Sunday, 5 April 2009

When May you Play a Second Ball? - Rule 3-3

I have been playing golf (poorly) for over 20 years. In all that time, I cannot remember anyone that I have played with taking the option of completing a hole with two balls when they are unsure of a Rules situation. And yet, in stroke play competitions, this is what every player should do when they have a doubt as to the correct application of a Rule and are unsure of how to proceed. Let’s take a look at the salient points of Rule 3-3, Stroke Play - Doubt as to Procedure.

In stroke play, if a competitor is doubtful of his rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, he may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls. In these circumstances, before taking any further action, the correct procedure for the competitor is to
a) Announce to his marker, or fellow-competitor, that he intends to play two balls
b) Declare which ball he wishes to count if the Rules permit.
c) Play out the hole with both balls recording the separate scores

An example of when this might happen is when a competitor’s ball comes to rest in an area that he feels should be marked as ground under repair (GUR). If he thinks that the Committee might subsequently declare the area to be GUR, he may announce to his fellow competitors that he will invoke Rule 3-3 and play a second ball, taking relief from what he considers to be an abnormal ground condition, and that he wishes this score to be the counting score if the Rules permit. He plays his first ball from where it has come to rest and then drops a second ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief from the area of ground he is disputing, not nearer the hole.

Note that this option does not apply in match play competition. I will explain what the player should do in similar circumstances in match play in a later blog.

There is one more very important point to remember after playing two balls under this Rule. The competitor must report the facts of the situation to the Committee before returning his score card. If he fails to do so, he is disqualified. This is the case even if the competitor makes the same score on the hole with both balls and his gross score, or points score, for the competition is therefore not affected.

This is another illustration of how players can gain a fair advantage on the course by knowing the Rules.

Best regards,

Barry Rhodes
P.S. If you Twitter please follow me @BarryRhodes999Q
P.S.S. I am expecting delivery of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ this week.


John said...

Hi Barry

I see that R&A and USGA have now clarified this rule. I think it helps resolve the conflicting Note and subclause regarding further action taken on the one hand and failure to declare use of 3-3 or ball-to-score election.


Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, this is one of many Rules of Golf that have been clarified (if not simplified!) by R&A and USGA, effective 1st January.