Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PLAY9™Day – Wednesday, July 29th

For the second time, I would like to draw readers’ attention to Wednesday’s ‘PLAY9™Day’, jointly promoted by USGA and American Express, which I first mentioned in this blog two months ago.
Many readers will be aware that I usually avoid anything to do with handicapping systems as, unlike the Rules of Golf, there are many different systems in use around the golf playing world and I have no expertise in this area. However, following my May blog I realise that many readers were unaware that 9-hole competitions can count for handicapping purposes. It is my belief that this is one important way, in those countries where golf club membership is in decline, to attract a new breed of players and encourage existing members to play more often. More of that later. Here are the references that I have found for the five main golf-playing regions, showing that player’s handicaps can be adjusted when they play in 9-hole qualifying competitions;

Section 5 Scores
c. Posting Nine-Hole Scores

Part 4 Handicapping
Nine-Hole Qualifying Competitions

Adjusted 9-score for handicapping - clause 3.10.3

From 23 January 2014, changed 9-hole and Incomplete Score Regulations. GOLF Link will store a player’s 9-hole score for automatic combination with their next 9-hole score.

5.1 All scores
Scores must be entered on the SAGA Handicapping System for all 18-hole and 9-hole rounds …
This is taken from the USGA promotional material;
“As you know, PLAY9 Day was introduced by the USGA at the 2014 U.S. Open Championships to rally golfers of all skill and interest levels around the 9-hole round as a popular way to inspire more play. There’s a lot to love about golf. The PLAY9 movement represents a new and exciting approach to encouraging golf participation that is gaining traction. In a recent study conducted by Sports & Leisure Group, 60% of golfers perceive the 9-hole round as a great way to introduce non-golfers to the game, while the year over year number of 9-hole rounds posted in June and July increased by 13% from 2013 to 2014.”
And here are nine good reasons, courtesy of USGA, why Clubs should embrace 9-hole qualifying competitions;
1. Nine-hole golf has an impeccable pedigree. The First U.S. Open in 1895 was played on a nine-hole course: Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. Arnold Palmer and Pete Dye, among other golf luminaries, learned the game on nine-hole courses.
2. The majority can’t be wrong. According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), 90 percent of U.S. golf facilities offer nine-hole rates – and 4,200 nine-hole courses dot the U.S. golf landscape. From coast to coast, playing nine is an easy way to enjoy the game.
3. It’s an excellent way to start the day. Early risers can make the first footprints on a dewy fairway. You can get a round in and still make it to work or school on time.
4. It’s a great way to end the day with others. Grab friends and co-workers for a post-work round to shake off the stress.
5. Because it’s what you have time for. Would you rather play nine frequently or wait until the moon and stars align to play 18? Keep your game fresh by playing nine.
6. It’s a wonderful way to learn the game. An NGF study shows 86 percent of beginners start with nine-hole rounds. You can more comfortably develop your game and learn Rules and etiquette without the stress and time commitment of 18 holes.
7. It’s the best way to support someone who is learning how to play. You already love the game. A study by Sports & Leisure Research Group revealed that 60 percent of golfers believe a nine-hole round is an outstanding way to introduce a non-golfer to the game. Give back to the game and get a friend or family member hooked.
8. You can do it forever. Golf is a game for a lifetime. Playing nine holes is the perfect way to keep players of all ages and abilities engaged in friendly competition.
9. Your nine-hole round is legit! The USGA’s Golf Handicap Information Network® (GHIN) showed a 13 percent year-over-year increase in nine-hole scores posted in the two months following the program’s launch last July. You can post a nine-hole score to maintain your Handicap Index.
Please help me to spread the word by supporting this initiative to promote more 9-hole qualifying competitions, for the good of golf. I will leave you with this observation from Jerry Tarde, Chairman of Golf Digest;
"Every other recreation, it seems, takes two hours: movies, dinner, cocktail parties, tennis, bowling, going to the gym. If golf were invented today, it would be a nine-hole game. By no means are we questioning 18 holes, but our culture dictates shorter blocks of free time. I'd rather squeeze in nine holes than none."
Good golfing,

Let me remind you that any of my eDocuments purchased now from this web site, will be updated free of charge with any amendments to the Rules of Golf that will be effected from 1st January 2016.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Open Championship Rules Round-up

Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Zach Johnson – Tapping down on line of putt
Several people have queried two similar incidents concerning Open Championship winner, Zach Johnson, on the putting greens of the 15th hole and then on the final hole of his play-off with Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman. There is no doubting that on both occasions he did appear to tap down something on his line of putt, close to the hole. I did not see the earlier incident but was watching the second. You may have seen that after receiving permission to repair damage to the putting green on his line of putt, which the commentators speculated was an old hole plug, he subsequently tapped down something that was closer to the hole. It is my recollection that Johnson had already repaired a pitch mark prior to the lengthy discussion with two Rules officials relating to the other damage on his line. So, it is my belief that he returned to this original damage and tapped it down again, which is permissible. There is no restriction in the Rules as to how many times damage on a putting green caused by a ball or an old hole plug may be repaired. I suspect that he was also re-repairing damage made by a ball on the 15th hole, as professional golfers are acutely aware that they may not tap down spike marks, especially since the Simon Dyson’s disqualification, suspension and fine, which I covered in this blog.

I also noticed that Zach Johnson has a habit of hovering his putter over his line of putt, as he is assessing the break, which is slightly disconcerting when watching on TV, because you cannot judge whether his club has touched the putting surface, or not.

JB Holmes – Second Opinion
There was an interesting exchange on Friday regarding a situation with JB Holmes on the 15th hole.  He was asking for relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) from a very difficult lie in a gorse bush. The walking referee did not think that relief was warranted and called for a second opinion from the roving official, European Tour official, John Paramor, who confirmed the ruling that there was no relief, much to Holmes annoyance.

Unfortunately, once again, the commentary and discussion from the ESPN TV pundits was confusing. Initially the commentators asserted that a player may call for a second opinion if they do not agree with a referee’s ruling. JR Jones, Deputy Chairman of the Championship Committee from the R&A put them right by correctly stating that a player is not entitled to a second opinion, although a wise Rules Official will always offer to obtain a second opinion in doubtful situations.  Paul Azinger chose to argue this point by saying that in the States, a player is entitled to a second opinion. Rule 34-2 is clear and shows that Azinger is wrong;

If a referee has been appointed by the Committee, his decision is final.
There is already a problem with players calling for on-course rulings whenever they are faced with a Rules issue; imagine how the game would be slowed down even more if they were entitled to wait for a second opinion every time the initial ruling did not suit them! Talking of slow play, this incident took 30 minutes to resolve!

Another TV commentator error was brought to my attention, relating to amateur, Paul Dunne’s ball that had come to rest on a practice putting green. The comment was that he may take relief. No, he must drop off the wrong putting green under Rule 25-3, it is not an option. You may consider that this is not important, but golfers learn from watching televised golf and I suggest that the producers have a duty to ensure that the information supplied is correct.

Jordan Spieth - Line of Play Relief from Sprinkler
I covered the subject of Local Rules providing relief from sprinklers (immovable obstructions) just off the putting green in this blog. There was an interesting ruling concerning Jordan Spieth on the Old Course’s 5th hole. His ball came to rest on the putting green in such a position that a sprinkler head that was off the green intervened on his line putt, part of which was through the fringe. The Local Rule in Appendix I, Part B, 6, providing relief from immovable obstructions close to the putting green was in effect. Part of this Local Rule states;

If the player's ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction within two club-lengths of the putting green intervenes on his line of putt, the player may take relief as follows:
The ball must be lifted and placed at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard.
Of course, wind was the main subject of contention on the Saturday of the Open. Should the R&A have sent players out at 7.00 am in the prevailing conditions? Had the conditions changed at all between play starting and then being stopped? Should they have suspended play on every hole at the same time? Had the putting greens been cut too low, so as to achieve an ‘acceptable’ stimpmeter reading for one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments?

Wind was the cause of an amusing incident, which almost led to a two strokes penalty, when strong gusts moved Dustin Johnson’s ball off the putting green. Jordan Spieth saw that the ball in motion was heading for his ball and moved quickly towards it, presumably to try and mark and lift it before it was struck. Fortunately, he did not, because the relevant part of Rule 1-2 states;

A player must not (i) take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball…
The incident can be viewed at this link. (Edit 22nd July 2015: When a ball is on the putting green it is Rule 16-1b that applies ruling that when another ball is in motion, a ball that might influence the movement of the ball in motion must not be lifted.)
Remember that wind is not an outside agency. If you cause your ball to move you incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced; if wind is definitely the cause of your ball moving, there is no penalty and the ball must be played from where it comes to rest, whether this is farther from, or nearer to, the hole.

All in all, I am sure that you will agree that this was another fantastic Open Championship at the ‘Home of Golf’. Many congratulations to Zach Johnson, a worthy winner.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

July Miscellany

Photo by Harry How, Getty Images
Jason Day’s Vertigo
Many readers will have been concerned when they saw Jason Day collapse while playing his final hole of the 3rd round at the 2015 US Open, at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, Washington. It later transpired that Jason suffers from a condition known as benign positional vertigo. Fortunately, he received immediate medical assistance and was able to complete his round after a short delay. 

So, what are the Rules issues when a player requires medical attention during a round? Part of Rule 6-8 states;

The player must not discontinue play unless: ….
…. (iv) there is some other good reason such as sudden illness.
Decision 6-8a/3 is also relevant;
Q. During a round, a player is incapacitated by heat exhaustion, a bee sting or because he has been struck by a golf ball. The player reports his problem to the Committee and requests the Committee to allow him some time to recuperate. Should the Committee comply with the request?

A. The matter is up to the Committee. Rule 6-8a(iv) permits a player to discontinue play because of sudden illness and the player incurs no penalty if he reports to the Committee as soon as practicable and the Committee considers his reason satisfactory. It would seem reasonable for a Committee to allow a player 10 or 15 minutes to recuperate from such a physical problem but ordinarily allowing more time than that would be inadvisable.
A final point is that if the player discontinues play without specific permission from the Committee, he must report to the Committee as soon as practicable. If they do so and the Committee considers their reason satisfactory, there is no penalty. Otherwise, the player is disqualified. 

Walking on the Line of Putt
I was pleased to hear that David Fay, of Fox Sports golf broadcasting team, drew viewers’ attention to the possibility that tour pros, who use the AimPoint green reading system, could be penalised for walking on their line of putt.

Hanging Moss or Creepers
I have been asked if a player may remove moss that is hanging from a tree if it interferes with their intended swing or line of play, as it is not actually live or growing but is merely ‘resting’ on a tree branch. Decision 13-2/37 clarifies that this is not permitted;

Q. May moss, or a creeper, in a tree be removed if its removal would improve the line of play?

A. No. Trees are the natural habitat of some mosses and creepers. Accordingly, such plants growing in a tree may not be moved - see Rule 13-2.

Moss or a creeper which has fallen to the ground, and is not growing there, is a loose impediment and may be removed, without penalty - see Rule 23-1.
An Open Championship Taster
Click here to see Europe’s favourite golfer play a different type of stroke to get out of a difficult lie on the famous ‘Road Hole’ at St. Andrews Old Course, during the last Open Championship that was played there, 5 years ago. I understand that Jordan Spieth tried to replicate this four times during his practice round on Tuesday, without the same success.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Pointing to the Line of Putt

Photo and text edited 09/07/15 to read "line for putting" and not "line of putt"
A few weeks ago, when I blogged about the Aimpoint green reading system, I commented on players walking on and close to their line of putt. This week, I want to highlight the fact that purposely touching the line of putt and pointing to the line of putt can both incur a penalty.

Most golfers are aware that they may not purposely touch their line of putt, but there are a number of exceptions in Rule 16-1a, which are listed below. Note that part of the Definition of Line of Putt states this includes a ‘reasonable distance on either side of the intended line’. However, fewer golfers seem aware that they must not touch anywhere on the surface of the putting green while pointing out a suggested line for putting, even if that point is way off the intended line, or is behind the hole. In the above photo, the player’s partner, or caddie has touched the end of the flagstick behind the hole in pointing out their suggested line for putting, so the player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play under Rule 8-2b;

When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
So, it follows that in pointing out a line for putting, a player may not touch the putting surface with their finger, the toe of their shoe, their putter, the flagstick, or anything else. They may point to the suggested line, but they must not touch the surface of the putting green while doing so.

These are the exceptions listed in Rule 16-1a to the general principle that players may not touch their line of putt;

The line of putt must not be touched except:
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring - Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball - Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green - Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.
(Indicating line for putting on putting green - see Rule 8-2b)
Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Stroke and Distance Penalty

In this week’s blog I want to emphasise a ‘get out of jail’ Rule that still seems to surprise many golfers; Rule 27-1a;
At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), i.e., proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, if a player makes a stroke at a ball from the spot at which the original ball was last played, he is deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance. 
I am going to highlight what I mean by ‘get out of jail free’ with three examples;
  • A player’s ball embeds in sand under the lip of a bunker. 
They do not have to hope for a miracle or take a penalty drop in the bunker, they may return to where they last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball from a bunker across the green into deep water in a water hazard.
Instead of dropping a ball on the far side of the water hazard to the putting green they may rake the bunker and drop a ball in it, at the point where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball against a tree and it rebounds 70 yards farther from the hole than where it was played from, into deep rough.
They do not have to have to play the ball where it lies, or take penalty relief using that point as a reference, they can drop a ball where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
Of course, there are two instances where golfers have no option but to incur the penalty of stroke and distance, which are when their ball is lost or is out of bounds. Many players feel that this is an unfair penalty and I am aware that some social golfers, when they are playing casual rather than competitive golf, permit the player to drop a ball on the course close to where they believe the ball was lost, or where it went out of bounds for a penalty. In fact, the Ruling Bodies have experimented with similar options over the years, as follows;

Out of Bounds:1920 Stroke and distance, but now the penalty stroke may be remitted by Local Rule.
1947 USGA and 1950 R&A Distance only, and no provision for change by a local rule.
1952 Stroke and distance.
1960 USGA experimentally changed to distance only.
1961 USGA back to stroke and distance. In addition, the USGA allowed an alternative procedure of stroke only - dropping a ball within two club lengths of where the ball went out of bounds on courses where the penalty of stroke and distance would be "unduly severe".
1964 USGA allowed a local rule to be adopted which allowed a stroke-only option if it was felt that stroke and distance would be "'unduly severe." The player could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the original ball crossed the out of bounds line. Reasonable evidence was required both that the ball had gone out of bounds and as to the point of crossing. In the absence of either, stroke and distance was the only option.
1968 Rescinded.

Lost Ball:

1902 Stroke and distance, ball to be teed.
1920 Stroke and distance in both forms of play. Ball must now be dropped if not played from the tee.
1950 R&A changes penalty to distance only.
1952 Back to Stroke and distance.
1956 Ball may be declared lost by player. This option removed in 1964.
1960 USGA Distance only. Rescinded 1961.
1972 ball may be abandoned as lost without searching. Option Removed 1976.
(Reproduced from information on www.ruleshistory.com)

I am sure that I do not need to remind readers that if you think that a ball may be lost or may be out of bounds you should play a provisional ball, to save time and avoid the ‘walk of shame’ back to where you last played from.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Immovable Obstructions on the Putting Green

I was giving a presentation on the Rules of Golf last week when the subject of artificial hole plugs was brought up. The first point for me to make is that Rule 16-1c permits a player to repair a hole plug, whether it is a natural plug of earth or an artificial plug (usually plastic) and this is permitted whether or not their ball lies on the putting green. The second, more important point that I want to make is that artificial hole plugs are by definition, immovable obstructions. The consequence of this is that when a player’s ball lies on the putting surface they may not only take relief from the artificial plug hole if it interferes with their lie, stance or area of intended swing, but may also take line of putt relief under this part of Rule 24-2a - Immovable Obstructions;
If the player's ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an immovable obstruction on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt.
The procedure for taking relief is found in Rule 24-2b(iii);
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.
Note that this is similar to the relief that is available in circumstances where there is casual water on the putting green between where a player’s ball lies on the putting surface and the hole, Rule 25-1b(iii).

Of course, there may be another type of immovable obstruction encountered on a putting green, most commonly wire netting, which has been installed by a greenkeeper to protect a newly renovated area, usually following animal or machinery damage to the putting surface. Very occasionally, on large putting greens, there may be sprinkler heads actually located on the putting surface, in which case the same line of putt relief option would apply.

Distance Measuring Devices
There still seems to be some confusion over the use of distance measuring devices (DMDs), where they are permitted by a Local Rule. Yes, you can now use an iPhone for measuring distances only, as the ban on taking a compass on the course was removed in January 2014. The USGA has a very useful infographic on the subject at this link.

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Which Ball is in Play?

Following last week’s blog, which I finished with a strong recommendation that players must put an identification mark on their balls if they want to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties, I received this interesting scenario;
"In a strokes competition, a player hits his tee shot in left rough. Goes to look for his ball, not finding after brief search, returns to the tee and hits a second ball into the same area. While looking for the second ball and finding a ball, a spectator advises that the ball he found is in the area where the first ball landed. Player cannot determine whether the ball he found is his first or second tee shot as both balls were marked the same. Player plays the ball found through the hole and asks for help in scoring to determine his score for the hole."
Initially, I thought that Situation 4 in Decision 27/11 provided the answer to this question (see below for the rulings on four interesting situations relating to a player who cannot distinguish between their original ball and their provisional ball in this Decision), but I have been corrected and I think that it is worth explaining where I went wrong. When a provisional ball is played onto the course there are two possible outcomes; the original ball may be found in bounds, in which case the provisional ball is then out of play, or the original ball is lost, in which case the provisional ball is the ball in play. The mistake that I was making in respect of the above question is that when the player returned to the teeing ground and put another ball in play, (Edit 17th June: which is not permitted to be a provisional ball) the first ball was immediately lost. So, when the player could not distinguish whether the ball that was found by the spectator was his original ball (lost and not in play under the Rules) or the second ball (the ball in play under the Rules), he was not permitted to assume that the found ball was his second ball. Therefore, his only way to proceed within the Rules was to return to the teeing ground and play another ball, his 5th stroke. Failure to do so meant that he was disqualified from the strokes competition, because he did not hole out with the correct ball.

Here is Decision 27/11 in full, which explains the principle when a provisional ball has been played;

A player entitled to play a provisional ball from the tee plays it into the same area as his original ball. The balls have identical markings and the player cannot distinguish between them. Following are various situations and the solutions, which are based on equity (Rule 1-4), when the above circumstances exist and one or both of the balls are found within a search of five minutes:

Situation 1: One ball is found in a water hazard and the other ball is not found.

Solution 1: The ball that was found must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 2: Both balls are found in a water hazard.

Solution 2: As the player's original ball is lost in the water hazard due to his inability to identify it (see analogous Decision 27/10), the player must proceed under Rule 26-1 with respect to the original ball (estimating the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, if necessary - see Decision 26-1/17); his next stroke would be his third.

Situation 3: One ball is found in bounds and the other ball is lost or is found out of bounds.

Solution 3: The ball in bounds must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 4: Both balls are found in bounds, whether in a playable or an unplayable lie, and (1) one ball is in a water hazard and the other is not or (2) both balls lie through the green or in a bunker.

Solution 4: One could argue that both balls are lost. However, it would be inequitable to require the player to return to the tee, playing 5, when the player has found both balls but does not know which is the original and which the provisional. Accordingly, the player must select one of the balls, treat it as his provisional ball and abandon the other.
Remember that the principle in Situation 4 does not apply to the question at the start of this blog, because no provisional ball was involved.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Identifying Your Ball

It may come as a surprise to some golfers that the Rules do not require them to notify their marker or fellow competitor, which ball they are playing before starting a hole, nor when they are substituting a ball under the Rules during play of the hole. All that is required by the Rules is that a player can positively identify their ball in play, a subject which I previously blogged about in this article. Of course, I am not suggesting that a player should not inform those that they are playing with of the brand, number and any identifying marks on their ball; it is both good etiquette and the sensible thing to do, as it avoids any possible doubt that might arise when a ball is played out of sight. In fact, I recommend that markers make it a practice to ask the player they are marking for to describe the ball they are playing; how else can they be sure that the ball that the player finishes the hole with is the same one that they started with, or with the one that they correctly substituted under the Rules during play of the hole? Whilst on this subject I will make the point that in the absence of a ‘One Ball’ Condition of Competition, the player is permitted to change the brand, condition and colour of any balls they use during a round, without restriction. They may also borrow balls from any source. This makes it all the more necessary that they inform the other players in their group each time they change the ball they are putting into play.

I have often wondered how many Titleist Pro V1, No.1, balls there are on an 18-hole golf course at any one time. My uneducated guess is that the average is probably in excess of 18, or 1 per hole, including those that have been lost. So, how can a player positively identify their Pro V1, No.1, from the others on the course, if there is no identification mark? Even this may not be sufficient. I tell the story of a retired senior who played his home course 3-4 times a week. He had a mental block on one particular hole, which led him to regularly slice his drive into the same area of deep rough to the right of the fairway. On one occasion, after a couple of minutes, he shouted to his fellow searchers that he had found his Titleist No.1 ball. “How do you know it is yours?” responded his marker. “It has the same personal identification that I always use”, he responded. “You hit so many balls into this rough that it would need to have today’s date on it for you to be sure”, was the terse, unsympathetic reply!

Part of Rule 12-2 states that each player should put an identification mark on his ball. My strong recommendation is that each player must put an identification mark on their balls if they want to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties for playing a wrong ball, or not being able to positively identify a ball that has been found.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

In Golf Size Can Matter

As I am enjoying a two-week vacation in very sunny Portugal, I am reproducing another article from Paul Kruger, who emails a 'Rules Tip of the Week' to friends and contacts who have an interest. Paul’s subject is one that I have not previously considered; when it comes to the Rules of Golf, size can matter.

Size Matters
"As we all know, golf is the game for all ages, and its players come in all shapes and sizes. We may be short or tall, slim or not so slim, younger or more mature, male or female. The myriad of differences among golfers in terms of height and weight is uniquely accommodated by the Rules of Golf in such a way that the same Rules apply to everyone.

Does size really matter? Well, it might surprise you, but size does matter, at least when it comes to certain applications of the Rules of Golf! For instance, for the most part, taller players use longer clubs, whereas shorter players use shorter clubs. The difference in the lengths of clubs is one area where size matters in terms of the Rules of Golf. Consider, for example, the depth of the teeing ground. By definition, the teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and sides of which are defined by the outside limits of the two tee-markers. The adult male golfer, equipped with a 45” driver, will be allowed to tee his ball within a larger area than his junior counterpart equipped with just a 30” driver.

A similar example is the allowable area for dropping when taking relief. The adult male golfer using a standard length driver to measure (a) one club-length from the nearest point of relief under Rules 24 or 25; or (b) two club-lengths from where his ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard under Rule 26; or (c) two club-lengths from where his ball lies for an unplayable ball under Rule 28, will be able to drop within a larger area than the junior using a much shorter driver when measuring the one club-length or two club-lengths for her allowable dropping area.

One’s stature comes into play when considering the height at which the ball must be dropped when taking relief. All players are required to drop from shoulder height. Therefore, the shorter player will be dropping from a height that is nearer to the ground than the height from which the taller player drops his ball. The result is that the ball dropped by the shorter player will probably not bounce or roll as much as the ball dropped by the taller player once it strikes the ground.

According to Rule 20-2c, once the ball is dropped, it must be re-dropped if it rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course. It would seem that the player who measures the dropping area with a longer driver may not have to re-drop as often as the player who measures with a shorter driver. But then again, the player establishing the allowable dropping area with a longer club will likely be dropping his ball from an increased height so his ball will be striking the ground with more velocity and his ball may bounce or roll farther after first striking the ground. So who knows?

Last, but not least, consider the definition of “casual water” which includes any temporary accumulation of water that is visible after the player takes his stance. As two players approach their balls lying side by side in a pool of casual water, the heavier player is likely to be the first one to discover casual water appearing around his shoes.  Thus, his nearest point of relief will probably end up being further from where the two balls came to rest than the nearest point of relief for the player weighing less!"

By Paul Kruger, PGA, The Landings Club, Savannah, GA
Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

9-Hole Golf Competitions

I am detecting a significant increase of interest among golfers who want their Clubs and Societies to arrange more 9-hole, qualifying competitions. This interest is not restricted to senior golfers (like me) who may tire towards the end of 18 holes, but from players of all ages, who do not want to spend the best part of a day travelling to the course, playing 18 holes, post-round socialising with their fellow competitors and then travelling again. I was interested to read that The United States Golf Association, in partnership with American Express, has announced plans for the second annual PLAY9™ Day, scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, 2015. I have bolded an important fact that emerges from a paragraph taken from the USGA announcement of this welcome initiative (see this link).
The 2014 program helped to educate golfers that nine-hole scores are eligible for handicap purposes. In 2014, the USGA’s Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN®) recorded a 13 percent increase from 2013 in nine-hole rounds posted in the two months after the program’s launch. Golfers can visit www.usga.org/play9 to find more information on posting a nine-hole score.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, there are at least six different handicapping systems in use worldwide and Committees should ensure that they are fully compliant with their national requirements before running 9-hole competitions that count for handicaps. I can confirm that the CONGU system (used in UK, Ireland and a few other countries) made some significant changes regarding 9-hole qualifying competitions in January 2014. This is from the current CONGU Unified Handicapping Manual;
Nine-hole qualifying competitions have proved to be very attractive to many clubs and players. The original restriction of a maximum of ten such competitions that could be played in any year has already been removed. It has now been agreed that such scores can be recorded from all clubs of which a player is a member rather than just his or her own home club. Further, the system will now allow the allotment of handicaps based on any combination of nine or eighteen hole scores subject to the cards representing 54 holes as is currently required with three eighteen hole cards.
Unsurprisingly, the Rules of Golf are exactly the same for 9-hole competitions as for 18-hole competitions, but I will draw your attention to one important fact, which may catch some players out. Decision 6-2b/0.5, Meaning of "Handicap" When Full Handicap Not Used, states;
Q. It is the condition of a stroke-play competition (e.g., four-ball) that players will not receive their full handicap allowances. Under Rule 6-2b, what is the player responsible for recording on his score card?

A. He must record his full handicap. It is the Committee's responsibility to apply the condition of competition to adjust his handicap.
So, assuming that each 9 holes has the same standard scratch, if a player’s full handicap is 12, that is what they must enter on their score card for a 9-hole stroke play competition and the Committee must make the 50% adjustment to calculate the net score/points total. If the player enters a handicap of 6 on their score card the Committee must calculate the net score/points using 3 as the player’s handicap for 9 holes. (Edited 28th May to make the point about standard scratch. Note that different handicapping systems may have different ways of dealing with this.)

Abnormal Course Conditions (1) Stipulated Round
Two weeks ago, a US Open local qualifier at Bethpage State Park's Red Course in Farmingdale, New York, was shortened to 17 holes because of ‘agronomic issues’. The reason was that the putting green on the par-3 4th hole was deemed unfit for use following prolonged severe weather in the off-season. Part of the Definition of Stipulated Round states;
The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorised by the Committee.
Abnormal Ground Conditions (2) Preferred Lies through the Green
On Sunday, at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club, Texas, The PGA Tour took the highly unusual decision to implement lift, clean and place through the green, allowing players to take their ball in hand even in the rough. Hmmm! Whilst I understand the argument for implementing a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green when there are adverse course conditions, I sincerely hope that tour organisers do not use this instance as a precedent for similarly extending preferred lies when bad weather prevails.

Good golfing,

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