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!):

Dungarvan: “NO RELIEF FROM STAKED TREES.”

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).
PENALTY FOR BREACH OF LOCAL RULE:
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
rules@barryrhodes.com

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