Tuesday, 29 November 2016

When a Player May Substitute a Ball

If a player substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play, for a breach of Rule 15-2, part of which states;

If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules (including an unintentional substitution when a wrong ball is dropped or placed by the player), that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule and, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball. 

Of course, players may change balls at will between the play of two holes (unless there is a One Ball Condition of Competition), as they do not have a ball in play at that time.

Two examples of when a player unintentionally substitutes a ball are;
  • When a ball is marked and lifted from the putting green, put in a pocket and then a different ball is replaced at the marker and played. This precludes a player from having a favourite ball for putting only.
  • When a ball is lifted from a putting green and is accidentally dropped or thrown somewhere from where it cannot be retrieved, e.g. in deep water of a water hazard.
An example of when a player intentionally substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so is;
  • When a player notices that they are playing the same brand and number of ball as another player in their group and they change their ball, so as to easily distinguish between them, Decision 15/6.5.
However, there are several instances where a player is not penalised for substituting a ball, as Rule 15-2 also states;

A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a Rule that permits the player to play, drop or place another ball in completing the play of a hole. The substituted ball becomes the ball in play.

Examples of where the Rules permit substituting a ball are;

  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1. 
  • When playing under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1, even if the original ball is not lost or out of bounds. 
  • When the player deems their ball unplayable under Rule 28, whether or not the original ball has been retrieved. 
  • When a ball has come to rest in a place that is dangerous to the player (e.g near a poisonous snake or a bees' nest) and they are permitted to drop a ball away from the danger, Decision 1-4/10.
  • When it has been determined that a ball has become unfit for play, Rule 5-3. 
  • When a ball has been lifted under the Rules, due to suspension of play, the player may replace the original ball, or a substituted ball, Rule 6-8. 
  • When a ball to be dropped or placed is not immediately recoverable by a player after they have caused it to move; e.g. if it was accidentally kicked into water; because it is in or on a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1, or an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2; because it is in an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1.
Note that there is no penalty is a player lifts a ball that has been incorrectly substituted and replaces it with the original ball, provided they have not made a stroke at it. Rule 20-6 states.

A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Shout "Fore!"

Phil Mickelson shouting ‘Fore!’
Whilst not strictly about any Rule of Golf, this article is about an important golf-related subject that should concern all of us who play the game. When viewing competitive golf at any level, I am regularly surprised at how often players who hit errant shots fail to shout the customary “fore”, to warn anyone in the vicinity that they should take cover and/or protect themselves from being hit by a golf ball.

The Rules of Golf do not require a player to shout "fore" to warn other players, but good etiquette certainly does. This is from the front of the Rules Book, Section 1, Etiquette; Behaviour on the Course;

If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is a danger of hitting someone, he should immediately shout a warning. The traditional word of warning in such situations is "fore."

So, I was pleasantly surprised that at least the European Tour is beginning to take this matter more seriously. Prior to the Turkish Airlines Open, earlier this month, they circulated a memo informing players that incidents of spectator injury are on the rise and that players are expected to increase their use of "fore", as a verbal warning whenever a shot goes awry. This is the full text of the European Tour memo:

An increase in complaints from marshals and spectators over the lack of use of the above warning by players, combined with an increase in resultant injuries to spectators, claims for compensation and indeed a recent injury to a member are of serious concern to the Tour.

Members are reminded that the use of the word "fore" remains the traditional and expected warning/etiquette when there is a danger of hitting someone (see page 26 of Rules of Golf) and that regulation D 1 (b) 2 (page 48 of your handbook) requires you to ‘comply with normally accepted standards of golf etiquette’

All members are therefore strongly recommended that the use of such warnings is expected at all times when there is risk of injury and failure to do so will result in a player being disciplined under the above regulation.

The following short extract is taken from an article on the subject a year ago in GolfLink.com, by Sky Sports pundit and PGA Master Professional, Denis Pugh;

On the European Tour, I'd say it's about half-and-half between players that do and don't shout "fore". The problem is more widespread in the USA, and I’d say only 10 per cent of PGA Tour players consistently shout “fore” when they should. It's no coincidence that the galleries on the PGA Tour are bigger, meaning there is a better chance of getting a lucky deflection off an unsuspecting spectator. It happens every week. The bigger the name, the bigger the galleries, and the less likely there will be a shout from the player or his caddie.

Readers may be interested to know that there are three differing explanations regarding the origin of the use of “fore!” as a warning cry to people positioned in front of a golf stroke. The use of this shout can be traced back at least as far back as a reference in The Oxford English Dictionary in 1878:

  1. A shortened version of ‘forecaddie’, a person employed to stand where the ball might land, so as to reduce the number of lost balls, which were handmade and substantially more expensive in the early days of the sport than they are now. (This is the explanation that I favour). 
  2. From the military battle craft of musket days, when rank after rank would fire fusillades over the heads of those in front. In other words, the term ‘Fore” might have been used to warn those in front to drop to their knees. 
  3. Similar to 2. above, it is claimed that “Fore!” was derived from an artillery term warning gunners to stand clear with the term “Ware Before!” (Beware Before!) being foreshortened to “Fore!” (rather than “Ware!”).
More information on the origin of this traditional warning in golf can be found at the excellent Scottish Golf History web site at this link.

Good golfing,


If you want to purchase paperback copies of either of my books, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ and ‘999 MORE Questions on the Rules of Golf’, perhaps as Christmas presents that you can lay under the tree, you can do so by clicking on the appropriate book at this link. However, let me remind you paperbacks are more expensive than the eBook formats that I provide direct, and uniquely, I deliver two downloadable files; .pdf, which can be printed out in sections, as required; and .mobi, which can be read from any device that has the free, Kindle app downloaded. Click here for more information on eBooks and to purchase.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

November Miscellany

Ball Deflects off Flagstick into Water Hazard

Patrick Reed wasn’t having the best of tournaments at the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week. He was already 7 over playing the 8th hole of his second round when his ball struck the flagstick and rebounded back into the water hazard in front of the green. Click on this link to view a video of the incident. As the commentator said about Patrick Reed, “Not his day; not his week”

Reed’s ball rolled down the steep bank of the hazard and came to rest in an unplayable position, so what were his options under the Rules? He only had two options left: return to where he last played from to drop a ball under penalty of stroke and distance; or drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.

It is this second option that seems to cause many golfers a problem. There are three points to remember;
•    The line of flight of the ball from where the stroke was made is not relevant.
•    The reference point for the drop is where the ball last crossed the hazard, which in this incident was the putting green side of the water hazard.
•    The ball may be dropped anywhere on the course on an extension of the line from the flagstick through where the ball last crossed the margin. This will always be on the far side of the hazard from the hole and the ball may be dropped in a bunker or another water hazard.

Dropping Zone for Short Hitters
I have been asked what the situation is if a player who thinks that they cannot reach the fairway on the far side of a water hazard from the teeing ground takes their ball straight to a dropping zone. The player would be disqualified under Rule 11-4b, for playing a ball from outside the teeing ground and not subsequently correcting their mistake before teeing off at the next teeing ground.

Decision 33-8/2 confirms that a Committee may not introduce a Local Rule in this respect;

Q. The design of a hole is such that a player must hit the ball about 100 yards in order to carry a water hazard. A Local Rule has been adopted to assist players who cannot drive over the hazard by allowing them to drop a ball, under penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone that is located across the hazard. Is such a Local Rule authorized?

A. No. Such a Local Rule substantially alters Rule 26-1b as it allows the player to drop a ball on a part of the course (i.e., on the green side of the water hazard) that the Rule would not have permitted him to reach. Furthermore, the penalty for taking relief under the water hazard Rule (Rule 26) is one stroke, and may not be increased to two strokes by a Committee through a Local Rule - see Rule 33-8b.

Borrowing a Club During a Round
I have heard several myths about what a player may borrow from a fellow competitor during their round.

A player may borrow;

  • Balls (but if a One Ball Condition is in effect, the player would need to borrow the same brand and type of ball that they had been using).
  • Equipment (e.g. tee, towel, ball marker, pitch repairer, trolley and umbrella).
  • Clothing (e.g. rain gear, sweater and glove).
A player may not borrow;
  • Any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course, Rule 4-4a.
However, a player may borrow a club for measuring purposes, providing they do not borrow and measure with a club that is longer than one that they carry in their own bag. They may also borrow a club to practice putts or chips between holes, as permitted by Rule 7-2, providing the club is not used to make a stroke that counts in the player's score.

The penalty for a breach of Rule 4-4a in stroke play is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty of four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred). The penalty in match play, at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, is that the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred, with a maximum deduction of two holes.

Good golfing,


Please remember that you can choose to receive my two-weekly blogs by email by subscribing at the top right corner of any of my blog pages. You can also start receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series emails at this link. When you subscribe you will also receive a complimentary quiz on the Rules containing 27 questions, with answers and references. There is no charge for either of these services and you may unsubscribe at any time.

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Autumn (Fall) Leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,


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

Monday, 3 October 2016

Jordan Spieth Ruling: Ryder Cup 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,


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

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

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

What a Golfer May Move Without Penalty

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

Player’s Ball in Play is Stationary;

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

Player’s Ball is in Motion after a Stroke;

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,


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

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

When Is a Bunker Not a Bunker?

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

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

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

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

There are several points to note here;

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

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

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

Another Blog Award!

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


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

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

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Duties of a Marker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Penalty Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,

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