Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Autumn (Fall) Leaves

I am grateful to Paul Kruger, PGA Professional at The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for giving me permission to use his content for this week’s blog, which is very relevant to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who are currently experiencing the annual problem of falling leaves on our golf courses.

Here are some important points to remember when you encounter leaves on the golf course:

First and foremost, keep in mind that detached leaves are loose impediments, unless they are clinging to your ball, see Definition of Loose Impediments. Therefore, with leaves in the vicinity of your golf ball, you might want to leave (leaf!) well enough alone, unless you are familiar with such Rules as Rule 23 - Loose Impediments, Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard, and Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

On the putting green, you may remove leaves on your line of putt provided you do not press anything down, Rule 16-1a - Touching Line of Putt. Also on the putting green, per Rule 23-1, if you accidentally move your ball in the process of removing leaves, there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the leaves. Just remember to replace your ball to where it was before you caused it to move, otherwise you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 18-2 - Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

However, when the ball does not lie on the putting green, or in a hazard, you may remove leaves in the vicinity of your ball, provided you do not cause your ball to move. If you do cause your ball to move, you incur a one-stroke penalty and you must replace your ball, Rule 18-2.

Leaves that have been piled for removal are ground under repair, Definition of Ground Under Repair. Those are the kinds of piles of leaves that you don’t have to worry about encountering outside of a water hazard, because relief without penalty is available to you via Rule 25 - Abnormal Ground Conditions, etc. In fact, if it is known or virtually certain that your ball is lost within such a pile, relief is provided by Rule 25-1c - Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found. In taking relief, you must determine the nearest point of relief to where the ball crossed the outermost limit of the pile of leaves and drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole.

If there is a pile of leaves immediately behind your ball in a hazard, be careful not to touch the leaves with your club prior to, or during, your backswing. Otherwise, you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

If you believe that your ball is covered by leaves in a hazard to the extent that you cannot find or identify it, you may, without penalty, touch or move the leaves in order to find or identify the ball. However, you must be extremely careful not to cause your ball to move in the process. See Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard. If you cause your ball to move during the search, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and you must replace your ball. If your ball was completely covered by leaves prior to the search, you must re-cover it with the leaves; but it is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

Thanks again to Paul Kruger, PGA, The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA for his permission to use his content in my blogs.

Good golfing,


My apologies to the few subscribers that feel that I promote my eDocuments too often. In my defence, there are material costs associated with maintaining the subscriber lists for my blogs and Rhodes Rules School emails and I can assure you that I do not profit from the amount of work that I put into assisting others to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf. I am therefore grateful to all those that support me by making purchases at my Rhodes Rules School web site. Click here to purchase either of my eBooks, the original, '999 Questions' and the recently published, '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf'.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Jordan Spieth Ruling: Ryder Cup 2016

Photo: Rydercup.com - Jordan Spieth
My congratulations to the excellent USA team who were the deserving winners of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. The overall match result was almost assured by the time that Jordan Spieth hooked his ball into the water hazard on the par-5 16th hole. His ball came to rest at the water’s edge, but presumably in a position where he thought that he could make a stroke at it. The fact that he was 2-down to his opponent, Henrik Stenson, obviously played a part in his decision to remove his shoes and socks to prepare for an unlikely stroke from the water onto the putting green. But as he took up his stance with one foot in the water, he saw his ball move deeper into the murky water. He wasn’t sure about the ruling, so he called over European Tour Rules official, Jose Zamaro. Surprisingly, he was not confident enough to give a definitive ruling, even after consulting his Rules book, and had to call in the details of the situation to the senior Rules Official for the competition. He then passed on the ruling to Jordan that he had incurred a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2, for causing his ball to move while taking his stance. Even with this penalty it was still possible, if highly unlikely, that he could have holed out with his next stroke for 4, but perhaps wisely, he said, "It’s done now, it’s over" and conceded the hole to Henrik, thus losing the match 3 and 2.

Obviously, I cannot know what was confusing to Jordan Spieth and the official, Jose Zamaro, about the Rules situation, but I am guessing that they may have been unsure about whether Rule 13-4 or Rule 14-6 could have been applicable in the circumstances. Here is my assessment of the situation;

•    Decision 13-4/13: If a player accidentally moves a loose impediment in a hazard (e.g. a stone) there is no penalty, provided the loose impediment was not moved in making the backswing and the lie of the ball or area of the intended stance or swing was not improved. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.
•    Rule 14-6: If a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make a stroke at the moving ball. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.
•    Rule 18-2: If a player causes their ball to move they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. This applies whether the ball lies in a water hazard, or not. Note that there seven exceptions to this Rule, but none that was relevant to the Spieth incident. Of course, it is possible that a ball could be moved by the natural flow of water, but in this circumstance it was clear that it was the placing of Jordan’s foot at the water’s edge that caused his ball to move.

Footnote 1: On 31st August this year Associated Press reported that Jordan Spieth recalled getting a Rules of Golf book at a junior tournament with instructions to keep it in his bag for quick reference. "I never opened it", he said.

Footnote 2: Jordan Spieth is reported to have earned $147.5 million since 2012 (reference: Money Nation), so he may not think that it is necessary for him to spend time studying the Rules book, but perhaps he should employ a caddie that does!

Good golfing,


I understand that some subscribers to my fortnightly blogs may not have received the usual email with my previous blog, dated 20th September 2016, titled, ‘What a Golfer May Move without Penalty’. You can either catch-up on this blog at this link, or email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will email it to you.

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

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

What a Golfer May Move Without Penalty

I know that some regular readers of this blog like to have lists to assist them in understanding the Rules, so I am going to address what a player may move when their ball in play is stationary and when it is in motion.

Player’s Ball in Play is Stationary;

•    Artificial objects that can easily be moved are movable obstructions, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, or out of bounds, Rule 24-1. Examples are course signage, distance markers, water hazard stakes, cans, abandoned balls and other rubbish.
•    Natural objects that are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball, are loose impediments, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard. Rule 23-1. Examples are grass clippings, leaves and pine cones.
•    A player is not penalised for moving, bending or even breaking anything growing or fixed, providing this happens while they are fairly taking their stance, which means using the least intrusive course of action that is reasonably necessary for the selected stroke, Decision 13-2/1.
•    A player is entitled to move a natural object for the specific purpose of determining whether the object is loose; if it is not it must be returned to its original position before making the next stroke, Decision 13-2/26.
•    If a player considers that another ball might interfere with their play, they may have it lifted, Rule 22-2.
•    Sand and loose soil may be moved from the putting green, but not from anywhere else, Definition of Loose Impediments.

Player’s Ball is in Motion after a Stroke;

•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any movable obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, except the equipment of any player and the flagstick that has been removed from the hole, Rule 24-1. Examples of player’s equipment are their clubs, clothing and golf bag. 
•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball, Rule 23-1. Examples are divots, a detached branch and insect-like creatures, Definition 23-5/5.
•    Obviously, a player must not purposely stop any ball that is in motion, Rule 1-2.

Dustin Johnson Has Gotten Spit-Roasted
The first line of this article in this week’s Golf Digest reads;

"Dustin Johnson has gotten spit-roasted in the wake of his victory in the BMW Championship on Sunday for his incessant spitting on the golf course."

I am not going to expand on Johnson’s bad habit, other than to register my abhorrence that a professional golfer would consider that this is acceptable behaviour on a golf course, knowing that they are being watched by millions, especially juniors. Following a similar occurrence in 2011, the European Tour fined Tiger Woods for a breach of their tour Code of Conduct. To his credit, Tiger immediately apologised, admitting that it was inconsiderate to spit like that and he should have known better. To his credit, I am not aware of any subsequent indiscretion by him in this respect. It appears that Dustin Johnson will not be fined by the USA PGA, as they seem to take a less critical attitude to spitting than the European Tour, so it is left to concerned individuals to voice our opinions on how distasteful we regard this disgusting practice, particularly on the golf course.

Good golfing,


Most readers of this blog are aware that they can purchase either of my two ‘999 Questions on the Rules’ publications directly from me, as eBooks in both .pdf and .mobi formats. Click here. However, if you don’t use a tablet, smart phone or eReader and prefer an old-fashioned paperback copy, they are both available from Amazon at these links;

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

When Is a Bunker Not a Bunker?

I expect most of us think that we know a bunker when we see one, especially after the Dustin Johnson ‘bunker-gate’ at Whistling Straights in 2010 (click here if you do not know what I am referring to). Well, it may not be quite as simple as you think. Let me start by referencing the Definition of Bunker;

A "bunker" is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.

Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker, including a stacked turf face (whether grass-covered or earthen), is not part of the bunker. A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker. The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.

A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.

There are several points to note here;

•    The ball in the photo above is not in the bunker, because it lies on grass covered ground within the bunker.
•    A stacked turf bunker face (also known as a revetted bunker face) is not part of the bunker.
•    A natural, earth wall of a bunker is part of the bunker, even though there may be no sand left on it.
•    An artificial wall of a bunker (e.g. lined with wooden sleepers) is an immovable obstruction, unless a Local Rule makes the construction integral to the course.
•    A ball that enters an abnormal ground condition (e.g. a hole made by a burrowing animal) in a bunker, rolls underneath and past the margin of the bunker, is not in the bunker, because it is outside the margin, which extends downwards.
•    A ball that partly touches grass that is outside the bunker and sand that is inside the bunker is in the bunker.

Some Decisions on bunkers reveal further points;
•    Sand that has spilled over the margin of the bunker is not part of the bunker, Decision 13/1.
•    A ball lies that lies on the edge of the bunker, overhanging the lip but not touching the sand, is not in the bunker, because the margin does not extend vertically upwards.
•    A ball that is completely embedded in the vertical lip of a bunker that is not grass-covered is in the bunker, so there is no relief for an embedded ball, Decision 13/4.
•    A ball that is lying on any type of obstruction in a bunker (e.g. a rake, or exposed plastic lining) is in the bunker, Decision 13/5.

Finally, many modern golf courses have unmaintained, natural areas that are incorrectly referred to as ‘waste bunkers’, whereas they should properly be referred to as waste areas, because they are not bunkers within the Definition (as above). These waste areas typically have a sand, gravel or crushed shell surface area. They are sometimes designed by modern-day course architects as another difficult condition for golfers to negotiate, or more often, to reduce maintenance costs. In the Rules of Golf these waste areas are simply ‘through the green’.

Another Blog Award!

Like the famous London double-decker, red buses, blog awards seem to come along in twos! No sooner had I received my first blog award (see my previous blog, dated 23rd August) than I received notification that I have been included in Golf Assessors, ‘Top 50 Best Golf Blogs’, ranked number 6 this time. As far as I know, I am the only person in both of these lists of top blogs whose content is exclusively on the Rules of Golf. So please pass on my details to anyone else you know that is crazy enough to be interested in this fascinating subject.
Good golfing,


I have now published 1,998 Q&As on the Rules of Golf in my two books, ‘999 Questions…’ and ‘999 More Questions…’. The two books are totally complementary to each other, in very different formats. If you have the first book then I recommend that you purchase the second; if you purchased the second then I recommend that you now purchase the first. If you have not purchased either then you should immediately buy both. If you have already purchased both … thank you!
Click here for more details on both the eBooks (from me) and paperbacks (from Amazon) publications.

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

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Duties of a Marker

The Rules of Golf require that in stroke play ever competitor has a marker to attest their score on each hole of their stipulated round. Both the player and their marker have an explicit responsibility for the correctness of the player's score card. The Definition of Marker is;

A "marker" is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor's score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.

(Edit 23rd August 2016: A subscriber has pointed out that whilst a marker is not a referee, they can be. Recently, she was the appointed referee for a two-ball, one of the competitors had to withdraw and she then acted as both marker and referee.)
Rule 6-6a deals with recording scores;

After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round the marker must sign the score card and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible. 

Note that a player may have more than one marker during their round. So, if the marker they start with cannot complete their round for any reason, such as sickness or responding to an emergency, they must sign the player’s score card for the holes that they were present to witness and hand it over to another person to complete the remaining holes. If a player is not accompanied by a marker for any hole of their round they do not have an acceptable score for the competition (Decision 6-6a/2). It follows that an unaccompanied pair in a four-ball or foursome cannot return a valid score card, as they may not mark their own score card.

Rule 6-6b deals with the signing and returning of a score card;

After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.

I have heard of markers (and players!) who sign the score card as soon as they receive it, so that they cannot forget to do it at the end of the round. This is obviously not acceptable, as the Rule 6-6b starts, “After completion of the round …”.

Some Decisions relating to markers;
•    A marker does not have to be a competitor, so if a fellow competitor ceases to play during a round they may continue to mark the player’s card and may even act as their caddie for that part of the round, Decision 6-4/9.
•    If a Committee has failed to provide a marker for a competitor, they may find someone to mark their score card and the Committee should give retrospective authority to this person, Decision 6-6/1. This assumes that the person was acceptable person to the Committee and was permitted by the Conditions of Competition. Some Conditions of Competition require that the marker must have an authorised handicap, or cannot be a junior member.
•    A marker who knowingly attests a wrong score should be disqualified, whether or not the competitor was aware that one of their scores was wrongly recorded, Decisions 1-3/6 and 6-6a/5.
•    A marker is not required to follow the player around the course to witness every single stroke that is made, but Rule 9-2 does require a competitor who has incurred a penalty to inform their marker as soon as practicable.
•    A marker may attend the flagstick even if he is not a fellow-competitor. Decision 17-1/3.
•    In any circumstance, a marker (or anyone) may provide information on the Rules to the player whose card they are marking. Players and officials are encouraged to do this to prevent a player from breaching a Rule. Information on the Rules is not advice, Definition of Advice.

Top 100 Golf Blogs on the Web
I am pleased to have been advised that this 'Rules of Golf' blog that you are now reading has been rated #5 on Feedspot’s, ‘Top 100 Golf Blogs on the Web’. You can check out the list by Googling the search term, "Top 100 Golf Blogs Feedspot", or clicking on this link,
I would like to take this opportunity to assure subscribers to my weekly blogs and/or to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly email series, that I do not share my email lists with anyone and have absolutely no intention of doing so. My blog list is securely serviced by Google/Feedburner and my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series by AWeber. I have complete confidence that both of these market leading email service companies will treat your personal details completely confidentially and will secure them from potential hackers. If you do choose to follow the above link to Feedspot’s 'Top 100' lists, I would caution you not to provide your email address unless you wish to receive RSS feeds from any of the 100 listed golf blog sites.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Penalty Statements

I have been asked to explain the wording of penalty statements, marked with an asterisk, underneath some of the 34 Rules of Golf. Such statements appear under Rules 1, 4, 6 and 18.

Usually, the wording of the statement is self-explanatory, e.g. under Rule 1-2;

*In the case of a serious breach of Rule 1-2, the Committee may impose a penalty of disqualification.

Rule 1-2 covers situations where a player exerts influence on a ball in motion, or intentionally alters physical conditions with the intent of affecting the playing of a hole (e.g. by deliberately creating spike marks on another player’s line of putt). A player is deemed to have committed a serious breach of this Rule if the Committee considers that a player’s action has resulted in themselves or another player obtaining a significant advantage, or being placed at a significant disadvantage.

One penalty statement under Rule 4 relates to the different penalties that are incurred, depending on when during a round the breach is discovered (e.g. 1st, 2nd or subsequent holes). Another relates to the requirement that any non-conforming club, or club(s) carried in excess of the permitted maximum of fourteen, must immediately be declared out of play by the player to their marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play, or their opponent in match play. If the player fails to do so, they are disqualified. There is more information on these penalties at these blogs of mine; re conforming clubs - Rule 4-1, re damaged clubs - Rule 4-3, re maximum of 14 clubs - Rule 4-4.

Rule 5-3 covers the circumstances concerning a ball that a player deems unfit for play. The penalty statement is as follows;

*If a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 5-3, there is no additional penalty under this Rule.

So, if a player claims that their ball is unfit for play and continues play of the hole with a different ball, if it is subsequently ruled that the original was not, after all, unfit for play, the player incurs the general penalty for the breach of Rule 5-3, but not an additional penalty for wrongly substituting a ball.

The penalty statement under Rule 6-4, Caddie, states;

*A player having more than one caddie in breach of this Rule must immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred ensure that he has no more than one caddie at any one time during the remainder of the stipulated round. Otherwise, the player is disqualified.

The penalty statement under Rule 6-8, Discontinuance of Play, Resumption of Play;

*If a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 6-8d, there is no additional penalty under Rule 6-8c.

Rule 6-8d details the procedure that players must follow when they resume their round following a suspension of play. If they do not follow this procedure they incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play. Rule 6-8c states that if a player lifts their ball without a good reason to do so, fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or fails to report the lifting of the ball, they incur a penalty of one stroke. However, the statement under the Rule, which obviously only applies to stroke play, limits the penalty to a total of two strokes, even if the player has breached both Rules.

Rule 18 is a Rule that most golfers will regularly experience, as it covers the situations where a ball in play is moved, whether purposely, accidentally or by the elements. In every case where a ball at rest is moved by a competitor, or outside agent, it must be replaced where it was at rest, but if it was moved by the wind, or other element, it must be played from where it comes to rest. This is where this statement under the Rule comes into play;

*If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, or if he makes a stroke at a ball substituted under Rule 18 when such substitution is not permitted, he incurs the general penalty for breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.

The penalty for a player causing their ball at rest to move, other than as a result of their stroke, is one stroke in both stroke play and match play. However, if the player’s ball is not subsequently replaced at the right spot and the player makes a stroke at it from this wrong place, the penalty increases to the general penalty, which is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Another example of how this penalty statement applies under Rule 18 is when a player, frustrated with a poor shot, picks up their ball and throws it into a nearby lake, from where it cannot be retrieved. The player then places another ball on the spot from which the original ball was lifted and holes out. The incorrectly substituted a ball under Rule 15-2, incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, but the effect of the penalty statement is that they do not incur an additional penalty stroke for lifting their ball without authority.

Good golfing,

Three quick reminders; (i) My two '999 Questions' books are available for purchase here, (ii) You can subscribe for my free, weekly 'Rhodes Rules School' emails here, (iii) You can receive my blogs on the Rules (usually fortnightly) by entering your email address in the 'Subscribe vis email' box at the top right corner on any of my blog pages.

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

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Searching for a Ball

Questions from the floor that are asked during my presentations on the Rules, often relate to searching for a ball that may be lost. Here are some relevant points on this subject;

•    A player does not have to search for their own ball if they would rather not find it, e.g. when their original ball is likely to be deep in a gorse bush and their provisional ball is in the middle of the fairway.
•    If a player requests fellow competitors not to search for their ball it is poor etiquette, but not a breach of any Rule, for them to then go and look for the ball. However, this is not the case in match play, when an opponent may decide that they could benefit by finding the player’s original ball.
•    In match play, if an opponent does go to search for a player’s original ball, e.g. because the provisional ball is lying close to the hole, the player may quickly move to their provisional ball and putt it into the hole. As soon as they do so, they have rendered the original ball lost, even if it is subsequently found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it. Although the opponent may then recall this putt played out of turn (Rule 10-1c), it would not change the status of the original ball, which was lost as soon as the provisional ball was played from a position nearer to the hole (Decision 27-2b/1).
•    If a player’s ball is found within the five-minute search period, but because they are some distance away they are unable to make a positive identification within this time limit, it is not a lost ball, even though the identification takes place after the five-minute search period has elapsed (Decision 27-5/5).
•    A player may not return to where they last played from to play a provisional ball while fellow competitors continue to search for their original ball. Once the player has gone forward to search, say 50 yards from where they played from, any ball that they return to play becomes their ball in play as soon as they make a stroke at it, under penalty of stroke and distance, even if they wrongly announce it as being a provisional ball (Decision 27-2a/1.5).
•    Following on from the last point, once a player has dropped a ball with the intention of playing under penalty of stroke and distance, that ball is in play and the original ball is lost, even though no stroke has been made at it before the original ball is found within five minutes of search starting for it (Decision 27-1/2). The situation is slightly different if the ball was played from the teeing ground, as a ball may be teed up and addressed, but is not in play until a stroke has been made at it.
•    If a player knows that their ball has definitely come to rest in an area of ground under repair, casual water or any other abnormal ground condition, they do not have to search for it, they may take relief without penalty, using the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the abnormal ground condition as the reference point for dropping their ball (Rule 25-1c).
•    In stroke play, there is no penalty when a player accidentally moves the ball of a fellow competitor, but in match play an opponent does incur a penalty of one stroke, unless they were searching for it when they accidentally moved it. In every situation where a ball is accidentally moved it must be replaced (Rule 18-3a).
•    A player is permitted a total of five minutes to search for their ball. So if they find their ball after a two-minute search, leave the area to get a club and are then unable to find it, they have three more minutes to search before it is lost (Decision 27/3).
•    A player is allowed five minutes to search for their original ball and five more minutes to search for their provisional ball, unless the two balls are so close together that, in effect, both balls would be searched for simultaneously, when a total of five minutes is allowed for both balls (Decision 27/4).
•    A player may search for a lost ball after putting another ball into play, but must not play the first ball if they find it and must not unduly delay play while searching for it (Decision 27/9).

Mel Reid plays Fourball on Her Own
England's Mel Reid took on Japan's Haru Nomura and Mika Miyazato on her own in the fourballs at the UL International Crown. The circumstances were that Reid’s fourball partner, Charley Hull, was being treated for asthma and fever in an ambulance near the clubhouse at the Merit Club in Gurnee, Illinois. She was strongly advised to rest and not to play. Despite having only one shot to Japan's two, Mel Reid took the match to the 18th hole, before the Japanese eventually won, 1-up.

Rule 30-3a, Representation of Side, is the relevant Rule; 
A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of a match; all partners need not be present. An absent partner may join a match between holes, but not during play of a hole.
999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf
A gentle reminder that my new eBook is available for purchase at this link. Thanks to all those that have written complimentary reviews, including these;

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Here is the link once again!

Good golfing,


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

Monday, 11 July 2016

July Miscellany

Nordqvist Breaches Rule during Women’s US Open 3-Hole Playoff
I am sure that you know that before making a stroke at a ball that is in a bunker you may not touch the ground in that bunker with your club. I would guess that almost every golfer with an official handicap knows this part of Rule 13-4 and that most of us are careful to hover our sand wedge well above the surface, to avoid incurring a penalty. Not so, Swedish golfer, Anna Nordqvist, who brushed the sand with the heel of her club on one of the most important strokes of her career, during a 3-hole playoff of a major, the Women’s US Open in CordeValle, San Martin, California. At the time of writing, there is a video and commentary on this breach of Rule at this SkySports link (after the ad. at around 60 seconds).

For the second time in two weeks, the USGA is the subject of much criticism following a US Open major tournament. Almost everyone who has seen the video accept that Nordqvist did breach Rule 13-4, but many are unhappy about the timing of the intervention by the officials to inform both players that the penalty of two strokes had been imposed. Most impartial observers agree that the officials should have waited until after the eventual winner, Brittany Lang, had played her 3rd stroke to the 18th green, as she then had the advantage of playing more conservatively than she otherwise would. It is obvious that the Ruling Bodies will have to address the question of the timing of advising players of (possible) penalties, whether incurred by themselves, or by their fellow competitors. Unfortunately, this may mean even more complications being added to the already creaking Rules and Decisions books.

My last word on this incident is that for some time I have thought that this Rule, relating to grounding a club in a hazard, is one that should be amended sooner rather than later. It is obvious that a player can obtain very little information about the condition of the hazard that their ball lies in, by touching its surface with their club, especially as the Rules do permit them to test the condition of any other hazard, providing their ball lies outside a hazard at the time. Also, regarding bunkers, Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 permits players, at any time, to smooth sand or soil in the hazard that their ball lies in, provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to their next stroke. In my opinion, it is time to eliminate this Rule, which would be one small step towards their simplification.

Dustin Johnson Not Penalised for Causing His Ball to Move!
If you are of the opinion that the Ruling Bodies were unduly harsh on Dustin Johnson at the US Open last month, you might be interested in this short video clip from July 2013, when he was not assessed a penalty for causing his ball to move, after dropping his ball-marker on his ball. Although it was clearly evident that he was the cause of his ball moving, the ruling was that the ball then settled back to its original spot. In this situation, the weight of evidence was apparently less than 50% that the ball had moved from its spot. According to the Definition of Moved.

A ball is deemed to have "moved" if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
Golf Rules Quick Reference
Click here
 Those of us that take the Rules of Golf seriously will be only too aware that most golfers rarely open the Rules book, let alone the Decisions on the Rules. Even I recognise that in achieving the objective of having definitive rulings for any of the myriad of circumstances that may arise on the golf course, the Rules of Golf have become wordy, extensive and sometimes difficult to comprehend.  This is where ‘Golf Rules Quick Reference’, from Expert Golf, can be of huge benefit for most golfers. In my opinion, this handy, pocket size, ring bound booklet, with a durable plastic cover, provides the ideal solution for all those that want to follow the Rules, but do not want to spend hours studying and learning them.

The content is set out in eight logical headings, each conveniently opened through a colour coded index tab, with sub-divisions into meaningful, short sections that are easy to read and understand and are complemented by clever, explanatory illustrations. Many sections also contain a note, or tip, to further clarify the content. The back cover alone is worth regular reference and memorising, because it provides an overview of the relief procedures under four vertical columns: Fairway & Rough, Bunker, Water Hazard, Green; and five horizontal rows: Loose Impediments, Movable Obstructions, Immovable Obstructions, Abnormal Ground Conditions, Declaring a Ball Unplayable. Brilliant! I am pleased to highly recommend ‘Golf Rules Quick Reference’, as being an excellent booklet to pop into your golf bag for quick and simple reference to the majority of Rules situations that you are likely to encounter.

If you are like me and are relying more and more on your smart phone for news, sport, social media, reading material and apps, then you should also check out Expert Golf’s ‘iGolfrules’ app.  Just as easy to reference as the above booklet, you can use this app to find the right solution to your Rules query with a maximum of 3 clicks. In addition to the aforementioned illustrations, there are also explanatory videos covering various areas of misunderstanding that some golfers have, such as relief from lateral water hazards and unplayable ball.

Of course, both of the above products include the January 2016 amendments to the Rules. In fact, one of the sections lists and explains the main changes. They are also available in more than ten different languages. Finally, having been familiar with the various publications by Rules official, Yves C Ton-That, for several years, I am confident that the content is accurate and I have no hesitation in recommending them to my readers and subscribers. Click here for purchase details (the 3rd item on top row).

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dustin Johnson (again) and Line of Play

The camera tower on Dustin'Johnson's line of play
No, I am not revisiting the circumstance of the main Rules issue at last week’s US Open, which I covered in blog last week, but Dustin Johnson (DJ) was involved in a second incident, which caused confusion amongst many viewers during his final round.

Having hooked his ball into deep rough on his 10th hole, DJ summoned a Rules Official to help him determine the relief that he was entitled to from a television tower that he said was on his line of play to the hole. Before continuing, I want to emphasise that the relief that DJ was seeking was under a Local Rule for temporary immovable obstructions, which does not apply in the rounds of golf that most of us play. A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or not readily movable. Examples of TIOs include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories.

Typically, a Local Rule relating to TIOs only applies in tournaments that have the above listed immovable obstructions and I am not going to attempt to explain how this relief is determined, as it is complicated and most likely would confuse readers. Regarding the DJ ruling, I am confident that the point from which he could drop his ball, was correctly determined. I know for a fact that prior to any tournament the officials go out onto the course to discuss any possible Rules issues that may arise, especially regarding TIOs, hazard margins, dropping zones, etc. One point that I want to clarify is that having received relief without penalty from a TIO on the line of play, the player does not then have to attempt to play their ball along that line of play, even if they are good enough to do so! So, having properly been given relief, which permitted him to drop a ball and eventually place it outside of the deep rough, because it had twice rolled outside of the permitted area, DJ then chose to play his ball directly over the television tower and not around it. He was quite within his rights to do so, gaining the advantage because of his awareness of the applicable Local Rule. Readers who would like to read a specimen of a Local Rule for TIOs can click on this link to Appendix l Part A, and scroll down to 4b Temporary Immovable Obstructions, but please note that this does not necessarily contain the same wording that was on the hard card for last week’s US Open.

Line of Play
The above Rules incident provides a good opportunity for me to remind golfers that there is no line of play relief from immovable obstructions that are off the putting green. Relief under Rule 24-2 is only available when an immovable obstruction interferes with the player's lie, stance or the area of their intended swing. These are the limited circumstances when a player may take line of play relief, other than from TIOs, as above;
•    If a player’s ball lies on the putting green, they may take line of play relief from an immovable obstruction on the same putting green (e.g. an artificial hole plug or wire netting protecting a damaged area). Rule 24-2b(iii).
•    If a player’s ball lies on the putting green they may take line of play relief from an abnormal ground condition on the same putting green (e.g. casual water or ground under repair). Rule 25-1b(iii).
•    Many courses have immovable obstructions, such as sprinkler heads, just off the putting green. In such circumstances, it is fairly common for Committees to introduce a Local Rule that permits line of play relief, without penalty, for players’ balls that lie within two club-lengths of an immovable obstruction that is located within two club-lengths of the putting green. (See this blog of mine for more detail).

Note that there is one more exceptional instance where a Committee may make a Local Rule providing line of play relief from an immovable obstruction. Decision 33-8/18 states;

If a wire fence is erected to protect players on the tee of one hole from errant shots played at another hole, and it is relatively close to the line of play of the other hole, it would be permissible to make a Local Rule allowing a player whose ball is in such a position that the fence intervenes on his line of play to drop the ball, without penalty, not nearer the hole in a specified dropping zone.
Good golfing,


There has been a recent surge of new subscribers to my blogs, which are exclusively on the Rules of Golf (enter an email address in the top right corner of my blog page to receive them automatically). I would like to draw the attention of these new subscribers to my free, weekly 'Rhodes Rules School' emails, which are designed to help golfers understand the Ruile in an interesting and stimulating way. You can obtain more information at this link.

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

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Dustin Johnson and the USGA

Dustin Johnson talking to the referee on 5th putting green
I am starting this blog with a certain amount of apprehension, as I know that keen followers of golf will have already made up their minds about the way that the USGA dealt with the contentious Rules situation that arose during the final round of the US Open in Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania last Sunday. If you have not read the USGA statement of the circumstances surrounding the way that Dustin Johnson (DJ) was advised that he may have incurred a penalty and the subsequent imposition of a penalty stroke after all players in the competition had completed their rounds, then I suggest that you do so before continuing to read this blog. It certainly clarified some of the issues that I had, which means that it is no longer necessary for me to explain them. I am copying the USGA statement for your convenience at the end of this blog.

First, I would like to address a basic misunderstanding that was widely spread by media commentators, some of them Professional golfers, which caused confusion amongst their audiences. There is a distinction between addressing a ball and grounding a club;
  • A player has ‘addressed the ball’ when he has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance. 
  • A club has been ‘grounded’ when the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (from Decision 13-4/8)
So, DJ definitely did not address his ball, but the videotape clearly shows that he grounded (or soled) his putter to the side of his ball, brushed the grass twice with practice putts, grounded his club again and then hovered it immediately behind his ball, just above the grass, withdrawing it quickly when he saw that his ball was beginning to move off its spot. You can view this sequence of events and hear the explanation of Jeff Hall, Managing Director, USGA Championships, at this Fox Sports link following the advertisement.

So, nobody doubts that the ball moved, the question is did the weight of evidence indicate that it is more likely than not that DJ caused his ball to move, even though that conclusion is not completely free from doubt. The factors that have to be taken into account when arriving at a conclusion are set out in Decision 18-2/0.5, which is too long for me to reproduce here, but can be viewed on-line at this link.

In my opinion, it was more likely than not that DJ did cause his ball to move by disturbing the grasses next to his ball creating a domino effect whereby grasses that were under the ball were moved, resulting in the ball settling into a different spot. It is interesting to note that in similar circumstances during Saturday’s play, Shane Lowry called a penalty on himself and replaced his ball, admitting that he had caused it to move slightly, even though he did not touch it with his club. (Edit 4th July: If you think that the Ruling Bodies were unduly harsh on DJ take a look at this incident of him causing his ball to move when he was not assessed a penalty, because it was ruled that his ball settled back to its original spot).
One point that other reporters do not seem to have picked-up on is that when the referee asked, "You didn't ground your club [did you]?" DJ replied, "No". When it became obvious to those reviewing the videotape that he had, it surely worked against him. I am not suggesting that he was lying; he probably thought that the referee meant, did he address his ball, but his answer to the question asked was clearly wrong. The reason why the distinction between addressing the ball and grounding the club is so important, is that for four years prior to January of this year there was a Rule, part of which stated; If a player's ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The reason that I have greyed this is that this Rule 18-2b no longer exists, which presumably had escaped the attention of TV commentators and some Pro golfers who jumped in to criticize the USGA, using the lack of address as to why there was no penalty. The same overall test as to whether a player has caused their ball to move (in Rule 18-2) now applies to all actions by a player anywhere on the course, whether they have addressed their ball, or not.

The one outstanding question that I have, which was not directly covered in the USGA statement, is why the penalty was only one stroke, when the penalty statement under Rule 18 states;

*If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, or if he makes a stroke at a ball substituted under Rule 18 when such substitution is not permitted, he incurs the general penalty for breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.
My guess is that because the referee accepted that DJ had not caused his ball to move he had tacitly approved that the ball did not have to be replaced, which is the case if the player has not caused their ball to move. Therefore, it would have been inequitable to impose the additional penalty stroke and I certainly agree with that, although I would prefer that it had been properly explained. (Edit 22nd June, 2016: It has now been pointed out to me that Decision 34-3/7 deals explicitly with this situation).

Finally, on the matter of whether players should be informed that they may have incurred a penalty whilst continuing their round out on the course, which is the point that seems to have enraged most viewers of this engaging, US Open final round. It seems an easy decision on the face of it; make a snap judgement as to whether a penalty was incurred, telling the player if the ruling goes against them and reflecting it on the scoreboard; or ignore the fact that there may have been a breach and let the players get on with it. In the former scenario, the player, their fellow competitors, caddies, even spectators, are not given a chance to provide evidence on the matter in question; in the latter case, the rights of every other competitor in the field are effected, if it subsequently is proven that a breach had occurred. There is no perfect solution. The Rules have evolved to where they are now with the accumulated experience of more than 250 years of competitive golf. Far from being ‘amateurs’, which is an accusation made against them by many who should know better, those engaged with USGA and R&A are golf enthusiasts, who work tirelessly to ensure that competitors in golf competitions, wherever they are played, at whatever level, are playing to the same Rules.

Good golfing,


P.S. I do not intend to engage in lengthy discourse with readers that disagree with my opinions on this matter, but I will post any comments that add to the discussion, providing they are reasonably expressed.

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

USGA Statement Regarding Dustin Johnson Ruling

The USGA wishes to congratulate Dustin Johnson on his victory and thank him, and the other players in the field, for their professionalism and grace throughout the championship. Dustin is a wonderful champion, a talented golfer and a gentleman.

Our team at the USGA has seen and heard a great deal of discussion and debate about the ruling on Dustin’s ball moving during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club. In addition to the explanations we offered upon the conclusion of the final round, we add these comments.

Upon reflection, we regret the distraction caused by our decision to wait until the end of the round to decide on the ruling. It is normal for rulings based on video evidence to await the end of a round, when the matter can be discussed with the player before the score card is returned. While our focus on getting the ruling correct was appropriate, we created uncertainty about where players stood on the leader board after we informed Dustin on the 12th tee that his actions on the fifth green might lead to a penalty. This created unnecessary ambiguity for Dustin and the other players, as well as spectators on-site, and those watching and listening on television and digital channels.

During any competition, the priority for Rules officials is to make the correct ruling for the protection of the player(s) involved and the entire field. In applying Rule 18-2, which deals with a ball at rest that moves, officials consider all the relevant evidence – including the player’s actions, the time between those actions and the movement of the ball, the lie of the ball, and course and weather conditions. If that evidence, considered together, shows that it is more likely than not that the player’s actions caused the ball to move, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty. Officials use this “more likely than not” standard because it is not always apparent what caused the ball to move. Such situations require a review of the evidence, with Decision 18-2/0.5 providing guidance on how the evidence should be weighed.

Our officials reviewed the video of Dustin on the fifth green and determined that based on the weight of the evidence, it was more likely than not that Dustin caused his ball to move. Dustin’s putter contacted the ground at the side of the ball, and almost immediately after, the ball moved.

We accept that not everyone will agree that Dustin caused his ball to move. Issues under Rule 18-2 often require a judgment where there is some uncertainty, and this was one of those instances. We also understand that some people may disagree with Rule 18-2 itself. While we respect the viewpoints of those who disagree, our Committee made a careful and collective judgment in its pursuit of a fair competition played under the Rules of Golf.

In keeping with our commitment to excellence in all aspects of our work on behalf of the game of golf, we pledge to closely examine our procedures in this matter. We will assess our procedures for handling video review, the timing of such, and our communication with players to make sure that when confronted with such a situation again, we will have a better process.

We at the USGA deeply appreciate the support of players, fans, and the entire golf community of our championships and our other work for golf – and we appreciate your feedback as well. We have established an email address (comments@usga.org) and phone mailbox (908-326-1857) to receive comments. We thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

We all share an abiding love of this great game. Let us continue to work together for its good.