Monday, 11 July 2016

July Miscellany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dustin Johnson (again) and Line of Play

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Dustin Johnson and the USGA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good golfing,


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

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

USGA Statement Regarding Dustin Johnson Ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Nearest Point of Relief across Immovable Obstructions

It is surprising how many golfers do not properly understand the concept of nearest point of relief. You cannot play many rounds of golf without having to determine the nearest point of relief, e.g. when taking relief from any immovable obstruction, ground under repair, casual water or staked trees where a Local Rule mandates taking relief from them. I have covered several aspects of determining nearest point of relief in previous blogs and will now take this opportunity to remind readers that if you have any question on the Rules, one of the best ways of finding an answer, together with the appropriate reference to the Rule or Decision number, is to use the ‘Search This Blog’ facility at the top right corner of every one of my blog pages. So, if you enter the words “Nearest Point of Relief” you will receive many relevant links to my blogs, the fourth of which is titled ‘The Rule of Golf that is broken most often…‘, which also links to my short video on this same subject. I have now authored over 400 blogs, covering most Rules scenarios and this search feature is a great way to check any ruling that you may not have been sure of during a round.

This recently received question relates to an interesting point on nearest point of relief, which I don’t think that I have blogged about previously. 

“On our course we have a gravel filled drain running alongside the left hand side of the 16th fairway. It is very narrow, only 8 inches wide. Is it permissible to determine the nearest point of relief by taking your stance on one side of the ditch with the ball on the other side (i.e. the drain is between the player and his ball)?”

The answer to this question is, ‘Yes’ if the point on the other side of the drain is the nearest point of relief. In fact, the player must use this point to determine the permitted area where they may drop their ball, which is within one club-length of that point not nearer the hole. The reason for this being the nearest point is that there is no mental relief from an immovable obstruction in the Rules of Golf; so just because the narrow gravel strip lies between the toes of the player’s normal stance and where their ball would be positioned if they were using the club with which they would normally use for a reasonable stroke from that place, does not mean that they may drop on the near side of the immovable obstruction. In the diagram above, which is not quite the same as in the question, the nearest point of relief for the ball in the gravel drain for a right-handed player is at point Y (for yes) and not at either of the two points marked X (for wrong). Note that the player’s stance for the wrong point X on the left side of the drain would be further away than in the diagram, which represents the player’s stance for the correct nearest point of relief. Of course, once the nearest point of relief has been determined the player may then drop their ball anywhere within one-club-length of that point, not nearer the hole, using the longest club they carry, which may be back on the near side of the gravel path. Please remember that there is only one nearest point of relief, except in the comparatively rare occurrence when ball lies in a position where there could be two equidistant points, and in most situations that point will be at a different place for left and right-handed players. Also remember that the nearest point of relief does not necessarily mean that the player will be able to drop in a more favourable position; sometimes it is better to play a stroke, even though there is interference, rather than taking relief in a less favourable position by taking the correct relief under the Rules.

(Edit 8th une 2016: There was an error in this paragraph which I have now corrected.)

Now here is a point that many (most?) golfers would not realise; in some cases the nearest point of relief may be through an immovable obstruction, unless there is a Local Rule that states otherwise. Note 3 to Rule 24-2 states;
The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that the player must determine the nearest point of relief without crossing over, through or under the obstruction.
Personally, I do not know of any course where this Local Rule has been introduced, but if your ball is on the ‘wrong side’ of a wall, fence, or something similar, you should definitely check the Local Rules before determining your nearest point of relief.

Good golfing,


I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you that email me to say how much you gain from the various content on the Rules that I supply through my blogs, free weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails and other eBooks and eDocuments that I sell (at very affordable prices!) from my Rhodes Rules School web site. If you haven’t already, please check out my two ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ eBooks at this link. Others have found them very helpful in improving their understanding of the Rules of Golf. 

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

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

‘Replacing’ When Exact Lie or Spot Not Known

Most of us think that we know what the word ‘replacing’ means, but in the Rules it does not necessarily mean the obvious. For example, Rule 18-1 states;
If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
There is no problem with this requirement, providing the exact lie and location of the ball that was moved is known. However, very often this is not the case, as in the scenario where a player is 100 yards away from where their ball has come to rest in the rough and they witness someone from another group playing it by mistake. In most cases it is not possible for the player to be sure of the lie of their ball in the rough, or precisely where it was at rest. If the player does know the spot, but the lie has been altered (e.g. a divot hole has been made by the other player when making their stroke), Rule 20-3b is relevant and the ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie (check the wording of this Rule for the full detail). If it is impossible to determine the exact spot where the ball is to be replaced, Rule 20-3c requires that the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay (again check the wording of this Rule for the full detail).

This subject leads to another possible area of confusion, the difference in the Rules of Golf between placing and replacing.

Placing and Replacing
One way of remembering the distinction between placing and replacing is through this convenient summary;

Placing is putting a ball on a spot for the first time;
1) Putting the original ball on a new spot (e.g. when the original lie has been altered, Rule 20-3b, as above, or when ‘Preferred Lies’ applies).
2) Putting a substituted ball on a new spot (e.g. Rule 20-3b when the original ball has been lost).
3) Putting a substituted ball on the original spot (e.g. Rule 18-1, when the ball at rest was moved by an outside agency and has been lost).
Replacing is everything else;
1) Putting the original ball back on the original spot (e.g. on the putting green, or when it has been lifted because it interfered with another player’s stroke).
2) Dropping the ball (or a ball), required to be replaced, as near as possible to an estimated spot not precisely known (e.g. Rule 20-3c, as above).
So confusingly, there are some situations in the Rules of Golf when replacing a ball may mean dropping it at the estimated spot, as in Rule 20-3c when the player does not know the exact spot where there ball was at rest. For example, unless the ball was at rest on the putting green when it was moved, e.g. by an outside agency, Rule 20-3c trumps Rule 18-1, which states, “If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.”
999 More Questions.
At last! I am pleased to confirm that my new eBook is available online. Please click on this link to check out ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. Don’t hesitate to click on this link because you already have purchased my first Book, or one or more of my eDocuments. This is an entirely new publication, in an innovative format that I think will be of interest to anyone who wants to improve their understanding and knowledge of the Rules. There are nine questions, answers and most importantly, references, on 111 different golfing scenarios, most of which will be familiar to regular golfers. In addition, there are over 200 photos and diagrams, which help to clarify the content and make it easier to follow.

Once again, here is the link to my ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’.

Good golfing,


For those of you that prefer a paperback version, both of my ‘999 Questions’ books are available in a paperback format from Amazon/CreateSpace. Paperbacks do cost more. However, be warned that I have been unable to get them to remove the out of date publications, so if you do purchase paperbacks from this source be extremely carefully that you choose the most recent versions, which include the amendments to the Rules at January 2016. Also, please remember that if you purchase the Kindle version from Amazon you will only receive the .mobi format, whereas buying from me at this link results in you receiving a.pdf file at no additional charge.

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

Monday, 9 May 2016

May Miscellany

Zac Blair, USA. Photo: Fox Sports Network
Zac Blair’s Costly Hit to His Head
You would be entitled to think that it is unique for a Tour player to be penalised for hitting his head with a putter, as was Zac Blair at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, but Woody Austin was penalised for the same breach back in 1997.

The circumstance behind Blair’s disqualification is that after missing a birdie putt he proceeded to hit himself on the head with his putter, in frustration. He then tapped his ball in for par, but on the next putting green he realised that his putter had been bent as a result of it colliding with his head. He told the officials what had happened and was disqualified for using a nonconforming club under Rule 4-3b of the Rules of Golf, which states;

If, during a stipulated round, a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 4-3b: Disqualification.
So Blair was disqualified, because when he tapped his ball into the hole he had used the putter that was rendered non-conforming other than in the normal course of play, to make a stroke. Apparently, at this time he had not noticed that he had bent it. If he had not used the damaged club again during the round there would have been no penalty.

There does not appear to be an online video of this Zac Blair incident, but you can see Woody Austin chastising himself with his putter at this link.

7 Players Disqualified at Shenzhen International in China
Apparently there were up to 7 players disqualified from the rain affected, European Tour event in Shenzen, from 21st-24th April 2016. This is the highest number of disqualifications during a single Pro Tour event that I am aware of. What makes it more interesting is that I have been unable to find why even one of these players was disqualified. According to ESPN Golf the players were; James Busby, Yi Cao, Bjorn Akesson, Yuxin Lin (a), Guang-ming Yang, Xu Wang and Joachim B Hansen. If anyone has information, I would be interested to learn of the circumstances.

(Edit 10th May 2016: Thanks to a reader, who pointed me to the Facebook site of Björn Åkesson, I now have an explanation for these DQs. The second round was suspended due to very poor weather and the resumption of play was scheduled for first light on the following day. Several players who were going to miss the cut anyway, chose not to play out the couple of holes thay had remaining in their second round and withdrew from the competition. Although this had to be recorded as a disqualification it was apparently with the understanding and acquiescence of Tour Officials, so there will be no fines imposed on the players involved.)
My attention has been drawn to the above web site, started about six months ago by PGA Tour Referee, Mark Dusbabek, and maintained by him and other PGA Tour Officials. The site contains a range articles about different rulings made on tour and other interesting subject matter, for example, this article by PGA Tour Referee, Steve Cox, on players calling for a second opinion when they do not agree with a ruling.

I particularly recommend that you check out this web site if you are involved in officiating golf at any level.

‘Mastering the Rules of Golf’
This is the title of a new book by English County Level Rules Official, Tony Zendle, who describes his book as follows;

“If you want to learn the Rules of Golf, either just for the hell of it, or to become a Referee or Rules Official, then learning the Rules can be a slog. Fear not, though! Help is at hand. For the first time, there is a book that will take you into the upper echelons of Rules knowledge, with lots of hints and tips that you can adapt to your own learning style. If you are preparing for a Rules Exam it will give you the tools you need for success.”
Click on this Amazon Link for more details.

Good golfing,


Please take care when ordering either of my books from any other source than from me direct (barry at barry rhodes dot com) that you are getting the latest versions, which include the amendments to Rules and Decisions that became effective from 1st January 2016. I am aware of purchasers receiving poor quality and out of date books. Of course, it is better to order from me any way, as I deliver two files; a .pdf file from which you can print out sections at your convenience, and a .mobi file for reading on any tablet, eReader or smart phone using the free Kindle app.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


A simple subject for this blog, but one that seems to cause some confusion amongst golfers is the status of stakes of different colors in the Rules of Golf. Most of us are familiar with the three most common coloured stakes mentioned in the 34 Rules of Golf;
  • Boundary (out of bounds) – white stakes 
  • Water hazard – yellow stakes 
  • Lateral water hazard – red stakes
However, players might also encounter stakes of different colours on the course and these will be defined under a Local Rule, usually on the back of the score card, which should always be carefully checked before commencing a round on a new course. Examples of these less commonly coloured stakes are;
  • Ground under repair – blue or black stakes (although GUR is usually denoted by a white line painted around the area) 
  • Environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) defined as a water hazard – yellow stakes with green tops (Decision 33-8/41)  
  • ESA defined as a lateral water hazard– red stakes with green tops  
  • ESA defined as ground under repair– blue stakes with green tops 
  • Shrub / flower beds – e.g. red and white stakes
It is important to know that stakes defining out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. There is no relief available from them, even if they interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing. But most other stakes are movable obstructions providing they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Occasionally, Committees will cement in stakes, so that they are immovable, which can introduce problems for maintenance staff when maintaining the areas immediately around them. Also, Committees sometimes introduce a Local Rule designating stakes as immovable obstructions, even if they do not properly meet the definition, because they are easily movable. In my opinion this should definitely be avoided, as it introduces unnecessary confusion for players, especially visitors to a course. This relevant comment is from the excellent R&A publication, ‘Guide on Running a Competition’* – Section 4 Marking the Course, 3 Water Hazards;
By Definition, stakes or lines defining hazards are in the hazards. Stakes are obstructions. Therefore, if they are movable, players are entitled to relief without penalty from them under Rule 24-1. If they are immovable, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2 when the ball lies outside the hazard. However, if the ball is in the hazard, the player is not entitled to immovable obstruction relief. Accordingly, it is recommended that stakes marking hazards are movable.
And now to my most important ‘rule’ relating to stakes. If you do move them away from your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, please remember to replace them after you have made your stroke, and also remind others that you are playing with to do so. Not correctly replacing stakes is obviously discourteous to other players and can lead to frustration and anger on the course.

Good golfing,


* This is a link to the R&A publication, ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’ published by R&A.

I am expecting to have my new book, cleverly titled, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’, available from my Rhodes Rules School web site very soon. It will also be available as a paperback, though this version is considerably more expensive than the eBook, due to the full colour print required for the photos and diagrams. In the meantime, you can email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will advise you how you can obtain the .pdf and .mobi files directly from me.

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

Monday, 11 April 2016

Masters Round-up

A few notes on some of the Rules incidents at the 2016 Masters Championship.

Wind Blows Billy Horschel’s Ball into Water in Hazard
Regular readers of my blogs and ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly emails will not have been surprised that when the wind blew Billy Horschel’s stationary ball off the putting green into the hazard, he had to take a penalty drop. For example, see this blog from March last year. However, I guess that there are quite a few golfers who did not understand why he then dropped his ball close to the putting green, some way away from the water hazard. Remember, that one of the options to take relief from a water hazard under penalty of one stroke is to drop a ball where the last stroke was played from, Rule 26-1a. This was obviously a better option than dropping a ball on the opposite side of the water hazard on the ‘flagline’, an imaginary line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

DeChambeau’s Relief Ruling on 18th Hole, Friday
There has been some discussion as to whether the referee made the correct ruling when giving Bryson DeChambeau relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) and path on his final hole on Friday. Whether the ruling was correct or not had no effect on Dechambeau’s score because he was acting under the guidance of the referee and cannot therefore be penalised for dropping and playing from the wrong place. If you are interested in the detail of the ruling I recommend the explanation from Ryan Farb, Californian Tournament Director and Rules Official, at this link.

Johnson Touches Water in Hazard on His Backswing
After completing his second round on Friday, Augusta National officials alerted Zach Johnson to a potential violation of the Rules of Golf on the 13th hole. Johnson's third shot to the par 5 wound up in the water hazard in front of the green, and the reigning Open champion chose to play his ball out of the hazard. However, on his backswing, he grazed the water, which is considered grounding the club in a hazard in breach of Rule 13-4. Johnson was subject to a two-stroke penalty, which meant that he missed the cut. I am often asked which Rule of Golf I would change if given the opportunity. There are a few, but I would remove the penalty for touching ground in a hazard and water in a water hazard, as I cannot see that this gives a player any real advantage before playing their next stroke.

Bernhard Langer’s Long Handled Putter
I love this succinct Tweet by Michael McEwan, Assistant Editor of Scotland’s ‘Bunkered’  golf magazine;

The people suggesting that Bernhard Langer is anchoring are, a) entirely predictable, b) entirely wrong.
Agreed! If you are not clear on this subject check out this blog of mine.

Touching the Putting Green in Front of Your Ball
I found it a little disturbing to watch Lee Westwood address his ball on putting greens. His routine is that he lightly grounds his putter in front of his ball on the line of putt, lifts the putter head over the ball and lightly grounds it again behind the ball before starting his stroke. This does not incur a penalty, as Rule 16-1(ii) states;

… (ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
Although permitted, this action looks awkward to me and there must be an increased chance that the player will accidentally cause their ball to move. If they do press down on their putter while it is in front of the ball (e.g. due to losing their balance in a strong gust of wind), the penalty is incurred.

Louis Oosthuizen’s Extraordinary Hole-in-One
Holes-in-one are fairly uncommon, even in Pro Tournament play, but Shane Lowry, Davis Love lll and Louis Oosthuizen all achieved this feat on Augusta National’s 16th hole on Sunday. Louis’ was even more uncommon, as his ball deflected off the ball of JB Holmes into the hole for his hole-in-one. Of course, JB Holmes had to replace his ball where it was at rest before being moved by Oosthuizen’s ball. If you missed this rare incident check this link.

Last Place Marker
A tradition at the Masters is that if there is an odd number of competitors that make the cut they do not permit the player in the last qualifying place to play by himself on the weekend. Augusta National bring in member and course record holder (61 from the members’ tees), Jeff Knox, as a non-competing marker, to play with the solo player to try and maintain a reasonable pace for the first tee time. In 2014 Knox was marker for Rory McIlroy and reportedly took money off him. On Saturday he played with Bubba Watson; there is no record of who had the better score and of course Knox is not obliged to hole out at every hole, though one suspects that he would want to.

Good golfing,


Email me at 'rules at barry rhodes dot com' if you are interested in purchasing my new eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. 999 different questions in a new (and better!) format ($10.99, €9.99 or £7.99).

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