Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Patrick Reed Asked for Three Opinions on a Single Ruling

Patrick Reed has never been one of my favourite tour golfers; he has been involved in numerous controversies including his expulsion from the University of Georgia, apparently following a number of complaints from his golf teammates. His notorious, prickly personality flared up again in an incident during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida last weekend. Reed’s ball was lying in dense undergrowth behind the 11th green and he claimed that there was interference by cables to his stance. Apparently, the first Rules official denied relief and a second official was summoned, although this happened prior to a spectator starting to record the incident. Reed demonstrated to the second official how in his opinion a cable was interfering with his intended stance and the following conversation ensued;

Official: “I think that you would need to take an abnormal stance to try to stand on the cable……You have a tough shot.”
Reed: “Not if I take a 7-iron (indecipherable).” 

Official: “Mmmm.”
Reed: “Let me see if a 7-iron adds more.
Female voice: “Anyone else would get a drop out of there any day of the week.” 

The spectator who was recording the incident on his smart phone and who later posted it on Twitter, claims that this comment was from Reed’s wife, Justine. This is probably correct, as she used to be his caddie and is known to almost always accompany him at these events.

It was then that Reed sarcastically made perhaps his most controversial comment;

Reed: "I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys."

This was presumably in reference to Spieth’s relief for an unplayable lie on his final round of The Open 2017, for a penalty of one stroke, which was a completely different situation. Quite understandably, this seemed to be the last straw for the second official who walked away saying, 

Official: “Patrick, you just play away”. 

This appeared to incense Reed, who then compounded his petulant behaviour by demanding;

Reed: “I want a third opinion…….I’m allowed that……..yeah I do, I do want a THIRD opinion….. from an UNBIASED source.” (my caps).

Wow! If he is looking for opinions, mine is that this is totally unacceptable behaviour from a leading, tour golfer that I hope will be followed up by the PGA Tour (and Jordan Spieth!). I cannot confirm whether Reed did get his demand for a third, official ruling on the incident, which would be unique in my experience, but it seems most unlikely that free relief was permitted, as he double-bogeyed the hole.

The official(s) denied relief to Patrick Reed on the basis of the exception to Rule 24-2, relief from immovable obstructions;

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

This is a tricky and subjective area of the Rules, which I have previously tried to explain in this blog.

The deciding factor in arriving at a ruling is whether the player would have chosen the same club and stance, and would take on the same shot, if the immovable obstruction was not there.

I am disappointed to have to highlight another instance of a well-known professional golfer showing disrespect to a Rules official. Many tour officials are volunteers and in almost every case they have a far better knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf than the players that they try to assist with their rulings. 

Note: Since writing the first draft of this blog most of the copies of the recorded incident have been removed from golf media sites by the PGA. The video on the original Twitter tweet by @ssteele55 has also been removed. However, at the time of writing the video is still available at this link.

The New Rules of Golf for 2019 
The R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the Rules of Golf for 2019. These changes result from their Rules Modernisation Initiative that began in 2012 to bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally. They can be viewed, together with extensive, related resource materials at these links;

Good golfing,

Within a few weeks, I expect to be in a position to update readers with how I plan to continue my mission to assist golfers of all abilities to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. In the meantime, if you are not already receiving these blogs by email, enter your email contact address in the 'Subscribe via email' box at the top right corner of any blog page, so that you do not miss anything.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Information on Rules is not Advice

There was an excellent interaction relating to the Rules of Golf between the Indian, ‘new kid on the block’, Shubhankar Sharma and the ‘veteran’, Phil Mickelson, last Sunday at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship. Together with Tyrrell Hatton, as the three third round leaders, they were in the final group to tee off. Sharma’s ball flew the green at the 5th hole and he found it surrounded by television wires. It seems that Sharma, who currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, may not have been sure whether his relief was from a movable obstruction or an immovable obstruction. Phil Mickelson had no such doubt and helpfully guided him through the process of taking relief from a movable obstruction. You can view the incident at this Golf Channel link

Phil correctly recognised that the wires were easily movable and told Sharma to mark his ball, in case it moved while he was removing the wires, even directing him to move his marker closer, so that the position would be more accurately marked. In fact, it is not necessary to mark a ball whilst removing an obstruction, as Rule 24-2 only requires that if the ball moves while doing so it must be replaced. But marking the ball’s position in this situation is a good practice that all golfers should follow. 

An important point here is that providing information on the Rules does not incur the penalty for giving advice, Definition of Advice. But Decision 8-1/16 provides a caveat;
Q. B's ball was lying badly. B was deliberating what action to take when A, his fellow-competitor, said: "You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would deem the ball unplayable." Was A giving advice, contrary to Rule 8-1?
A. Yes. A's suggestion could have influenced B "in determining his play." Thus, it constituted advice - see Definition of "Advice." It did not constitute "information on the Rules," which is not advice.
I have no doubt that Phil was correct in identifying the interfering cable as a movable obstruction. The Definition states that an obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, which obviously applied to the cables in this incident, even if they had been trodden down and were partially embedded in the soft earth. Another example of a movable obstruction that is embedded is a water hazard stake, which may be inserted several inches into the ground, but is still easily removable and is therefore a movable obstruction, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.

This is not the first time that Phil Mickelson has shown that he has a good knowledge of the Rules of Golf; if only this applied to all the Pro golfers on Tour.

Good golfing,

If you found this Rules incident and the accompanying video interesting, then I believe that you will enjoy my latest eBook, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’, which comprises 99 separate articles on memorable Rules of Golf incidents, most of them relating to golfers competing in Professional Tour events. Each of the wide-ranging articles highlights a breach of a Rule of Golf, with associated nuggets of interesting information, including explanations of the rulings, comments from the players and officials concerned, links to videos showing the circumstance of the breach and the consequences of the penalties imposed. Click here for more information and to order. 

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Ruling Please - Ball Overhanging Hole

After posting a blog on the incident shown in this photo, the R&A issued their official ruling, which contradicted mine! Apologies to those of you that had already received my blog by email. This is what The R&A have now posted on their Facebook account;

"It's got golfers talking around the globe. Here's our Ruling:

It's a very rare situation, but the R&A received a similar question 30 years ago. The answer given, which we would still apply, was as follows:

On the putting green, if the player's removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move, the ball is replaced without penalty. As replacement of the ball would be impossible in this case, in equity (Rule 1-4), the ball is considered to be holed with the previous stroke."

New World Handicapping System
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, there are currently a range of different handicapping systems used by national golfing bodies and I do not have any expertise in this area. I therefore welcome the news that the way golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by the USGA and The R&A, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability. The new World Handicap System will be implemented in 2020, one year after the modernised Rules of Golf are scheduled to come into operation, following an extensive review of systems administered by six of the existing handicapping authorities.    

You can find out more about the main features of the new system at this USGA link.

Good golfing,

Don't forget that you can subscribe to my free 'Rhodes Rules School' weekly emails at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

When the Rules of Golf Require the Spoken Word

Some golfers talk so much during a round that it annoys their fellow competitors. I well remember a popular, but verbose member at my own Club who had a reputation of constantly chattering throughout his round. One particularly chilly winter’s day, as he reached the warm sanctuary of the locker room, he announced that it was so cold outside that he could hardly speak. A fellow competitor walking close behind him remarked, “Thank goodness for that, I thought I must be going deaf!” Other golfers are so focused on their round that they go out of their way to remain silent, purposely avoiding any small talk with their fellow competitors or opponents.

However, there are a few Rules of Golf that do require the spoken word. Examples of when a player must announce their intention to a fellow competitor in stroke play, or an opponent in match play are;
  • Rule 12-2. If a player believes that a ball at rest might be theirs, but cannot identify it, they may lift the ball for identification. Before doing so, they must announce their intention, mark its position and provide and provide the fellow competitor or opponent an opportunity to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement.
  • Rule 27-2. If a player chooses to play a provisional ball they must then announce the fact that they are going to play a provisional ball before making a stroke at it.
  • Rule 3-3. In stroke play, when a player is unsure as to how to proceed in play of the hole, they may play a second ball. They must announce their intention to play two balls and which of the balls they wish to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball. (Edit 13th Feb. 2018) The Rule states "should" not "must", but it is strongly recommended that the player does communicate these two points, to avoid possible confusion leading to an unnecessary penalty.)
  • Rule 4-4c. If a player discovers that they are carrying an excess club or clubs, they must immediately declare which club(s) they are taking out of play before making another stroke.
  • Rule 2-5. In match play, if a doubt or dispute arises between the players, a player may make a claim by notifying their opponent that they are making a claim, or are seeking an official ruling, and agree the facts of the situation before commencing play of the next hole.
  • Rule 5-3. If a player has reason to believe their ball has become unfit for play during play of a hole they must announce their intention, mark the position of the ball, lift and examine it, giving another player the opportunity to observe the lifting, examine the ball and witness its replacement.
  • Decision 20-1/0.7: If a player has reason to believe they are entitled to relief from a condition, for example to check whether their ball is embedded, they may announce their intention to check, mark its position and provide the opportunity for a fellow competitor, or opponent, to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement (Rule 25-2).
There are other occasions where a player has to indicate their intent, but not necessarily using the spoken word, e.g. they would like a ball that they consider may assist a player to be lifted, (Rule 22-1), or require that a ball that has been played out of turn by an opponent be replayed, in turn (Rule 10-1), or making a concession in match play. In these cases a gesture, or an action, is sufficient, providing it cannot be misunderstood, e.g. picking-up an opponent’s ball in play usually signifies concession of their next stroke. (Edit 14th Feb. 2018: But see Decisions 2-4/4 and 2-4/5).

Of course there is an occasion where every golfer, whether amateur or professional, should use their voice ensuring that it is heard; that is when they hit an errant shot in the direction of any person, when “FORE” should be shouted, as quickly and as loudly as possible.

Good golfing,

Thanks for the great response to my call-out for my ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ eDocument, which now includes a single hand-out page for all match play team members, with 12 essential Rules tips to avoid the opposition taking advantage. If you meant to order, but did not get round to it (!), you can now do so at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Miscellaneous on Match Play

At this time of year golf clubs and societies in Northern Hemisphere countries are appointing captains and team squads for inter-club match play competitions. I have previously blogged on the differences between the Rules of Golf for stroke play and match play (24th February and 10th March 2012), but am now listing some miscellaneous points on match play Rules that may be new to some readers;

Once a stroke has been conceded it may not be declined or withdrawn. There is no penalty if a player continues to hole out after the concession, unless their stroke could be of assistance to their partner in a four-ball match, Decision 2-4/6. However, I would discourage anyone from doing so, as it may unnecessarily delay play. Obviously, if the player misses the putt it is of no consequence, because it had already been conceded.

A player loses the hole if they give their opponent wrong information. Under Rule 9-2b a player is deemed to have given wrong information if;

(i) He fails to inform his opponent as soon as practicable that he has incurred a penalty, unless (a) he was obviously proceeding under a Rule involving a penalty and this was observed by his opponent, or (b) he corrects the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(ii) He gives incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of strokes taken and does not correct the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(iii) He gives incorrect information regarding the number of strokes taken to complete a hole and this affects the opponent's understanding of the result of the hole, unless he corrects the mistake before any player makes a stroke from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players leave the putting green.

If you make a stroke and your ball hits your opponent, or their equipment, you may choose to play the stroke again, Rule 19-3. This may seem unfair if you shank your ball sideways and it hits your opponent in their groin, or hits their trolley situated several distance away, but that is the Rule! Once you have made your apologies, you can either play the ball as it lies, or drop the ball where the previous stroke was made from, without penalty.

A four-ball partner may leave their ball on the putting green, e.g. in a position where it may usefully act as a backstop, while the other partner makes their putt. Unlike stroke play, there is no penalty if the ball in motion is deflected or stopped by a ball at rest on the putting green, Rule 19-5. Note that if an opponent considers a ball might assist the player making the putt they can demand that it is lifted, Rule 22-1. 
(Edit January 31st: I have removed the words, "Providing there is no agreement between them" at the start of this bullet point, as I have been correctly notified that as there is no penalty in match play for a ball played from the putting green striking another ball on the putting green, an agreement between partners to leave it there does not breach any Rule.)

If a match involving handicaps is all square after the stipulated round, the players  should continue at the hole where the match began and the same handicap strokes should be allowed as in the stipulated round.

In a four-ball match involving handicaps, where a missing party is the person who the strokes allowance was calculated from, i.e. the lowest handicap player, the handicap strokes should still be allocated based on the missing person being present.

If a doubt or dispute arises between players in match play that cannot be resolved during play of the hole, a claim must be made before teeing-off at the next hole, strictly following the procedures set down in Rule 2-5. The player making the claim must notify their opponent that they are making a claim, agree the facts of the situation and make it clear that the Committee is being asked for a ruling. In many cases it will not be possible to obtain an official ruling in a timely manner. The match should be continued without further delay and played to a conclusion whereby there is a definitive result that takes into account an eventual ruling for the disputed hole, whether it be a win for either side, or a half.

I recommend that every golf club or society obtains a copy of my 10-page eDocument, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ I have recently added a single page, summary check list of 12 important points that all team members should be aware of before commencing their match. Purchasers have my permission to distribute this eDocument  to any member of their Club or Society, providing it is without charge and my accreditation remains in place. Click here for details. 

Good golfing,

I have received many testimonials for ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ including these; 
“It is excellent and should be of great assistance to golfers of all categories. I like the way you’ve set it out, explaining all the relevant rules in sequence.” Ms. H.S. “Excellent document Barry. Your simple explanations mean that I learn more from your content that I do from the rule book!” Mr. G.C. “This is a must read for anyone that plays match play golf.” Mr. S.R.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Course Maintenance during a Competition

Here is a question that is representative of others that I have received;
“After a medal round has commenced, can course maintenance work be carried out (e.g. mowing greens, sanding fairways and clearing leaves from bunkers) without the competition being voided?”

The first point to make is that Committees and/or course owners should make every effort to ensure that competition rounds take place with minimum interruption from greenkeepers and course maintenance staff. It is especially important that Committees make advance plans around their major competitions, so that the course is presented in optimum condition and that no competitors are unnecessarily disadvantaged by ongoing work during their rounds. However, there is nothing in the Rules of Golf that makes any allowance for maintenance work being carried out on the course during any competition, even if this means that players will be playing the course under different conditions. This can be compared with morning competitors playing on a dry, windless course and afternoon competitors playing in the same competition in wet and windy conditions, perhaps faced with casual water interference on areas of some putting greens.

An obvious exception to the above is if the Committee, or its authorised representative, considers that after a competition commences, course conditions change to the point that they consider that it is no longer in a playable condition, or that circumstances have arisen that render the proper playing of the game impossible. In such circumstances, the Committee may in both match play and stroke play, order a temporary suspension of play or, in stroke play, declare the competition null and void, cancelling all scores for the round in question, Rule 33-2.  When a round is cancelled, all penalties incurred in that round are cancelled.

Another instance of when a stroke play round should be declared null and void is if one or more holes were relocated and/or tee-markers moved after some competitors had played the hole. However, when it is impossible for a hole damaged during a round to be repaired, so that it conforms to the Definition, the Committee may, in exceptional circumstances, make a new hole in a nearby similar position, Exception to Rule 33-2b. Also, in exceptional circumstances, where there is casual water covering a teeing ground and it is impossible to satisfactorily remove it, a Committee may relocate it, providing this can be done without giving any competitor an undue advantage, or disadvantage, Decision 25-1b/4.

On a related matter, I am aware that many Clubs run a single round competition on more than one day and there is sometimes confusion as to whether the holes and teeing grounds have to be retained in the same position, for the competition to be played within the Rules of Golf. A Note to Rule 33-2b states;

Where a single round is to be played on more than one day, the Committee may provide, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), that the holes and teeing grounds may be differently situated on each day of the competition, provided that, on any one day, all competitors play with each hole and each teeing ground in the same position. 

Finally, many of us have experienced a situation where our ball in motion was deflected off a maintenance vehicle, or other course equipment, whether stationary or moving. The ruling is the same as when a ball is deflected by any other outside agency, it is a ‘rub of the green’ and the ball has to be played as it lies. If it is deflected out of bounds the player must play proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

My New eBook: Pros Getting it Wrong
Those of you that were early subscribers to my free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ email series (click here if you have not yet subscribed and would like to) will know that the 4th series is titled ‘Pros Getting it Wrong’. I have now completed all 99 issues of this series and have combined them into a full set that can be purchased as an eDocument (.pdf format for easy reference and printing, or transferring onto a smart device). 

In my experience, reading about how golfers have fallen foul of the Rules of Golf, or have used them to their advantage, is an excellent way to obtain a better understanding and remember them. This is especially true when the names of those involved are familiar to us. However, you do not have to be an aspiring Rules of Golf expert to enjoy reading this series of short articles that average about 700 words. Some of the incidents may be familiar, such as Tiger’s 2.000lb loose impediment, Simon Dyson tapping down a spike mark and Carlota Ciganda’s drop at a wrong place during a Solheim Cup match; others will be totally new to you. Where the relevant Rule has changed since the incident I have fully explained what the ruling would now be.

Click here for more information and for the PayPal ‘Buy Now’ buttons. 

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year Teasers

Here are nine New Year Rules teasers to get you thinking (answers below);

1. May a player test the condition of a bunker by raking it during play of a hole
2. Four players playing in the same group/flight in a singles stroke play competition are a foursome. True or False?
3. Two players could not decide whose turn it was to putt, so player A laid his club directly along his straight line of putt and then along his fellow competitor’s straight line of putt to determine which ball was the farthest from the hole. Did he incur a penalty? 
4. A hole made by a magpie digging for beetle bugs is an abnormal condition. True or False?
5. Which two of the following words do not appear in the Rules of Golf Definitions? a) Fairway, b) Trap, c) Dung, d) Observer, e) Sea.
6. Which of the following is not included in the term ‘through the green’?  a) The teeing ground of the hole being played, b) Fairways, c) Rough, d) Paths cut through rough, e) Wrong putting greens.
7. In match play, A’s ball last crosses the margin of a water hazard 200 yards from the hole, but splashes into water just 50 yards from the hole. B’s ball lies on the fairway 100 yards from the hole. Whose turn is it to play first? 
8. Explain in what circumstances a player who has played a provisional ball may choose to play that ball or play another one, without incurring a penalty. 
9. A player’s ball lies under a prickly bush. Which of the following methods to protect themself is not permitted by the Rules? a) They may put on their rainproof trousers. b) They may wrap their rainproof trousers around their legs. c) They may lay their rainproof trousers over the bush.

1. Yes, providing their ball does not lie in the same, or any similar bunker. Rule 13-4. 
2. False. In the Rules of Golf a foursome is a competition in which two competitors play as partners and play one ball. Definition of Forms of Stroke Play.
3. No. The act of measuring is an exception to the Rule that the line of putt must not be touched. Rule 16-1a(iii).
4. True, Part of the Definition of Abnormal Ground Condition includes a hole made by a bird.
5. a) Fairway and b) Trap. ‘Fairway’ does appear once in the 34 Rules of Golf (Rule 25-2). ‘Trap’ is a vernacular for a bunker and is not used in either the Rules or the Decisions.
6. a) The teeing ground of the hole being played. ‘Through the green’ is the whole area of the course except, the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.
7. It is B’s turn to play. When a ball may be played from a spot other than where the previous stroke was made, the order of play is determined by the position where the original ball came to rest. Note to Rule 10-1b.
8. If the original ball is known to be lost in an abnormal ground condition or GUR, the player may choose to continue play with their provisional ball or, without penalty, drop a ball within one club-length of where the original ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition or GUR. Exception to Rule 27-2b.
9. c) They may lay their rainproof trousers over the bush, is the answer that is not permitted by the Rules. Decision 1-2/10.

If you enjoy testing yourself on the Rules of Golf I recommend that you purchase my eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’ (assuming that you have not already done so). Explanations and accurate references to Rule and Decision numbers are provided to all 999 questions and answers on the Rules. Click here for more information. 

Comment on the New Rule Change
Many readers may be aware that a working group led by the R&A and the USGA has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf. No doubt this is due to the regular adverse comments in the media that criticise ‘armchair officials’ for ruining the game’. They have also recommended the introduction of a Local Rule (see my last blog dated 19th December) modifying the penalty for a score card returned without the inclusion of a penalty unknowingly incurred. For those that are interested, I am copying in full an article by senior writer at Sports Illustrated, Michael Bamberger. My apologies for the length of this blog to those that do not find this subject of interest.

Article heading: 
The two new rules changes take the onus off the player. The game will be lesser for it.

“We're talking about elite golf here. We're talking about golf on TV, played by the best players in the world, typically for money, but sometimes not. (The Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and top amateur events get a lot of TV time, too.) 

The starting point for this play has to be that the players turn in honest, accurate scorecards, strictly adhering to every aspect of the rule book. If there's any wiggle room, any fudge factor, any gray area, the whole thing falls apart. The player has two main incentives to do the right thing. One, he or she has integrity and understands that is at the core of the game. Two, those scores the players post are being widely, widely vetted. If you cheat, or even if you do something wrong inadvertently, you're going to be found out. (Trust, but verify.) No biggie. Since you want to turn in the most accurate scorecard possible, you welcome the attention.

Um, scratch that. That is so 2017.  

The two rules changes announced Monday by the USGA and the R&A do nothing to serve the goal of having the player turn in the most accurate scorecard he or she possibly can. They do nothing to make sure that the 72-hole scores are as accurate as they possibly can be. Golf just became more like society in general. It's not cheating if you don't get caught!

You can read about the details of the changes here http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/articles/2017/12/local-rule--new-video-review-protocols-introduced-for-2018.html
and here

To summarize them:
1. Rules officials will no longer accept calls from TV viewers alerting them to possible rules violations;  
2. If a rules violation is discovered after a player signs his or her scorecard, the player will no longer receive an additional penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Before this year, that penalty had been disqualification. This year it became two shots. Now it is just an assessment of the original penalty and nothing more.

Here are the significant advantages of the changes. In the first instance, it is just much more convenient not to deal with the public. It's always more convenient not to deal with the public. That's why if you visit the website of your phone service provider, seeking to register some sort of complaint, you might spend a half-hour trying to find a phone number to call.  

Also, and this relates to No.1 and No.2, the governing bodies are so worried about the game's image in the sporting culture at large. TV call-ins sounded weird. And they were weird, unless you really understood the underlying principle of why they were allowed in the first place. See first paragraph above, though it is now obsolete. You know how Tiger Woods and scores of other highly sophisticated and accomplished golf people would say, "Can't do that in any other sport?" No one will ever say that again. Does that make golf better? No. It makes it more ordinary. Those callers were an annoyance for rules officials, and they made the players feel like they were being spied upon, but they served a purpose: They helped ensure that scorecards were as accurate as possible.

The USGA and the R&A are sending out a charming, reassuring message as they announce the ban on call-ins: Do not fret, viewers out there in TV Land. We got this. Well, we know that hasn't always been true and couldn't always be true. Things get missed. By the way, it's not like the caller imposes a penalty. The caller simply alerts an official to the possibility of a rule being broken. That's different.

The other change, our No. 2, is another example of the world going soft. One of the reasons the players were neurotically worried about getting their scorecard 100 percent correct before signing it was because they would get the golf version of the death penalty if it was later discovered that they did not: disqualification. Then last year, post-Lexi Thompson, the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard got reduced, from DQ to two shots. Now it is no extra shots, as long as the player violated the rule unknowingly.

This rule-change is so soft. How about the responsibility to know the rules and to play by them? How about doing it correctly the first time? The whole ball-dropping issue with Tiger Woods at 15 in the Saturday round of the 2013 Masters was that he dropped incorrectly. The whole ball-marking issue with Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was that she marked incorrectly. Neither player ever stood up and said, "I take responsibility for this whole mess."

Golf, by tradition, is severe, austere, Calvinistic. Every aspect of it. That's why the spectators are quiet. That's why one player does nothing to interfere with another. That's why Joe Dey, the first PGA Tour commissioner, late of the USGA, carried a bible in one pocket and a rule book in the other when he officiated.  

The ultimate respect a player shows for another player is to adhere completely to the rules in every last detail. You could easily make a long, long list of admirable players for whom that was a starting point, including Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Davis Love. What these people understood as a starting point was this: Own your scorecard, own your mistakes. You want to blame somebody for something going wrong? Here's a mirror.  

These two rules changes take the onus off the player. The game will be lesser for it." 

Michael Bamberger may be reached at mbamberger0224@aol.com.

In general, I agree with Michael’s comments on these changes, which incidentally are not changes to the Rules of Golf; one is a new set of protocols for the Ruling Bodies’ and the other is a recommended Local Rule. 

Wishing you a very happy New Year and good golfing throughout 2018,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas Miscellany

Bad Shot Excuses
It has been my tradition to lighten up my blog content for the Christmas holiday season. In a December 2014 blog, I listed 9 excuses for playing bad golf, which are all too familiar to some of us. Here are two dozen more that you might have heard;

 “I’m not used to my new clubs yet”, or conversely,

“I need some new clubs”

“I’ve just had a lesson”

“I’m having a problem with my back/neck/shoulder/knee/hip/wrist/etc.”

“An insect buzzed me just as I was about to hit my ball”

“I was thinking about the last stroke/hole/round”

“I can’t play when I have to wait before every shot.”

“I can never play well in wet weather.”

“The greens I played on yesterday were much faster/truer and I cannot get used to these.”

“My hands were too cold/wet to grip my clubs properly.”

“I switched from brand-X to brand-Y golf balls and it takes some getting used to.”

“Oh darn! I took out my 9-iron instead of my 6."

“I shouldn’t play on Saturday morning after partying on Friday night.”

“I would have shot __ if only I had not blown up on holes __, __ and __.”

“I lost concentration when I triple bogeyed the 1st hole.”

“I knew that I shouldn’t have left out my 5-iron to put another wedge in the bag.”

“My drives and irons were good, but the greens were impossible to read.”

“The wind took it.”

“I spent too long at the range last night.”

“I could hear players chattering/bird calls/cars/fire engines on my backswing.”

“I need new grips.” 

“I think this must be a lake ball.”

“I was hitting the ball well, I just couldn’t keep it straight.”

“I think that I have been playing too much.”

2018 Local Rule: Modification of Score Card Penalty
The R&A and USGA have recommended that all Committees introduce the following Local Rule commencing 1st January 2018.
The Exception to Rule 6-6d is modified as follows:
Exception: If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning his score card, he did not know he had incurred, he is not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule, but there is no additional penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.
So when this Local Rule is introduced, a player will only be penalised one or two strokes (depending on the penalty for the breach incurred), for not including a penalty on their score card, providing they were not aware that they had incurred one. This Local Rule overrides the change to the Exception to Rule 6-6d introduced on 1st January 2016, which penalised a player an additional two strokes for a penalty that was not recorded on their returned score card.

Old But Good Golf Joke
Delighted to have reached his retirement age, a man booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.
He soon found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.
After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore.
In disbelief, he asks, "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"
She replies, "I rowed over from the other side of the island where I landed when my cruise ship sank."
"Amazing," he notes. "You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you."
"Oh, this thing?" explains the woman. "I made the boat out of some raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm tree branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree."
"But, where did you get the tools?"
"Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman. "On the south side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into ductile iron and I used that to make tools and used the tools to make the hardware."
The guy is stunned.
"Let's row over to my place," she says "and I'll give you a tour." So, after a short time of rowing, she soon docks the boat at a small wharf. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat.
Before him is a long stone walk leading to a cabin and tree house.
While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, "It's not much, but I call it home. Please sit down."
"Would you like a drink?" "No! No thank you," the man blurts out, still dazed. "I can't take another drop of coconut juice."
"Oh it's not coconut juice," winks the woman. "I have a still. How would you like a Tropical Spritz?"
Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they exchange their individual survival stories, the woman announces, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There's a razor in the bathroom cabinet upstairs."
No longer questioning anything, the man goes upstairs into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet is a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.
"This woman is amazing," he muses. "What's next?"
When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but some small flowers on tiny vines, each strategically positioned, she smelled faintly of gardenias. She then beckons for him to sit down next to her.
"Tell me," she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, "We've both been out here for many months. You must have been lonely. When was the last time you played around? She stares into his eyes.
He can't believe what he's hearing. "You mean..." he swallows excitedly as tears start to form in his eyes, "You've built a Golf Course?"

Christmas Greetings 
2017 was not a good golfing year for me. I have been playing so badly I had to get my ball retriever regripped!

Wishing all my readers, wherever you play your golf, all that you wish for this Christmas season. May your balls always come to rest in green pastures and not in still waters!

Good golfing,

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

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.