Sunday, 21 June 2009

Repairing Damage to the Putting Green and Course

Players are often confused as to what damage they can repair to the course. Let’s try and clarify this, starting with the putting green. Rule 16-1c states;
“The player may repair an old hole plug or damage to the putting green caused by the impact of a ball, whether or not the player's ball lies on the putting green.”
This is the only damage that a player may repair on the putting green without incurring a penalty and note that the player’s ball does not have to be on the green for the player to repair the damage. The same Rule goes on to say;
“If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the repair, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of repairing an old hole plug or damage to the putting green caused by the impact of a ball. Otherwise, Rule 18 applies.
Any other damage to the putting green must not be repaired if it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole.”
The last sentence is very important. It implies that providing the damage is nowhere near your line of putt you may repair it, no matter how it was caused. However, remember that when making a stroke most players stray from their intended line of putt from time to time and the ball often passes quickly by the hole leaving a second or even third putt from a different angle. Best not to take chances and not repair any other type of damage, which includes spike marks, heel prints, animal scrapes, flagstick dents at the lip of the hole, or score marks caused by dragging a flagstick over the surface of the green. Many players have made the mistake of tapping down a spike mark in the vicinity of the hole, whether purposely or absent-mindedly. Decision 16-1c/4 confirms that this is not permitted as it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole.

So, damage made by the impact of a ball (pitch marks) and old hole plugs should be repaired as soon as the players arrive at the putting green, whereas all other damage should be repaired by players as they leave the green after finishing their play of the hole. There is nothing in the Rules requiring players to repair this other damage to the putting surfaces before they leave the green but it is good etiquette and a courtesy to other players to do so.

What about repairing course damage off the putting green? Really, the only thing that you have to be careful about is Rule 13-2, which states;
“A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
• the position or lie of his ball,
• the area of his intended stance or swing,
• his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or
• the area in which he is to drop or place a ball…”
A good example of how you may fall foul of this Rule is if you replace a divot that lies in front of your ball. This may seem unreasonable if you are playing into the putting green with a pitching wedge, which means that your ball will immediately rise several metres above the ground before passing over where the divot has been replaced, but this is the Rule and you are liable to be penalised if you do so.

As always, wishing you good golfing,

Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, published by Green Umbrella Publishing Ltd.

rules at barryrhodes dot com
999Q on Twitter

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Barry Rhodes on

Regular readers of my blog will know of my association and friendship with Andy Brown of and

A few weeks ago ago my wife, Sandy, and I flew from Dublin to Aberdeen to stay with my son, his wife and their two baby daughters, for a long weekend. On the Monday, we met Andy and his lovely wife, Elle, behind the 18th green at St. Andrews. Andy had invited me to chat to him on camera about the Rules of Golf, their origins and how I am trying to assist golfers to get a better understanding of them through my book ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. After filming (there was only one take!) we all relaxed over lunch in the Links Clubhouse.

Check out our six minute video at

You will note that this is Episode 8 of If you are as fascinated by St. Andrews, as I am, you will enjoy the earlier 7 episodes as well. Andy is fortunate to live just a few miles from St. Andrews and is doing a great job in acquainting golfers all over the world with both the familiar and unfamiliar delights of this historic town. I particularly enjoyed the aerial views of the Old Course in episode 6, and it’s not everyone that gets a one-to-one interview with Ryder Cup Captain, Nick Faldo, as Andy did in episode 4.


Barry Rhodes
Email: rules at barryrhodes dot com
999Q on Twitter

Monday, 15 June 2009

Richie Ramsay Escapes Penalty at Wales Open

There was an interesting Rules incident at the Celtic Manor Wales Open just over a week ago. Scotland's Richie Ramsay was just one stroke behind the leaders when his third round was discontinued after 16 holes, due to bad light. During his play of the 8th hole television coverage had shown him pressing down the ground behind where he was going to play his next shot from (see video clip below). On entering the clubhouse the Rules Officials questioned him as to why he had done this. Preferred lies were in operation because of the wet conditions and his explanation was that he was testing the ground to see if the spot where he intended to place his ball was in casual water. A long investigation followed during which the video evidence was watched repeatedly and then just before 11.00 pm Ramsay was asked to sleep on it without any decision having been made. The following morning he still insisted that he had not improved his area of intended swing and European Tour Chief Referee, John Paramor, said that there was to be no penalty. Ramsay then went out to resume and complete his third round.

Check out the video below and see what you think. The relevant part of Rule 13-2 is;

“A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
……… the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
by any of the following actions:
……….pressing a club on the ground,
……….creating or eliminating irregularities of surface…..
However, the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs:
……….in grounding the club lightly when addressing the ball,
……….in fairly taking his stance,
……….in making a stroke or the backward movement of his club for a stroke and the stroke is made.”

In my opinion this is another in a lengthening number of decisions in favour of the tournament golfer, e.g. those concerning Kenny Perry, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson (click on the names to view the incidents). I am not saying that this is wrong, as I believe that where there is any doubt at all the ruling should respect the honesty and integrity of the players. There are even more recorded incidents where players have called penalties on themselves when there were no cameras, or indeed in some cases no other observers present, that Rules Officials are right to err on the side of leniency where a Rule may have been breached without intent. In golf the onus is on the player to police his own actions.

There is an epilogue to the Ramsay incident. He resumed his round at the 17th hole and almost immediately incurred a one-stroke penalty on the last hole for taking the wrong action after finding himself in casual water. Under the watchful eye of chief referee, John Paramor, this time, Ramsay took relief and dropped the ball, but then made the mistake of picking it up without marking it first. His par five on the hole became a bogey six and he signed for a 76. At the conclusion of the four rounds he finished tied for 10th place.

Play by the Rules and enjoy your golf,

Barry Rhodes

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email: rules at barryrhodes dot com
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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Four Rules of Golf that You Probably Don't Know

There are so many Rules and Decisions regulating the way that golf is to be played that it is well nigh impossible to know and remember them all. Most players only reference the Rules book when something happens on the course that is new to them and they want to understand the correct procedure. Here are four Rules that in my experience most players are not aware of;

1. You may ask anyone, including your fellow competitors, any question concerning distances. So, for example, you may say, “How far do you think my ball is from the flagstick?”, or “Is that ditch in front of us more than 200 yards away?” This has only been the case since 1st January 2008, when the definition of advice was amended to allow the exchange of information on distance, as it is not considered to be advice.
2. Strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes, Rule 7-2. For example, in match play, if a player has already had more strokes than his opponent has holed out in, he may still continue play of the hole. Or in a Stableford competition, a player may continue play of a hole even though he cannot score any points on that hole. However, please remember that under Rule 6-7 a player must play without undue delay and in particular, between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground.
3. Most of us know that in stroke play if one ball putted from the putting green strikes another ball on that putting green there is a penalty of two strokes. What most players do not realise is that if the same thing happens in match play there is no penalty, Rule 19-5a.
4. Here’s one to watch. If you’re chipping or putting from off the green you should ensure that no-one is standing near enough to the flagstick to touch it. Why? Note 1 to Rule 17-1 states that if the flagstick is in the hole and anyone stands near it while a stroke is being made they are deemed to be attending it. So, if your ball then hits the flagstick you incur a two stroke penalty, even though you were playing from off the green. Not a lot of people know that!

If you have learned something new here why not ensure that you receive notices on all my blogs on the Rules by subscribing at the top right hand side of the home page. I promise you that you will only receive one, or at most two, emails in any week, they will all relate to the Rules of Golf, and your email address will never be passed on to anyone else for any purpose.

Wishing you good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, published by Green Umbrella Publishing Ltd.
Rules at barryrhodes dot com
999Q on Twitter

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Penalty Situations that Confuse Many Golfers

I have noticed that many golfers who think that they may have breached a Rule, are uncertain whether it is one stroke, two strokes, or no penalty at all. Here are four questions from my recently published book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. See if you know which penalty applies, if any.

1. In stroke play, Margarita leaves her bag between the 4th and 5th fairways, as she knows that she will be playing back to the same area from the next tee. As luck has it, her tee shot from the 5th hits her bag. What is the ruling?
A) Margarita incurs no penalty and she plays her ball from where it lies.
B) Margarita incurs no penalty but she has to replay her tee shot.
C) Margarita incurs a penalty of one stroke.
D) Margarita incurs a penalty of two strokes.
Answer: C) Margarita incurs a penalty of one stroke. Rule 19-2.
Note: If a player’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by herself, her partner either of their caddies or their equipment, she incurs a penalty of one stroke.

2. A player removes the flagstick from the hole and places it on the ground. When his fellow competitor putts too hard he sees that the ball might strike the flagstick. He is penalised one stroke if he moves the flagstick while the ball is in motion. True or False?
Answer: False. Neither player incurs a penalty. Decision 17-1/7.
Note: Rule 24-1 provides that anyone may move the equipment of any player or a removed flagstick, to prevent it being struck by a ball in motion.

3. In a singles match play competition Jan and June’s balls are side by side in a bunker. Jan plays first, but as she climbs out she sees her ball still in the bunker and realises that she has played the wrong ball. What is her penalty?
A) Jan incurs no penalty as you cannot play a wrong ball out of a bunker.
B) Jan incurs a penalty of one stroke.
C) Jan incurs a penalty of two strokes.
D) Jan loses the hole.
Answer: D) Jan loses the hole. Rule 15-3.
Note: In match play, if a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball, she loses the hole. In stroke play, the penalty is two strokes and she must correct her mistake by playing her own ball.

4. A player may not ask a fellow competitor the distance between his ball and the flagstick. True or False?
Answer: False. Decision 8-1/2.
Note: Information regarding the distance between two objects is public information and not advice.

Well, how did you do? I suspect not as well as you thought you might. There is some excuse for those of you that did not score too well, as the first three questions related to penalty situations that were changed at the last revision of the Rules of Golf, at January 1st 2008, and at the same time the definition of Advice was amended to exclude the exchange of information on distance.

If you have learned something from these four questions think how much more you will learn from the other 995 questions in my book. Treat yourself to a small purchase ($19.99 / £12.99 / €14.99) that will assist you to absorb and familiarise yourself with the Rules of Golf in an enjoyable and interesting way. Email me before 31st July and I will send a signed copy, to any address in the world, and will cover the mailing cost myself.

Remember, no Rules, no knowledge,
Know Rules, know knowledge.

Barry Rhodes
Rules at barryrhodes dot com
999Q on Twitter