Monday, 9 March 2009

The Honour on the First Tee


At my Club, as in many others, there is a common misunderstanding that on the first teeing ground the person with the lowest handicap in the group that it is teeing off shall have the honour. In other words, players will tee off in the order of their handicaps, with the lowest going first.

In fact, Rule 10-2a: When Starting Play of Hole, in stroke play, says, “The competitor who has the honour at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honour should be decided by lot.” So, if there is no official draw, then the players should toss a coin to determine who play first, or use some other method of chance to determine the order of their tee shots.

But, Rule 10-2c: Playing out of Turn, in stroke play, says, ”If a competitor plays out of turn, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. If, however, the Committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, they are disqualified.”

So, if there is no penalty for starting play from the teeing ground in the wrong order, why should it concern us? Well, at this point I am going to defer to the words of the late Peter Dobereiner, an internationally famed golfing journalist, respected by all who knew him, who wrote the following in his book ‘Golf Rules Explained’, published by David & Charles (Publishers Ltd.) in 1980;

“A note of caution must be sounded at this point. That convention about the lower handicap man playing the first shot in friendly games is one of several customs which have grown up in golf but which are at variance with the rules. What difference does it make, you ask? None at all! It is only a harmless and generous gesture of respect towards the superior skill of the better players. If the law condemns it then the law is an ass! If we want to play it that way, who is to stop us? The answer is that no-one will stop you. The custodian of the laws of golf are not in the slightest degree interested in how golfers behave in their private games of purely social golf. But if you habitually give the low-handicap player the honour in private matches, it is quite possible that you will automatically follow the same practice in an official competition, such as a club medal tournament. Now the whole legal apparatus of golfing officialdom does become involved because the first rule of the tournament will be (or certainly should be), “The competition will be conducted under the Rules of Golf as approved by the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association.” Any query will be referred to one of those two bodies for arbitration. And they, you may be sure, will have no truck with any excuses such as, “But we always do it like that at our club.” The law says the honour shall be decided by lot and that’s that. It is no use pointing out that there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play. That applies only in taking the honour by mistake. If you have tacitly conspired with your fellow competitor to ignore the rule and follow the usual convention, then you are automatically guilty of a breach of Rule 1-3, which forbids, under penalty of disqualification, any agreement to waive a rule. You could be ordered to give back a prize. The sensible thing surely, is to bury the convention about low-handicap men hitting off first and get into the habit of tossing a coin.”

This book of Peter Dobereiner’s may have been written almost thirty years ago, but his words are as relevant today as they were then.

As I often say, you are not playing golf if you are not playing to the Rules of Golf.

Barry Rhodes

6 comments:

JT said...

Barry,

let's say....
Player A tees off then player B, a fellow competitor protests as player B is 1 shot leading. PLayer B tees off, player A then 'tees off again.

Player A picks up his first ball and proceeds to continue the hit with his second ball for the hole.

Q1> is player A obliged to replay his tee shot in stroke play?

Q2> if he is not, will picking up his first ball incur a penalty and even worse, he faces more penalty by playing the wrong ball (second ball)

thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

JT,

There was no Rules requirement for Player A to tee off a 2nd time as there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play. However, an apology to Player B, for 'stealing' his honour, was probably in order.

As soon a s Player B teed off a 2nd time that was his ball in play and he had played his third stroke. His tee shot with the original ball was the 1st, a one stroke penalty and his 2nd tee shot was the 3rd. He must continue play with his 2nd ball played from the tee.

Barry

JT said...

Barry,

talking abt the teeing ground.

on a Par 5, Player A tops his tee shot badly and the ball travels abt 2 inches fr the original position, he then proceeds to pick up the ball and re-tee and finally manage to put the ball in the fairway.

does he play 3 or 4 off the tee?

thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

JT,

His second shot from the tee was his 3rd stroke. By picking-up his ball in play and re-teeing it he was effectively opting to take the stroke and distance penalty, which is always an option when a player does not want to play their ball from where it has come to rest.

Barry

Unknown said...

Who tees off first if the handicaps are identical. Eg 5.3

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

It appears that you did not read the above blog, or you would have known that player's handicaps have no relevance to who tees off first on the 1st teeing ground.

Barry