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,

I was delighted at the response to my announcement that my '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' is now available from Amazon as a paperback. Click here for paperback or here for my eReader/tablet/smartphone version.

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

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

May Miscellany

This week I am covering a few miscellaneous items that I hope may be of interest to readers.

R&A Rules Courses
I know that many subscribers and readers, as well as having a more than usual interest in the Rules of Golf, are also active or aspiring Rules officials. I have never been involved as an official, on-course referee, though I have often been called on to assist with rulings at Club and Inter-Club competitions. I was therefore surprised and delighted to be invited by the R&A to attend their Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School (TARS), which was being held in Ireland for the very first time, in Athlone, 75 miles (120 km) from Dublin. The R&A’s formal Rules Education programme consists of a three-tiered approach;

  • Level 1 Introductory Rules School
  • Level 2 Rules School
  • Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School
More details of these courses can be found on the R&A web site at this link. Please note that Level 1 can now be completed by anyone on-line, at the R&A Rules Academy web site. I am delighted to report that following my participation in this Level 3 course, I have just received my certificate confirming that I passed the 2 ½ hours Level 3 exam with distinction, the highest grade possible. Now I can relax!

Handicapping Systems
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary considerably from country to country. I am aware that there are at least six different handicapping systems in use in the following areas; USA, GB and Ireland, Continental Europe, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. Personally, I have trouble keeping up with the CONGU system that applies to golfers resident in UK and Ireland, which apparently is significantly simpler to understand than some of the other systems. However, this week I learned that the USGA is leading an effort to get the various international handicapping authorities to agree on a unified system, using the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating as the basis for a proposed World Handicap System, and incorporating the best elements from the other systems. I certainly welcome and support this excellent initiative.

Most readers of my weekly blog on the Rules receive it by email (if you don’t, just enter your email address at the top-right of this page). You may be interested to know that these emails are sent to over 7,000 subscribers (through the Google/feedburner service). At this time of year, I have an average of 50 new subscriptions every week (against an average of 7 unsubscribes). Similarly, over 9,000 Rules enthusiasts have subscribed to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly series. Of course, many of you are subscribed to both of these lists.  After almost 7 years of weekly blogs I now feature in the first few results for any ‘Googled’ questions on the Rules, even though I do not pay anything to them for this premium ranking, which results in approximately 8,000 hits to my blog site every week. My five short, instructional videos on my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site, have combined views of around 500 a week and my eDocuments have been sold into over 60 different countries.

Paperback Version of ‘999Q’
Thanks to the wonderful service from an Amazon Group company, CreateSpace, my Book ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ is now available as a paperback. Click on this link for details and to purchase. Please note that, as with all eDocuments purchased from my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site before the end of this year, I will provide an errata sheet to cover any of the changes to Rules and Decisions that are announced by USGA / R&A for January 2016.

Failure to Hole Out (Rule 3-2)

I was present at an Inter-Club, stroke play qualifier on Saturday when it was brought to my attention that a player, whose chip had resulted in his ball resting against the flagstick, had picked-up his ball and walked to the next teeing ground. He was obviously not aware that a ball resting against the flagstick in this way is not holed. All of the ball has to be at rest below the level of the lip of the hole. The player should carefully move the flagstick and if the ball falls into the hole they are deemed to have holed out with their last stroke.

I also heard about Irish Professional Golfer, Damien McGrane, disqualifying himself from the Open de Espana tournament, held near Barcelona, by picking-up his ball on his 17th hole after missing a relatively easy putt. “I just had enough” he said. He knew that he was on course to miss his fifth European Tour cut in a row. Although he did not hole out he continued to walk with his two fellow competitors, who were also going to miss the cut, until they had completed their rounds. I presume that a European Tour fine will be forthcoming for this unusual and untoward behaviour.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Baddeley's Bad Drop

The famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has not been kind to American Australian golfer, Aaron Baddeley (he has joint US and Australian citizenship). Even before his second round at The Players Championship on Friday, he had put more balls in the water on the island green 17th in previous events than any other player in the field. He then put two more in the water on Friday, bringing his career total to 10. However, this was not the end of it, as when dropping a ball in the drop zone for the second time he was far too casual and did not meet the requirements for a valid drop. From Rule 20-2;
A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped by the player himself. He must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm's length and drop it. If a ball is dropped by any other person or in any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.
From the photo above, you can see why the officials called Baddeley on this Rules infraction. Once again, the post-round comments by a professional golfer, following a Rules infraction, are revealing;
“It was a little bit bent instead of straight, which was like 4 or 5 inches difference. I wasn’t stressed. I knew I was missing the cut. I didn’t know that Rule. I didn’t know your arm had to be perfectly straight. I made sure it was shoulder height when I dropped it. That’s what I was thinking.”
If only Aaron Baddeley was a regular reader of my weekly blogs he would have known better! This is a link to a similar breach by Sun Young Yoo that I wrote about in 2012.

Sergio Garcia Didn’t Hole Out.

Some of you who watched to the end of The Players Championship may have wondered whether Sergio Garcia should have been disqualified for not holing out, after missing his birdie putt on the 18th, the final hole of the 3-hole aggregate playoff, when he realised that he could not match the -1 totals of Ricky Fowler and Kevin Kisner. Decision 3/1 provides the answer;

Q. A competitor in a stroke-play play-off incurs a penalty of disqualification. Does the disqualification apply to the play-off only or to the entire competition?

A. The disqualification applies only to the play-off.
So, Sergio did not forfeit his $880,000 prize money, for equal second place, the same as Kevin Kisner, who subsequently lost out to Rickie Fowler’s birdie on the fourth play-off hole.

Good golfing,


Good news! My book '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015' is available as a hard copy again. More information in next week's blog.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lydia Ko's Ball 'Lost' in Tree

There are several circumstances in Golf where a ball is ‘lost’ even if the player is pretty sure that they know whereabouts it is. Here are four examples;
  • A player has searched for their ball for 5 minutes without success and walks back to where they last played from. Before they reach this spot, a spectator finds their original ball, but under the Definition of Lost Ball they may not continue play with it and must play again from where they last played, under penalty of stroke and distance. 
  • A player pulls their tee shot into deep rough. Although they are fairly certain that they will be able to find their ball they don’t want to, because they know that it might be difficult to get it back from where it lies onto the fairway, so they put another ball into play from the teeing ground, under penalty of stroke and distance, without announcing it as a provisional ball.
  • Two players hit their tee shots into the same area and both balls are easily found, but the balls are of the same brand and number and neither player has put an identification mark on their ball. Because neither player can positively identify their ball both are deemed lost, Decision 27/10. 
  • A player is certain that their ball is lodged high in a tree and can clearly see a ball in the tree, but cannot positively identify it as their ball. The player’s ball is lost. This is confirmed by Decision 27/15.
Q. A player is certain that his ball is lodged high in a tree. He can see a ball in the tree, but he cannot identify it as his ball. Is the player's ball lost, in which case he must proceed under Rule 27-1?

A. Yes.
So, in view of that last point, how did Lydia Ko escape a stroke and distance penalty on the 14th hole at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout last Thursday, when she hit her ball high into the branches of a tree in front of the green, with hundreds of spectators watching.  There is an LPGA video of the whole episode, showing Ko’s caddie climbing the tree and still failing to retrieve or identify the ball at this link, following the ad. I warn you that it is nearly 9 minutes long and there is very little action, but some of the commentary is interesting.

The LPGA's issued this official explanation of the ruling that saved Lydia from having to return to where she last played from:
The officials involved in the ruling with Lydia Ko today on the 14th hole referenced Decision 27/12 to support their ruling.  Due to the fact that it was roughly a 30-yard shot, the spectators were able to see Lydia’s ball from start to finish and therefore provided indisputable evidence that the ball in the tree was indeed Lydia’s ball. Therefore the ball did not need to be identified as it was never lost. The USGA confirmed that in a situation where observers indisputably saw the player’s ball in motion come to rest in a specific location at which the ball remains visible, the ball has been identified as the player’s ball. Thus, since the ball in the tree was deemed as Lydia's ball, she was then able to proceed under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
And this is the wording of Decision 27/12;
Q. A's ball and B's ball came to rest close together. Neither A nor B could identify one of the balls as his ball because they were using balls with identical markings.
A spectator who saw both shots land was able to state which ball belonged to A and which one belonged to B. May his testimony be accepted, or should both balls be deemed lost because they could not be identified by A and B?
A. If the Committee determined that, based on information given by the spectator, A and B were able to identify their balls, the balls should not be deemed lost. Otherwise, they would have to proceed under Rule 27-1.
Note that Ko was penalised one stroke for deeming her ball in the tree unplayable, but was able to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point immediately underneath where her ball was at rest in the tree, one of the options afforded by Rule 28. If her ball had not been positively identified by the testimony of the spectators she would have had to return to where she last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance, and would have been faced with the same difficult shot over the tall tree.

One last point to remember in similar circumstances is that the player should deem their ball unplayable before shaking the tree to try to recover it. Until the player deems it unplayable the ball is in play and if they, or their caddie, cause it to move they incur a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2a, and would then have to replace the ball where it was in the tree, or deem it unplayable for an additional penalty stroke.

Good golfing,

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

AimPoint Green Reading and the Rules

I have been asked to write an article about the AimPoint system, which claims to assist golfers on the putting green by applying the science of predictive putt technology, green reading instruction, and player performance analysis. I want to start by emphasising that I have never used AimPoint, or any competing system, and do not intend to do so. This article does not make any recommendation about its usefulness, but is intended to clarify its usage with reference to the Rules of Golf.

For those that are not familiar with AimPoint, it is a popular system, apparently used by a number of Tour golfers, designed to assist players with their putting, by applying their estimates of distance, level of the green at the mid-point of the putt and the grade of slope on either side, to reference charts, so as to determine an actual distance number/break for them to play.

In my opinion, use of AimPoint on the course does not breach any Rule of Golf. Those that disagree (yes, there are some) suggest that the charts may breach either Rule 8-1 -Advice, or Rule 14-3 - Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment. Rule 8-1 does not seem to be relevant, as it deals with asking for or giving advice to a person, as evidenced by all the Decisions on that Rule. This is the wording of Rule 8-1;

During a stipulated round, a player must not:
a. give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner, or
b. ask for advice from anyone other than his partner or either of their caddies. 
So, that leaves us with Rule 14-3. Let me first establish that AimPoint charts are a player’s equipment which, as the Definition confirms, includes anything worn or carried by the player. The charts are also artificial devices, similar to that described in Decision 14-3/5;
Q. A booklet contains illustrations of the holes on a course, including isolated trees, bunkers, etc. Superimposed on each illustration is a yardage scale in increments of ten yards. Thus, a player using such a booklet can estimate how far his ball lies from a putting green or a tee. Is use of such a booklet during a round contrary to Rule 14-3?

A. No. Although such a booklet is an artificial device, its use has been traditionally accepted and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies.
Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 states;
A player is not in breach of this Rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner.
In my opinion, numbers and diagrams written on a piece of paper (or stored electronically) can be considered as a sophisticated extension of the type of information that many players and caddies pre-prepare before an important round, or in other words, traditionally accepted aids.

There are two other Rules considerations relating to the use of AimPoint and similar green reading systems; touching the line of putt and undue delay. Decision 16-1a/12 clarifies that a player may not intentionally walk on their line of putt;

Q. A player walked on his line of putt. Did he incur a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a?
A. Yes, if he did so intentionally. No, if he did so accidentally and the act did not improve the line.
So, a player may not stand anywhere on their line of putt, which incidentally includes a “reasonable distance” on either side of the line. This seems to diminish the potential accuracy of the data that could be obtained about the line of putt, as the player must walk away from the intended line of putt. Walking alongside the intended line of putt could also be detrimental to the lines of fellow competitors, or opponents, faced with similar putts, or putts that transverse the line being walked, which at the very least is a breach of common etiquette on the greens.

With regard to undue delay, the use of the charts is inevitably going to take some additional time. I am not suggesting that a player should be penalised for occasional instances of spending time working out a line of putt using this method, especially if it is done whilst others are making their strokes. But if players habitually take extra time over their putts to apply this method I think that a Committee would be justified in warning them that this practice was causing an unacceptable delay to the play of their fellow competitors, which could result in penalties or sanctions. I am sure that I am not the only golfer that thinks that slow play is already one of the biggest problems facing the future of our game.

(Edit 1st May 2015: Several readers have pointed out that the original AimPoint system has been modified to a less complicated and easier to use version, marketed as AimPoint Express. My concerns remain.)

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Edoardo Molinari's Unusual Disqualification

This week, we have another example of why caddies should spend more of their spare time familiarising themselves with the Rules of Golf, Local Rules and Conditions of Competition. On Friday, popular Italian golfer, Edoardo Molinari, was disqualified from the European Tour's Shenzhen International in China, following a penalty incurred by his caddie, who hitched a short ride on a golf cart between the 9th and 10th holes.

The caddie’s action incurred a penalty of two strokes (Decision 33-1/9.5), but Molinari was not aware of what had happened and returned his signed score card to the Committee, without including the penalty that had been incurred. This resulted in his later disqualification for returning a score card with a score for the 10th hole lower than was actually scored, due to the omission of the penalty.

Edoardo Molinari’s tweets - read from the bottom
Now, the Rules of Golf do not prohibit a player, or their caddie, from using a golf buggy during a competitive round of golf. Part of the Definition of Equipment states;
Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorised.
However when competition Committees want to require players to walk in a competition, they introduce a Condition of Competition with similar wording to this;
Players must not ride on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorised by the Committee.
This condition applies to most tournament events and all players are aware of the restriction, Of course, exceptions have been allowed where a player has a valid medical certificate for a disability that prevents them from walking the stipulated round.

Many have asked why Molinari was penalised, when it was his caddie that took the ride. It is Rule 6-1 that states;

The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.
I have seen many comments from golfers who suggest that the Rules are too complicated and that in cases like this, a player should not suffer for the fallibility of their caddie, particularly when they are not aware of it. So, I want to point out how fallacious this suggestion is. If there was no Rule that penalised the player for their caddie’s actions, when a Rule of Golf was breached, the caddie would be able to remove loose impediments lying close to a ball in a bunker, tap down a spike mark on an intended line of putt, hold back the branch of a tree interfering with a comfortable stance, etc. Obviously, if there was an attempt to list what a caddie may and may not do regarding the Rules, it would require additional, unwelcome detail, making the Rules more complicated, not less. It has taken over 250 years to refine the Rules of Golf to where they are now, dealing with every conceivable situation; it is not easy to simplify them, though I know that the Ruling Bodies are constantly trying to do so.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

2015 Masters Rules Incidents

I am sure that Augusta National’s Masters Tournament Committee is very pleased that there were no controversial Rules incidents this year. However, I was able to uncover three minor incidents that should be of interest to readers.

Graeme McDowell and the Bumblebee
Having encountered a venomous cottonmouth snake during his practice on Tuesday, Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, had another run-in with nature during his final round on Sunday. He noticed that there was a bumblebee hovering over his ball-marker on the 4th putting green and in trying to brush it away, he accidentally knocked his ball-marker several inches away from where it was marking the position of his ball. Apparently, he was then wrongly advised by a watching Rules official that he had incurred a penalty of one stroke and he must replace the ball-marker where it was. Presumably, the official reasoned that as the ball-marker was not moved in the act of marking the ball, Rule 18-2a had been breached. McDowell reportedly said;

"It was clumsy so I reckoned I deserved the penalty."
Fortunately, a couple of holes later, he was approached by none other than Sir Michael Bonallack, Augusta member and past Captain of the R&A GC, and the European Tour's Chief Referee, John Paramor, who gave him the welcome news that no penalty had been incurred. Part of Rule 23-1 states;
On the putting green, if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment. Otherwise, if the player causes the ball to move, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.
Note that insects are defined as loose impediments in the Definitions at the front of the Rules of Golf book.
"I asked Sir Michael and John if there was any chance they could stay with me for the rest of the round, as they were the only way I'd get back shots around here,"
joked McDowell, who having made Friday’s cut, found the putting very difficult and finished with disappointing rounds of 76 and 73.

Tiger and the Chair.
If you were watching the final round, you may have seen Tiger Woods hit a wild drive into the trees, resulting in his ball coming to rest under a chair with bushes and trees close by. Unfortunately, the cameras did not stay with this situation and when they returned to his predicament he was about to play his ball clear of any obstruction or bushes. This confused me at the time, but I guessed that the chair must have been fixed and that he had taken relief from an immovable obstruction. However, a subscriber has since clarified that Tiger was given free relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) on his line of play. A TIO is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed, or not readily movable. Examples include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories. As a high handicapper I was able to take line of play relief from a TIO once, when I played the Irish Open course on the day after the tournament and the spectator stands had not been dismantled.

Dustin Johnson’s Ball Moves

During his final round, Dustin Johnson was trying to get a read on a birdie putt when his ball started rolling down the steeply undulating green towards the hole. As regular readers will know, because Dustin had not addressed his ball and did not cause it to move, he had to play his next stroke from where it came to rest, in this case about 15 feet closer to the hole. And yes, he made his birdie. You can view the incident on this six seconds Vine clip. How is it that whenever this has happened to me, my ball ends up much further from the hole?

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Rule 15 - Substituted Ball; Wrong Ball

Having been asked to explain the differences in the Rules between a wrong ball and a ball that has been substituted, I am pleased to say that I have been given permission by John Jelley, of New Hampshire Golf Association, to reproduce in full, his excellent article on this subject. I am grateful to him for saving me the task of authoring a similar article in this 2015 Masters week!

Rule 15 - Substituted Ball; Wrong Ball

The Rules of Golf did not contemplate the possibility of playing a wrong ball until 1812, when the R&A of St. Andrews stated simply, "If the player strikes his adversary's ball with his club, the player loses the hole”. Since that time a few changes in Rule 15 have occurred, but none more important than the introduction of the concept of a substituted ball.

So what is the difference between a substituted ball and a wrong ball? First we should look at Rule 15-1, which states, "A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground unless the ball is lost, out of bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not substitution is permitted”. Rule 15-2 goes on to discuss a substituted ball, telling us that any time we are allowed to play, drop, or place another ball in completing the play of a hole, we may substitute a ball. An obvious example would be when we find our ball in a water hazard. Even though we have retrieved the original ball, Rule 26 allows us to drop a ball when proceeding under that Rule. So we are allowed to substitute a ball in this case.

Now what happens when we substitute a ball when we are not allowed to do so within the Rules? Well, if we do not correct the error before playing a stroke, then we have violated Rule 15-2, and we incur a penalty under the applicable Rule. An example would be where our ball lies on a cart path and we take relief under Rule 24-2, but we drop a different ball than the one that was on the cart path. That ball is also a substituted ball, but since we were not allowed to substitute a ball, we are penalized under Rule 24-2. So any time we are playing, dropping or placing a ball, Rule 15-2 applies.

Now what about a wrong ball? Rule 15-3 covers this situation, but first, we should look at the definition of a ‘wrong ball’. A wrong ball is any ball other than the player’s ball in play, provisional ball, or a second ball played under Rule 3-3 (doubt as to procedure in stroke play) or Rule 20-7c (ball played from a wrong place-serious breach). A wrong ball includes another player’s ball, an abandoned ball, and the player’s original ball when it is no longer in play. A substituted ball is not a wrong ball.

When is a player’s ball no longer the ball in play? One example would be when it lies out of bounds. If we play such a ball, it is a wrong ball. Another example is when we have been searching for our ball for more than five minutes. If we find the ball after five minutes, that ball is no longer the ball in play. If we then play the found ball, we have played a wrong ball.

What happens if we play a wrong ball? In match play, we lose the hole. In stroke play, we incur a two-stroke penalty and we must abandon the wrong ball and proceed with the original ball. If we tee off at the next hole without correcting our mistake, we are disqualified.

So in our example of playing our ball after the five minute time limit allowed for search has expired, we must abandon that ball, add a two-stroke penalty, and then proceed with our provisional ball, or if no provisional ball was put into play, we must return to where we last played the original ball and put another ball into play, with the additional one-stroke penalty for a lost ball.

Obviously, numerous bad things can happen when we play a wrong ball, and there are numerous decisions dealing with this situation. But if you know the difference between a wrong ball and a substituted ball, then you can get through these tough situations with minimal damage to your score.
Copyright John Jelley, PGA, NHGA.
(Edit 7th April 2015: A reader has kindly pointed out that the Note to Rule 24-1, and Note 2 to both Rules 24-2 and 25-2, state that if a ball to be dropped or placed under these Rules is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.)

The photo at the head of this article is from this YouTube video of an incident in 2008 when Ian Poulter, having marked his ball on the putting green, carelessly threw it into the adjacent water hazard. He was saved from the penalty of two strokes, for substituting a ball during play of the hole, when his personal physio waded into the deep water and retrieved it, so that he could hole out with the same ball that he had marked on the putting green.

Now, it is almost time for me to put my feet up and enjoy another wonderful week of Professional Golf at its very best. What price a European winner of the Masters for the first time in the 21st century?

Good golfing,

John Jelley's original article is at this link.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wind Is Not an Outside Agency

It has been a few years since I blogged about what players must do when the wind moves their ball in play (see 6th April 2009). When I saw this short video of Dudley Hart’s misfortune in his first round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio last week, I knew that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to cover the subject again.
(If you are receiving this blog by email you can view the incident on my blog page.)
The most important thing for players to remember when their ball is moved by wind, casual water of some other element (earthquake!) is that there is no penalty and they must play the ball from where it comes to rest. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency. An easy, but irreverent way to remember this, is that if a player moves their ball it has to be replaced and they incur a penalty of one stroke; whereas if ‘God’ moves their ball it has to be played from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. If the player mistakenly replaces their ball where it was before it was moved by wind they incur a penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place (penalty statement under Rule 18).

There are some other relevant points for me to mention on this subject;

  • If a player had replaced their ball at their ball-marker when the wind moved it, they must still play their ball from where it rolls to, even though the ball-marker is still in place (Decision 20-4/1). 
  • Under Rule 20-4, a ball is in play when it is replaced, whether or not the object used to mark its position has been removed. However, when a ball-marker marking the position of a lifted ball is moved by the wind, the ball-marker must be replaced without penalty (Decision 20-1/10.5).
  • If an object being moved by the wind moves a ball at rest (e.g. a paper bag), the object is an outside agency. So, Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty (Decision 18-1/6).
David Frost Penalised for Dropping His Ball
Despite incurring a one stroke penalty for dropping his ball on his penultimate hole, 55-year-old South African, David Frost, went on to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic by one stroke on Sunday. Frost was penalised after the coin marking his ball on the 17th green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Ian Poulter incurred the same penalty in November 2010 (click here to read that blog).

Here are some of Frost’s post round comments regarding the incident;

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, and it fell on my coin and it just moved the coin by…., it just moved the coin. I knew exactly where it was so I just had to scoot it back and I didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was. There is some kind of Rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin, something like that, but they told me that I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and I had to incur a one-stroke penalty, which I’m like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year I get disqualified, this year I get a one-shot penalty.' It’s kind of frustrating, because, you know, you play by the Rules and you know when something, you know an act of nature like that happens, unfortunately the Rule prevails and well, luckily for me in the end it didn't make any difference and I'm happy Lehman didn't meet me in a playoff."
The “some kind of Rule” Frost referred to is Decision 20-1/15, which I copied in the aforementioned blog. Oh, by the way, the ruling has nothing to do with an "act of nature", Frost was penalised because he dropped his ball on his ball-marker and moved it!

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Did Ernie Els Ground His Club in a Hazard?

There was a Rules incident at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, last Saturday. Four-times major winner, Ernie Els, was reported to have grounded his club in a water hazard on the par-5, 6th hole. However, when PGA Tour Tournament Official, Steve Rintoul, reviewed the video tape of the incident he could not determine that Els had grounded his club, though it was obviously touching the growing grass before he made his stroke from the hazard. You can decide whether you would have agreed with this ruling by clicking on this video.

As no penalty was assessed, I will concentrate on the applicable Rules affecting the ruling. Most of us know that we cannot ground a club in a hazard, as per this part of Rule 13-4;

… before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) … the player must not:
… b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club
But what constitutes grounding? This part of Decision 18-2b/5 clarifies;
If the grass had been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered grounded.
But shouldn’t the player hover their club above the grass before making a stroke from within the water hazard? No, this is a common misunderstanding. Here is what the Note to Rule 13-4 states;
Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
After Ernie Els had been cleared of any Rules violation, Tournament Official, Rintoul, told a Reuters journalist;
"The tape didn't show that the club was grounded, even though the clubhead was in the grass".
Nevertheless, there must have been some doubt remaining, because the Head Rules Official for the event, Mark Russell, subsequently spoke to Els after his round, who claimed that “he had not soled his club”, so no penalty was assessed.

Some viewers of the video clip may be wondering why Els played his 6th stroke from back on the centre of the fairway. He had taken advantage of Rule 26-2a(i)b, which was the subject of this earlier blog of mine.

Keegan Bradley Was Penalised
The following day, at the same event, a penalty of two strokes was imposed on Keegan Bradley for the most basic of Rules errors. With his ball at rest some yards off the putting green, he brushed sand from the apron of the green that was on his line of play. Check out the (poor quality) short Vine video clip at this link.  Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere, Definition of Loose Impediments. It is worth noting that sand that is on the putting green may be removed by any means (e.g. putter head, back of hand, towel, brush!), providing the player does not press down on the line of putt, Decision 23-1/1. (Edit 30th March 2015: It should be noted that any sand 
deposited on the player's ball or line of play, resulting from another player's stroke after the ball had come to rest, may be removed without penalty, Decision 13-2/8.5).

Good golfing,


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