Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Penalising a Fellow Competitor

A large majority of readers who follow my blogs, either by receiving the fortnightly emails, or by regularly checking www.barryrhodes.com, will have a better than average knowledge of the Rules of Golf, so I am confident that many of you will relate to this email that I received;
As I am getting more proficient in the rules (and already before), I kindly point out a number of Rules matters during play and obviously after the round when situations are described by participants. Take as examples: a ball stuck in a tree, or a ball covered by leaves in a bunker moved during the search etc… Now a minority of fellow club members are less enthusiastic when they are assigned in my flight and here is their argument:
“Although we accept your Rules clarifications, seriously [name deleted], how many people on the course do you think would be aware that this is how the rules expect us to behave? So we’re getting assigned some penalties (or consequences) that no other player will inflict in their flight; therefore, when playing with you, we are getting an unfair disadvantage towards the rest of the field”. 
Quite original no? Obviously I take it in good spirit and in a sporty manner, however if you could suggest some great response (other than “the Rules are the Rules”) that would be highly welcome!
Obviously, this is a situation that I and most Rules experts are regularly faced with. In fact, I often excuse my high handicap by saying (jokingly) that it is because I know the Rules so well and constantly have to penalise myself. I had no totally satisfactory response to offer the above correspondent. A similar argument is advanced by those who believe that tournament officials should pay no heed to the 'TV armchair officials', who phone in when they observe a breach of Rule by a player; because that means that the top players, who naturally are featured more on television than their 'journeymen' counterparts, are therefore disadvantaged. My response to this argument is that if they consider it carefully most players would prefer to be properly penalised for an observed breach than to bear the stigma of repeatedly seeing it highlighted on social media if they 'got away with it', especially if they subsequently featured in the prize money. The English, European Tour Pro, Matthew Southgate, endorsed this point of view recently, after being hit with a penalty of four strokes, following a Rules incident where a leaf blown across the putting green diverted his ball in motion away from the hole and he did not take the putt again, as is required by Rule 19-1b;
“If I’d known the ruling, I’d have been the talk of the town for the right reason. I’d have replaced it, hit it in for a four and everybody would have said, ‘what a great Pro, what great knowledge of the Rules’. I would have had credit, instead of sympathy. And people also say I was unlucky because I had the cameras on me at the time. But if they weren’t, I’d have a PGA Tour card and I would have it by breaking the Rules. And imagine 10 years down the line when a leaf hits someone else’s ball and I’d see it and think, ‘that’s what happened to me and I shouldn’t be here’. How bad would that feel?”
So, returning to Club and Society competitions, it is my experience that most serious golfers, no matter what their handicap, prefer to constantly improve their understanding of the Rules, anticipating that this will also help them to reduce their handicap. There is no doubt that one of the easiest ways to remember a ruling is to have incurred a penalty for breaching it; another is when a fellow competitor interrupts you to prevent you from breaching a Rule, which is permitted, as information on the Rules of Golf is not advice.

This is a quote of mine from a related blog back in 2010;

    ".... I want every breach of the Rules to be fairly penalised, either by the player calling it upon themselves, which I am pleased to say regularly happens, or by a fellow competitor or observer bringing it to the player/officials attention. Put it this way, I have never got close to winning the Captain’s prize at my Club, but if by some miracle I was to come second and then find out that the winner had breached a Rule and had not been penalised, I would probably be apoplectic. Now this may seem an extreme example, but in my mind, exactly the same principle applies whether the avoidance of a penalty incurred affects the winning of the PGA Championship, as it might have done with Dustin Johnson [at Whistling Straits in 2010], or as the result of a $2 dollar wager between two hackers. The only way to fairly compete in any sport or game is for the players to be playing to the same Rules. There has to be a level playing field." 

Another blog of mine, ‘Every Golfer Is a Referee’, is also relevant to this subject.

Rules of Golf Books for Christmas
Recognising that my eBooks and eDocuments do not make ideal Christmas presents, here are three more suitable suggestions for stocking fillers;

'999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf' – my own paperback book
Click on this link and then click on the relevant image to redirect to Amazon (top left for UK and other countries, middle left for USA)

'Golf Rules Quick Reference' - Expert Golf 
Click on this link and then click on the image to redirect to Amazon (top right image)

'First Aid - The Rules of Golf' – Oswald Academy
Not available from Amazon – click here and then scroll down for details

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Questions on Winter Rules

At this time of year I receive many questions from Northern Hemisphere subscribers relating to Local Rules for ‘Preferred Lies’, sometimes referred to as ‘Winter Rules’. Unfortunately, I am unable to give meaningful responses to many of these questions, due to the fact that the Committees have not bothered to provide their members with a notice outlining how their temporary Local Rule operates. Every Committee should adopt the wording provided by the two Ruling bodies in Appendix l, Part A, 3.b. at the back of the Rules book. There may be minor changes required, due to local, abnormal conditions, but this specimen wording should be the template for all Clubs and Societies, so as not to miss anything that is required to avoid player confusion. 

It is important to note that the specimen Local Rule for Preferred Lies in Appendix l only applies to balls that are at rest on closely mown areas, which are fairways and paths cut through the rough to fairway height. If Committees want to extend their Winter Rules to permit lift, clean and place relief through the green, the Local Rule must be amended accordingly. I am not an expert in handicapping systems, but it is my understanding that in UK and Ireland (CONGU system) such competitions are not counting for handicap purposes and this is probably the situation under most systems.

The following Q&As assume that the specimen wording for Preferred Lies has been used, with a permitted placing area of 6” not nearer the hole from where it originally lay. Also, there is no other relevant Local Rule in operation and the situations all apply to stroke play competitions. You can test your knowledge by answering the following 9 questions with the penalty that you think is incurred, i.e. no penalty, one stroke penalty, two strokes penalty. Make a note of your answers and then check them below.

1. A player walks up to their ball on the fairway, addresses it and plays their stroke without placing it first under the Local Rule. What is the penalty, if any, and why? 
2. A player’s ball lies on the fairway. They mark and lift it and then place it within 6” on a tuft of grass in the rough. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
3. Under the Local Rule, a player has placed their ball immediately next to where it was at rest when they notice that there is still some mud on it. So they mark it again, clean the mud off and replace it at the ball-marker. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
4. A player marks, lifts and cleans their ball and then drops it within 6” of where it lay on the fairway. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
5. A player’s ball is embedded in mud in the rough, just off the fairway. They mark, clean and drop the ball close to where it was embedded and it rolls onto the fairway, from where they make their stroke at it. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
6. A player marks their ball on the fairway with the toe of their club, lifts it and is cleaning it when they are startled by a loud bang, causing them to react by lifting their clubhead off the ground in their surprise. They estimate where their ball was at rest and place it there before making their stroke. What is the penalty, if any, and why? 
7. A player, deems that their ball lying against the roots of a fairway tree is unplayable and announces that they are taking relief under penalty of one stroke. They lift, clean and place the ball within two club-lengths and make their stroke. What is the (additional) penalty, if any, and why? (Question edited 23Nov17.)
8. Having marked, lifted and cleaned their ball, a player placed it within 6” of where it lay onto a tuft of grass to the side of a repaired divot. As the player stood up, having released their fingers from the ball, which had appeared to be at rest, it toppled off the tuft onto the sandy lie. They bent down and placed it back onto the tuft of grass. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
9. On a dry day, a player’s ball is at rest on the fairway. As they can see no mud, sand or grass cuttings on their ball they just use the toe of their club to roll the ball into a grassy lie within the permitted 6”. What is the penalty, if any, and why?

1. No penalty. The Local Rule states that a ball may be marked, lifted, cleaned and placed, not must
2. No penalty. The ball may be placed anywhere that is within the 6”, provided it is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
3. One stroke penalty. The Local Rule states that the ball must only be placed once and is in play when it has been placed, so the player is penalised for touching their ball in play, Rule 18-2.
4. Two strokes penalty. The Local Rule requires that the ball is placed and not dropped, Decision 20-6/1. However, if the player realises that they should have placed the ball before making a stroke at it, they may still lift the dropped ball and place it within the permitted area without penalty, Rule 20-6.
5. Two strokes penalty. Rule 25-2 only provides relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area and so there is no relief for the embedded ball under this Rule or the Local Rule. The ball should not have been lifted and dropped and was therefore played from a wrong place, Rules 18-2 and 20-7.
6. Two strokes penalty. The accidental movement of their clubhead, which was being used as their ball-marker, was not in the specific act of marking the position of the ball. Rule 20-1. As the player did not know the exact spot where their ball was marked they should have dropped the ball where they estimated it was at rest, Rule 20-3c. Because they placed the ball instead of dropping it the penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 was increased to two strokes. This illustrates one good reason why players should never use this method of marking their ball anywhere on the course. (Answer edited 22Nov17).
7. Two strokes penalty (in addition to the penalty for taking relief for an unplayable ball). Players must always drop their ball according to the Rules (e.g. ball deemed unplayable, relief from a path, relief from casual water) before placing it under this Local Rule. The logical reason is that the player does not know where to place their ball before the drop is made. For example, in this question the ball may have been dropped within two club-lengths of where it was deemed unplayable and could then have rolled back close to where it originally lay, which would then be the reference point for placing within the permitted area. Having dropped the ball under penalty of one stroke, the player may then mark, lift, clean and place their ball under the Local Rule.
8. Two strokes penalty. After being placed the first time the ball was at rest and therefore back in play as soon as the player took their hand away from it. Because they did not cause the ball to move it should have been played from where it came to rest after falling off the tuft. The Local Rule states that the ball must only be placed once and is in play when it has been placed.
9. One penalty stroke. The Local Rule specifies that the ball must be placed, not rolled with a club.

[Edit, 8th December 2017: A reader has reminded me that there is another useful specimen Local Rule, Appendix l, Part A, 3c, that may be introduced when conditions, such as extreme wetness, cause significant amounts of mud to adhere to the ball. In these circumstances, this permission may be given to players for them to lift, clean and replace the ball;
(Specify area, e.g., at the 6th hole, on a closely-mown area, anywhere through the green, etc.) a ball may be lifted and cleaned without penalty. The ball must be replaced.
Note: The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted under this Local Rule - see Rule 20-1.
Note also that the ball must be replaced and not placed within a certain distance, or dropped.]

I hope that this blog saves some readers a few strokes over the winter season.

Good golfing,

A favour please! If you are purchasing anything from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk this Christmas (or any time!) it helps me if you do so by clicking on this link and then clicking on one of the book images. You don’t have to buy one of these books, but by clicking on one you will enter the Amazon web site from where you can search and purchase whatever you are looking for. Because you accessed these products from my link, as an Amazon Associate I will then be paid a small commission on everything you order during that session, which helps to defray my email service and web site costs. Thank you.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Player Accidentally Moves Their Ball

Most golfers know that causing their ball to move incurs a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2, and that the ball must then be replaced. However, there are some circumstances where a player does not incur a penalty for accidentally moving their ball, which I am listing here.

A ball that that has been placed in the teeing ground at the start of a hole is not in play until a stroke has been made at it, so no penalty is incurred if it is accidentally moved before any stroke is made, Rule 11-3.
From 1st January 2017 USGA and R&A have recommended that Committees introduce a Local Rule to the effect that when a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball (or ball-marker) is accidentally moved by the player, their partner, their opponent or any of their caddies, or their equipment. (Note: If your Committee has not yet introduced this Local Rule they should do so immediately).
There is no penalty if a player causes their ball to move while moving a movable obstruction (i.e. anything artificial), providing the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction, Rule 24-1.
A penalty is usually incurred if a ball is accidentally moved while searching for it under Rule 18-2, but there are three exceptions, which are detailed in Rule 12-1. Briefly they are; a) searching for or identifying ball covered by sand, c) searching for ball in water in water hazard, and d) searching for ball within obstruction or abnormal ground condition. [Note: b) was removed on 8th November 2018, as a player does incur a penalty while searching for a ball in loose impediments in a hazard, but not if they cause their ball to move when replacing those loose impediments].
If a player accidentally touches their ball with their club causing it to rock off its spot, but it returns to its original position, it has not moved according to the Definition of Moved and no penalty is incurred, Decision 18/2.
There is no penalty if a player accidentally moves their ball while measuring, e.g. to determine whether a dropped ball has rolled outside the permitted area, Rule 18-2.
If a player accidentally moves their ball in the directly attributable act of its lifting, marking, placing or replacing under a Rule, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced, Rules 20-1 and 20-3.

Regarding searching for a ball, it is worth noting that if a player who is searching for their ball, say on the bank of a water hazard or in a bush, and they cause it to move, they incur the penalty of one stroke immediately and cannot avoid it by then choosing to take relief under penalty from the hazard or deeming it unplayable in the bush.

'Rhodes Rules School' Emails Not Received
I am receiving a number of emails from subscribers saying that they have started receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails again, having not received any since April of this year. I can offer no explanation for this, but can assure you that the AWeber email service company records show that my emails were apparently sent each week, but have not been opened by the various recipients. In order to prevent this happening again I recommend that you send me an email (to barry at barry rhodes dot com) with just “TEST” in the subject line and I will respond with a test reply. This should ensure that my email address is added to your email address book and should avoid anything sent from me being filtered as junk or spam mail. If you are one of those that did not receive all my weekly emails, please let me know and I will revert your subscription to the most recent one that you did open.

Good golfing,

If you would like to start receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails, which start with Rules questions based on accompanying photos or diagrams, just click on this linkA description of this 'Photo Series' can be found at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Using another Ball as a Backstop

So here is the situation; during the final round of the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort, California, on the on the par-4 12th hole, Tony Finau (USA), played a difficult shot from a buried lie in a greenside bunker. His ball raced across the putting green and collided with the stationary ball of Jason Kokrak (USA), who had previously pitched up close to the hole from over 30 yards away. Finau’s ball was stopped just two feet from the hole, whereas it definitely would have travelled several feet past, perhaps as much as 30 feet, if Kokrak had previously marked and lifted his ball. The incident can be viewed at this link. Was this favourable deflection off a fellow competitor’s ball a fortunate ‘rub of the green’, or as many are claiming, was it equivalent to cheating by either or both of the players?

The first and perhaps the most important point that I wish to emphasise is that no Rule of Golf was broken in this incident, as there is no suggestion that Finau and Kokrak agreed that Kokrak’s ball should be left close to the hole, so that it might act as a backstop to Finau’s ball. In stroke play, it is Rule 19-5b that is relevant to this situation;

If a player's ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.

In stroke play, if one player, B, indicates to another player, A, that they would like them to leave their ball where it lies on the putting green, as it could provide an advantage for them, and A complies; or if A gives any indication to B that he will leave his ball where it is, so as to assist B, both players incur the penalty of disqualification. Decision 22-6 states;

Q. In stroke play, B's ball lies just off the putting green. A's ball lies near the hole in a position to serve as a backstop for B's ball. B requests A not to lift his ball. Is such a request proper?

A. No. If A and B agree not to lift a ball that might assist B, both players are disqualified under Rule 22-1.

There has been a lot of comment in the golfing media about the Finau incident, with many reasoning that a player should be penalised if they purposely leave their ball on the putting green while another player is making their stroke from off the putting green, and/or the player making the stroke should always wait until any ball in the vicinity of the hole has been marked and lifted.

My strongly held opinion is that there is absolutely no reason for any tinkering to the Rules of Golf in this regard. The number of times in a year that another ball provides an involuntary backstop to a player’s advantage is minimal and any attempt to account for these rare occurrences would probably worsen the major problem facing golfers today, which is slow play. This year, the R&A introduced ‘Ready Golf’ at its amateur championships and this is a practice followed by an increasing number of Committees in Club competitions, in an attempt to get players to finish their 18 holes in under 4 hours, as used to be the norm. Also, the European Tour has just announced that shot clocks will be used on every hole at the 2018 Shot Clock Masters, in Austria. Several of the proposed, modernised Rules for January 2019 are an attempt to speed up play, such as the option of leaving the flagstick in the hole when putting. It would be detrimental to introduce a Rule requiring players making strokes from off the putting green to wait while balls in the vicinity of the hole are being marked and lifted. If such a Rule were to be introduced in an attempt to prevent ‘backstops’ on the putting green when would it apply? For strokes made from the apron; 10 yards away, 30 yards, 50 yards? How close to the hole must the ball at rest be; within 1 yard, 2 yards, 5 yards? Who is going to measure and with what? It is totally unnecessary and practically unworkable!

Some pundits are suggesting that because of the above difficulties in effectively implementing such a Rule any change in respect of backstops should only apply to professionals, where the prize money won or lost by such rubs of the green may be substantial. I do not agree, in fact I am opposed to any bifurcation of the Rules. Golf is almost unique in that the R&A / USGA Rules of Golf, which were unified in 1952, are the same for everyone who plays the game in competition, with the minor exception of Local Rules introduced to deal with local, abnormal conditions. Long may amateurs and professional golfers face the same consequences and challenges when they play, because it is one game with one set of rules for everybody, with player’s earned handicaps allowing them to play competitively with others who may have more or less ability at the game.

Note: I answered some other questions on using a ball as a backstop, e.g. in match play, in this earlier blog.

Korean LPGA Void Round
Another instance of Rules being wrongly blamed occurred last week at the KB Financial Star Championship at Black Stone Golf Club, in Incheon South Korea. Two players were penalised when it was realised that they had marked and lifted their balls, thinking that they were on the putting green, when in fact they were on the apron of the green. One of them, Hye-Jin Choi, was a co-leader of the tournament before the penalty was assessed. Then it was discovered that four other players had done that same thing, but had already signed and returned their score cards. The situation escalated when some competitors threatened to withdraw if the penalties were removed, while others said they would do the same if the penalties were enforced. There is no doubting that this was a bizarre shambles, but it had nothing to do with inadequacies, or unnecessary complications, in the Rules of Golf. Perhaps the competition Committee were to blame, or the on-course officials, or the greenkeepers, or the Korean LPGA, or the players, or their caddies, but definitely not the Rules! The KPLGA resolved the impasse by deciding to void the first round, wiping out all players’ scores.

Good golfing,

If you have any questions on the Rules of Golf, try entering a simple search term in the 'Search This Blog' box on the right side of any of my blog pages.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

When the Rules of Golf Can Help You

I have regularly drawn attention to incidents in which a professional golfer’s lack of knowledge of the Rules of Golf has resulted in them incurring a penalty. There were two more of these in the past couple of weeks;
1. Matthew Southgate was penalised for not replaying his putt when his ball in motion was diverted from the hole by a leaf that was blown against it by the wind. If only he had read my blog on the subject at this link
2. During The Presidents Cup, Jordan Spieth was penalised loss of hole when he purposely stopped his opponent, Louis Oosthuisen’s, ball in motion after it had passed the hole, reasoning that it would not count in the outcome of the hole, as Jason Day, had already made a birdie. There is a full video of the ruling and the animated discussion that followed at this Sky Sports link (after the ad!). (Edit: the original Golf Channel link was taken down)

I would like to redress the balance of these apparently inequitable rulings by highlighting some of the many ways where a player’s knowledge of a Rule can be a distinct advantage;

When taking relief from a lateral water hazard, always check out the option of dropping within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than a point on the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole to the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (see the diagram above).
When taking relief under the Rules a player may choose to drop a ball on the fairway even if it was lifted from the rough, providing it is dropped within the permitted area.
It is worth understanding what animals are indigenous to the course you are playing, so that you can take advantage of the relief permitted from the abnormal ground condition of a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird (yes, some birds do nest in an underground burrow!).
When a ball being dropped under the Rules rolls twice into places requiring a re-drop you must place the ball on the spot where it hit the ground on the second drop. Consider carefully before choosing the best place to land the dropped ball, so that it is likely to roll to a more advantageous position.
You may draw a ring around the circumference of your golf ball to assist you in lining up putts and your intended line of play on the teeing ground.
You may test the condition of any bunker before a round, or during your round, providing your ball does not lie in or touch that or a similar bunker.
In match play, you may leave any ball on the putting green as a backstop, as there is no penalty if your ball strikes it wherever it is played from. But your opponents may require that the ball that could be of assistance to you is lifted before the stroke is made.
Also in match play, you may choose to cancel your stroke and play again if your ball is accidentally deflected by an opponent his caddie or his equipment.
You may clean a ball that has been lifted under the Rules with these three exceptions; a) to determine if it is unfit for play, b) for identification, c) because it is assisting or interfering with play.
You may have any other ball lifted if it interferes either physically or mentally with your play.
You may remove any easily movable obstruction (i.e. any artificial object) from anywhere on the course, including from bunkers and water hazards.
You may move any player’s equipment, or a removed flagstick, if you think that it might influence the movement of a ball that is in motion.
You may take relief from a wooden stake supporting a young tree, which is an immovable obstruction, even if there is no Local Rule providing relief from staked trees.
You may drop another ball under the Rules, without penalty, if it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition (e.g. GUR).
You may play on your own for all or any part of a four-ball match, or four-ball best-ball competition, if your partner is absent.
You may lean against a tree, or an immovable obstruction, to steady yourself whilst playing a stroke.
You may ask anyone the distance from any point A to any point B, as information on distance is not advice.
You may remove loose impediments in the area where you are going to drop a ball before dropping it.

Good golfing,

My two for one offer: Receive a bonus, complimentary copy of my eDocument, ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’, when you purchase either of my ‘999 Questions’ eBooks. Click here for details of how to purchase these eBooks.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

When a Rule is Breached in Stroke Play

There are four main situations that apply when a Rule of Golf is breached in a stroke play competition;

1. A player breaches a Rule and includes the appropriate penalty on the score card that they sign and return.
2. A player unknowingly breaches a Rule and signs and returns their score card. The breach is brought to the Committee’s attention before the competition has closed.
3. As in 2, but the breach is brought to the Committee’s attention after the competition has closed.
4. A player knowingly breaches a Rule, but does not include the penalty incurred on their score card

So what are the considerations in each of these four scenarios?
1. This does not require any further explanation. It is what should happen every time a Rule is breached.
2. If the breach is brought to the attention of the Committee before the competition has closed, the player incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes, Exception to Rule 6-6d. 
3. If the breach is brought to the attention of the Committee after the competition has closed, a penalty must not be imposed by them unless the breach warranted disqualification under one of these four exceptions that are outlined in Rule 34-1b;
Exceptions: A penalty of disqualification must be imposed after the competition has closed if a competitor:
(i) was in breach of Rule 1-3 (Agreement to Waive Rules); or
(ii) returned a score card on which he had recorded a handicap that, before the competition closed, he knew was higher than that to which he was entitled, and this affected the number of strokes received (Rule 6-2b); or
(iii) returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d) for any reason other than failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before the competition closed, he did not know he had incurred; or
(iv) knew, before the competition closed, that he had been in breach of any other Rule for which the penalty is disqualification.
4. Call it what you like, but this is cheating. The player must be disqualified and the Committee should consider sanctioning them, e.g. by suspending them from all competitions for a period of time.

Of course, there are sometimes on-course situations where a player may be unsure as to how to proceed without breaching a Rule unnecessarily, e.g. whether they may take relief from equipment damage to the course, or when a fellow competitor tells them that they should be taking relief from a different place from where they think they are permitted to drop a ball. When a competitor is doubtful of their rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, they may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls. If the player chooses to do so they must strictly follow the procedure set out in Rule 3-3;

The competitor should announce to his marker or a fellow-competitor:
• that he intends to play two balls; and
• which ball he wishes to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.
Before returning his score card, the competitor must report the facts of the situation to the Committee. If he fails to do so, he is disqualified.

If the competitor has taken further action before deciding to play two balls, he has not proceeded under Rule 3-3 and the score with the original ball counts. The competitor incurs no penalty for playing the second ball.

There is a more detailed explanation of Rule 3-3 in this blog of mine. 

Two Rules Situations from this week’s tournaments
For Rules enthusiasts, there were two fairly complicated Pro tournament rulings in the past week. I am providing two links to these incidents, rather than giving you my own detailed explanation;

Sergia Garcia getting relief from a really bad lie in a water hazard.

Ben Crane receiving two four-stroke penalties and then disqualification, because of the clubs he was carrying.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Taking Relief from a Path - Jordan Spieth

I am currently on vacation in the USA, where in the past 10 days I have been lucky enough to enjoy personal, guided tours of both Congressional CC and TPC Scottsdale. Long-term readers may remember that, with his permission, I have occasionally copied content from the newsletters of Paul Kruger, PGA Professional at The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, and am doing so again in this blog. Here is his overview of a recent interesting Rules incident involving Jordan Spieth that includes some useful reminders on taking relief from an artificial path.

“During the second round of the 99th PGA Championship held at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jordan Spieth hit a wayward drive on the par-5 10th hole, and his ball ended up on an artificially-surfaced cart path.  Even though Jordan has probably taken relief from cart paths thousands of times, he still sought the assistance of a Rules Official to ensure that he was proceeding correctly.  Here are the Rules that applied to his situation.

When taking relief from an artificially-surfaced cart path, Rule 24-2 [Immovable Obstruction] instructs the player to determine the nearest point of relief, and then drop the ball within one club-length of, and no nearer the hole than, the nearest point of relief.  By Definition, the nearest point of relief is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies on the cart path (i) that is not nearer the hole and (ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the cart path would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the cart path were not there.  In other words, at the nearest point of relief there will be no interference from the cart path to the lie of the ball, the player’s stance, or the area of the player’s intended swing.

After Jordan correctly determined that the nearest point of relief from the cart path was just left of the cart path, he immediately took note of the fact that the area in the vicinity of the nearest point of relief, i.e., where he would be dropping his ball, was covered with pine straw.  At that point, he called over the Rules Official to find out how he might be able to avoid having to play from the pine straw.

The Rules Official advised Jordan that he could remove the pine straw which are loose impediments.  According to Rule 23-1 [Loose Impediments: Relief], “Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.” 

However, the Rules Official cautioned Jordan to be careful not to remove any of the soil underlying the pine straw when removing the pine straw.  That is because Rule 13-2 [Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play] states, in part, “A player must not improve or allow to be improved … the area of his intended stance or swing [or] the area in which he is to drop or place a ball … by any of the following actions … • creating or eliminating irregularities of surface [or] • removing or pressing down sand, loose soil ….”

Jordan cleared the area in which he intended to drop his ball by carefully picking up clumps of pine straw with his hand, and tossing the pine straw onto the cart path.  When he dropped his ball in the required area, the ball rolled down the slope and ended up back on the cart path.  Per Rule 20-2c [Dropping and Re-Dropping: When to Re-Drop], he was required to re-drop the ball because the ball rolled and came to rest “in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule 24-2b ….”  As you might expect, when Jordan re-dropped his ball, it once again ended up on the cart path.  In accordance with Rule 20-2c, Jordan was then permitted to place his ball “as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped.” 

In the third photograph, you will see that, after placing his ball, Jordan ended up with a near-perfect lie on the bare dirt.  However, the resulting shot was not to his liking.  Perhaps this was due to the fact that Jordan neglected to remove the pine straw in the area of his intended stance?”

My thanks again to Paul Kruger for his permission to occasionally reproduce content of his newsletters in my blogs.

Good golfing,

'999 More Questions on the Rules' - an interesting way to obtain a better understanding of the myriad of Rules incidents that golfers regularly encounter. Click here. Every purchaser will also receive a bonus of a free copy of my eDocument, '99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'. Total price; $10.99, or £7.99, or €9.99.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Obstruction in a Water Hazard

This question, with its accompanying photo, is typical of several that I receive on the subject of course signage and the Rules. In this circumstance, there is an additional dimension in that the sign is located within the margin of a hazard.

Question: A ball came to rest inside a lateral water hazard close to a warning sign located inside the hazard. So, for a right hander player the ball is playable, but …
a)    May they take relief from the sign, without penalty?
b)    May they rotate the sign to face in a different direction?
c)    May the sign be completely removed before the stroke is made, as it mentally interferes with the player’s swing?

a)    No. There is no line of play or mental relief from an obstruction.
b)    Yes, But it is not necessary, because …..
c)    Yes. … Movable obstructions may be removed anywhere on the course.

The sign is an obstruction, because it is an artificial object, Definition of Obstruction. It is obvious that the sign is intended to be easily movable and is therefore a movable obstruction, unless a Local Rule states otherwise. If the sign can be easily moved (and subsequently replaced!) the player may move it, as movable obstructions can be moved from anywhere on the course at any time (Rule 24-1). If it is not easily movable, it is an immovable obstruction, from which there is never relief if both the player's ball and the immovable obstruction lie inside the margin of the water hazard, Rule 24-2.

How to Love the Rules of Golf

Who can fail to take notice of a book titled, ‘How to Love the Rules of Golf?’ Long time US Rules official, Howard J. Meditz, has incorporated his many year of expertise into a book that he thinks will help golfers get more satisfaction from every round, score better under pressure and limit their frustration on the course. An interesting aspect of his book is that not only does it reflect the latest 2016 Rules and the 2017 updates, it also covers the 2019 modernisation proposals. The six chapter titles give a good indication of what you can expect from this publication;

1.    How to Embrace the Rules of Golf
2.    How to Get to Know the Rules
3.    How to Resolve Your Differences
4.    A Significant Rules Proposal for 2019
5.    How to Use the Rules for Your Own Selfish Purposes
6.    How to Get More Involved with the Rules
For more details on this book click on this link to my Recommended Golf Rules books page and then click again on the cover image for ‘How to Love the Rules of Golf’. This links to the Amazon page for the book and provides an opportunity to check out the opening content and read reviews of Howard's book.

Good golfing,


Special Offer! Purchase either of my ‘999 Questions’ eBooks (delivered in both .pdf and Kindle formats) and receive a bonus copy of my ‘999 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’. Click here for information on the eBooks and prices in $, £ and €.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

August Miscellany

Afterthoughts on Spieth’s penalty drop at The Open
Most readers will already have polarised opinions on how Jordan Spieth handled his unplayable lie on the 13th hole of his final round of The Open, at Royal Birkdale. I have received several emails asking me for my opinion, so here are some miscellaneous afterthoughts;
•    The time taken to obtain an official ruling does not count towards any possible undue delay, unless of course the circumstance is frivolous.
•    If Spieth and Kuchar had not been the final pair out on the course I am sure that they would have asked the following group through.
•    The point where Jordan elected to take a penalty drop under Rule 28b was on the flagline, which is an imaginary line drawn from the hole past where his ball deemed unplayable was at rest. Jordan, his caddie and the match official all spent time on top of the dune ensuring that this was so, which was the cause of much of the delay.
•    Jordan purposely went back sufficiently far along this flagline to ensure that the nearest point of relief from the TIOs (trucks) was on the short cut practice ground to the right and not in the rough to the left.
•    Having determined this relief point, which was on wooden flooring between two trucks, the referee correctly told him that there was no need to drop the ball there. The reason for this was that anywhere that was within two club-lengths of this point would have given the same nearest point of relief on the practice area (a ball has to be re-dropped if it rolls further than two club-lengths from the point where it was dropped).
•    Having determined the point of relief under penalty of one stroke, Jordan was then entitled to free relief from the temporary immovable obstructions (the trucks) under a Local Rule that is used at most tournaments, but is not relevant for most amateur competitions.
•    Matt Kuchar had no reason to complain about the delay, as seeking rulings from officials is common in the professional game. He was entitled to be frustrated, but his patient demeanour throughout the whole incident, and indeed subsequently, was impeccable.
•    Jordan Spieth demonstrated a complete understanding of Rule 28 relating to an unplayable ball and acted throughout the incident calmly, rationally and professionally; an example to us all.
•    A positive outcome to this well-publicised Rules incident is that thousands of golfers now have a better understanding of the Rule 28b option, which is often not considered by amateur golfers when they deem a ball unplayable.

If you still are unsure about any part of this ruling I recommend that you view the detailed explanation at this link, by David Rickman, Chief of Rules at R&A. 

What Constitutes a Concession? – Elizabeth Moon
Elizabeth Moon lost her semi-final match of the US Girls’ Junior title at Boone Valley GC, Missouri, in the cruelest of fashions. She missed a 6-foot putt to win the match on the first hole of sudden death and then without looking up, hooked her ball back from the lip to practice the stroke that she should have made. As she had not given Shepherd any opportunity to concede the putt before touching her ball in play, her action incurred a penalty of one stroke, meaning that she could not then halve the hole and so her opponent Erica Shepherd had won the match. It is almost certain that the putt would have been conceded had Shepherd been given the opportunity to do so, but she had not. The match referee quickly walked onto the putting green to explain to Moon that the penalty under Rule 18-2 had been incurred, because a valid concession cannot be given after the fact.

The important lesson here for all golfers is that you may not assume that your opponent will concede your next stroke, you must receive a positive indication that this is the case, from them and from no-one else (e.g. their caddie). Other points to remember about concessions are contained in Rule 2-4;

A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match.

A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole.

A player may concede his opponent's next stroke at any time, provided the opponent's ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.

A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.


There is a video of this incident at this link (starting around at 4 mins 20 seconds). Erica Shepherd went on to win the final and the US Junior Girls’ title.

Drops from Bunker Linings – Charley Hoffman
On 29th May this year I blogged about Branden Grace using the Rules to his advantage by claiming (unfair?) relief from a rubber lining in the bunker in which his ball was plugged on an upslope lie (see this link). Well, here we go again! Charley Hoffman was faced with a plugged bunker lie at the RBC Canadian Open, shuffled his feet in the sand to take a stance and called over a Rules official, claiming that his feet were touching the ‘concrete’ lining of the bunker. You can make up your own mind as to whether Hoffman should have been given relief from this immovable obstruction, or if he should have been made to play from the bunker by viewing this video link (scroll down to the video).

Remember the days when bunkers were hazards in the non-golfing sense of the word? As a member of a Club that has new, concrete lined bunkers, I recommend that other Committees that have them should at least consider introducing a Local Rule along the following lines;

“The concrete bunker linings are integral parts of the course. The ball must be played as it lies or deemed unplayable (Rule 28)."

Good golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Internal Out of Bounds at the 2017 Open Championship

An interesting Local Rule was introduced for the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. During early practice rounds last week, officials realised that some players may be considering an alternative route on the 9th hole, aiming their tee shots towards the 10th fairway. This route (the dotted line in the photo) gave them a straight shot to a generous fairway with the potential of a shorter second shot to the putting green, avoiding having to take on the 9th's dog-leg fairway (the solid line in the photo). The R&A reacted quickly and on Tuesday their chief referee, David Rickman, notified players that the following Local Rule would apply for the duration of The Open;

Out of Bounds – 9th Hole
Please be advised that the following Local Rule is being introduced on safety grounds:

“When playing the 9th hole only, a ball on or beyond the 10th fairway (defined by the edge of the closely-mown area) is out of bounds.”

There will be no white stakes or lines used to define or indicate this boundary

Although this Local Rule states that there will be no stakes or lines to define or indicate the boundary, it is this Decision 33-2a/12 that provides permission for Committees to introduce an internal out of bounds;

Q. It is proposed to install boundary stakes between two holes as a safety measure. It would prevent players playing a dog-leg hole from driving onto the fairway of another hole in order to cut the "dog-leg." Is it permissible to establish such a boundary?

A. Yes. For the recommended status of such boundary stakes, see Decision 24/5.

The reference to Decision 24/5 is to recommend that in a situation where there are stakes defining an internal out of bounds, the Local Rule should deem them as immovable obstructions during play of the relevant hole. Note that for the 2017 Open Championship a ball played from anywhere on the 9th hole is only out of bounds if it comes to rest on the closely mown area of the 10th hole, or beyond, and not if it is in any rough, bunker, or putting green between the 10th fairway and anywhere on the 9th hole. (edited 21st July)
Not receiving ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails?
Recently I have received more queries than usual from subscribers to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ wondering whether I have stopped sending these free, weekly emails on the Rules of Golf. I should explain that over the past 8 years there have been over 10,000 subscribers to this service, some who are receiving their first issue and others that have received 375 issues and counting.

When I check into these queries I find that the emails are still being sent weekly by the service company, but from time to time email client providers (@gmail, @yahoo!, @hotmail, etc.) change their filtering policies on newsletter type emails, filtering them into the users’ spam or junk folders. So, if you realise that you are not now receiving these emails, please check into your filtered folders before contacting me.

If you would like to subscribe / re-subscribe to this free service, from which you can unsubscribe at any time, please use this link.

‘Tommy’s Honour’
I am not a regular filmgoer, but I recently made an exception. ‘Tommy's Honour’ is a historical drama film, depicting the lives and careers of, and the complex relationship between, the pioneering Scottish golfing champions, Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tom Morris, both of St. Andrews, the Home of Golf. As a film it is unremarkable and will probably not win any awards, though the scenic photography is stunning. But for anyone who has even a casual interest in the history of golf and two of golf’s founding fathers, it is time well spent. Perhaps surprisingly, my wife also greatly enjoyed the film, which aside from the golfing backdrop, thoughtfully handles class warfare, romance, and the sometimes hostile father and son relationship. I recommend it to all golf enthusiasts.

Good golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.