Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Luke Donald’s Penalty at 2014 Masters

I am pleased to report that, unlike last year, the 2014 Masters passed without any controversial Rules incidents. One Rules infraction that was not widely reported, probably because it had no significant impact on the leaderboard, was incurred by Luke Donald, resulting in his first round score of 79, instead of the 77 that he thought he had scored. The facts of the penalty were that in making a stroke from a bunker, Donald hit his ball fat and it failed to clear the bunker lip rolling back into the sand. His instinctive reaction was to smack his club into the sand in disgust. I expect there are many of us that can relate to this instinctive act of frustration. However, in doing so, he breached  Rule 13-4b, which states that a player may not touch the ground in a hazard with his hand or a club. Of course, there is nothing to stop a player venting their frustration in this way if they have succeeded in extricating their ball from the bunker first.

Although Luke Donald failed to call the penalty on himself, he was suitably contrite when his penalty was explained to him by a Rules Official, before he signed his card. This is what he said about the incident on his Twitter account;

There was another interesting Rules incident at Augusta, but it had nothing to do with the Rules of Golf. Having worn the obligatory tennis shoes during a practice round, the caddie of English amateur, Matthew Fitzpatrick, realised that, due to a long-term foot condition, he would not be able to continue to caddie for his player if he had to wear tennis shoes again. He politely requested that the Augusta National authorities excuse him and allow him to wear his special sandals. His legitimate, and most would think reasonable, request was swiftly turned down, leaving him less than impressed with Augusta officialdom. Here are the reported comments of Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Masters Competition Committee;

"Duncan was told he had to wear tennis shoes like all caddies. We are not treating him any different. I am sure whatever reasons he raised were considered."

Oh dear!

Good golfing,

I am delighted that the Masters has brought a flood of new subscribers to my two free, weekly email lists. If you are already a ‘Rhodes Rules School’ subscriber don’t forget that you can move from the original photo series of 99 issues to the ‘How Many Strokes?’ series of 99 issues by purchasing the complete set at this link. Similarly, you can advance from the ‘How Many Strokes?’ series to the current ‘9 Questions About’ series, by purchasing that complete set at this link.

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

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Rakes in Bunkers

My preferred solution for placing bunker rakes
This week’s blog concerns a question that has little to do with the Rules of Golf, but can be a controversial subject amongst those that play the game.

Where should you place the rake after raking a bunker?

I have studiously avoided this subject during my four years of blogging, but have been persuaded to write about it now, following a false assertion that was communicated to me that the R&A recently ruled that bunker rakes must be left within the margin of bunkers. There is no truth to this, but you may be surprised to read that there is a Decision on the subject, right at the end of the book, Decision misc./2.
Q. Should rakes be placed in or outside bunkers?

A. There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes, but on balance it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player if rakes are placed outside bunkers.

It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker.

However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is most prevalent at a course where the bunkers are small. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 24-1, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole – see Decision 20-3d/2.

If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes damage to the surface. Also, if a rake is in the middle of a large bunker it is either not used or the player is obliged to rake a large area of the bunker resulting in unnecessary delay.

Therefore, after considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

Ultimately, it is a matter for the Committee to decide where it wishes rakes to be placed.
(My bolding.)
Personally, I disagree with the Ruling Bodies on this question. My main argument is that a player is more likely to suffer a detrimental rub of the green when rakes are left alongside the bunker, in that a ball may then be deflected into the bunker by a rake. Of course, it is almost as likely that a ball may be deflected from coming to rest in a bunker by a rake that is lying in the bunker; however, I guess that most amateur players would prefer this consequence! My preference is for the rakes to be left inside a flat part of the bunker with their handles resting against the side, to make it easy to pick-up the rake. I think that the use of the type of rake in the photo above, with a curved handle, is a particularly good solution. I do not like to see rakes left in the middle of the sand, as this necessitates players having to walk into the bunker to retrieve them, which a consequent delay in play, as they smooth over the footsteps that they have made by doing so; or worse, leaving their footprints in the sand to the annoyance and possible inconvenience of those following.

Here are some related Rules points to understand;

  • Rakes are movable obstructions, so if a ball comes to rest against a rake the player may remove the rake without penalty, even if they move their ball while doing so. If the ball is moved it must be replaced and if it will not come to rest on the spot where it originally lay, it must be placed at the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, where it can be placed at rest (Rule 20-3d(ii).
  • There is no penalty if a player touches the sand with their club while moving a rake, e.g. in hooking the handle of the rake with the clubhead (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4).
  • After retrieving a rake from inside a bunker a player may smooth the sand as they exit the bunker, provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to improve the position or lie of their ball, stance, area of intended swing, or line of play (Exception 2 to Rule 13-4).
  • A player may carry a rake into the bunker and place it, or throw it, into the sand before making their stroke (Decision 13-4/21).
Whilst I have given my opinion on the subject of placing rakes in bunkers, I do accept that there are many who disagree. I have found it to be a contentious issue and so I will not be entering into any communication on the matter, as there is no definitive answer and it would lead nowhere.

Good golfing,


I was at my first match practice yesterday and I guess many players in the Norther Heisphere are also preparing for Club or inter-Club match play. Here is a link to my eDocument, 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play'.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Did Matt Every’s Caddie Breach Rule 14-3?

Last Sunday week, 30-year old Matt Every was a first-time PGA Tour winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Orlando, Florida, less than an hour’s drive from his home town of Daytona Beach. His caddie, Derek Mason, had golf’s armchair referees on the edge of their seats, during the final round, as they spotted him looking intently at a handheld device. There is no Local Rule permitting distance measuring devices on PGA Tour events. It transpired that he was consulting a compass, which would have been a breach of the Rules, incurring disqualification, just 3 months ago, but is now permitted. Decision 14-3/4 was revised from 1st January this year;
Q. A player uses a compass during a stipulated round to help determine the direction of the wind or the direction of the grain in the greens. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?

A. No. A compass only provides directional information and does not gauge or measure variable conditions or assist the player in his play. (Revised).
This seemingly minor amendment to the Decisions has more widespread implications than is at first apparent. Those of you that have been following my blogs for some time may remember that because iPhones have an inbuilt compass that cannot be uninstalled, they could not be used during a competitive round, even if there was a Local Rule operating that permitted the use of distance measuring devices (DMDs). If there is such a Local Rule, the amendment now means that, like Android smart phones, iPhones with a distance measuring application installed may now be used during competitions, providing the application is not capable of measuring conditions, or supplying information about conditions (e.g. wind speed, temperature, or gradient). I recommend that anyone who may be confused about which measuring devices are permitted and which are not, check out the R&A’s recently updated and comprehensive Q&As on DMDs, with an accompanying flowchart, at this link.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Golf Ball at Rest on or Near Bunker Steps

Wooden steps leading into a bunker, like those in the photo, are artificial and are therefore immovable obstructions. So how does a player proceed if their ball comes to rest on one of the steps, or lies in a position where there is interference by the steps to their stance or area of intended swing?

(Edit 25th March: This blog was significantly edited following comments from subscribers pointing out that Decision 13/5 rules that a ball that lies on artificial steps within a bunker is in the bunker.)

If a ball is at rest on bunker steps within the margin of a bunker it is in the bunker (Decision 13/5). The player may play the ball as it lies or take one of the options for relief, as in Rule 24-2b(ii) below. In the photo, a ball lying on the bottom two steps would be within the margin of the bunker, whereas a ball lying on either of the top two steps would not
and so the player could take relief by dropping within one club-length of the nearest point of relief outside the bunker, not nearer the hole. If the ball is at rest in the sand of the bunker and there is interference to the player's stance or area of intended swing by the steps, then the player may also choose to take one of the options under Rule 24-2b(ii);
If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:
(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above (i.e. within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole), except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker
… or (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
Note that choosing the first option for relief (a) does not incur a penalty, whereas the option of dropping outside of the bunker, on the line from the hole through where the ball lay (b), incurs a penalty of one stroke.

I always recommend that before players lift their ball to take relief under the Rules, they should work out exactly where they are permitted to drop their ball. In many cases this might be in an unfavourable place, resulting in a more difficult shot than they were originally faced with. In the circumstances above, it is possible that a player may lift their ball from the sand close to the bunker steps before realising that the only point that they could then drop it within the permitted area meant that their backswing would be impeded by the wall of the bunker. Decision 24-2b/5 clarifies that if a player lifts the ball to take relief without penalty under the first option above, but changes their mind, they may then elect to proceed under the second option and drop their ball outside of the bunker for a penalty of one stroke.

Good golfing,

With Masters 2014 at Augusta beginning on April 10th, this is a great time for golfers to brush-up on their understanding of the Rules of Golf. There is no better way than to test yourself using my eBook, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. Purchasers (€9.99 / €8.99 / £7.79) receive two files, which permit downloading to tablets, computers, smart phones and eReaders, so that you may carry it with you wherever you go. Click here for details.

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

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Attached Divot Causes Canizares a Problem

Canizares bad lie. Top image by Stuart Franklin – Getty Images

It is just as well that Alejandro Canizares of Spain had a lead of 7 strokes when he played his second shot to the 18th hole on his final round, at the Trophee Hassan II in Agadir, Morocco, on Sunday. It obviously minimised the frustration that he must have felt on realising that he had a really unlucky lie, after his ball had rolled back down a steeply sloping green and settled immediately behind an attached divot that almost covered his ball. I cannot imagine why the divot was left in this shameful condition at the end of a four day event, during which the only players on the course had professional caddies with them and there were also marshals present. Being charitable, let us hope that a bird may have lifted the divot in seeking some juicy grubs for dinner!

I am sure that many golfers who were watching this final hole of this competition were wondering why Canizares was not permitted to remove the divot, by the Rules Official that he called on to give him make a ruling. The answer lies in this part of Rule 13, Ball Played as it Lies;
A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
    the position or lie of his ball,

    the area of his intended stance or swing,
    his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or
    the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
by any of the following actions:
    pressing a club on the ground,
    moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds),
    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.
When a divot is still partly attached to the ground it is ‘something fixed’ and cannot be moved, if by doing so the circumstances of a player’s next stroke might be improved (Decision 13-2/5). But when a divot is completely detached, it is a loose impediment and can be moved anywhere on the course, except from a hazard, when the player’s ball lies in that hazard.

Finally, Rule 13-2 clarifies that a divot that has been replaced may not be removed or pressed down, if by doing so the player gains a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing, or their line of play.

Good golfing,

Check out this link for a range of eDocuments that can assist you obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf.

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

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

When You Don’t Know from Where a Ball Was Moved

The spectator points to where she thinks Luke Donald’s ball was at rest
An amusing incident at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last Friday prompted me to write this blog on what players should do when their ball has been moved and they cannot be sure where it was at rest. Luke Donald’s wayward tee shot came to rest close to a path. A girl walking by thought that she had found a stray ball picked it up and carried on walking. Fortunately, a photographer saw what had happened and chased after her. The question then was; ‘Where was the ball at rest when it was lifted?’ The poor girl was obviously embarrassed with the situation and at first threw down the ball nowhere near the correct spot. With a little help she then pointed with her foot to the approximate position where it was when she picked it up. The question that Luke then faced is one that many golfers face when they have to replace a ball when its position has not been marked. Should their ball be dropped or placed?

Before I answer this question, take a look at Golf Channels’ short video of the Luke Donald incident, by clicking here and then on the play button.

It is Rule 20-3 that deals with placing and replacing a ball. Replacing indicates that the ball must be placed on the exact spot from which it was lifted or moved. In many cases, as with the Luke Donald incident, this spot is not easy to accurately determine as the player may have been nowhere near their ball when it was moved. This is where Rule 20-3c comes into play;

If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be placed or replaced:

(i) through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard or on a putting green;

(ii) in a hazard, the ball must be dropped in the hazard as near as possible to the place where it lay;

(iii) on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard.

Exception: When resuming play (Rule 6-8d), if the spot where the ball is to be placed is impossible to determine, it must be estimated and the ball placed on the estimated spot.
It is not wholly clear whether the walking official permitted Luke Donald to place his ball last Friday; in my view it should probably have been dropped. How do you make this decision during a round? In my opinion, if there is general agreement as to the position of the ball before it was moved between those that witnessed it at rest, which could include the player, fellow competitors, other players, officials, caddies and spectators, then the ball may be placed at that spot. However, if there is no consensus as to the spot then the ball should be dropped at an agreed, estimated point that is definitely not nearer the hole than where the ball was likely to have been when it was moved. If there was agreement and the ball was placed, it would be a very harsh Committee to subsequently rule that the ball should have been dropped and impose a retrospective penalty of two strokes. The above assumes that the incident arises in stroke play; in match play the player would have to make a valid claim under Rule 2-5 if their opponent would not agree to the spot where the ball was to be placed.

Fore! warned

At least three wayward balls hit spectators during the final day’s play in Doral, Florida. It began with Tiger Wood’s first stroke of the day, which drew blood from a German tourist when the ball hit him squarely on the head. An apology, a signed glove and two holes later Tiger repeated the performance, costing him a second signed glove and apology. Bubba Watson waited until the end of his round before sending his approach shot into the 18th green amongst the spectators seated in the grandstand. My point for raising this matter is that apparently no-one shouted “Fore” on any of these three occasions; not Tiger, not Bubba, not their caddies, not the marshals and not even other spectators. And yet shouting “Fore” is a traditional warning (and courtesy) used by amateur golfers all over the world. I strongly recommend that all golfers continue to observe the etiquette of shouting this warning when they hit an errant shot, as there have been several legal cases around the world, where this has been a deciding factor in the resolution of liability.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Wet Weather Rules Questions

This week I am answering four questions that have arisen during the abnormally wet and stormy weather that many of us have experienced over the past few months.

Q1. Due to sand erosion and/or flooding a Committee has defined an entire bunker as ground under repair. What is the reference point for taking relief?

A1. First, it should be noted that Committees should not take a bunker out of play just because it is expected that there will be casual water lying in it throughout the competition. The Rules of Golf anticipate casual water in bunkers and offer three relief options (see this earlier blog of mine, Casual Water in Bunkers). However, when a bunker has been declared ground under repair, it loses its status as a hazard and is automatically classified as ‘through the green’. The relief is then the same as taking relief from any other abnormal ground condition under Rule 25–1b(i), and so, providing the ball is found, the reference point is the nearest point from where the ball lies in the bunker. If the ball is not found, but is known or virtually certain to be in the bunker, the reference point is the nearest point from where the ball crossed the margin of the bunker, as in Rule 25-1c.

Q2. Following weeks of above average rainfall there were occasions when a pond on the course overflowed outside of the hazard stakes defining its margin. Is the overflow casual water?

A2. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water. Decision 25/2.

Q3. In order to protect the weather ravaged putting greens, a Committee was forced to use temporary greens cut on the fairway approaches. They introduced a Local Rule permitting players whose balls were on the temporary putting green of the hole in play, to pick-up their ball and add two strokes to their score. Is this permitted?

A3. No, Decision 33-8/1 confirms that any Local Rule under which a player in a stroke play competition would not be required to hole out waives Rule 1-1 and is not permitted.

Q4. Whilst preparing to drive their ball on a links course running along by the sea, a player notices that his teed ball is oscillating in the gale force cross-wind that is blowing. He asks his two fellow competitors to stand to the side of him and his ball as protection from the gusts of wind. Is this permitted?

A4. No. Accepting protection from the wind from the fellow competitors would be a breach of Rule 14-2a, which states that a player must not make a stroke while accepting physical assistance or protection from the elements.

There are 999 similar questions, answers and references in my eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 – 2015’, which costs less that $10. 

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Concessions in Match Play

Taken from ESPN video
An interesting instance of sportsmanship by Sergio Garcia was widely misreported by the golfing media last Friday. I read several accounts that said Sergio had conceded his opponent, Rickie Fowler’s 17’ 7” putt, on the 7th hole at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. If he had conceded Fowler’s par putt he would then have had to have made his own 6’ 11” putt to halve the hole. What actually happened was that Garcia asked Fowler if he agreed to consider the hole halved, without either of them putting out. This sporting gesture of generosity, which obviously favoured Fowler, followed an incident on the previous hole, where Rickie Fowler was forced to wait some time for a ruling to be made. Garcia had requested a free drop away from some bees that were circling a greenside sprinkler where his ball was at rest. Having received permission from the match referee, he was still not comfortable and asked for further relief, which was also granted. This took quite a while to sort out and when it was Fowler’s turn to play he missed his makeable birdie putt. Garcia explained the incident in this way;
"I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my drop on 6 took so long. I felt like if I would have been in his position I would have been uncomfortable waiting so long to hit my birdie putt. So I just thought I have to do something. I have to do something to make sure that I feel good with myself."
If you would like to see the shortened video of this episode it is available at this ESPN link, following the advertisement.

The wording of Rule 2-4, which deals with concession of match, hole or next stroke, confirms that there was no concession between Garcia and Fowler;

A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match.

A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole.

A player may concede his opponent’s next stroke at any time, provided the opponent’s ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.

A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.
The agreement to halve a hole on which at least one player had made a stroke is ratified by Decision 2-1/1.5;
Q. In a match, a player and his opponent play their second shots on a par 5 hole. Unexpectedly, neither ball can be found. Rather than proceeding under Rule 27-1, both players agree to a half. Is this permitted?

A. Yes. An agreement to halve a hole being played is permissible.

However, if the players agree to consider a hole halved without either player making a stroke, they should be disqualified under Rule 1-3 for agreeing to exclude the operation of Rule 2-1 by failing to play the stipulated round, provided the players knew that this was a breach of the Rules. (Revised)
I applaud the sporting gesture made by Sergio Garcia, which could have been the catalyst that caused him to lose his match with Rickie Fowler by one hole. However, I caution players in match play to ensure that they know exactly what they are doing before making some types of generous gestures concerning the Rules to their opponents. For example, if you inform your opponent that you saw them touch their ball in play without marking it, but you are not going to call the penalty, because it was obvious that they gained no advantage, you are guilty of agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf and should be disqualified. Whereas, if you observe the infraction, but say nothing, there can be no penalty. Choosing to ignore a breach of Rule by an opponent is one of many differences between match play Rules and stroke play Rules. I have written a comprehensive eDocument on this subject, which all golfers that expect to play in match play competitions could benefit by reading before taking on their opponents. Click here for details.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Why No Relief from Divot Holes?

One of the most commonly asked questions by recreational golfers is, “Why is there is no relief from a divot hole on the fairway?”. Their case is that it is unfair that a player should be disadvantaged because their ball comes to rest in a divot hole left by another player. The easy answer to this is that a fundamental principle of golf is that you play your ball as it lies. This has been the case since golf was first played, over 250 years ago, on natural, untended land, long before closely mown fairways and manicured putting surfaces became the norm. Many of these early courses were links, where the undulations of the dunes meant that even a perfectly struck shot could be roll from the centre of the fairway into deep rough. Golf is not a game where a perfectly struck shot is guaranteed a perfect result and that is part of its fascination, as a participant or spectator sport.

However, let us say that the Ruling Bodies decided that players should get relief from divot holes (it’s not going to happen!); what would have to be taken into account? A major difficulty would be defining what constitutes a divot hole. Here are some questions that would have to be considered and resolved by players during their round;

  • Is there relief from all divot holes or should the depth of the hole be taken into account? 
  • Is there relief from old divot holes? E.g. should there be relief for a 2-weeks old divot hole that has not fully recovered?
  • Is there relief for a ball that sits on a badly repaired divot hole, where only part of the divot had been replaced, or it had not been properly flattened?
  • Is there relief from divot holes that have been filled with sand?
  • Is there relief from areas where then the surface grass has been scraped away by the club, but there is little or no damage to the earth below?
  • Is there relief for a ball that sits just in front, just behind, or just to the side of a divot hole, if it could possibly affect the player’s stroke?
  • Is there relief for other imperfections in the playing surface, such as cracks in hard, dry earth, or tyre ruts made by course maintenance vehicles?
  • Is there relief from divot holes in the rough, as well as those on the fairway?
  • If relief is to be permitted, must the player place or drop their ball and within what distance from where it came to rest? 
  • Who decides whether relief is available, the player, the marker, or a majority of those playing in the group?
  • Edit 20th February 2014: Several readers have suggested another valid reason why relief should not be permitted for divot holes on the fairway. If there was such a relief, it would probably act as a disincentive for players to follow the proper etiquette of replacing or repairing their own, or other players', divot holes during their rounds.
Now, what do the Rules have to say about divot holes? Not only is there no relief from them, but Decision 33-8/34 makes it clear that Committees must not make a Local Rule permitting relief, without penalty;
Q. May a Committee make a Local Rule providing relief without penalty from divot holes or repaired divot holes (e.g., holes that have been filled with sand and/or seed mix)?

A. No. Such a Local Rule would modify Rule 13-1 and is not authorised.

I’ll leave the final word to David Rickman, Director Of Rules at R&A, who when asked  this question,
“And just what is a divot? There'd be a big debate - it would go on and on.”
responded with this telling comment;
“Exactly. The good shot that ends up in a bad lie - that frustrates people, we understand that. But the bad shot that ends up in a good lie is accepted more readily. It's all part of golf's challenge, and I think very good players can deal with it. I'd be astonished if there were any movement here as there's no sympathy within the Rules of Golf Committee for changing that fundamental principle.”
Good golfing,
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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Why Learn the Rules of Golf?

I am indebted to one of my regular subscribers, Bob Leftwich (Rules official at CSGA, MGA and Westchester GA), and to Peter Pulaski, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at The Course at Yale, for sharing with me the content for this week’s blog. The prestigious Golf Course at Yale, at New Haven, Connecticut, has been voted #1 College Golf Course in America and is ranked #35 of the Top 100 Classical Golf Courses in America (2013). Bob and Peter recently organised a series of four lectures on the Rules of Golf for the members. At the end of the course Bob asked the attendees to paraphrase their reasons for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend these Rules sessions. I found their collected comments interesting and hope that you will too;
  • To avoid conflict. (Many people have seen conflict on the course; it is unpleasant.)
  • To save time. (If you know the Rule, move on!) 
  • (To avoid) signing for an incorrect score.
  • The afterthought (sometimes for days it may linger): “Did I/we handle the situation correctly?” 
  • Integrity: "I must protect the field in stroke play." 
  • Being invited to other clubs. They may be shocked/upset if you violate a Rule. You may not be invited back.
  • Protecting yourself in match play. (Pull out the Rules book and show your opponent the correct answer.)
  • Being a member of an organization like the CWGA and playing in CSGA events requires good knowledge of the Rules; there have been cases of officials making mistakes in major events!) 
  • Being fair to others. (The Rules book decides what is fair. Fairness is not sympathy. This is a game with Rules!)
  • Knowing the Rules and using them can make the game more fun!
Hallelujah to that last point!

Again I want to express my thanks to Bob and Peter for permitting me to reproduce these illuminating comments.

Why Learn the Rules of Golf? – DA Points Disqualified
I had already completed the above blog when I became aware of yet another disqualification of a PGA Tour player. On Friday,
American, DA Points, was disqualified for a basic breach of the Rules. While passing the time, due to a 15 minutes wait to tee off on the iconic, par-5 finishing hole at Pebble Beach, Points pulled from his bag a spongy green ball that he had been given by his swing coach a few weeks previously. He placed the ball under his right arm to practice a few swings. Points told Golf Channel he had no idea he'd broken a rule. Mark Russell, Vice President of Rules and Competitions for the PGA Tour, phoned Points more than 3 hours after his round was completed, to inform the 2011 champion that he had been disqualified from the tournament for using the sponge Ball. Points reported that the conversation started along these lines;
“I said, ‘Is that an issue?’ He said, ‘Yeah, it’s an issue’”. Points added, “I accept what I did was wrong, but it wasn’t intentional.”
He later explained;,
"We were standing on the tee; it's cold, it's raining. I pull out the ball and make some dry practice swings, just trying to loosen up. I come to find out it's an unusual training device, something you wouldn't have in your bag. It's my fault for not knowing the Rule and I own up to that. But I don't want people thinking I was using some sort of contraption or device. It's just a green spongy ball. That's it. It's not something they sell on-line or anything."
What always surprises me is that professional golfers (and their caddies) do not seem to learn from previous mistakes made by their fellow professionals; in this case Jeff Overton’s disqualification (see this link) and Juli Inkster’s disqualification (see the stop press at this link) for breaching the same Rule 14-3, part of which states;
...the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment ...a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play,"
Good golfing,

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