Saturday, 2 May 2009

Rub of the Green

The term ‘rub of the green’ is widely used, usually in a sporting context, to mean luck, particularly bad luck. Its origins would appear to have been in lawn bowls where a ‘rub' is any hindrance or impediment that diverts the bowl from its proper course. Early in the seventeenth century Shakespeare used the words, ‘the rub’, in Hamlet’s famous ‘To be or not to be?’ speech; “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub”, meaning ‘an obstacle’.

According to The Phrase Finder, the first golfing use of the term was in ‘Golf, A Royal & Ancient Game’, edited by R. Clark and published in 1875; "Whatever happens to a ball by accident... must be reckoned a rub of the green." Over time, a 'rub' has altered in meaning from a physical bump, depression or other imperfection on the green's surface to 'a stroke of good or bad fortune'.

Within the Rules of Golf, a rub of the green occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency. Rule 19-1 starts, “If a player's ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies”. There are exceptions to this Rule if the ball comes to rest in, or on, an outside agency that is moving.

So, what is an outside agency? Well, I’ll leave you to check the Definition at the front of the Rules book for yourself, but typical examples on the golf course are direction signs, ball washers, seats, course maintenance vehicles, animals, birds, spectators and fellow competitors.

To conclude, if your perfectly hit 5-iron stroke sends your ball on its way to the putting green when it hits a rake that has been left lying outside of a bunker and it bounces at right angles into a greenside water hazard, you will have experienced a ‘rub of the green’!

Good Golfing

Barry Rhodes
999Q on Twitter
rules at barryrhodes dot com

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