Monday, 29 December 2008

Lateral Water Hazards

In my blog entry for 24th November I included a short video explaining the options available to players when their ball comes to rest in a water hazard (yellow stakes and/or lines). In this follow-up video I explain the additional two options that are available under Rule 26-1c when a ball comes to rest within the margins of a lateral water hazard (red stakes and/or lines).

You cannot play golf for very long before you will need to take relief from a water hazard or a lateral water hazard. Make sure that you understand what relief options are available so that you will minimise the consequences.

Enjoy your golf more by understanding the Rules better.

Barry Rhodes

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Why is it important to learn the Rules of Golf?

It is estimated that there are more than 60 million people around the world who play golf more than once a year. It is likely that only a very small percentage of these have a good knowledge of the Rules and probably only a handful that have a detailed understanding of all 34 Rules, 126 sub-sections and over 1200 Decisions made by golf’s governing bodies, the R&A and USGA. But why is it important to learn the Rules? Well, I suggest that there are at least five good reasons why players should continually strive to improve their knowledge of the Rules of this great game;

• First, Rule 6-1 specifies that, “the player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules”.
• Second, a good working knowledge of the Rules can often be to your advantage, saving you strokes by avoiding unnecessary penalties. For example, knowing when relief without penalty is available and how to take it.
• Third, when playing in stroke play competitions you have a responsibility to every other entrant to ensure that anyone that you are playing with fully complies with all the Rules. Players aren’t permitted to disregard any breach of the Rules by a fellow competitor, or they are disqualified.
• Fourth, in match play you don’t want your opponent(s) to take an advantage because they know, or they think they know, the Rules better than you.
• And fifth, Rule 1-3 specifies that, “players shall not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule, or to waive any penalty incurred.” The penalty for doing so in both match play and stroke play is disqualification.

Of course, there are many golfers that find the Rules an irritation and claim that they are a deterrent to being able to enjoy a social game with their friends. What difference does it make if someone places their ball when they should be dropping it, or rolls their ball to the side when it comes to rest in a divot? If players want to play the game that way, who is to stop them? The answer is that no-one will stop them, they are free to play however they choose, but it is not golf they are playing. I am sure that if you have watched or played any game regularly, such as soccer, pool, trivial pursuits or poker, you will have been party to arguments as to whether a particular play is valid, or not. Sooner or later players will have to check, or establish, rules so that they can compete fairly against each other on a level playing field. There is only one game of golf, with one universal set of Rules, and if that is the game that you want to play then you have to abide by all of them.

Enjoy your golf more by understanding the Rules better,

Barry Rhodes

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

100 Questions on the Rules by email

I first spoke to Andy Brown about a year ago, when I started receiving his questions and answers on the Rules of Golf by email. I called him at his home/office, near St. Andrews, Scotland, because I took issue with the accuracy of a couple of the answers to the first few questions I had received. He was delighted to hear from me as he had been badly let down by the ‘expert’ that had provided the Q&As. By the end of this, our first conversation, I had agreed to review and correct all 100 questions and answer the many emails on them that he was already receiving.

I strongly recommend that you sign-up for the questions at;

You don’t have to get them daily, as I did; there are three other options for receiving them, up to a week apart.

Have a really great Christmas,


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Local Rules on Staked Trees

In May of this year, I had the pleasure of playing the three ‘Dungarvan Triangle’ courses in the South East of Ireland for only €80, an excellent deal. However, I noticed that these three Clubs took a totally different approach to their Local Rules on staked trees, which I am sure, confuses a lot of the players who take advantage of this great offer. Also, in two of the cases the wording and punctuation of their Local Rules adds to the confusion.

Here are the direct quotes relating to staked trees from the three score cards (including punctuation errors!):


Gold Coast: “2. STAKED TREES. Relief from all staked trees (rule 24-2b). where an immovable obstruction interferes with a players stance or area of intended swing, a ball may be dropped within 1 club length from the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, without penalty.”

West Waterford: “9. Staked Trees ● All trees and supporting or protective stakes are in play, no relief.”

Unfortunately, these poorly worded Local Rules give cause for confusion, which in turn leads to players acting in different ways, a problem during medals and other competitions, as well as for visiting players.

Dungarvan: The way this is worded some players will correctly take relief from the stakes supporting or protecting the trees, as they are immovable obstructions. Others will not, believing that the Local Rule prohibits it.

Gold Coast: Because of poor wording the stake (the immovable obstruction) is protected but parts of the tree (e.g. overhanging branches) are not, as trees are not immovable obstructions. In my opinion this Local Rule does not comply with Rule 33-8, which says;

“The Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix 1.”
Also, the way this is worded the relief from the stake is optional (“may be”). Some players will only take relief where it is favourable; others will assume that they must always take relief.

West Waterford: This wording may be O.K. and it is certainly clear to me what is intended, but other Rules aficionados I have spoken to suggest that in order to make this effective the stakes should properly be declared as ‘integral parts of the course’ as there does not seem to be any reference in the Rules of Golf to a Local Rule prohibiting players from taking relief from an immovable obstruction.

I strongly recommend that Clubs that are trying to protect young trees should follow the suggested wording in Appendix 1, Part B of the Rules of Golf, as published by R&A and USGA:

3. Protection of Young Trees;
"Protection of young trees identified by … (e.g. wooden stakes) ... - If such a tree interferes with a player's stance or the area of his intended swing, the ball must be lifted, without penalty, and dropped in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Rule 24-2b (Immovable Obstruction).
Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes."

Note that the R&A only sanction Local Rules when it is desired to prevent damage to young trees. However, in the absence of any Local Rule, and in the case of Dungarvan above, the player is still entitled to relief from any stakes supporting trees, as they are obviously fall within the definition of immovable obstructions.

The differing ways that these three neighbouring courses have approached their Local Rules emphasise just how important it is for players to check the Local Rules before commencing their round.

A golden nugget of Rules advice from,

Barry Rhodes

Thursday, 18 December 2008

My Interpretation on video of Rules Incidents Involving Pro Golfers

Below are the links to five short videos that I made explaining rulings in different situations faced by well known professional golfers during tournament play. They are being used by Andy Brown of to promote the CD that we have jointly published, ‘99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’.

The Verdict: Why Tiger wasn’t penalised

The seagull incident that caused the stir!

Stop: Is Michelle Wie in the wrong?

Would YOU call this penalty on yourself?

Is Mickelson in the right?

(Edit January 2010: The R&A / USGA have recognised the ambiguity of this last incident and have introduced the following new Decision 14-2/2.5;
Q. A player positions his golf bag near the teeing ground for the purpose of blocking the sunlight from the position where he tees his ball. He then makes a stroke. Is he in breach of Rule 14-2?

A. Yes. As the player was not in contact with the golf bag, he accepted protection from the elements in breach of Rule 14-2. This answer differs from that in Decision 14-2/2 as, in that case, the player was in contact with the umbrella.

While a player may not place an object or position a person for the purpose of blocking the sunlight from his ball, he may ask a person (e.g., a spectator) who is already in position not to move, so that a shadow remains over the ball, or to move, so that his shadow is not over the ball. (New)
The above Decision provides a good example of how the Rules/Decisions are continually evolving to cater for the myriad situations that occur on the golf course.)

I hope that you agree that this is an interesting way to highlight different situations encountered on the course, which makes it easier for most golfers to understand and learn the relevant Rule.

Your Rules mentor,


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

99 Golden Nuggets to Demystify the Rules of Golf

Andy Brown, of, has commenced his web campaign for our CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystify the Rules of Golf’.

If you visit you can see my video explaining the Tiger Woods / mushroom incident, which involves Rule 13-2 - Improving Area of Intended Swing. Then, if you sign-up at this page (there is no obligation in doing so), you will receive more video links and explanations of other Rules incidents involving Steve Lowery, Michelle Wie, Phil Mickelson and Michael Thompson. They’re free and you can unsubscribe whenever you like. It has to be worth it.

Improve your golf by understanding the Rules,


Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Worst Golf Ruling Ever?

Having increasingly immersed myself in the Rules of Golf over the past ten years I argue strongly that they have to be strictly observed, whether it is friends playing casual golf, the Club’s Captain’s Prize or the Open Championship. As soon as players agree to ignore any Rule of Golf it is no longer golf they are playing but some other game that they have chosen to play where the rules are flexible, according to their whims. In my experience this does not work for very long. Have you ever tried playing poker without defining exactly what format you are playing before you start, or indulged in a board game without reading the instructions first? Arguments usually ensue and the game can breakdown in chaos, tears and recriminations.

However, even I am outraged at what I consider to be the worst golf ruling I have heard. It happened in Chandler, Arizona, on Father’s Day 2000, during the Arizona Mid-Amateur tournament. Mark Johnson, a 43-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Army, was 11 strokes ahead of the field on the final round. Because it was Fathers’ Day he had asked his 14 year old son, Seth, to caddie for him and he in turn invited his 12-year old friend, Derek, to walk the course alongside them. Early in the round, on a Par 3, Mark had played his tee shot and was walking ahead from the teeing ground to the putting green. Unbeknown to him young Derek had taken the putter from the bag that Seth was carrying for his Dad and was carrying it down the fairway. It so happened that a 69-year old rules official, Doc Graves, was watching the play of the hole and he pointed out to Mark that in his opinion a technical infringement had occurred as you cannot have two caddies at the same time.

Back in 2000, the penalty for this infraction of the Rules was disqualification, under Rule 6-4, and a few holes later Mark Johnson was asked to leave the course, which he did, with the two boys both in tears. At the next Rules change, in 2004, the penalty for a breach of Rule 6-4 in stroke play was changed from disqualification to two strokes for each hole at which a breach occurred, with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes. The change was most probably as a direct result of the incident in Chandler.

The irony is that in 2000 there was already a Decision (6-4/4.5) that ruled that if a caddie, who is walking a ahead of his player to save time, realises that he still has his player’s glove and gives the bag of clubs to another player’s caddie, or friend, to be carried while he takes the player his glove there is no penalty. The casual act of someone assisting the player or his caddie in these circumstances does not constitute a breach of Rule 6-4 and, in my opinion, this Decision should have been used to avoid the unnecessarily harsh penalty of disqualification for an innocent act that neither benefitted the player, nor had any impact on the rights of any other player in the competition.

I think that most golfers would agree this was a bad ruling that could only encourage criticism on the way that the Rules of Golf are applied. Do you think that Doc Graves slept soundly on the night of that third Sunday in June 2000?

Good golfing,


Thursday, 4 December 2008

R&A / USGA - the only Difference in the Rules

What is the only issue in the Rules of Golf 2008-2011 that the R&A and USGA have not yet agreed upon?

The R&A is the governing body for the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status in all parts of the golfing world, except the United States and Mexico, which are governed by the USGA. The R&A and USGA agreed on the first uniform issue of the Rules of Golf worldwide back in 1952, the same year that the stymie was abolished. There were still some differences in the Appendices, relating to equipment and Local Rules, but in 2000 these were also harmonised.

However, apart from some obvious spelling variations (there are lots of ‘z’s in the USGA version!), and a few additional entries in the USGA 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf', there is one remaining difference where the two authorities still cannot reach agreement. For those country organisations that are affiliated to the R&A the maximum prize for a hole-in-one is £500 / $750, or the equivalent, in addition to any other prize that also has a maximum value of £500 / $750. But the USGA now allows an amateur golfer to accept a prize of any value for a hole-in-one made while playing golf.

This is referenced in the last question, answer, reference and explanation in my forthcoming book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’;
What is the maximum retail value of a prize that an amateur golfer is permitted to accept, other than for a hole-in-one?
A) £500 / $750, or the equivalent.
B) £1,000 / $1,500, or the equivalent.
C) £2,000 / $3,000, or the equivalent.
D) £5,000 / $7,500, or the equivalent.
Answer: A) £500 / $750, or the equivalent. Rules of Amateur Status 3-2a.
Note: For those country organisations that are affiliated to the R&A the maximum prize for a hole-in-one is also £500 / $750, or the equivalent, in addition to any other prize. But the USGA, the governing body for USA and Mexico, now allows an amateur golfer to accept a prize of any value for a hole-in-one made while playing golf. The hole-in-one issue remains the sole case where the two organisations have not reached agreement.
This has never been an issue for me as I am still waiting for my first hole-in-one!


© Barry Rhodes, 2008 –Please contact me if you would like to use this original content for any purposes.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Useful Links on the Rules of Golf

Here are some of the web sites that I have found useful in pursuing my interest in the Rules;

The R&A Rules of Golf
An online version of the current Rules of Golf book.

The R&A Decisions on the Rules of Golf book online
An online version of the current Decisions on the Rules of Golf book

The USGA Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf books online

An online version of both the Rules of Golf book and the Decisions book formatted side by side on each web page, which I personally find easier to navigate and use than the R&A site. Of course, the content is the same except for some of the spellings!

Golf Rules Discussion Board
A friendly discussion board with a small, but well-mannered and knowledgeable group of posters. I occasionally contribute to this site as ‘999Q’.

The Leith Society
Questions, discussion and analysis on the Rules. This is definitely, a site for Rules aficionados only. The content can be very philosophical and heavy.

The Golf Channel Discussion Boards
This site contains discussion on all things golf, including a section on Rules & Rulings. It is very American, with many inflated egos and a lot of coarse criticism.

USGA - Our Experts Explain
USGA rules experts provide insight and explanations on Rules decisions and interpretations. They also address commonly asked rules questions.

And of course……

Andy Brown’s Number One Golf Blog
This site is where Andy posts my answers to the Rules questions that he receives from his subscription list. Well, I think that it’s good!

I hope that this list may save you some time in finding the best resources for following the Rules of Golf.


Barry Rhodes

Friday, 28 November 2008

Hole-in-one with two balls!

Here’s a highly unlikely situation that nevertheless provides good material for testing your knowledge of the Rules. I have eight possible scenarios to the following question.

On a par 3 a player scores a hole-in-one with a ball other than the original ball that he played on that hole. How can this happen within the Rules of Golf?


1. In match play, player A plays his tee shot out of turn. When his opponent, B, sees that A’s ball has come to rest close to the flagstick he requires him to cancel his stroke and play again, in turn, under Rule 10-1c. A scores a hole-in-one with his next stroke.
2. Following player A’s stroke from the teeing ground his ball strikes a path, breaking into several pieces. Under Rule 5-3 he must play another ball from the teeing ground, without penalty. A scores a hole-in-one with his next stroke.
3. Player A’s stroke from the teeing ground is deflected by an overhead power line. A Local Rule requires that in these circumstances the player must play a ball from as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played, as in Decision 33-8/13. A scores a hole-in-one with his next stroke.
4. When players A and B arrive at the teeing ground they find that the blue markers are nearer the hole than the white markers. The competition is being played from the blue markers. They suspect that they may have been moved during the competition by some youths playing nearby. As they are unsure how to proceed they decide that each will play a second ball under Rule 3-3a. A announces that he wants his ball from the blue markers to count if the Rules permit. His first ball from the white tees is played onto the putting green and then he scores a hole-in-one with his ball played from the blue tees. Having interviewed other competitors the Committee ruled that A’s score from the blue markers should stand.
5. On a windy day player A thins his tee shot badly, but it still comes to rest a few inches from the hole. When he gets to his ball he sees that it is badly cut. He announces his intention to examine the ball to his fellow-competitor and asks him to observe the marking, lifting and replacement of his ball. They both agree that the ball is unfit for play and he replaces it with another ball. Before A addresses his ball for the short putt a sudden gust of wind blows it into the hole. He is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke for a hole-in-one (Rule 18-1/12).
6. On a windy day, after a well hit tee shot, player A’s ball lies at the top of a slope three feet from the hole. His fellow competitor’s ball lies close by. Without authorisation, his fellow competitor’s caddie marks both balls and lifts them from the putting green to clean mud of them. When he replaces A’s ball he mistakenly substitutes a different ball and picks up the marker. A few seconds later the wind blows the ball off its spot and it rolls down the slope and into the hole. A is not penalised and has scored a hole-in-one (Decision 20-1/5).
7. In match play, player A shanks his tee shot and it is deflected off his opponent’s golf trolley into a water hazard. Under Rule 19-3 player A opted to cancel the stroke and play another ball without penalty, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. A scores a hole-in-one with his next stroke.
8. In match play, player A plays his tee shot from in front of the tee markers and his ball comes to rest close to the hole. Under Rule 11-4a his opponent requires him to cancel the stroke and play again. A scores a hole-in-one with his next stroke.

I wonder if I missed any. I’ve never had a hole-in-one, but I have witnessed three.


© Barry Rhodes, 2008 –Please contact me if you would like to use this original content for any purposes.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Rule 26-1. Relief for Ball in Water Hazard

I am surprised how even seasoned golfers don't always know what to do when their ball is unplayable in a water hazard. How many times have you seen someone put their ball straight in the water on a Par 3 and then immediately tee up another ball on the teeing ground? Or, are confused as to what their options are when their ball crosses the water and then spins back off the putting green into the hazard? Well, this is a good example of where it is easier for me to explain the Rule visually, with the help of a whiteboard, rather than try and explain it in writing.

Why don't you check out my short video on this subject;
N.B. I will cover lateral water hazards in a follow-up video

I hope that this has helped you to understand the options available.

Enjoy your golf and play by the Rules.

Barry Rhodes

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Common Misunderstandings about the Rules of Golf

Since I started taking an interest in the Rules of Golf I have come across all sorts of myths and misunderstandings about them. Here are my answers to some of the more common ones, which I hope will assist readers to sort out the fact from the fiction.

“You are not allowed to enter the clubhouse during a round”. Wrong - you may leave the course at any time providing you do not unduly delay your own play, that of your opponent, or any other competitor. Decision 6-8a/2.7.

“You cannot hold the flagstick with one hand and tap your ball into the hole with the other”. Wrong – you may hold the flagstick while you are putting. But make sure that you remove the flagstick so that your ball does not strike it, and do not lean on it for assistance. Decision 17-1/ 5.

“You can only have the flagstick attended if your ball lies on the putting green”. Wrong - you may have the flagstick attended when playing from anywhere on the course. Rule 17-1.

“You cannot ask a fellow competitor how far your ball is from the hole, as this is asking for advice”. Wrong – information regarding the distance between two objects is public information and not advice. Definition of Advice.

“You cannot hold an umbrella over your head while making a putt.” Wrong – but you may not get anyone else to hold an umbrella over you while you make a stroke, as this would breach Rule 14-2.

“If you accidentally hit your ball while making a practice swing the stroke counts and you play the ball from wherever it comes to rest”. Wrong – because you did not intend to move your ball with the practice swing no stroke has been made. There is no penalty for accidentally moving your ball with a practice swing before playing a stroke from a teeing ground, because the ball is not in play, but anywhere else on the course there is a penalty of one stroke. In all cases the ball must be replaced to where it was before you accidentally moved it. Rule 18-2a.

“If the wind, or gravity, moves your ball before you have addressed it you may replace it without penalty”. Wrong – there is no penalty, but the ball must be played from where it comes to rest, because wind and water are not outside agencies. The way that I remember this is that if I cause the ball to move it has to be replaced and I incur a penalty stroke, but if God moves it then I play it from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. Decision 18-1/12.

“You can take relief from ruts made by tractors, animal footprints and cracks in the ground”. Wrong – none of these are abnormal ground conditions under the Rules and there is no relief. Rule 25-1.

“You may rotate your ball on the putting green without marking its position as long as you do not move it off its spot”. Wrong – if you purposely touch your ball in play, except with a club in the act of addressing it, there is a one stroke penalty. Rule 18-2.

“If you stand astride your line of putt you are penalised”. Wrong – there is no penalty if this type of stance is inadvertently taken, or is taken to avoid standing on another player's line of putt. The purpose of the Rule is to prevent the ‘croquet’ style of putting and in these two cases the player is not taking their stance for this purpose. Rule 16-1.

“There is always a penalty if a player takes a practice swing near his ball and knocks down leaves in the area of his intended swing”. Wrong – it depends on whether the area of the intended swing is definitely improved. In some cases, the knocking down of a number of leaves would not improve the area of the intended swing, as the player still has to swing through a number of remaining leaves when making his stroke. In such circumstances, there would be no breach of the Rule. In other cases, the knocking down of a single leaf might improve the area of the intended swing, incurring a penalty of two strokes. Unfortunately, it is always going to be a subjective call by the players involved. Decision 13-2/22.

Barry Rhodes
(Abridged from ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’, © Barry Rhodes and Andy Brown,

999 Questions on the Rules of Golf

November 2008

Hi Golf Rules enthusiasts,

I’m Barry Rhodes, a high handicapper living in Dublin, Ireland, with a passion for golf. I have recently finished writing my first book, '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf', to be published in March 2009 by Green Umbrella Publishing. My mission is that ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ will assist all golfers, whatever their level of ability, to enjoy their game more, improve their scores and help maintain the integrity of the wonderful game that is Golf.

Naturally, I would be pleased to hear from anyone that may be interested in purchasing my book when it becomes available. I understand that it will probably retail for around £12.99 (US$17.99 or Eu€15.50). Of course I will be pleased to sign and dedicate any copies ordered as a result of enquiries received through this blog.

In the meantime, you may be interested in visiting another blog that I contribute to at, which is run by my good friend Andy Brown, of St. Andrews, Scotland. Click on my name in the Authors section on the right hand side of this web page for a multitude of interesting questions, answers and explanations arising from the Rules of Golf. Andy and I are about to launch an audio product, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’, an 80 minute CD, divided into 11 sections, with priceless information to assist golfers avoid penalties and save strokes. More information as soon as this is available.

Until the next time,

Good golfing and play by the Rules,

Barry Rhodes