Monday, 31 August 2015

Jordan Spieth Treads on His Ball

OK, here are two questions for you Rules enthusiasts.
1. Does a player incur a penalty for treading on their ball in play that is lying in a water hazard, but not in water?
2. If the player chooses to take relief from the hazard under Rule 26-1, do they incur a second penalty stroke?
If you have answered, “Yes” to both of these questions then you know more about this Rules situation than the current world No. 1, correction No.2 golfer, Jordan Spieth.

This is what happened to Jordan at The Barclays, Edison, New Jersey, on Friday. After he played his second shot at the par-5 12th hole into a water hazard, he was searching for his ball in the long weeds, when he accidentally stepped on it. He took a penalty drop away from the hazard and made what he thought was 6 for a bogey. But on the next hole, a PGA Tour rules official approached him about the incident. Apparently, Jordan was not aware that he had incurred a penalty for causing his ball to move when he stepped on it, as he is reported by Golf Channel to have offered this rather confusing explanation;

“My intentions were if I see it, I'm going to play it, and if I don't see it, I'm going to take my drop and play it as a water hazard.”
“Because my intention was possibly to still play it, it's a penalty and that was made clear, no matter what I declared to (caddie Michael Greller) ahead of time. I just wanted to be certain about it.”
To clarify the main points of this ruling, when a player treads on a ball it moves, because it is pressed into the ground. Decision 18-1;
Q. A ball lying in long grass slips vertically downwards. Or a ball is accidentally stepped on and pressed down, say a quarter of an inch, in the grass or into the ground. In each case, has the ball moved?

A. Yes, unless the ball returns to its original position. The direction of movement is immaterial.
The penalty is incurred as soon as the ball is moved. Rule 12-1c states;
If a ball is believed to be lying in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, probe for it with a club or otherwise. If the ball in water is accidentally moved while probing, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced, unless the player elects to proceed under Rule 26-1. If the moved ball was not lying in water or the ball was accidentally moved by the player other than while probing, Rule 18-2a applies.
Following the completion of his round, Jordan spoke at length (why, what was there to be discussed?) with PGA Tour rules officials, who informed him the Rules did require him to include the penalty of one stroke for the infraction of stepping on his ball.

I can only think of three possible explanations for this incident;
a) Jordan did not know that by treading on his ball in play he had incurred a penalty, which is why he did not immediately inform his marker of the fact, as is required by Rule 9-3;

A competitor who has incurred a penalty should inform his marker as soon as practicable.
b) Jordan did not know that he had stepped on his ball !!!
c) Jordan realised that stepping on his ball did incur a penalty but chose to carry on by dropping a ball outside of the hazard without saying anything to his fellow competitors (in my opinion, this explanation is extremely unlikely).

So, I conclude that we have yet another example of the lack of knowledge that many professional golfers have about their job of work.

One last point for me to clarify is that when a player chooses to take a penalty stroke relief from the water hazard after causing their ball to move, they do not have to replace the ball before doing so, as is usually the case with a breach of Rule 18-2a.

In conclusion, this additional penalty stroke incurred by Jordan Spieth did not have any material impact on his progress in the tournament, as he missed the cut by five strokes.

Good golfing,

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Monday, 24 August 2015

Shortened Stipulated Rounds and Practice

Here is an interesting question on the Rules of Golf;
May a player practice on holes 1-4 when the stipulated, stroke play competition round is holes 5-18?
I am raising this subject in anticipation that there are many Clubs that hold such competitions. My own Club runs 14-hole, semi-open, midweek competitions throughout the summer season. It is a common practice for players who arrive early, to practice on the holes that do not form part of the stipulated round. It has now been brought to my attention that this may be a breach of Rule 7-1b, part of which states;
Before a round or play-off on any day of a stroke-play competition, a competitor must not practice on the competition course
These are the relevant Definitions;
The "course" is the whole area within any boundaries established by the Committee (see Rule 33-2).
The "stipulated round" consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorised by the Committee.
Until this subject was raised with me, I envisaged no problem with players practicing on those holes that were not included in the stipulated round. However, the question was put to me as to whether a ball hooked from the 9th teeing ground that came to rest on the 3rd fairway, a hole not included in the stipulated round, would be in play? Knowing that this regularly happens on my home course and that no-one has ever suggested that a ball played to this position was out of bounds, I realised that the four holes not in play do indeed form part of the 14-hole course.

Fortunately, the Rules provide a solution for this potential problem. The Note to Rule 7-2 includes this statement;

Note: The Committee may, in the conditions of a competition …. permit practice on the competition course or part of the course (Rule 33-2c) on any day of or between rounds of a stroke-play competition.
I will be making a recommendation to the Committee at my Club to introduce a Condition of Competition that specifically permits players to practice on those holes that are not included as part of the stipulated round on the day of any competition.

Good golfing,


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Monday, 17 August 2015

Stones in Bunkers and Ant Hills

Aug 2015: Jordan Spieth removes bunker stones at Chambers Bay
Jordan Spieth encountered a Rules situation during his first round at the Whistling Straights PGA Championship, when he found that his ball was lying on a stone in a bunker. The first point to note is that by definition stones are loose impediments wherever they lie. So, when a ball and a stone lie in or touch the same hazard, the stone may not be removed. However, if a Committee determines that stones in bunkers may pose a danger to players, they may implement a permanent Local Rule stating that they are movable obstructions and this was the case at Whistling Straights. I understand that some Committees grant this relief for stones throughout the course and not just to bunkers, though personally, I have not come across this extension to the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 5, which states:
Stones are, by definition, loose impediments and, when a player’s ball is in a hazard, a stone lying in or touching the hazard may not be touched or moved (Rule 13-4). However, stones in bunkers may represent a danger to players (a player could be injured by a stone struck by the player’s club in an attempt to play the ball) and they may interfere with the proper playing of the game.

When permission to lift a stone in a bunker is warranted, the following Local Rule is recommended:

“Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions (Rule 24-1 applies).”
Jordan was entitled to remove the stone lying beneath his ball before making his stroke from the bunker. Because the Local Rule deemed stones in bunkers to be movable obstructions, Rule 24-1b applied. This permits a player to lift their ball when it lies on a movable obstruction and remove the obstruction. Spieth’s ball then had to be dropped in the bunker, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where his ball lay on the stone, but not nearer the hole.

Bubba Watson and the Ant Hill
As long-time readers of this blog will know, many tournament players (and their caddies) are not as aware of the Rules of Golf as they should be. Bubba Watson spent a few minutes unsuccessfully trying to persuade a Rules Official that he was entitled to relief from one of the many ant hills on the Whistling Straits course, because, a) his ball lay in a "dangerous situation", and b) ants are burrowing animals. Quite rightly the Rules Official denied Bubba relief because, a) most species of ants are clearly not dangerous, although, as the Rules Official correctly pointed out, some species, such as fire-ants, can be, but they are not present on the Whistling Straits course, and b) the definition of burrowing animals specifically excludes insects;

A "burrowing animal" is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher or salamander.
Decision 23/5 shows that ant hills may be treated as a loose impediment;
Q. Is an ant hill a loose impediment?
A. Yes. A player is entitled to remove an ant hill under Rule 23-1.
Note that if that if ants on a course are considered to be dangerous, a Committee would be justified in stating that their ant hills may be treated as ground under repair, but this would be unusual (Decision 33-8/22).

Most of the videos of this Rules incident have been taken down, but at the time of writing this link was still live. Scroll down below the Vine clip, to the video with the statement, “Just watch and learn as professor Bubba Watson teaches everyone about animals”. The video is about 5 minutes long and could take a little while to load, but I think that Rules enthusiasts will be interested in the exchange and will probably not be surprised that Watson, his caddie and the TV commentators all got the ruling wrong. Even the Rules Official (Graeme Scott from the Australian Tour), who presumably had been briefed on rulings that could arise on the course, asked for a second opinion.

As he prepared to address his ball amongst the ants Bubba joked, "Ow, It Bit Me", presumably sarcastically, in the direction of the Rules Official. As it happened he could have (should have?) saved himself, the official and his fellow competitor, Hunter Mahon, over five minutes wasted time, as he went on to birdie the hole from his 'antsy' lie.

Good golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Fallen Tree Branches

There was an interesting Rules situation at my own Club a few weeks ago. Following a summer gale, two large branches were blown down from a mature tree on the course. One branch was hanging down from the tree and the other was completely detached and lying on the ground. It happened overnight and a mid-week semi-open competition was under way before the greenkeeping staff could remove the branches and before the Committee could consider whether the immediate area should be marked as temporary ground under repair.

The question that this scenario raises is whether a player may move the branches before playing their stroke, or not. The first point for me to make is that no relief is available; any part of a tree is natural and cannot therefore be an immovable obstruction, which only applies to artificial objects. However, if any part of the tree is completely detached, it is a loose impediment, notwithstanding its size. The first sentence of Rule 23-1 states;

Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.
Of course, the player must take care to ensure that they do not cause their ball to move while removing a loose impediment, or they will incur a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2a, and the ball must be replaced. Thanks to Tiger Woods and the 2,000 lb boulder (see this blog), most of us know that it is permissible to obtain assistance from anyone to remove a large loose impediment.  However, if there is no assistance on hand to move the large, loose impediment, it is permissible for the player to break off any part of it that interferes with their stroke. Decision 23-1/4 confirms;
Q. If part of a large branch which has fallen from a tree (and thus is a loose impediment) interferes with a player's swing, may the player break off the interfering part rather than move the whole branch?
A. Yes.
So, in the photo above, the player of ball X may remove all of part of the detached branch lying beside their ball, providing they can do so without causing their ball to move.

The situation with the branch that is still attached to the tree is different. Rule 13-2 prohibits a player from improving their intended stroke by moving, bending or breaking anything growing. Because the branch is still part of the tree it is deemed to be growing. This is the case even if a branch is dead and still attached to a tree.
Decision 23-7 conveniently sums up the main point of this blog;

Q. Is a fallen tree a loose impediment?
A. If it is still attached to the stump, no; if it is not attached to the stump, yes.
It’s Whistling Straits Again!
I cannot see or hear the name, Whistling Straits, without being reminded of the penalty that Dustin Johnson incurred when grounding his club in one of the 1,000+ bunkers on this rugged course, which probably cost him the PGA Championship, 5 years ago. Click here for a reminder of his breach. I understand that the area that contained the infamous ‘non’-bunker is now covered by a corporate stand! If only it had been there in 2010! As you watch the 2015 PGA Championship unfold, be aware that Whistling Straits is the host venue for the 2020 Ryder Cup matches.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Making a Stroke from Water inside a Water Hazard

Martin Kaymer plays out of water at BMW International Open
If a ball lies in water in a water hazard, most golfers would be advised to take their punishment and take relief under penalty of one stroke. However, I suspect that there are few of us that have not tried to play that miracle stroke from water, however rash it may have been at the time. For this reason I am listing the main do’s and don’ts when you are faced with this circumstance. The don’ts first;

•    Don’t touch the ground in the hazard with your club, or you will probably incur a penalty (e.g. Michelle Wie’s breach, which I covered in this blog). Note that there are exceptions, such as to prevent yourself falling.
•    Don’t touch the water with your club, even on the backswing (e.g. Graeme McDowell’s breach, which I covered in this blog).
•    Don’t touch or move any loose impediments in the hazard, such as moving pebbles in the hazard with your feet whilst taking a firm stance (e.g. Aaron Baddeley’s breach, which I covered in this blog).
•    Don’t move a loose impediment on your backswing (e.g. Brian Davis’s breach when he moved a dead palm frond on his backswing in his one hole playoff against Jim Furyk in the 2010 Verizon Heritage tournament.)
•    Don’t wash your club in the water if your ball is still in the hazard after you have made your stroke.
•    Don’t forget that you may still drop outside the hazard for a penalty of one stroke, Rule 26-2. (e.g. Rory McIlroy choosing to take this relief under penalty, which I covered in this blog).

And some of the Do’s, or more accurately, May’s;

•    You may use your club to stop falling (Exception 1a to Rule 13-4).
•    You may take more than one club in the bunker (Exception 1b to Rule 13-4).
•    You may touch anything growing in the hazard with practice swings or your backswing (Note to Rule 13-4).
•    You may remove any movable obstruction from the hazard, such as a tin can (Rule 24-1).
•    You may search for a ball in water in a water hazard by probing with a club and there is no penalty if you cause it to move while doing so, but the ball must be replaced (Rule 12-1c).
•    You may play a ball that is moving in water, but don't wait for it to move to a more advantageous position (Rule 14-6).

If you would like to see how Martin Kaymer played his stroke out of the water hazard (photo above) and how it earned him European Tour Shot of the Month for June 2015, click here.

Good golfing,


I now have over six years of weekly articles on my blog site, covering most areas of the Rules of Golf. You can often find the answers to your Rules questions by entering a short search term in the 'Search This Blog' box at the top right corner of my blog pages.

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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

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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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.