Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Modernisation of the Rules

I guess that a majority of those that play competitive golf are expectantly awaiting news of the proposed ‘modernisation’ of the Rules of Golf that has been signalled by the Ruling Bodies. It seems that we should have a good idea of what is being proposed when the first draft of what is expected to be a broad and significant change to the Rules is released next month (March 2017). I want to emphasise that there will not be any change to any Rule of Golf this year and almost certainly not next year. January 1st 2019 seems to be the earliest that any changes will become effective in competitive play. The period in between includes approximately six months for public comment, after which the R&A and USGA will take time to review the feedback and then draw up their revisions, to be revealed in late 2017, or early 2018. Remembering the lengthy discussion, early opposition and eventual acceptance prior to the comparatively simple amendments relating to anchoring a club, I anticipate that this will be a very busy time for everyone involved with the Rules in competitive golf, whether as a Committee member, Rules official or media reporter.

The first recorded Rules of Golf, drawn up in 1744, amounted to just 13 Rules in 13 sentences, hand-written on two sheets of paper (see the extract in the photo above and view the wording at this link). By the time the R&A published the first 'national' (UK) set of rules, in 1899, which were adopted by the USGA the following year, there were 35 Rules, including 17 Definitions. Today there are 34 Rules, subdivided into 126 sections, 61 Definitions, and over 1,380 Decisions on the Rules. I liken the Decisions to the ‘case law’ of the Rules of Golf; they are required to elaborate and clarify the wording of the Rules in every possible circumstance that might occur in the myriad of topographic, climatic and variable course conditions, anywhere in the world. It has taken over 270 years for the Rules to evolve to where they are today, every change and amendment resulting from actual situations that have occurred during competition. And yet, the Ruling Bodies still receive thousands of new enquiries every year from Committees who are looking for an authoritative answer to situations that they cannot resolve themselves.

The primary objectives of the modernisation of the Rules, as stated by both the Ruling Bodies, are to make them easier to read, understand and apply by golfers at all levels, whether the play is competitive or social and wherever their game is played. There has been a leaking of some of the changes that are likely to feature, though these are expected to be the tip of the iceberg.

Reduce lost ball search: 5 to 3 minutes:
This seems to be more a speed of play issue, on which any positive improvement is to be welcomed.

Greens: Allow spike mark repairs.
Great! But will other damage to the putting green also be included, e.g. heel indentations, flagstick scores, etc. If so, will this not adversely contribute to slow play?

Water Hazards: emphasis on red lines and/or stakes.
Designating water hazards as lateral water hazards provides the additional option of dropping within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin, or an equidistant point on the other side. This should eliminate some of the confusion that many golfers have over where they are permitted to drop in taking relief, under penalty, from a water hazard.

Taking relief: Allow drop from any height.
Hmmmm! Say 2 inches from the ground? If the height is not going to be specified, perhaps all references to dropping should be changed to placing.

Taking relief: Eliminate use of club-lengths.
There is not enough detail here to make a judgement. Presumably one change may be to replace club-length(s) relief with some other fixed measurement, otherwise the player would be permitted to drop a ball almost anywhere that is farther away from the hole. Club-lengths don’t have to be measured anyway, providing the player intends to drop well within the permitted area. See my blog on this subject.

Unfortunately, such a major revision of the Rules, though undertaken with the admirable intention of making learning them and complying with them much easier, is bound to create a period of confusion in the short (and probably medium) term. The multiple changes will almost certainly be challenging for Golf Committees, even if they and their members, do take the time to study and understand them. There are many golfers that never reference the existing Rules book and this is unlikely to change, which is bound to result in differences of opinion, increasing the number of issues that Committees will have to give rulings on. These issues do not arise when all competitors are playing together, as in match play, or a casual ‘skins’ game between friends, as they can resolve the situation amongst themselves, but it is obviously a different matter when the rights of the whole field have to be taken into account. It would obviously be inequitable to have one competitor proceeding with a different interpretation of a Rule to another who is faced with the same situation, but playing in a different group. I have said before that I have never got close to winning the annual Captain’s prize at my Club, but if by some miracle I was to come second and subsequently find out that the winner had breached a Rule without including the penalty on their score card, I know that I would be apoplectic!

So, although most golfers obviously wish for a dramatic reduction in the size of the Rules book, this is probably not going to happen. As previously stated, the reason for the existing number of Rules, sections, definitions and decisions is that over the years it has been necessary to update them as a result of what is regularly happening on golf courses all over the world. The welcome modernisation should certainly lead to a reduction in verbiage, but in my opinion, not nearly enough to satisfy most players, who often do not take the time to logically think through the potential unintended consequences that may occur following any change, however minor. From the comments that I receive it is clear that the Rule that most amateur golfers would like to see changed, is for them to obtain relief from divot holes on closely mown areas. I am not privy to any inside information on this, but I would be extremely surprised if this was included in the modernisation for the reasons that I explain in this blog.

Another welcome objective of the ‘Rules Modernisation’, which is expected to be far less controversial, is to identify and put into practice ways that will improve how the Rules are distributed and consumed, including increased and better use of technology. This should involve easier and more user friendly ways of accessing Rules information, for example through the use of audio, images and videos. We can all look forward to that.

Good golfing,



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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Making a Stroke

I received a question this week asking whether the shaft or grip of a club can be used to make a stroke. I cannot imagine the circumstance that led to this question being asked, but it has prompted me to list a few points relating to making a stroke at a ball.

•    The ball must be fairly struck with the head of the club. Rule 14-1a.
•    The head of the club includes the face, back and sides of the club (so, obviously not any part of the shaft or the grip). Note that the clubhead must have only one striking face, except that a putter may have two faces if their characteristics are the same and they are opposite each other. Appendix ll, 1 / 4 / d.
•    The ball must not be pushed, scraped or spooned. See this blog for an example of what is not permitted in this respect. Rule 14-1a.
•    In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either "directly" or by use of an "anchor point." See this blog for more information on this subject. Rule 14-1b.
•    A stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball. So if a player checks their downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball, they have not made a stroke. Definition of Stroke.
•    A player must not make a stroke while accepting physical assistance (e.g. having an umbrella held over them), or protection from the elements (e.g. aligning their bag to shelter their ball from the wind. Rule 14-2a.
•    A player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner that might assist them in making a stroke. Rule 14-3. Note that this includes listening to music or a broadcast, Decision 14-3/17.
•    A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving. Rule 14-5. There are 3 exceptions; a) Ball falling off tee, Rule 11-3; b) Striking the ball more than once, Rule 14-4; c) Ball moving in water, Rule 14-6. A player may make a stroke at a ball that oscillates providing it does not move off its spot.
•    A player may make a stroke one-handed, e.g. holding the flagstick in the other hand when making a short putt, Decision 17-1/5. (See photo above).
•    A player is not necessarily entitled to see their ball when making a stroke. Rule 12-1.
•    A player is not penalised for improving their lie or line of play if it occurs while making a stroke, or the backward movement of their club for a stroke, e.g. breaking or moving grasses growing behind their ball when making a stroke from a hazard. Rules 13-2 and 13-4. (Edit 10th February 2017: However, they may not touch the ground in the hazard, water in the water hazard, or move a loose impediment in the hazard with their backswing, Rule 13-4.)

Good golfing,


 


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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Advantageously Dropping a Ball

Congratulations to 26-year-old Tommy Fleetwood, from Southport, England, who came from behind to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last weekend, beating Dustin Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal by one stroke. His play of the final hole provides a useful illustration of how golfers can benefit from using the Rules of Golf to their advantage. Knowing that he probably required a birdie on his 72nd par-5 hole, to either win the title or be involved in a playoff, Fleetwood did not get the start he wanted, as he hooked his drive towards the desert. Fortunately for him, but not the person who was hit, his ball bounced back off a spectator close to a path where it came to rest. Taking a natural stance for the intended stroke meant that his feet would have been on the path, so he was able to take releif under Rule 24-2. He knew that he had to determine the nearest point of relief to where his ball lay where there was no interference from the cart path and then drop a ball so that it hit the course within one club-length of that point. Most of us would imagine this dropping area and drop a ball well within the permitted limit, but Fleetwood was thinking well ahead. He knew that he had to go for the putting green, still about 270 yards away, with his second shot and the lie of his ball was crucial. So he chose to try and drop the ball in a position where it was likely to roll to a position where the path still interfered, or where it would roll nearer to the hole. In either case this would mean re-dropping the ball to comply with the requirements of Rule 20-2c. His reason for dropping the ball at an extreme permitted limit in this way was to take advantage of this part of Rule 20-2c;

If the ball when re-dropped rolls into any position listed above, it must be placed as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped. 

It was reported that after his win Fleetwood explained;

“There were two bits of grass, a nice bit and a bad bit, and I didn’t really want to go to the bad bit. There’s a line that I had to drop it over to make it a legal drop, basically. I can’t drop it when I’m still stood on the path. It just took me a few goes because I was trying to get it right on the edge of it. But yeah, I did actually get a really good drop in the end. It settled nicely and I was never going to not take the shot on.”

My understanding is that the reason that he “took a few goes” is that more than one drop landed outside the tiny patch that he was aiming for within the permitted area, which meant that it did not count towards the drop. There were two valid drops that were within the permitted area, but the ball rolled to a position where there was either interference from the path, or was nearer to the hole, the second of which then became the reference point where he was permitted to place the ball. Because of the accuracy of this valid re-drop he was able to place his ball sitting up on a nice little tuft of grass, almost like a tee, because this is where the ball first hit the course before rolling away. He then used his now defunct Nike 3-wood to hit a beautiful shot to the front of the green and two-putted to make the birdie, which subsequently resulted in him winning the title outright, without need for a playoff.

I have two tips for players that have the option of taking relief under the Rules; first, is not to lift your ball until you have determined exactly where the nearest point of relief is, as the permitted dropping area may be disadvantageous to where the ball is lying; and second, to try and drop your ball in such a way that it will require a re-drop and perhaps subsequent placeing of the ball after a similar re-drop, as this will obviously give you a better lie from which to make your next stroke.

Amateur Golfer Wins Car
Playing in the amateur competition of the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California, last week, Dave Colby had a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole, which won him a brand new Genesis G90 luxury sedan.

For several years the USGA has allowed an amateur to win a valuable prize, such as a car, for making a hole-in-one in a round of golf, without forfeiting their amateur status, but those of us that play golf outside of USA and Mexico only received this exception when the Rules of Amateur Status were changed in this respect from 1st January 2012. Apart from this hole-in-one exception, the most valuable prize that any amateur golfer can win without losing their amateur status is US$750 / St£500, or the local currency equivalent.

Modernisation of the Rules of Golf
You will probably be aware that the Ruling Bodies are considering a major modernisation (simplification?) of the Rules of Golf. I will not be speculating on the unsubstantiated rumours that are arising, as I think that it can only cause confusion; I prefer to spend my time interpreting the Rules as they are, for the benefit of others. However, if you do want an idea of what is being leaked following a presentation made to some European Tour players last week then you can check out this link. I will not be engaging in any communication regarding this subject.

Good golfing,



 

It is time for Committees in the northern hemisphere to start planning for the upcoming season. Why not run a Rules night for your Club or Society? I have done all the work in my 'ready to run' quizzes (General, Juniors and Match Play). More information at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Immovable Obstruction on Putting Green

When putting greens are damaged, greenkeepers often have to protect the repaired area until growth returns and the surface is suitable for putting again. Of course, the protective netting is an immovable obstruction on the putting green, as it is not intended that players should move it to give themselves a clear path to the hole.

In the photo above, I have positioned five balls (A to E) at different positions on and around the putting green. These are the various rulings. under Rule 24-2b(iii) unless otherwise stated:

•    Ball A lies off the putting green and the netting is on the player’s intended line of play to the hole. There is no relief available, as the netting does not interfere with the player’s stance or area of intended swing and intervention on the line of play is not interference under Rule 24-2a. The player must pitch over, or play around the netting.

•    Ball B lies on the netting on the putting green. If the player chooses to take relief, they must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard for their intended stroke to the hole. In some circumstances the nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.

•    Ball C lies on the putting green and the netting does not intervene for a left-handed player, so they must play their next stroke from where the ball is at rest. There is no relief for mental interference from the netting. Because the netting does interfere with the stance of a right handed player, they may take relief by lifting the ball and placing it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief for their intended stroke to the hole that is not in a hazard. Sometimes the nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.

•    Ball D lies on the putting green and the netting does not intervene for a right-handed player. This time a right handed player is not entitled to relief, but a left-handed player may take relief; it is the converse of the situation with ball C.

•    Ball E lies on the putting green and the netting intervenes on the intended line of putt, so the player make take relief, without penalty, by lifting the ball and placing it at the nearest point of relief for their intended stroke to the hole that is not in a hazard. Sometimes the nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.

The above Rules are also relevant to other immovable obstructions on the putting green, such as artificial hole plugs, which I covered in this blog last year.

Top 10 Ridiculous Moments on the PGA Tour in 2016
Still in the festive mood, I found some of these amusing. (Click on this link.)


It was the first item (#10) that interested me most. I am confused by the commentary on the Rules (nothing new there!) It seems to me that the timber wall does not interfere with Phil Mickelson’s area of intended swing, in which case there was no relief from it available to him, despite what the commentator said after the ball came to rest. Not that Phil needed it; was that exquisite skill or good luck? I am also confused about the timber wall, which seems a rather bizarre, man-made obstruction. I have checked out an overhead view of the 6th hole at Sedgefield Country Club, venue of the 2016 Wyndham Championship, and it does not seem to match that shown in the video clip in that there is no wall at the side of the green and the bunkers seem to be differently located. (Edit 12th January 2017: Thanks to MD of www.progolfrefs.com for informing me that this incident occurred during the 2016 BMW Championship on 6th hole at Crooked Stick GC and not as referenced in the video clip.)

Good golfing,


 



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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

New Year Rules Teasers

It has been a regular habit of mine to offer readers of this blog teasers relating to the Rules of Golf for them to contemplate over their New Year holiday. This year, I am describing a ruling and your task is to explain the circumstance that led to it. The nine scenarios are not intended to be easy and this exercise will not appeal to every reader. My aim is to get the rest of you thinking, perhaps over a period of days, so I recommend that you don’t check the answers below until you have had a good attempt at reaching an explanation that fits. Please note that I am providing just one circumstance that matches the answer, but there could be other circumstances that are equally valid. (Edit: 29th December: No Local Rule was involved in any of the situations.)

1.    Martha’s putt from on the putting green was well wide of her intended line when it hit an opponent’s club, deflecting it against her own partner’s ball, from where it rolled into the hole. The stroke counts and no penalty is incurred. Explain!

2.    On a par-3, Stuart makes 8 strokes at his original ball before putting out with that same ball for a score of 5. Explain!

3.    In match play, Sofia plays her ball from the teeing ground on a par-3. Anna, who had the same handicap as Sofia, then plays her first stroke from the teeing ground and her ball comes to rest on the lip of the hole, so Sofia concedes the putt. Sofia makes another stroke and wins the hole. Explain!

4.    Early in her round Lynn mislaid her sand iron. After completing the 9th hole she ran into the Pro Shop to borrow a replacement, but there were no sand irons available, so she took a lob wedge with a similar loft. On the 10th hole, she topped her ball when playing from a bunker with the borrowed lob wedge, so she was pleased when a course marshall drove up to her in a buggy with her mislaid sand iron, which she then continued to use during the rest of her round. No penalty was incurred. Explain!

5.    Joerg is not happy with his tee shot to a Par 3 hole, 180 yards away. He walks forward 100 yards, but in a direction that is diagonal from a direct line from the teeing ground to the location of the hole and he drops another ball there. Explain!

6.    Having driven to the right of the fairway on the 1st hole, Tamara carries a club into the fairway bunker, shuffles her feet around, pushes her fingers deep into the sand, makes two practice strokes, brushing the sand on each occasion, and then returns to her bag. She changes the club, walks to her ball and plays it in the direction of the putting green. Tamara did not incur any penalty. Explain!

7.    Having correctly dropped a ball from a sprinkler head on a fairway, an immovable obstruction, Michael lifted that ball, took a different ball from his pocket, and dropped it at the same place. He then played that ball towards the hole, without incurring a penalty. Explain!

8.    Fellow competitors, Alan and Bob, walked to where their ball had landed and found that they were so close together they were touching. Bob lifted his ball without marking it and carefully cleaned it while Alan was clearing loose impediments from around his ball, taking care not to accidentally move it while doing so. When Alan had made his stroke towards the hole, Bob dropped his ball about 6 feet away from where it was originally at rest and played it towards the hole. No penalties were incurred. Explain!

9.    At the start of the 10th hole Mary was playing a Titleist 1 with her shamrock mark and Maria was playing a Titleist 1 with her thistle mark. When they putted out they realised that Maria had putted out with Mary's ball and Mary had putted out with Maria's ball. No penalties were incurred. Explain!

Last Golf Joke of 2016 😄
Player arrives at the first tee. Shortly before tee time, he realizes that he does not have a ball marker in his pocket. He dashes into the pro-shop and asks.....
Q: “Do you sell ball markers?”
A: “Yes we do”, says the Pro, “They are $1.00”.
Player hands the Pro a $1.00 bill.
Pro hands the player a dime ($0.10 cents)
Player says, "I thought you said the ball marker was $1.00?"
Pro replies...."I did,… that dime is your ball marker."

Answers to Teasers:
1.    Martha was competing in a four-ball match. When her ball hit an opponent’s club she had the option of choosing to let her putt stand, or to cancel it and play it again, Rule 19-3. In match play, there is no penalty for hitting another ball after a stroke made from on a putting green, Rule 19-5a.
2.    Stuart player played from outside the teeing ground and played 2 more strokes at his ball before being made aware of his error. He returned to the correct teeing ground and from there took 3 strokes to hole out (3 counting strokes, 2 penalty strokes and 3 strokes that did not count in his score, because they were played from wrong teeing ground), Rule 11-4b.
3.    Sofia had played out of turn, so Anna required her stroke to be cancelled, as it was a good shot coming to rest close to the hole, Rule 10-1c. After Sofia had conceded Anna’s putt for a birdie she then made a hole-in-one to win the hole. (See this link for several other ways that a player may score a hole-in-one with their second ball played from the teeing ground).
4.    Lynn started her round with 13 clubs, so she was entitled to add another club of any type, Rule 4-4a. There is no Rule preventing her to enter the Pro Shop providing she did not unduly delay play while doing so. When her original sand iron was returned to her she was entitled to use it, as it was one of her original 13 clubs selected for play.
5.    Joerg’s ball landed in a pond in front of the putting green. The hole was located on the left side of the green and his ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard to the right side, meaning that the permitted line of drop, under Rule 26-1b, on an extension of a line from the hole through the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, was to the far right of the pond, nowhere near the line of flight of his ball played from the teeing ground.
6.    Tamara’s ball was at rest close to the bunker, but was not in it, so Rule 13-4 did not apply. A player may test the sand in a bunker when their ball does not lie in a bunker.
7.    After taking the drop from the immovable obstruction under Rule 24-2, Michael realised that he had dropped a different ball from the one that he lifted. However, under Rule 20-6, he was permitted to correct his mistake without penalty, as he had not made a stroke at the wrongly substituted ball.
8.    Both balls were lying in snow. Alan chose to treat the snow as casual water, dropping away from it under Rule 25-1, whereas Bob chose to treat the snow as a loose impediment, clearing some of it away before playing his ball from where it had come to rest, Definition of Loose Impediment.
9.    Mary and Maria played their balls into a water hazard at approximately the same spot. During their retrieval the balls were inadvertently exchanged. When taking relief under penalty the player may drop any ball, so they were not playing wrong balls to the putting green, Decision 15/14.

I hope that these nine scenarios tested you and that you did not find them too frustrating!

Link to New Local Rule Print Out
Good Golf Committees around the world will have already made plans to introduce the new Local Rule for the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green. If yours has not, I strongly recommend that you click on this link, print out the .pdf notice that is ready for pinning on a notice board, and bring it swiftly to their attention. Both the R&A and USGA have recommended that Committees introduce this Local Rule immediately.

Happy New Year with lots of good golfing,



Why not start the year with a New Year resolution to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf and do it the easy way? Carry ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’ with you at all times on your smart phone, Kindle, laptop or tablet and then test yourself whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Click here.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 / © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Special 2016


You know that you are probably playing too much golf when…

On a big night out, while searching for the cloakroom ticket, you find two tees, some scruffy receipts and the 10 cent coin you have been using as a ball marker.

You know your home course post code and at least three different sites/apps to check the weather forecast.

You check the first weather site, then hoping for something better, venture into a second and even a third to get their opinions on precipitation, wind direction and velocity!

European golfers have coins of at least three different currencies in their golf bag.

You keep score cards from all the different courses that you have played as a badge of honour.

There are some rounds that you cannot remember what you scored, as the card is illegible and has turned into that weird cardboard mush you only get in golf bags.

You have to pick up and wiggle any driver that is different to yours while you are waiting in the queue of the pro shop.

You can hear balls rolling around your car boot (trunk) when you drive around corners.

The pocket of your golf bag contains several dirty Pinnacles/Top Flights and one of them is always yellow.

You spend more time/money dressing for golf that going out for a meal with your partner.

You give directions like, 'there is a dogleg to the right' or ‘it is only a 5-iron from the gas station.

You have lied exaggerated to someone about your golfing abilities even though they have no idea what an ‘eagle’ is.

You cannot stop mentioning golf when chatting one-on-one with a member of the opposite sex.
 


If you are ‘guilty’ of five or more of the above you are probably playing too much golf!

10 Awkward Open moments

An amusing video from GolfShake.co that includes;
•    Tiger being accosted by a lap-dancer in her underwear
•    Ian Baker-Finch's hat blowing off as he drives his ball out of bounds to the left of the 18th on the Old Course, St. Andrews; he was playing the 1st!
•    Nick Faldo singing (he’s even worse than me!)

Click here for the compilation video, which may help some of us to realise that even Pro golfers have their embarrassing moments.


Christmas Greetings 

Wishing all my readers, wherever you play your golf, all that you wish for this Christmas season. May you balls always lie in green pastures and not in still waters!

Good golfing,


 


Check out my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site, an indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf.


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Accidentally Moving a Ball on the Putting Green

By now most readers will be aware of last week’s joint announcement by R&A and USGA about the introduction of a new Local Rule that eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green. Full details of the announcement, the recommended wording for the Local Rule, the above infographic and explanations, can be viewed at these links;

R&A: http://www.randa.org/News/2016/12/New-Local-Rule-for-Golf

USGA: http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/new-local-rule.html

I want to highlight a few points that may be missed by some golfers and golf Committee personnel;

•    This is not a new, or amended Rule of Golf.
•    It is the recommended wording for a Local Rule that may (should!) be introduced on or after 1st January 2017.
•    Committees will have to introduce the Local Rule for it to take effect on 1st Janaury 2017 and they are encouraged to do so.
•    It only applies to a ball, or ball marker, at rest on the putting green being played, not anywhere else on the course.
•    It does not matter how the ball or ball-marker was accidentally moved, e.g. with the head of a putter, kicked, or as a result of a glove being dropped on it.
•    It only applies when a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved; it does not apply to a ball that is purposely touched or moved, e.g. a ball that is lifted without being marked.
•    It applies to the player, their partner, their opponent(s), or any of their caddies or equipment.
•    The ball or ball-marker that was accidentally moved must be replaced, as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
•    If a player does not think that they caused their ball to move in any way they must play it from where it came to rest, e.g. if it was moved by wind, water or gravity.

I have previousl blogged on at least three high profile incidents that would not now be penalised if this Local Rule had been in effect at the time;


•    The ruling that Dustin Johnson had caused his ball to move at the 2016 US Open. Click here for details.
•    Ian Poulter dropping his ball on his ball-marker at the Dubai Championship in 2010. Click here for details.
•    Mike Clayton accidentally knocking his putter into his ball as he tried to catch it after throwing it in the air. Click here for details.

It seems that Decision 20-1/5.5 will have to be withdrawn from the next publication of the Decisions book. It rules that a player who found his ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe and concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt, would be penalised one stroke, which will not be the case when this Local Rule is implemented. (Edit: 13the December 2016: a reader has pointed out that Decision 20-1/14 will also have to withdrawn next time round and Decision 20-1/13 amended to clarify that the ball is not on the putting green. There are probably others!)

I certainly welcome this move by the Ruling Bodies, as the first step in their 'Rules Modernisation', which apparently is well under way and about which we will hear much more during 2017. There have been numerous instances where players have incurred penalties when their ball has moved, sometimes imperceptibly, on the much faster, undulating surfaces of putting greens. The only question that now has to be asked when this occurs is whether some person accidentally caused the ball to move, in which case it must be replaced, or whether something else caused it to move, e.g. wind or gravity, in which case it must be played from where it came to rest.

Good golfing,




‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ – “Excellent. Barry Rhodes is the king of golf rules”. Amazon purchaser comment
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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

When a Player May Substitute a Ball

If a player substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play, for a breach of Rule 15-2, part of which states;

If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules (including an unintentional substitution when a wrong ball is dropped or placed by the player), that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule and, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball. 

Of course, players may change balls at will between the play of two holes (unless there is a One Ball Condition of Competition), as they do not have a ball in play at that time.

 
Two examples of when a player unintentionally substitutes a ball are;
  • When a ball is marked and lifted from the putting green, put in a pocket and then a different ball is replaced at the marker and played. This precludes a player from having a favourite ball for putting only.
  • When a ball is lifted from a putting green and is accidentally dropped or thrown somewhere from where it cannot be retrieved, e.g. in deep water of a water hazard.
An example of when a player intentionally substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so is;
  • When a player notices that they are playing the same brand and number of ball as another player in their group and they change their ball, so as to easily distinguish between them, Decision 15/6.5.
However, there are several instances where a player is not penalised for substituting a ball, as Rule 15-2 also states;

A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a Rule that permits the player to play, drop or place another ball in completing the play of a hole. The substituted ball becomes the ball in play.

Examples of where the Rules permit substituting a ball are;

  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1. 
  • When playing under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1, even if the original ball is not lost or out of bounds. 
  • When the player deems their ball unplayable under Rule 28, whether or not the original ball has been retrieved. 
  • When a ball has come to rest in a place that is dangerous to the player (e.g near a poisonous snake or a bees' nest) and they are permitted to drop a ball away from the danger, Decision 1-4/10.
  • When it has been determined that a ball has become unfit for play, Rule 5-3. 
  • When a ball has been lifted under the Rules, due to suspension of play, the player may replace the original ball, or a substituted ball, Rule 6-8. 
  • When a ball to be dropped or placed is not immediately recoverable by a player after they have caused it to move; e.g. if it was accidentally kicked into water; because it is in or on a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1, or an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2; because it is in an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1.
Note that there is no penalty is a player lifts a ball that has been incorrectly substituted and replaces it with the original ball, provided they have not made a stroke at it. Rule 20-6 states.

A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.

Good golfing,



 

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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Shout "Fore!"

Phil Mickelson shouting ‘Fore!’
Whilst not strictly about any Rule of Golf, this article is about an important golf-related subject that should concern all of us who play the game. When viewing competitive golf at any level, I am regularly surprised at how often players who hit errant shots fail to shout the customary “fore”, to warn anyone in the vicinity that they should take cover and/or protect themselves from being hit by a golf ball.

The Rules of Golf do not require a player to shout "fore" to warn other players, but good etiquette certainly does. This is from the front of the Rules Book, Section 1, Etiquette; Behaviour on the Course;

If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is a danger of hitting someone, he should immediately shout a warning. The traditional word of warning in such situations is "fore."

So, I was pleasantly surprised that at least the European Tour is beginning to take this matter more seriously. Prior to the Turkish Airlines Open, earlier this month, they circulated a memo informing players that incidents of spectator injury are on the rise and that players are expected to increase their use of "fore", as a verbal warning whenever a shot goes awry. This is the full text of the European Tour memo:
 

 “FORE” EXPECTED USE OF WARNING
An increase in complaints from marshals and spectators over the lack of use of the above warning by players, combined with an increase in resultant injuries to spectators, claims for compensation and indeed a recent injury to a member are of serious concern to the Tour.

Members are reminded that the use of the word "fore" remains the traditional and expected warning/etiquette when there is a danger of hitting someone (see page 26 of Rules of Golf) and that regulation D 1 (b) 2 (page 48 of your handbook) requires you to ‘comply with normally accepted standards of golf etiquette’

All members are therefore strongly recommended that the use of such warnings is expected at all times when there is risk of injury and failure to do so will result in a player being disciplined under the above regulation.


The following short extract is taken from an article on the subject a year ago in GolfLink.com, by Sky Sports pundit and PGA Master Professional, Denis Pugh;

On the European Tour, I'd say it's about half-and-half between players that do and don't shout "fore". The problem is more widespread in the USA, and I’d say only 10 per cent of PGA Tour players consistently shout “fore” when they should. It's no coincidence that the galleries on the PGA Tour are bigger, meaning there is a better chance of getting a lucky deflection off an unsuspecting spectator. It happens every week. The bigger the name, the bigger the galleries, and the less likely there will be a shout from the player or his caddie.

Readers may be interested to know that there are three differing explanations regarding the origin of the use of “fore!” as a warning cry to people positioned in front of a golf stroke. The use of this shout can be traced back at least as far back as a reference in The Oxford English Dictionary in 1878:

  1. A shortened version of ‘forecaddie’, a person employed to stand where the ball might land, so as to reduce the number of lost balls, which were handmade and substantially more expensive in the early days of the sport than they are now. (This is the explanation that I favour). 
  2. From the military battle craft of musket days, when rank after rank would fire fusillades over the heads of those in front. In other words, the term ‘Fore” might have been used to warn those in front to drop to their knees. 
  3. Similar to 2. above, it is claimed that “Fore!” was derived from an artillery term warning gunners to stand clear with the term “Ware Before!” (Beware Before!) being foreshortened to “Fore!” (rather than “Ware!”).
More information on the origin of this traditional warning in golf can be found at the excellent Scottish Golf History web site at this link.
 

Good golfing,

 


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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

November Miscellany

Ball Deflects off Flagstick into Water Hazard

Patrick Reed wasn’t having the best of tournaments at the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week. He was already 7 over playing the 8th hole of his second round when his ball struck the flagstick and rebounded back into the water hazard in front of the green. Click on this link to view a video of the incident. As the commentator said about Patrick Reed, “Not his day; not his week”

Reed’s ball rolled down the steep bank of the hazard and came to rest in an unplayable position, so what were his options under the Rules? He only had two options left: return to where he last played from to drop a ball under penalty of stroke and distance; or drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.

It is this second option that seems to cause many golfers a problem. There are three points to remember;
•    The line of flight of the ball from where the stroke was made is not relevant.
•    The reference point for the drop is where the ball last crossed the hazard, which in this incident was the putting green side of the water hazard.
•    The ball may be dropped anywhere on the course on an extension of the line from the flagstick through where the ball last crossed the margin. This will always be on the far side of the hazard from the hole and the ball may be dropped in a bunker or another water hazard.

Dropping Zone for Short Hitters
I have been asked what the situation is if a player who thinks that they cannot reach the fairway on the far side of a water hazard from the teeing ground takes their ball straight to a dropping zone. The player would be disqualified under Rule 11-4b, for playing a ball from outside the teeing ground and not subsequently correcting their mistake before teeing off at the next teeing ground.

 
Decision 33-8/2 confirms that a Committee may not introduce a Local Rule in this respect;

Q. The design of a hole is such that a player must hit the ball about 100 yards in order to carry a water hazard. A Local Rule has been adopted to assist players who cannot drive over the hazard by allowing them to drop a ball, under penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone that is located across the hazard. Is such a Local Rule authorized?

A. No. Such a Local Rule substantially alters Rule 26-1b as it allows the player to drop a ball on a part of the course (i.e., on the green side of the water hazard) that the Rule would not have permitted him to reach. Furthermore, the penalty for taking relief under the water hazard Rule (Rule 26) is one stroke, and may not be increased to two strokes by a Committee through a Local Rule - see Rule 33-8b.


Borrowing a Club During a Round
I have heard several myths about what a player may borrow from a fellow competitor during their round.

A player may borrow;

  • Balls (but if a One Ball Condition is in effect, the player would need to borrow the same brand and type of ball that they had been using).
  • Equipment (e.g. tee, towel, ball marker, pitch repairer, trolley and umbrella).
  • Clothing (e.g. rain gear, sweater and glove).
A player may not borrow;
  • Any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course, Rule 4-4a.
However, a player may borrow a club for measuring purposes, providing they do not borrow and measure with a club that is longer than one that they carry in their own bag. They may also borrow a club to practice putts or chips between holes, as permitted by Rule 7-2, providing the club is not used to make a stroke that counts in the player's score.

The penalty for a breach of Rule 4-4a in stroke play is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty of four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred). The penalty in match play, at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, is that the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred, with a maximum deduction of two holes.

Good golfing,


 

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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.