Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Edoardo Molinari's Unusual Disqualification

This week, we have another example of why caddies should spend more of their spare time familiarising themselves with the Rules of Golf, Local Rules and Conditions of Competition. On Friday, popular Italian golfer, Edoardo Molinari, was disqualified from the European Tour's Shenzhen International in China, following a penalty incurred by his caddie, who hitched a short ride on a golf cart between the 9th and 10th holes.

The caddie’s action incurred a penalty of two strokes, but Molinari was not aware of what had happened and returned his signed score card to the Committee, without including the penalty that had been incurred. This resulted in his later disqualification for returning a score card with a score for the 10th hole lower than was actually scored, due to the omission of the penalty.

Edoardo Molinari’s tweets - read from the bottom
Now, the Rules of Golf do not prohibit a player, or their caddie, from using a golf buggy during a competitive round of golf. Part of the Definition of Equipment states;
Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorised.
However when competition Committees want to require players to walk in a competition, they introduce a Condition of Competition with similar wording to this;
Players must not ride on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorised by the Committee.
This condition applies to most tournament events and all players are aware of the restriction, Of course, exceptions have been allowed where a player has a valid medical certificate for a disability that prevents them from walking the stipulated round.

Many have asked why Molinari was penalised, when it was his caddie that took the ride. It is Rule 6-1 that states;

The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.
I have seen many comments from golfers who suggest that the Rules are too complicated and that in cases like this, a player should not suffer for the fallibility of their caddie, particularly when they are not aware of it. So, I want to point out how fallacious this suggestion is. If there was no Rule that penalised the player for their caddie’s actions, when a Rule of Golf was breached, the caddie would be able to remove loose impediments lying close to a ball in a bunker, tap down a spike mark on an intended line of putt, hold back the branch of a tree interfering with a comfortable stance, etc. Obviously, if there was an attempt to list what a caddie may and may not do regarding the Rules, it would require additional, unwelcome detail, making the Rules more complicated, not less. It has taken over 250 years to refine the Rules of Golf to where they are now, dealing with every conceivable situation; it is not easy to simplify them, though I know that the Ruling Bodies are constantly trying to do so.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

2015 Masters Rules Incidents

I am sure that Augusta National’s Masters Tournament Committee is very pleased that there were no controversial Rules incidents this year. However, I was able to uncover three minor incidents that should be of interest to readers.

Graeme McDowell and the Bumblebee
Having encountered a venomous cottonmouth snake during his practice on Tuesday, Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, had another run-in with nature during his final round on Sunday. He noticed that there was a bumblebee hovering over his ball-marker on the 4th putting green and in trying to brush it away, he accidentally knocked his ball-marker several inches away from where it was marking the position of his ball. Apparently, he was then wrongly advised by a watching Rules official that he had incurred a penalty of one stroke and he must replace the ball-marker where it was. Presumably, the official reasoned that as the ball-marker was not moved in the act of marking the ball, Rule 18-2a had been breached. McDowell reportedly said;

"It was clumsy so I reckoned I deserved the penalty."
Fortunately, a couple of holes later, he was approached by none other than Sir Michael Bonallack, Augusta member and past Captain of the R&A GC, and the European Tour's Chief Referee, John Paramor, who gave him the welcome news that no penalty had been incurred. Part of Rule 23-1 states;
On the putting green, if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment. Otherwise, if the player causes the ball to move, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.
Note that insects are defined as loose impediments in the Definitions at the front of the Rules of Golf book.
"I asked Sir Michael and John if there was any chance they could stay with me for the rest of the round, as they were the only way I'd get back shots around here,"
joked McDowell, who having made Friday’s cut, found the putting very difficult and finished with disappointing rounds of 76 and 73.

Tiger and the Chair.
If you were watching the final round, you may have seen Tiger Woods hit a wild drive into the trees, resulting in his ball coming to rest under a chair with bushes and trees close by. Unfortunately, the cameras did not stay with this situation and when they returned to his predicament he was about to play his ball clear of any obstruction or bushes. This confused me at the time, but I guessed that the chair must have been fixed and that he had taken relief from an immovable obstruction. However, a subscriber has since clarified that Tiger was given free relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) on his line of play. A TIO is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed, or not readily movable. Examples include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories. As a high handicapper I was able to take line of play relief from a TIO once, when I played the Irish Open course on the day after the tournament and the spectator stands had not been dismantled.

Dustin Johnson’s Ball Moves

During his final round, Dustin Johnson was trying to get a read on a birdie putt when his ball started rolling down the steeply undulating green towards the hole. As regular readers will know, because Dustin had not addressed his ball and did not cause it to move, he had to play his next stroke from where it came to rest, in this case about 15 feet closer to the hole. And yes, he made his birdie. You can view the incident on this six seconds Vine clip. How is it that whenever this has happened to me, my ball ends up much further from the hole?

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Rule 15 - Substituted Ball; Wrong Ball

Having been asked to explain the differences in the Rules between a wrong ball and a ball that has been substituted, I am pleased to say that I have been given permission by John Jelley, of New Hampshire Golf Association, to reproduce in full, his excellent article on this subject. I am grateful to him for saving me the task of authoring a similar article in this 2015 Masters week!

Rule 15 - Substituted Ball; Wrong Ball

The Rules of Golf did not contemplate the possibility of playing a wrong ball until 1812, when the R&A of St. Andrews stated simply, "If the player strikes his adversary's ball with his club, the player loses the hole”. Since that time a few changes in Rule 15 have occurred, but none more important than the introduction of the concept of a substituted ball.

So what is the difference between a substituted ball and a wrong ball? First we should look at Rule 15-1, which states, "A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground unless the ball is lost, out of bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not substitution is permitted”. Rule 15-2 goes on to discuss a substituted ball, telling us that any time we are allowed to play, drop, or place another ball in completing the play of a hole, we may substitute a ball. An obvious example would be when we find our ball in a water hazard. Even though we have retrieved the original ball, Rule 26 allows us to drop a ball when proceeding under that Rule. So we are allowed to substitute a ball in this case.

Now what happens when we substitute a ball when we are not allowed to do so within the Rules? Well, if we do not correct the error before playing a stroke, then we have violated Rule 15-2, and we incur a penalty under the applicable Rule. An example would be where our ball lies on a cart path and we take relief under Rule 24-2, but we drop a different ball than the one that was on the cart path. That ball is also a substituted ball, but since we were not allowed to substitute a ball, we are penalized under Rule 24-2. So any time we are playing, dropping or placing a ball, Rule 15-2 applies.

Now what about a wrong ball? Rule 15-3 covers this situation, but first, we should look at the definition of a ‘wrong ball’. A wrong ball is any ball other than the player’s ball in play, provisional ball, or a second ball played under Rule 3-3 (doubt as to procedure in stroke play) or Rule 20-7c (ball played from a wrong place-serious breach). A wrong ball includes another player’s ball, an abandoned ball, and the player’s original ball when it is no longer in play. A substituted ball is not a wrong ball.

When is a player’s ball no longer the ball in play? One example would be when it lies out of bounds. If we play such a ball, it is a wrong ball. Another example is when we have been searching for our ball for more than five minutes. If we find the ball after five minutes, that ball is no longer the ball in play. If we then play the found ball, we have played a wrong ball.

What happens if we play a wrong ball? In match play, we lose the hole. In stroke play, we incur a two-stroke penalty and we must abandon the wrong ball and proceed with the original ball. If we tee off at the next hole without correcting our mistake, we are disqualified.

So in our example of playing our ball after the five minute time limit allowed for search has expired, we must abandon that ball, add a two-stroke penalty, and then proceed with our provisional ball, or if no provisional ball was put into play, we must return to where we last played the original ball and put another ball into play, with the additional one-stroke penalty for a lost ball.

Obviously, numerous bad things can happen when we play a wrong ball, and there are numerous decisions dealing with this situation. But if you know the difference between a wrong ball and a substituted ball, then you can get through these tough situations with minimal damage to your score.
Copyright John Jelley, PGA, NHGA.
(Edit 7th April 2015: A reader has kindly pointed out that the Note to Rule 24-1, and Note 2 to both Rules 24-2 and 25-2, state that if a ball to be dropped or placed under these Rules is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.)

The photo at the head of this article is from this YouTube video of an incident in 2008 when Ian Poulter, having marked his ball on the putting green, carelessly threw it into the adjacent water hazard. He was saved from the penalty of two strokes, for substituting a ball during play of the hole, when his personal physio waded into the deep water and retrieved it, so that he could hole out with the same ball that he had marked on the putting green.

Now, it is almost time for me to put my feet up and enjoy another wonderful week of Professional Golf at its very best. What price a European winner of the Masters for the first time in the 21st century?

Good golfing,

John Jelley's original article is at this link.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wind Is Not an Outside Agency

It has been a few years since I blogged about what players must do when the wind moves their ball in play (see 6th April 2009). When I saw this short video of Dudley Hart’s misfortune in his first round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio last week, I knew that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to cover the subject again.
(If you are receiving this blog by email you can view the incident on my blog page.)
The most important thing for players to remember when their ball is moved by wind, casual water of some other element (earthquake!) is that there is no penalty and they must play the ball from where it comes to rest. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency. An easy, but irreverent way to remember this, is that if a player moves their ball it has to be replaced and they incur a penalty of one stroke; whereas if ‘God’ moves their ball it has to be played from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. If the player mistakenly replaces their ball where it was before it was moved by wind they incur a penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place (penalty statement under Rule 18).

There are some other relevant points for me to mention on this subject;

  • If a player had replaced their ball at their ball-marker when the wind moved it, they must still play their ball from where it rolls to, even though the ball-marker is still in place (Decision 20-4/1). 
  • Under Rule 20-4, a ball is in play when it is replaced, whether or not the object used to mark its position has been removed. However, when a ball-marker marking the position of a lifted ball is moved by the wind, the ball-marker must be replaced without penalty (Decision 20-1/10.5).
  • If an object being moved by the wind moves a ball at rest (e.g. a paper bag), the object is an outside agency. So, Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty (Decision 18-1/6).
David Frost Penalised for Dropping His Ball
Despite incurring a one stroke penalty for dropping his ball on his penultimate hole, 55-year-old South African, David Frost, went on to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic by one stroke on Sunday. Frost was penalised after the coin marking his ball on the 17th green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Ian Poulter incurred the same penalty in November 2010 (click here to read that blog).

Here are some of Frost’s post round comments regarding the incident;

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, and it fell on my coin and it just moved the coin by…., it just moved the coin. I knew exactly where it was so I just had to scoot it back and I didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was. There is some kind of Rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin, something like that, but they told me that I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and I had to incur a one-stroke penalty, which I’m like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year I get disqualified, this year I get a one-shot penalty.' It’s kind of frustrating, because, you know, you play by the Rules and you know when something, you know an act of nature like that happens, unfortunately the Rule prevails and well, luckily for me in the end it didn't make any difference and I'm happy Lehman didn't meet me in a playoff."
The “some kind of Rule” Frost referred to is Decision 20-1/15, which I copied in the aforementioned blog. Oh, by the way, the ruling has nothing to do with an "act of nature", Frost was penalised because he dropped his ball on his ball-marker and moved it!

Good golfing,


I am pleased to report that my blog site www.barryrhodes.com has now been made mobile friendly. So, wherever you are, if you have any query on the Rules of Golf, you can search more than 6 years of weekly blogs direct from your smart phone. 

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

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.

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. (Edit 30th March 2015: It should be noted that any sand 
deposited on the player's ball or line of play, resulting from another player's stroke after the ball had come to rest, may be removed without penalty, Decision 13-2/8.5).

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,

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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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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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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.

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