Wednesday, 27 April 2016


A simple subject for this blog, but one that seems to cause some confusion amongst golfers is the status of stakes of different colors in the Rules of Golf. Most of us are familiar with the three most common coloured stakes mentioned in the 34 Rules of Golf;
  • Boundary (out of bounds) – white stakes 
  • Water hazard – yellow stakes 
  • Lateral water hazard – red stakes
However, players might also encounter stakes of different colours on the course and these will be defined under a Local Rule, usually on the back of the score card, which should always be carefully checked before commencing a round on a new course. Examples of these less commonly coloured stakes are;
  • Ground under repair – blue or black stakes (although GUR is usually denoted by a white line painted around the area) 
  • Environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) defined as a water hazard – yellow stakes with green tops (Decision 33-8/41)  
  • ESA defined as a lateral water hazard– red stakes with green tops  
  • ESA defined as ground under repair– blue stakes with green tops 
  • Shrub / flower beds – e.g. red and white stakes
It is important to know that stakes defining out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. There is no relief available from them, even if they interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing. But most other stakes are movable obstructions providing they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Occasionally, Committees will cement in stakes, so that they are immovable, which can introduce problems for maintenance staff when maintaining the areas immediately around them. Also, Committees sometimes introduce a Local Rule designating stakes as immovable obstructions, even if they do not properly meet the definition, because they are easily movable. In my opinion this should definitely be avoided, as it introduces unnecessary confusion for players, especially visitors to a course. This relevant comment is from the excellent R&A publication, ‘Guide on Running a Competition’* – Section 4 Marking the Course, 3 Water Hazards;
By Definition, stakes or lines defining hazards are in the hazards. Stakes are obstructions. Therefore, if they are movable, players are entitled to relief without penalty from them under Rule 24-1. If they are immovable, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2 when the ball lies outside the hazard. However, if the ball is in the hazard, the player is not entitled to immovable obstruction relief. Accordingly, it is recommended that stakes marking hazards are movable.
And now to my most important ‘rule’ relating to stakes. If you do move them away from your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, please remember to replace them after you have made your stroke, and also remind others that you are playing with to do so. Not correctly replacing stakes is obviously discourteous to other players and can lead to frustration and anger on the course.

Good golfing,


* This is a link to the R&A publication, ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’ published by R&A.

I am expecting to have my new book, cleverly titled, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’, available from my Rhodes Rules School web site very soon. It will also be available as a paperback, though this version is considerably more expensive than the eBook, due to the full colour print required for the photos and diagrams. In the meantime, you can email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will advise you how you can obtain the .pdf and .mobi files directly from me.

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

Monday, 11 April 2016

Masters Round-up

A few notes on some of the Rules incidents at the 2016 Masters Championship.

Wind Blows Billy Horschel’s Ball into Water in Hazard
Regular readers of my blogs and ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly emails will not have been surprised that when the wind blew Billy Horschel’s stationary ball off the putting green into the hazard, he had to take a penalty drop. For example, see this blog from March last year. However, I guess that there are quite a few golfers who did not understand why he then dropped his ball close to the putting green, some way away from the water hazard. Remember, that one of the options to take relief from a water hazard under penalty of one stroke is to drop a ball where the last stroke was played from, Rule 26-1a. This was obviously a better option than dropping a ball on the opposite side of the water hazard on the ‘flagline’, an imaginary line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

DeChambeau’s Relief Ruling on 18th Hole, Friday
There has been some discussion as to whether the referee made the correct ruling when giving Bryson DeChambeau relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) and path on his final hole on Friday. Whether the ruling was correct or not had no effect on Dechambeau’s score because he was acting under the guidance of the referee and cannot therefore be penalised for dropping and playing from the wrong place. If you are interested in the detail of the ruling I recommend the explanation from Ryan Farb, Californian Tournament Director and Rules Official, at this link.

Johnson Touches Water in Hazard on His Backswing
After completing his second round on Friday, Augusta National officials alerted Zach Johnson to a potential violation of the Rules of Golf on the 13th hole. Johnson's third shot to the par 5 wound up in the water hazard in front of the green, and the reigning Open champion chose to play his ball out of the hazard. However, on his backswing, he grazed the water, which is considered grounding the club in a hazard in breach of Rule 13-4. Johnson was subject to a two-stroke penalty, which meant that he missed the cut. I am often asked which Rule of Golf I would change if given the opportunity. There are a few, but I would remove the penalty for touching ground in a hazard and water in a water hazard, as I cannot see that this gives a player any real advantage before playing their next stroke.

Bernhard Langer’s Long Handled Putter
I love this succinct Tweet by Michael McEwan, Assistant Editor of Scotland’s ‘Bunkered’  golf magazine;

The people suggesting that Bernhard Langer is anchoring are, a) entirely predictable, b) entirely wrong.
Agreed! If you are not clear on this subject check out this blog of mine.

Touching the Putting Green in Front of Your Ball
I found it a little disturbing to watch Lee Westwood address his ball on putting greens. His routine is that he lightly grounds his putter in front of his ball on the line of putt, lifts the putter head over the ball and lightly grounds it again behind the ball before starting his stroke. This does not incur a penalty, as Rule 16-1(ii) states;

… (ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
Although permitted, this action looks awkward to me and there must be an increased chance that the player will accidentally cause their ball to move. If they do press down on their putter while it is in front of the ball (e.g. due to losing their balance in a strong gust of wind), the penalty is incurred.

Louis Oosthuizen’s Extraordinary Hole-in-One
Holes-in-one are fairly uncommon, even in Pro Tournament play, but Shane Lowry, Davis Love lll and Louis Oosthuizen all achieved this feat on Augusta National’s 16th hole on Sunday. Louis’ was even more uncommon, as his ball deflected off the ball of JB Holmes into the hole for his hole-in-one. Of course, JB Holmes had to replace his ball where it was at rest before being moved by Oosthuizen’s ball. If you missed this rare incident check this link.

Last Place Marker
A tradition at the Masters is that if there is an odd number of competitors that make the cut they do not permit the player in the last qualifying place to play by himself on the weekend. Augusta National bring in member and course record holder (61 from the members’ tees), Jeff Knox, as a non-competing marker, to play with the solo player to try and maintain a reasonable pace for the first tee time. In 2014 Knox was marker for Rory McIlroy and reportedly took money off him. On Saturday he played with Bubba Watson; there is no record of who had the better score and of course Knox is not obliged to hole out at every hole, though one suspects that he would want to.

Good golfing,


Email me at 'rules at barry rhodes dot com' if you are interested in purchasing my new eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. 999 different questions in a new (and better!) format ($10.99, €9.99 or £7.99).

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


Monday, 4 April 2016

Sand Off the Putting Green

I am pleased to see that an increasing number of Golf Committees and golf course owners now request players to carry a bag or bottle of sand/seed mix during their round, for use in repairing divot damage that has been made by them or other players. There is no doubt that in most cases the immediate repair of divot holes by with a sand/seed mix promotes the fastest recovery possible. Note that I am not getting into correspondence as to whether this is necessary on courses with Bermuda or other grasses, as it is not my area of expertise. Nor am I going to address the hoary old issue as to why there is no relief from divot holes (and never will be!), as I have already covered that subject in this blog.

One of the problems in requesting players to repair divot holes is that they do not always carry out the task properly. More than once, I have encountered mounds of sand on the fairway, similar to that in the photo, presumably due to someone carelessly pouring too much into a divot hole. So, what are the Rules implications in this situation? The mound of sand in the photo has the same status as if it was lying flat to the surface. It is a natural part of the course and, importantly, is not a loose impediment, unless it lies on the putting green. From the Definition of Loose Impediments;

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

The effect of this is that none of the sand may be removed before playing a stroke, or during a practice swing if it results in any improvement to the lie of the ball, the player’s stance or their area of intended swing. A player may not even press down on the sand behind their ball while addressing their ball, although they may lightly ground their club on the sand. However, no penalty is incurred if some of the sand is removed on the backswing of a stroke that is completed, as clarified in Decision 13-2/9;

Q. A player's ball lies in a sandy area through the green and there is a mound of sand a few inches behind his ball. The player makes his stroke and in the process he removes the mound of sand with the clubhead on his backswing, improving his lie. Is the player subject to penalty?

A. No, provided that he did not ground his club other than lightly and that he took a normal backswing.

Of course, once the stroke has been made the player should then flatten the remaining mound of sand for the benefit of those players who follow.

Good golfing,


I am pleased to recommend a great new resource for all golfers. The R&A has made the ‘Official Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016/2017’ available as a free app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows 7. The developer, Aimer Media Ltd., has done a great job on this easy to use app, which everyone with an interest in the Rules should download. (Edit 5th Apl 2016: It has been brought to my attention that the Android version will not be available for a few more weeks). For those of you who prefer a hard copy, please use this link to purchase, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which helps me to meet my costs.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Playing from Outside (or Wrong) Teeing Ground

A Rule of Golf that is commonly broken in Club competitions is putting a ball into play when starting a hole from somewhere other than from within the correct teeing ground. The Definition of teeing ground is;
The "teeing ground" is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
Rule 11-4 deals with situations where a player puts a ball into play from outside this defined area, and Rule 11-5 extends this to when a player plays from a wrong teeing ground, stating that the provisions of Rule 11-4 apply.

The main situations that are covered by this Rule are;
•    A player tees their ball in front of an imaginary line drawn between the fronts of the tee markers (as in the photo).
•    A player tees their ball on the wrong side of the tee markers, e.g. to the left of the left tee marker.
•    A player tees off from behind the wrong tee markers, e.g. from white tee markers when blue tee markers are the ones in play.
•    A player tees off from within the teeing ground of the wrong hole, e.g. after finishing the 6th hole they play from the tee markers of the 11th hole instead of the 7th hole.

An example of how careful players have to be concerning playing from the correct teeing ground occurred two years ago in the Missouri Women's Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship. Two ladies were disqualified when it was discovered that they had both played from the wrong tees earlier in the tournament. Before commencing their rounds all competitors were instructed to play from the gold championship tees. However, during the first round, on one of the holes there were white tees incorrectly placed further back on the teeing area than the gold championship tees. The two players discussed the situation between themselves and surmised that the obvious intention was that they should have been playing from the tees that were furthest back and so they both played from the whites. When they completed their rounds they reported the matter to the Committee who had no option other than to disqualify them under this part of Rule 11-4b;

If the competitor makes a stroke from the next teeing ground without first correcting his mistake or, in the case of the last hole of the round, leaves the putting green without first declaring his intention to correct his mistake, he is disqualified.
The Head Rules Official correctly pointed out that the competition's notice clearly indicated that players were to play from the gold tees; it did not say, “Unless they are placed incorrectly”. It was the players’ responsibility to conform to that Rule.

Edit 22nd March 2016: I should have clarified that in match play, if a player plays a ball from outside the teeing ground, there is no penalty, but their opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke and play a ball from within the teeing ground, Rule 11-4a.
An Example of How the New Exception to Rule 6-6d Works
South Korean, Hyun-woo Ryu, was one of the first professional golfers to benefit from a Rule change that came into effect on 1st January this year. Earlier this month, during the New Zealand Open at The Hills, he played from the wrong spot after taking a drop at the first hole of his third round and went on to sign for an incorrect score because the situation did not come to light until the following day.

Under the old Rules, signing for an incorrect score resulted in disqualification. However, the new Exception to Rule 6-6d states;

If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning his score card, he did not know he had incurred, he is not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes for each hole at which the competitor has committed a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.
So, Ryu received a penalty of two strokes for playing his ball from a wrong place and, under the new Rule, an additional penalty of two strokes for signing for an incorrect score card. Without this additional penalty he would have finished tied for sixth, but instead the 34-year-old had to settle for a share of 16th place. However, I am sure that he would agree that this was better than being disqualified!

Good golfing,


It is inter-Club match play time again for many golfers in the Northern Hemisphere. A good time to check out my 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play' eDocument (click here) and my 'Match Play Quiz' eDocument (click here).

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

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Spieth Spit Spat

It wasn’t really a spat, but I couldn’t resist that headline! Jordan Spieth, currently ranked the best golfer in the world, has raised an interesting Rules question, which apparently is still under discussion by the Ruling Bodies.

Earlier this year Spieth began asking an unusual Rules question. He admitted that when the putting greens get “shiny” his putter has a tendency to slip on the ground. In practice, he wets the bottom of his putter for added traction, either with a damp towel, or by licking his thumb and rubbing it on the bottom of the putter. When he enquired as to whether this action breached any Rule of Golf in competitive golf, no-one could give him a definitive answer. During last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, at Doral, Florida, he said;

“I’ve spoken to commentators, players and nobody knew the answer if you can do it. I didn’t know if it was legal so I’ve never done it on the golf course [during a tournament round], so I asked an official once I knew the course was like that [on Saturday]. He asked me what my intentions were and I told him to make it easier to set the putter down.”
The official was not prepared to make an on-the-spot ruling and went away to confer with others officials, returning a few holes later. It would seem that the tournament officials were split and so they called the USGA, who also declined to give a definitive ruling, but, until they had discussed it further, they were ruling that he (Spieth) should not lick his fingers and then apply it to the sole of his putter, though he was permitted to use a wet towel to clean his club.

Slugger White, Tour Vice President of Rules and Competitions, later said;

“They [the USGA] are going to talk about it, we’ve all kind of said, ‘no’. The intent was there. His intent was to keep the putter from moving around.”
The relevant Rule is 4-2a;
During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means.
Decision 4-2/4 even refers specifically to saliva;
Q. A player spat on the face of his club and did not wipe the saliva off before playing his next stroke. Is this permissible?

A. If the purpose of doing this was to influence the movement of the ball, the player was in breach of Rule 4-2b as saliva is "foreign material."
So, one can appreciate the difficulty faced by the Ruling Bodies; by applying saliva to the bottom of his putter Spieth was arguably not changing the putter’s playing characteristics in any way that could influence the movement of his ball, but his intention was to control the movement of his club to benefit his stroke in the playing of the hole. Presuming that this ruling will be ratified, the question remains as to whether using a dampened towel to ‘clean’ the sole of the putter, so as to achieve the same result, is allowable under the Rules, because it is using equipment in a traditionally accepted manner, as permitted by Exception 2 to Rule 14-3.

J.B. Holmes Plays from a Wrong Place
In another incident at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, J.B. Holmes was penalised two strokes for playing from a wrong place. He had taken relief from a lateral water hazard (red stakes/lines) by dropping on the opposite side of the reference point where his ball had crossed the margin, equidistant from the hole. But instead of dropping within two club-lengths of that point, he went back nearly 25 yards to play his next shot, a fairway wood over a line of trees. Fortunately, he was advised of the error before completing the hole and teeing off at the next hole, or he would have been disqualified for a serious breach of Rule 20-7. Presumably, he did not follow the Solheim Cup in 2013, where several players, caddies, team
captains and officials all failed to get this Rule right, making the same mistake as J.B. Holmes. If you have any doubt about this you should read Rule 26-1, or view my video on taking relief from a lateral water hazard at this link.

Good golfing,


Thanks to those of you who have purchased my new book and written to me with such positive comments about the new format (with photos and diagrams). Please email me at barry at barry rhodes dot com if you would also like to purchase this new publication, '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016'.

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

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Touching Growing Grass in a Hazard

I have been called upon to settle more than one argument regarding what golfers may touch with their club in a hazard. Remember that there are two types of hazard on a golf course, bunkers and water hazards (which include lateral water hazards) and that strokes (where there must be intent to strike at and move the ball) are different from practice swings.

Most golfers know that if their ball lies in a hazard they must not touch the ground in that hazard, or the water if it is a water hazard, with their hand or club. Most golfers also realise that they must not touch or move any loose impediment (e.g. stones, branches and dead leaves) lying in or touching the same hazard, unless it is with the forward movement of their club as they make their stroke. However, in my experience, many players do not realise that there is no penalty for touching anything that is growing with a practice swing, their backswing, or the forward movement of their club before it strikes the ball, even when their ball is lying in a hazard.

The Note to Rule 13-4 clarifies;

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.
Of course, the player must not do anything to improve their lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, because this would be a breach of Rule 13-2. So take care during those practice swings!

A memorable instance of a breach of Rule 13-4, by moving a loose impediment in a water hazard, occurred in 2010 on the first playoff hole at the Verizon Heritage. On the backswing of his stroke, Brian Davis slightly moved a single loose palm frond, lying amongst several growing palm fronds (see photo). Davis had to call the two strokes penalty on himself resulting in him losing the title to Jim Furyk, who was not even aware of the infraction.

Now test your understanding of the principles above by answering this 8-part question;

A player is making a shot to the putting green. In which of the following 8 situations do they incur a penalty, if while making a stroke they …

1.… touch water in a bunker on their backswing?
2.… touch sand in a bunker on their backswing?
3.… touch growing grass in a bunker on their backswing?
4.… touch loose grass in a bunker on their backswing?
5.… touch water in a water hazard on their backswing?
6.… touch sand in a water hazard on their backswing?
7.… touch growing grass in a water hazard on their backswing?
8.… touch loose grass in a water hazard on their backswing?
Answer: A penalty is incurred in 2. 4. 5. 6. 8., but not in 1, 3 and 7. The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.
Exactly the same rulings apply if the word “backswing” was replaced with “practice swing”

My New eBook ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf - 2016'
I am pleased to say that I have now published my follow-up book as an eBook. It is not yet available from my Rhodes Rules School web site, but if you email me direct (at rules at barry rhodes dot com) I will send you the .pdf file by return and, after payment has been received, a link to collect the .mobi file, which, because of the many photos and diagrams is too large to send by email. The .pdf file can be printed out from any computer and the .mobi file can be used with the free Kindle app to transfer the book to any eReader, smart phone or tablet. The charge, depending on which currency is the easiest for you to pay by PayPal, is US$10.99, Eu€9.99, or St£7.99.

‘999 More Questions’ is very different from my first book in that the questions, answers and references are grouped in sections of 9, covering every conceivable situation that golfers may encounter on the golf course (e.g. Dropping a Ball, Loose Impediments, Bad Weather, Rakes and Bunkers, Clothing and Footwear, Club-lengths, Handicaps, etc.). This format has proved to be the most popular of the three, free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series that I email weekly to over 10,000 subscribers. I can promise that as you read through this book, taking one section of 9 questions at a time, you will obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf, which you can then take onto the course to improve not just your score, but also your enjoyment of the unique game of golf, where players are expected to respect and abide by the Rules more than in any other sport.

Note: My original eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf – 2016’ has just become available as a paperback on Amazon. Please take care to click on the latest (2016) version, as I cannot get them to remove the out of date editions.

Good golfing,

Note: If you are already receiving my ‘9 Questions About …’ series of free, weekly emails and you purchase ‘999 More Questions’, I will advance you to the current series of ‘Pros Getting it Wrong’.

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


Tuesday, 16 February 2016


Justin Thomas broke a club in the normal course of play
There were two Rules situations relating to clubs at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona, in the first week of February.

The first concerned Keegan Bradley, who was penalised two strokes for starting his round with 15 clubs in his bag. Fortunately, either he or his caddie realised that he was carrying fifteen clubs before teeing off on the 2nd hole, otherwise the penalty would have been four strokes, as per the penalty statement under Rule 4-4. I agree with self-confessed Rules geek and USGA competion committee member, Missy Jones, who made this comment on Twitter, “Having a Rules official as a starter would cut down on players starting with more than 14 clubs.”

The second situation concerned Justin Thomas, who following a wayward drive, managed to clatter his 8-iron against a tree while trying to get his ball back onto the fairway. In this situation, because Justin damaged his club in the normal course of play he had three options under Rule 4-3;

(i)    use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the stipulated round; or
(ii)    without unduly delaying play, repair it or have it repaired; or
(iii)    as an additional option available only if the club is unfit for play, replace the damaged club with any club. The replacement of a club must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and must not be made by borrowing any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.
Note that clubs that are damaged other than in the normal course of play (e.g. “slammed” into a golf bag, bent in frustration, hit against a tee-marker), may not subsequently be used or replaced during the round, Rule 4-3b.

Other Rules relating to clubs are;

  • Clubs must conform to the provisions, specifications and interpretations set forth in Appendix II, e.g. chippers must only have one striking face, Decision 4-1/3. 
  • A player may make adjustments to a conforming club before starting a stipulated round, but not during the round, Rule 4-2a. 
  • Foreign material (e.g. chalk or saliva) must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball, Rule 4-2b. 
  • There is no penalty for carrying another player’s club inadvertently put into the wrong bag during a round, unless it is used, in which case a penalty of two strokes applies and the club must not be used again by that player, Decision 4-4a/5. 
  • Partners may share clubs, provided that the total number of clubs carried by the partners so sharing does not exceed fourteen, Rule 4-4b. 
  • There is no penalty for carrying another player’s club that has been found on the course, but it must not be used, Decision 4-4a/8. 
  • Players may not borrow a club selected for play by any other person on the course, Decision 4-4a/12, but they may practice with another player’s club (e.g. putter) where the Rules permit practice during a round, Decision 4-4a/13.
Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Traditional Use of Equipment

I understand that Jason Duffner, who was the play-off winner of last week’s CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta, California, was observed making practice swings holding his golf glove underneath his armpit. How does this compare with these three similar situations? 
  1. DJ Points, was penalised for holding a spongy green ball under his arm to make practice swings while waiting to play on a tee box? 
  2. Jeff Overton, was penalised for using alignment rods to practice putting on the 10th tee while waiting for a back-up of players to clear, resulting from both the 1st and 10th having been used as starting holes following a weather-suspended round.
  3.  Julie Inkster, was penalised for making practice swings with a weighted donut device attached to one of her clubs in similar circumstances to Jeff Overton above.
I am using Decision 14-3/11 as a reference to illustrate why Jason Duffner did not breach Rule 14-3, whereas, DJ Points, Jeff Overton and Julie Inkster did, and were penalised for their breaches; 
Q. Is a plumb-line, i.e. a weight suspended on a string, an artificial device within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3?
A. Yes. If a player uses such a device to assist him in his play, he is in breach of Rule 14-3.
Now we have all seen players use their putter as a plumb-line, e.g. Ricky Fowler in the photo above; this is permitted, because they are using their equipment in a traditionally accepted manner, but if they use anything that was originally designed as a plumb-line they are in breach of Rule 14-3, as in the Decision above. So Jason Duffner was permitted to use a glove under his arm while making practice swings, because the glove was part of his equipment and was obviously not designed as a swing aid.

Expanding on this difference, a player is permitted to use their equipment (e.g. ball, glove, club or towel) in an abnormal manner for practice swings and practice strokes that are permitted by Rule 7-2, but not for making strokes that count in their score. This permission also includes; swinging two clubs together; holding a pencil at arms-length to gauge distance (Decision 14-3/2); using binoculars to find and identify a ball (Decision 14-3/3); referring to a strokesaver or other booklet to determine distances (Decision 14-3/5.5); holding a ball against the grip of the club (Decision 14-3/6.5); and placing a club on the ground to align the feet and removing it before making a stroke (Decision 8-2a/1).

However, a player may not use any artificial device that was originally designed to assist golfers in making a stroke, or in their play. This includes, spongy balls, alignment rods and weighted donuts, as in the three penalty situations referred to above.

There is a further complication when we consider what a player may use to aid them stretching during a round. Decision 14-3/10.5 is relevant;

Q. Rule 14-3a prohibits a player, during a stipulated round, from using any artificial device or unusual equipment, or using any equipment in an abnormal manner, that "might assist him in making a stroke or in his play." Would the use of a stretching device during a stipulated round be a breach of Rule 14-3?

A. During a stipulated round, it is permissible to use a device designed for stretching unless the device is designed specifically to be used in a golf swing and is used during a golf swing (see Decision 14-3/10). For example, the following stretching devices may be used:
Items designed specifically for golf but not used in a golf swing (e.g., a bar to place across the shoulders);
Items designed for general stretching (e.g., rubber tubing); and
Items not originally designed for stretching (e.g., a section of pipe). (Revised)
The salient point here is that during a round players may not use commercial stretching devices that were designed to assist with a golf swing, but they can uses items designed for general stretching purposes. This is a fine distinction. If you are having trouble interpreting the difference, my advice is not to use anything other than a club across your shoulders to stretch with.

(Note: This paragraph was edited 3rd February 2016) I can confirm that any artificial device that is not a club (e.g. a swing trainer or alignment rods) may be carried during competition; a breach of Rule 14-3 only occurs if one is used during a stipulated round. But anything that has a shaft and a clubhead, even if non-conforming as a club, may only be carried (and not used) if the player is carrying less than 14 clubs.

Finally, a reminder that following an amendment effective 1st January 2016, the penalty for a player’s first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during a round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 remains as disqualification. In the event of a breach between the play of two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

Good golfing,


My new eBook, '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf - 2016' is now finished and will soon be ready for publication. For those that wish to receive an early copy email me at ( rules at barry rhodes dot com ) and I will send you a .pdf file for computers. The .mobi file (Kindle) for eReaders, smart phones and tablets will be ready soon and I will send it on. The eBook price is the same as for my original 999 Questions eBook, i.e. US$9.99, Eu€8.99, St£7.79. I will give you my PayPal account details when you email me with your order. The format of 111 sections of 9 questions on different Rules subjects is completely different from my first eBook.

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

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Status of Ball on Putting Green

In a previous blog  I confirmed that when a ball is moved by wind the player must play the ball from where it comes to rest, even if their ball-marker still marks its original position, because wind is not an outside agency, Definition of Outside Agency. Also, I have previously clarified that a player is not penalised if they forget to remove their ball-marker before making a putt, providing they are not using the marker to assist their line of putt. This is because part of Rule 8-2b states;
A mark must not be placed anywhere for the purpose of indicating a line of putt.
Another oft asked question concerns the status of a ball that is on a putting green against the ball-marker that marked its position. Part of Rule 16-1b states;
A ball on the putting green may be lifted and, if desired, cleaned. The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced (see Rule 20-1).
The question that some players have is whether a ball that has been replaced at the ball-marker is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed. The short answer is that it is. There is no restriction as to how many times a player may mark, lift, clean and replace their ball on a putting green. So, when a ball is replaced at a ball-marker it is in play, even if the ball-marker is not removed, but as soon as the player touches it again, perhaps to align it, it is out of play and as soon as they let go of it, at rest against the ball-marker, it is back in play, etc.. Whether the ball marker is removed or not is not relevant to whether the ball is in play.

Lost Ball-Marker:
Here is an interesting question which I had not thought about before;

“Having marked my ball on the green with a fairly transparent green marker I couldn’t find it when it came to my turn to putt. If I couldn’t find it within 5 minutes is it a lost ball situation?”

I have to admit that I had to resort to the Decisions book (the revised edition is now available to purchase at this link) to work out the answer to this seemingly simple query. Decision 20-1/5.5 does not deal with this exact circumstance, but I believe that the principle in the answer is relevant;

Q. A player marked the position of his ball on the putting green and lifted the ball. When it was the player's turn to play, he could not find his ball-marker. Subsequently, he found the ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe. He concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt. What is the ruling?

A. The player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1 which requires that the position of a ball be marked before it is lifted, and contemplates that the ball-marker will remain in position until the ball is replaced. The player must place the ball as near as possible to its original position but not nearer the hole - Rule 20-3c.
Under the last paragraph of Rule 20-1, a player is exempt from penalty if his ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball or marking its position. In this case the ball-marker was not moved during such process.

So, returning to the original question, if the player cannot find their ball-marker they incur a penalty of one stroke and they must estimate where their ball was at rest before being marked and place the ball there, ensuring that it is not placed nearer to the hole. In other words, the player should err on the side of caution when estimating the place to replace their ball, to ensure that they are not taking an unfair advantage. Note that there is no five minute time allowance in The Rules relating to a player searching for a ball-marker. Depending on the circumstances, it is probable that a player who does spend several minutes looking for their ball-marker should incur the general penalty under Rule 6-7, for undue delay.

(Edit 22nd January 2015: I have received a few comments from Rules enthusiasts that do not share my opinion that the player who lost their ball-marker on the putting green should be penalised one stroke, although there is unanimity that they are penalised one stroke if they cause their ball-marker to move, other than in the specific action of marking or lifting their ball. I must admit that I now have doubts as to the ruling, but offer this as something for you to think about. If a player was silly enough to mark their ball with a leaf, or a twig (which is permissible under the Rules), and when they returned to where they thought their ball had been marked they could not distinguish which leaf or twig was the marker, should they be permitted to just estimate where it had been marked and replace their ball without penalty?)

Good golfing,


As I recently mentioned, I now intend to blog every two weeks rather than weekly, unless something really interesting happens at a Tour event that I cannot let pass. However, many readers will continue to receive my separate Rhodes Rules School emails every week; I am just starting the 4th series. If you are not yet subscribed and would like to improve your knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf, then click on this link to subscribe  or click on this link for more information.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Dropping a Ball on a Putting Green

Ball located within putting green; Doonbeg and Riviera
I am starting the New Year by addressing the often heard myth that within the Rules of Golf there is no occasion where a ball may be dropped on a putting green. In fact, there are six different Rules that permit a ball to be dropped directly onto a putting green. However, most players are unlikely to encounter any of these situations, so this blog will definitely be of more interest to Rules enthusiasts than to the average weekend golfer.

This is my overview of the six occasions when a ball may be dropped on a putting green. You may find it useful to have a Rule book handy to reference the Rule numbers.

Rules 28b and 28c:
If a player has deemed their ball unplayable and there is an area on a putting green that meets the requirements of either option b or option c of Rule 28, they may drop their ball there. Note that I have said a putting green, which means that it is not necessarily the putting green of the hole being played. If a ball is dropped and comes to rest on a different putting green the player would then have to follow the procedure in Rule 25-3, Wrong Putting Green, as a ball may not be played from this place.

In fact, Decision 28/11, describes a situation that allows a player to drop a ball on a putting green, the only time that this action is referred to in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017.

Q. A player's ball is eight feet off the ground, lodged in a tree. The player deems the ball unplayable. May the player proceed under option c of Rule 28 which permits him to drop a ball within two club-lengths of where his ball lay unplayable?

A. Yes. The player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree. In some instances this may allow the player to drop a ball on a putting green.
Rules 26-1b and Rule 26-1c:
There are many courses where the margin of a lateral water hazard runs close to a putting green. This could mean that the permitted area of drop is on the putting green of either the hole being played, or another putting green. In these cases the player may drop the ball on the putting green, in fact they may not place a ball on the putting green, as the Rules do not permit. As above, a ball dropped on a wrong putting green that comes to rest on it must then be lifted and dropped according to Rule 25-3.

R25-1b(ii)b and 25-1c(ii):
These are undoubtedly the strangest situations in which a player may drop a ball on a putting green. They relate to the extremely unusual circumstance where there is a bunker located within a putting green and there is either interference from an abnormal ground condition, typically casual water, or the ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition. If these circumstances prevail, and the player chooses to drop outside the bunker under penalty of one stroke 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, it could mean dropping on the putting green.

Note that a player may not drop on a putting green under R27-1a, Ball Lost, or R26-1a, Water Hazards, as they both refer back to Rule 20-5, Making Next Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Was Made, part (d) of which states that the ball must be placed if it was last played from anywhere on a putting green.

(Edit: 6th January 2016: My attention has been drawn to three other possible situations where a ball may be dropped on a putting green; Rules 24-2b(ii)(b), 24-3b(ii), and Decisions 1-4/9 and 1-4/10, all of which are similar situations to Rule 25-1b(ii)b where the player’s chooses to take relief for a ball that they do not want to play from a bunker.)
Thanks for reading this far. I promise that my next blog will be on a Rule that is encountered more often. Incidentally, my blogs will now be two-weekly rather than weekly, unless something really interesting happens at a Tour event that I cannot let pass.

Good golfing,

I am pleased to report that my eBook and eDocuments have now been updated for the amendments that became effective on 1st January. They can each be purchased at my Rhodes Rules School web site.

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