!' click here


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Rules of Golf Changes for 2019

Now that the R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the new Rules of Golf for 2019 I have taken the time to digest them and am ready to offer some initial thoughts. I do welcome most of the changes, especially those that should help to address what I believe to be the biggest problem facing the majority of amateur golfers – the time take to play a competition round of 18 holes. I do not intend to get into specific detail about individual Rules changes for two main reasons; first, the Ruling Bodies have done an excellent job of highlighting those changes with videos and explanations on their web sites; second, there are still nearly nine months before the new Rules are implemented and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, that means a whole season of golf, where the existing Rules continue to apply.

However, I do encourage those of you who are involved in golf Committees to start planning for the changeover, sooner rather than later, as there are many items that should not be left to the end of the year. For example, most score cards will have to be reprinted, as the Local Rules will almost certainly require several major changes. It is presumed that most Clubs and Societies will introduce the Local Rule that provides an alternative to the stroke and distance penalty for a ball that is lost or out of bounds. This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have been lost, or gone out of bounds, and the edge of the fairway at a point that is not nearer the hole, rather than returning to where they last played from, if a provisional ball was not played. Another change that needs to be carefully considered, is whether other areas of the course are to be considered as penalty areas, which can now be expanded beyond water hazards, such as deserts, jungles, or expanses of trees or shrubs

I am also concerned that Club/Society Committees will not be fully prepared to handle the vast increase in the numbers of Rules situations that will inevitably occur in the early months of 2019. In the northern hemisphere many Clubs will be operating non-handicap counting competitions for the first few months, due to local abnormal conditions (‘Winter Rules’), but those below the equator will be in the middle of their seasons, where one month they will be competing under the current Rules and the next month under the new Rules, which differ in so many ways. I expect that many players will absent-mindedly take relief by dropping a ball from shoulder height instead of from knee height, and others will play a dropped ball that has rolled a few inches outside of the permitted drop relief area, forgetting that under the new Rules a ball has to be re-dropped in this circumstance. Those of us who take an interest in the Rules should assist players wherever possible in preventing a breach of Rule before it happens, by stepping in and providing information on the new procedures. In both of the above cases, the player can avoid a penalty if they are informed that their drop was not valid and they then correct their mistake before making a stroke at their dropped ball, new Rule 14.3. Note that not only have all the Rules number references changed, they are presented in a different format; e.g. currently Rule 25-1b(ii), in 2019 Rule 14.3b(2).

Those of us engaged in any sector of golfing media have some additional problems to deal with. There are many significant alterations in the terminology used in the new Rules from that which has evolved over more than two centuries. Some are definitely welcome; for example ‘fellow competitor’, which was never used consistently by many golfers and golf commentators, who incorrectly referred to players in the same group as ‘playing partners’. In the new Rules they, are now just ‘players’ (not even ‘competitors’) in the same ‘group’. But how long will it be before we get used to the fact that there will no longer be any ‘hazards’ (‘bunkers’ and ‘penalty areas’), no ‘margins’ (‘edges’), no ‘outside agent’ (‘outside influence’),no ‘Conditions of Competition’ (‘Committee Procedures’) and no ‘through the green’, ‘rub of the green’ or ‘stipulated round’. 

I have now made the decision to continue with my efforts to assist others to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf and will shortly announce a new partnership that will extend the services that I will be able to offer to both individuals and Clubs/Societies. Keep watching this space!

Good golfing,



My latest eBook, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’ is now also available in paperback format, direct from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (just search the Books section for ‘Barry Rhodes’). Obviously, it is a lot cheaper to purchase this book, which will remain wholly valid when the new Rules become effective, direct from my web site in eBook format at this link

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Patrick Reed Asked for Three Opinions on a Single Ruling

Patrick Reed has never been one of my favourite tour golfers; he has been involved in numerous controversies including his expulsion from the University of Georgia, apparently following a number of complaints from his golf teammates. His notorious, prickly personality flared up again in an incident during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida last weekend. Reed’s ball was lying in dense undergrowth behind the 11th green and he claimed that there was interference by cables to his stance. Apparently, the first Rules official denied relief and a second official was summoned, although this happened prior to a spectator starting to record the incident. Reed demonstrated to the second official how in his opinion a cable was interfering with his intended stance and the following conversation ensued;

Official: “I think that you would need to take an abnormal stance to try to stand on the cable……You have a tough shot.”
Reed: “Not if I take a 7-iron (indecipherable).” 

Official: “Mmmm.”
Reed: “Let me see if a 7-iron adds more.
Female voice: “Anyone else would get a drop out of there any day of the week.” 

The spectator who was recording the incident on his smart phone and who later posted it on Twitter, claims that this comment was from Reed’s wife, Justine. This is probably correct, as she used to be his caddie and is known to almost always accompany him at these events.

It was then that Reed sarcastically made perhaps his most controversial comment;

Reed: "I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys."

This was presumably in reference to Spieth’s relief for an unplayable lie on his final round of The Open 2017, for a penalty of one stroke, which was a completely different situation. Quite understandably, this seemed to be the last straw for the second official who walked away saying, 

Official: “Patrick, you just play away”. 

This appeared to incense Reed, who then compounded his petulant behaviour by demanding;

Reed: “I want a third opinion…….I’m allowed that……..yeah I do, I do want a THIRD opinion….. from an UNBIASED source.” (my caps).

Wow! If he is looking for opinions, mine is that this is totally unacceptable behaviour from a leading, tour golfer that I hope will be followed up by the PGA Tour (and Jordan Spieth!). I cannot confirm whether Reed did get his demand for a third, official ruling on the incident, which would be unique in my experience, but it seems most unlikely that free relief was permitted, as he double-bogeyed the hole.

The official(s) denied relief to Patrick Reed on the basis of the exception to Rule 24-2, relief from immovable obstructions;

Exception: 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.

This is a tricky and subjective area of the Rules, which I have previously tried to explain in this blog.

The deciding factor in arriving at a ruling is whether the player would have chosen the same club and stance, and would take on the same shot, if the immovable obstruction was not there.

I am disappointed to have to highlight another instance of a well-known professional golfer showing disrespect to a Rules official. Many tour officials are volunteers and in almost every case they have a far better knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf than the players that they try to assist with their rulings. 

Note: Since writing the first draft of this blog most of the copies of the recorded incident have been removed from golf media sites by the PGA. The video on the original Twitter tweet by @ssteele55 has also been removed. However, at the time of writing the video is still available at this link.

The New Rules of Golf for 2019 
The R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the Rules of Golf for 2019. These changes result from their Rules Modernisation Initiative that began in 2012 to bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally. They can be viewed, together with extensive, related resource materials at these links;

Good golfing,



Within a few weeks, I expect to be in a position to update readers with how I plan to continue my mission to assist golfers of all abilities to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. In the meantime, if you are not already receiving these blogs by email, enter your email contact address in the 'Subscribe via email' box at the top right corner of any blog page, so that you do not miss anything.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Information on Rules is not Advice

There was an excellent interaction relating to the Rules of Golf between the Indian, ‘new kid on the block’, Shubhankar Sharma and the ‘veteran’, Phil Mickelson, last Sunday at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship. Together with Tyrrell Hatton, as the three third round leaders, they were in the final group to tee off. Sharma’s ball flew the green at the 5th hole and he found it surrounded by television wires. It seems that Sharma, who currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, may not have been sure whether his relief was from a movable obstruction or an immovable obstruction. Phil Mickelson had no such doubt and helpfully guided him through the process of taking relief from a movable obstruction. You can view the incident at this Golf Channel link

Phil correctly recognised that the wires were easily movable and told Sharma to mark his ball, in case it moved while he was removing the wires, even directing him to move his marker closer, so that the position would be more accurately marked. In fact, it is not necessary to mark a ball whilst removing an obstruction, as Rule 24-2 only requires that if the ball moves while doing so it must be replaced. But marking the ball’s position in this situation is a good practice that all golfers should follow. 

An important point here is that providing information on the Rules does not incur the penalty for giving advice, Definition of Advice. But Decision 8-1/16 provides a caveat;
Q. B's ball was lying badly. B was deliberating what action to take when A, his fellow-competitor, said: "You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would deem the ball unplayable." Was A giving advice, contrary to Rule 8-1?
A. Yes. A's suggestion could have influenced B "in determining his play." Thus, it constituted advice - see Definition of "Advice." It did not constitute "information on the Rules," which is not advice.
I have no doubt that Phil was correct in identifying the interfering cable as a movable obstruction. The Definition states that an obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, which obviously applied to the cables in this incident, even if they had been trodden down and were partially embedded in the soft earth. Another example of a movable obstruction that is embedded is a water hazard stake, which may be inserted several inches into the ground, but is still easily removable and is therefore a movable obstruction, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.

This is not the first time that Phil Mickelson has shown that he has a good knowledge of the Rules of Golf; if only this applied to all the Pro golfers on Tour.

Good golfing,



If you found this Rules incident and the accompanying video interesting, then I believe that you will enjoy my latest eBook, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’, which comprises 99 separate articles on memorable Rules of Golf incidents, most of them relating to golfers competing in Professional Tour events. Each of the wide-ranging articles highlights a breach of a Rule of Golf, with associated nuggets of interesting information, including explanations of the rulings, comments from the players and officials concerned, links to videos showing the circumstance of the breach and the consequences of the penalties imposed. Click here for more information and to order. 

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Ruling Please - Ball Overhanging Hole

After posting a blog on the incident shown in this photo, the R&A issued their official ruling, which contradicted mine! Apologies to those of you that had already received my blog by email. This is what The R&A have now posted on their Facebook account;

"It's got golfers talking around the globe. Here's our Ruling:

It's a very rare situation, but the R&A received a similar question 30 years ago. The answer given, which we would still apply, was as follows:

On the putting green, if the player's removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move, the ball is replaced without penalty. As replacement of the ball would be impossible in this case, in equity (Rule 1-4), the ball is considered to be holed with the previous stroke."


New World Handicapping System
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, there are currently a range of different handicapping systems used by national golfing bodies and I do not have any expertise in this area. I therefore welcome the news that the way golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by the USGA and The R&A, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability. The new World Handicap System will be implemented in 2020, one year after the modernised Rules of Golf are scheduled to come into operation, following an extensive review of systems administered by six of the existing handicapping authorities.    

You can find out more about the main features of the new system at this USGA link.

Good golfing,



Don't forget that you can subscribe to my free 'Rhodes Rules School' weekly emails at this link.


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

When the Rules of Golf Require the Spoken Word

Some golfers talk so much during a round that it annoys their fellow competitors. I well remember a popular, but verbose member at my own Club who had a reputation of constantly chattering throughout his round. One particularly chilly winter’s day, as he reached the warm sanctuary of the locker room, he announced that it was so cold outside that he could hardly speak. A fellow competitor walking close behind him remarked, “Thank goodness for that, I thought I must be going deaf!” Other golfers are so focused on their round that they go out of their way to remain silent, purposely avoiding any small talk with their fellow competitors or opponents.

However, there are a few Rules of Golf that do require the spoken word. Examples of when a player must announce their intention to a fellow competitor in stroke play, or an opponent in match play are;
  • Rule 12-2. If a player believes that a ball at rest might be theirs, but cannot identify it, they may lift the ball for identification. Before doing so, they must announce their intention, mark its position and provide and provide the fellow competitor or opponent an opportunity to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement.
  • Rule 27-2. If a player chooses to play a provisional ball they must then announce the fact that they are going to play a provisional ball before making a stroke at it.
  • Rule 3-3. In stroke play, when a player is unsure as to how to proceed in play of the hole, they may play a second ball. They must announce their intention to play two balls and which of the balls they wish to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball. (Edit 13th Feb. 2018) The Rule states "should" not "must", but it is strongly recommended that the player does communicate these two points, to avoid possible confusion leading to an unnecessary penalty.)
  • Rule 4-4c. If a player discovers that they are carrying an excess club or clubs, they must immediately declare which club(s) they are taking out of play before making another stroke.
  • Rule 2-5. In match play, if a doubt or dispute arises between the players, a player may make a claim by notifying their opponent that they are making a claim, or are seeking an official ruling, and agree the facts of the situation before commencing play of the next hole.
  • Rule 5-3. If a player has reason to believe their ball has become unfit for play during play of a hole they must announce their intention, mark the position of the ball, lift and examine it, giving another player the opportunity to observe the lifting, examine the ball and witness its replacement.
  • Decision 20-1/0.7: If a player has reason to believe they are entitled to relief from a condition, for example to check whether their ball is embedded, they may announce their intention to check, mark its position and provide the opportunity for a fellow competitor, or opponent, to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement (Rule 25-2).
There are other occasions where a player has to indicate their intent, but not necessarily using the spoken word, e.g. they would like a ball that they consider may assist a player to be lifted, (Rule 22-1), or require that a ball that has been played out of turn by an opponent be replayed, in turn (Rule 10-1), or making a concession in match play. In these cases a gesture, or an action, is sufficient, providing it cannot be misunderstood, e.g. picking-up an opponent’s ball in play usually signifies concession of their next stroke. (Edit 14th Feb. 2018: But see Decisions 2-4/4 and 2-4/5).

Of course there is an occasion where every golfer, whether amateur or professional, should use their voice ensuring that it is heard; that is when they hit an errant shot in the direction of any person, when “FORE” should be shouted, as quickly and as loudly as possible.

Good golfing,



Thanks for the great response to my call-out for my ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ eDocument, which now includes a single hand-out page for all match play team members, with 12 essential Rules tips to avoid the opposition taking advantage. If you meant to order, but did not get round to it (!), you can now do so at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Miscellaneous on Match Play

At this time of year golf clubs and societies in Northern Hemisphere countries are appointing captains and team squads for inter-club match play competitions. I have previously blogged on the differences between the Rules of Golf for stroke play and match play (24th February and 10th March 2012), but am now listing some miscellaneous points on match play Rules that may be new to some readers;

Once a stroke has been conceded it may not be declined or withdrawn. There is no penalty if a player continues to hole out after the concession, unless their stroke could be of assistance to their partner in a four-ball match, Decision 2-4/6. However, I would discourage anyone from doing so, as it may unnecessarily delay play. Obviously, if the player misses the putt it is of no consequence, because it had already been conceded.

A player loses the hole if they give their opponent wrong information. Under Rule 9-2b a player is deemed to have given wrong information if;

(i) He fails to inform his opponent as soon as practicable that he has incurred a penalty, unless (a) he was obviously proceeding under a Rule involving a penalty and this was observed by his opponent, or (b) he corrects the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(ii) He gives incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of strokes taken and does not correct the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(iii) He gives incorrect information regarding the number of strokes taken to complete a hole and this affects the opponent's understanding of the result of the hole, unless he corrects the mistake before any player makes a stroke from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players leave the putting green.

If you make a stroke and your ball hits your opponent, or their equipment, you may choose to play the stroke again, Rule 19-3. This may seem unfair if you shank your ball sideways and it hits your opponent in their groin, or hits their trolley situated several distance away, but that is the Rule! Once you have made your apologies, you can either play the ball as it lies, or drop the ball where the previous stroke was made from, without penalty.

A four-ball partner may leave their ball on the putting green, e.g. in a position where it may usefully act as a backstop, while the other partner makes their putt. Unlike stroke play, there is no penalty if the ball in motion is deflected or stopped by a ball at rest on the putting green, Rule 19-5. Note that if an opponent considers a ball might assist the player making the putt they can demand that it is lifted, Rule 22-1. 
(Edit January 31st: I have removed the words, "Providing there is no agreement between them" at the start of this bullet point, as I have been correctly notified that as there is no penalty in match play for a ball played from the putting green striking another ball on the putting green, an agreement between partners to leave it there does not breach any Rule.)

If a match involving handicaps is all square after the stipulated round, the players  should continue at the hole where the match began and the same handicap strokes should be allowed as in the stipulated round.

In a four-ball match involving handicaps, where a missing party is the person who the strokes allowance was calculated from, i.e. the lowest handicap player, the handicap strokes should still be allocated based on the missing person being present.

If a doubt or dispute arises between players in match play that cannot be resolved during play of the hole, a claim must be made before teeing-off at the next hole, strictly following the procedures set down in Rule 2-5. The player making the claim must notify their opponent that they are making a claim, agree the facts of the situation and make it clear that the Committee is being asked for a ruling. In many cases it will not be possible to obtain an official ruling in a timely manner. The match should be continued without further delay and played to a conclusion whereby there is a definitive result that takes into account an eventual ruling for the disputed hole, whether it be a win for either side, or a half.

I recommend that every golf club or society obtains a copy of my 10-page eDocument, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ I have recently added a single page, summary check list of 12 important points that all team members should be aware of before commencing their match. Purchasers have my permission to distribute this eDocument  to any member of their Club or Society, providing it is without charge and my accreditation remains in place. Click here for details. 

Good golfing,



I have received many testimonials for ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ including these; 
“It is excellent and should be of great assistance to golfers of all categories. I like the way you’ve set it out, explaining all the relevant rules in sequence.” Ms. H.S. “Excellent document Barry. Your simple explanations mean that I learn more from your content that I do from the rule book!” Mr. G.C. “This is a must read for anyone that plays match play golf.” Mr. S.R.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Course Maintenance during a Competition

Here is a question that is representative of others that I have received;
“After a medal round has commenced, can course maintenance work be carried out (e.g. mowing greens, sanding fairways and clearing leaves from bunkers) without the competition being voided?”

The first point to make is that Committees and/or course owners should make every effort to ensure that competition rounds take place with minimum interruption from greenkeepers and course maintenance staff. It is especially important that Committees make advance plans around their major competitions, so that the course is presented in optimum condition and that no competitors are unnecessarily disadvantaged by ongoing work during their rounds. However, there is nothing in the Rules of Golf that makes any allowance for maintenance work being carried out on the course during any competition, even if this means that players will be playing the course under different conditions. This can be compared with morning competitors playing on a dry, windless course and afternoon competitors playing in the same competition in wet and windy conditions, perhaps faced with casual water interference on areas of some putting greens.

An obvious exception to the above is if the Committee, or its authorised representative, considers that after a competition commences, course conditions change to the point that they consider that it is no longer in a playable condition, or that circumstances have arisen that render the proper playing of the game impossible. In such circumstances, the Committee may in both match play and stroke play, order a temporary suspension of play or, in stroke play, declare the competition null and void, cancelling all scores for the round in question, Rule 33-2.  When a round is cancelled, all penalties incurred in that round are cancelled.

Another instance of when a stroke play round should be declared null and void is if one or more holes were relocated and/or tee-markers moved after some competitors had played the hole. However, when it is impossible for a hole damaged during a round to be repaired, so that it conforms to the Definition, the Committee may, in exceptional circumstances, make a new hole in a nearby similar position, Exception to Rule 33-2b. Also, in exceptional circumstances, where there is casual water covering a teeing ground and it is impossible to satisfactorily remove it, a Committee may relocate it, providing this can be done without giving any competitor an undue advantage, or disadvantage, Decision 25-1b/4.

On a related matter, I am aware that many Clubs run a single round competition on more than one day and there is sometimes confusion as to whether the holes and teeing grounds have to be retained in the same position, for the competition to be played within the Rules of Golf. A Note to Rule 33-2b states;

Where a single round is to be played on more than one day, the Committee may provide, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), that the holes and teeing grounds may be differently situated on each day of the competition, provided that, on any one day, all competitors play with each hole and each teeing ground in the same position. 

Finally, many of us have experienced a situation where our ball in motion was deflected off a maintenance vehicle, or other course equipment, whether stationary or moving. The ruling is the same as when a ball is deflected by any other outside agency, it is a ‘rub of the green’ and the ball has to be played as it lies. If it is deflected out of bounds the player must play proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.


My New eBook: Pros Getting it Wrong
Those of you that were early subscribers to my free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ email series (click here if you have not yet subscribed and would like to) will know that the 4th series is titled ‘Pros Getting it Wrong’. I have now completed all 99 issues of this series and have combined them into a full set that can be purchased as an eDocument (.pdf format for easy reference and printing, or transferring onto a smart device). 

In my experience, reading about how golfers have fallen foul of the Rules of Golf, or have used them to their advantage, is an excellent way to obtain a better understanding and remember them. This is especially true when the names of those involved are familiar to us. However, you do not have to be an aspiring Rules of Golf expert to enjoy reading this series of short articles that average about 700 words. Some of the incidents may be familiar, such as Tiger’s 2.000lb loose impediment, Simon Dyson tapping down a spike mark and Carlota Ciganda’s drop at a wrong place during a Solheim Cup match; others will be totally new to you. Where the relevant Rule has changed since the incident I have fully explained what the ruling would now be.

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Good golfing,




The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.