Friday, 31 July 2009

Is it a One Stroke or Two Strokes Penalty?

Last week, I received a query on the web site I use to promote my book, Golf Rules Questions. It was from Margaret, who said that she is still not sure when she incurs a one stroke penalty. This is an area of the Rules that puzzles many golfers. When I participated in the Royal & Ancient’s Quiz on the Rules for Golf Clubs in the UK and Ireland (discontinued in 2007), I put together a table, broken down into three distinct sections with catchy, descriptive headings to help me remember which breaches incur the penalty of one stroke. I have updated it for the changes introduced in January 2008 and am reproducing it here in the hope that it will assist readers.

‘Buying’ a Stroke: 
Rule 26-1&2: Ball in Water Hazard.
Rule 27-1: Ball Lost or Out of Bounds.
The ‘stroke and distance’ penalty.
Rule 28: Ball Unplayable.
Rule 25-1: Abnormal Ground Condition.
When a player elects to take relief outside of a bunker filled with water they incur a penalty of one stroke.

‘Ghost’ Strokes: 

Rule 14-4: Striking the Ball More than Once.
Rule 16-2 Ball Overhanging Hole.
Ball drops in after more than 10 seconds.
Rule 18-2 Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.
Moving the ball (accidentally), or touching it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing it).
Equipment of the player, or their partner, causes their ball to move.

Rule 18-3 Ball at Rest Moved by Opponent, Caddie or Equipment.
Unless it is moved accidentally during search.
Rule 19-2 Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.
E.g. when, after making a stroke, the ball rebounds of an object and hits the player.

Lifting Infringements:

Rule 5-3: Ball Unfit for Play.
Failure to comply with the correct procedure (i.e. announcing intention to lift the ball to opponent or marker, marking its position and not cleaning it beyond the extent necessary to confirm that it is damaged).
Rule 6-8: Discontinuance of Play.
If a player lifts the ball without a good reason to do so (e.g. bad weather) fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or fails to report the lifting to the Committee.
Rule 12-2: Identifying Ball.
Failure to comply with the correct procedure, as above.
Rule 20-1 Lifting and Marking.
Lifting a ball under a Rule that requires it to be replaced, without first marking the position of that ball. N.B. Accidentally moving a ball marker incurs a one stroke penalty if it is not directly attributable to the act of marking the ball.
Rule 20-2: Dropping and Re-dropping.
Dropping the ball incorrectly (e.g. by the wrong person, or not at arm’s length or shoulder height).
Rule 20-3a: Placing and Replacing.
Wrong person places or replaces a ball.
Rule 21: Cleaning Ball.
When not permitted having lifted it correctly under the Rules to determine whether it is fit for play for identification because it is interfering with or assisting play.

(Edit: A subscriber has pointed out that Rule 25-2b(ii) permits a player, whose ball lies in causal water in a bunker to drop a ball outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped, for a penalty of one stroke. )

An important point to remember regarding these one stroke penalties is that they apply to both stroke play and match play, whereas the general penalty in stroke play is two strokes and in match play is loss of hole. The other penalty is disqualification and I will cover this in a future blog.

Save strokes with a better knowledge of the Rules.

Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ a book to help players of all capabilities to understand the Rules.
999Q on Twitter

Sunday, 26 July 2009

What's the Ruling on this Hole-in-One

Leif Olson scored an improbable hole-in-one at the rain saturated Canadian Open in Ontario yesterday, 25th July.

Watch this video to see his tee shot cannon off his fellow competitor’s ball already at rest on the putting green and then check out the ruling below.
This was certainly a legitimate hole-in-one. The relevant Rule is;
19-5 Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Another Ball
a. At Rest
If a player's ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.
Olson’s ball was deflected by a ball already at rest on the putting green. If it had bounced off that ball into water in a water hazard the luck would have been against him and he would have to choose one of the options for relief under Rule 26-1, incurring a penalty of one stroke. As his ball rolled straight into the hole the luck was with him and he scored a hole-in-one. Of course, the ball that was moved by Olson’s ball was in play and must therefore be replaced where it was previously at rest (Rule 18-5).

Know the Rules to improve your golf,

Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
999Q on Twitter

P.S. You can ensure that you don’t miss any of my weekly blogs on the Rules by entering your email address at the top right hand corner of my home page.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Butch Lumpkin

Let me start with a confession. I have always said that I would only blog on Golf Rules related subjects. Well, for Butch Lumpkin I am making an exception, and if you watch this video, courtesy of Golf Channel, I know that you will understand why. Click on the Butch Lumpkin link below, remain patient through the short Titleist ad at the beginning, and then be prepared to change any preconceptions you may have as to what is required to play golf well. I have been using arthritic joints as an excuse for my bad golf for too long. This video has revealed to me that anyone can lower their existing handicap if they have the right attitude.


Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
999Q on Twitter

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Five Rules Questions Relating to the Teeing Ground

I am off to France today for a week’s break, so I am taking the lazy way out for this blog entry. Here are five questions relating to the teeing ground taken from my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, the sales of which are progressing well, especially in golf pro shops.
If a ball, when not in play, is accidentally knocked off a tee, it may be re-teed without penalty. True or False?
Answer: True. Rule 11-3. Note: When a ball is not yet in play on the teeing ground, and it moves without the player intending to make a stroke at it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. This applies even if the player moves it 100 yards down the fairway with a practice swing.

Shane puts everything into his final drive on the 18th hole and as a result overbalances and kicks over one of the tee-markers. After dusting himself down his fellow competitor tells him that he has incurred a penalty for moving a fixed tee-marker. True or False?
Answer: False. Decision 11-2/2. Note: There is no penalty for accidentally moving the tee-marker, which should be replaced.

On the teeing ground a player may build a mound with loose soil to place his ball on, rather than using a tee. True or False?

Answer: True. Rule 11-1. Note: When teeing his ball the player may create an irregularity of surface with sand or other natural substance.

In stroke play, if a competitor plays from the wrong teeing ground he incurs a penalty of two strokes and must then play a ball from within the correct teeing ground. True or False?
Answer: True. Rule 11-5. Note: The stroke from the wrong teeing ground, and any subsequent strokes made prior to the correction of the mistake, do not count in the player’s score.

On the 14th hole Katelyn’s tee shot ricocheted off several trees and came to rest behind a tee-marker on the teeing ground of the 16th
hole. Katelyn is not permitted to move the tee-marker before making her next stroke. True or False?
Answer: False. Decision 11-2/1. Note: Tee-markers are deemed to be fixed when playing the first stroke with any ball from the teeing ground but are obstructions otherwise.

I hope that you have learned something from the above. There are 994 more questions, answers, references and explanations on the Rules in my book. There are bound to be many nuggets in there that will save you strokes on the course and maybe even win you a match. At £12.99 ($19.99 / €14.99) it is good value and I will sign it and include the postal charges to anywhere in the world. Why not buy two (or more) copies? It makes a great gift for anyone that plays the great game that is golf.

Always play by the Rules,

Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
999Q on Twitter

Friday, 10 July 2009

Breaking a Club in Anger

There was a minor incident at the recent 109th US Open at Bethpage State Park's Black Course that received very little press comment. It involved 6’ 3”, American Pro, DJ Trahan, who unfortunately failed to make the cut for the 9th time in 10 events. During his second round he chose to putt with his driver after bending his putter beyond use in anger. What do the Rules say about this?

Rule 4-3 makes it clear that a club may only be repaired or replaced if it is damaged in the normal course of play. Examples of ‘no
rmal’, in addition to making a stroke, practice swing or practice stroke, include;
  • removing or replacing the club in a bag
  • using the club to search for or retrieve a ball
  • leaning on the club while waiting to play
  • teeing a ball or removing a ball from the hole
  • accidentally dropping the club.
However, Decision 4-3/1 confirms that ‘normal’ usage of a club does not include;
  • being damaged in anger
  • being thrown vigorously into a bag
  • being struck against the ground, other than during a stroke, practice swing or practice stroke
DJ Trahan and his putter in happier times
One of the most famous incidents concerning a player damaging a club was during the 1997 Verizon Heritage. Woody Austin repeatedly struck his head with his putter, so hard that the shaft bent. Unfortunately for him people are still watching it on video at Woody Austin.

Another important lesson here; keep your composure on the golf course!

Barry Rhodes

Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf” - the easy way to get to know the Rules
999Q on Twitter
Email: rules at barryrhodes dot com

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Understanding Golfing Jargon

The Rule book is written in a very precise and deliberate fashion and it will help golfers to understand the Rules better if they are aware of the correct meanings of words that are used therein. I will try and explain a few of the more common ones in this blog.

  • Stroke play: There are two different ways to play golf; match play, where one side plays against another, and stroke play, where competitors play against every other player in the competition. Strokes, bogey, par and Stableford are all forms of stroke play in which play is against a fixed score at each hole. It is important to note that the Rules for stroke play and match play vary considerably and it is therefore not permitted to combine the two forms of play (Rule 33-1)
  • Playing partner: Many golfers playing in a group of three or four refer to the other players in their group as their playing partners. This is incorrect; they are playing with fellow-competitors. A playing partner is someone on your side, for example in a foursome or four-ball.
  • Foursome: Similar to above, foursome does not mean four players in a group but refers to a form of stroke play or match play where a side of two players play one ball alternately.
  • Opponent: In golf an opponent is someone playing against you in a match.
  • Through the green: This is the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.
  • Teeing ground: Players often refer to ‘tee boxes’, which is not strictly correct. A player starts each hole with a stroke from the teeing ground, which is limited to a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers.
  • Rub of the green: I dedicated a whole blog entry to this term at rub of the green.
  • Fairway: Most of us understand what the fairway is, even if we don’t hit it as often as we would like. However, be careful, as the Rules generally refer to closely mown areas, which are any areas of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
  • Loose Impediment: Any natural object that is not fixed or growing, solidly embedded or adhering to the ball. See my blog loose impediments and movable obstructions.
  • Movable Obstruction: Any artificial object that can easily be moved except objects defining out of bounds.

The best advice that I can give to anyone wishing to gain a better knowledge of the Rules of Golf is to start by reading and understanding the fifty or so definitions at the beginning of the Rules book. They are easy to read and provide a good basis for correct application of the Rules. (edit: As Backspin has pointed out below these are available online at USGA Rules & Decisions.)

Please let me know if there are any golfing terms that you don’t understand.


Barry Rhodes
999Q on Twitter
rules at barryrhodes dot com

P.S. Thanks to everyone that follows me regularly, having subscribed to receiving notice of my blog updates by email. If you would like to receive these notices, please enter your email address at the top right corner of my home web page. I promise you that the content will always be Rules related and that your contact details will never be shared with anyone else.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Are Carts and GPS Devices Spoiling the Game of Golf?

The following recent correspondence is self-explanatory.
Hi Barry
Just seen your clip on Andy’s Home of Golf tv site. I have a question, which I believe is fundamental to the way golf is played, but is it covered in the Rules? As walking, is the central part of the game and connects each phase of the game, is there any mention in the Rules about walking. I ask this because with the invasion of the little golfing carts (and worst still those damn cart tracks scarring our courses), I believe they defuse the game to the point of creating a separate branch of the Golf tha
t many are now calling Cart Ball or Golf. I have nothing against carts for those who need them due age or medical reason to allow them to participate in the game of golf, but otherwise I regard them as the work of the Devil – or the lazy way to play. The Walking campaign/debate is starting get some momentum, if not here certainly in the States ( ). If I can be so bold to ask another question, which this time relates to distance aids, in markers, sprinkler heads, distance aids either via books or electronic device format. Is there any reference to distance aids and if so when roughly would that have been added? In closing, I would like to thank you in anticipation of receiving a reply. One further item which may or may not be of interest to you, I am a direct descendent of Old Tom Morris (my great, great grandfather) with family connections with Charlie Hunter and Willie Rusack. I believe golf is a walking game with no need for any form of distance aids. I have no problem with the knowing the length of each holes or overall length of the course, however my game is based upon the old eye, brain, swing co-ordination that is calculated as I walk to my ball – this also allows me time to select the club by surveying the land ahead, no need for distance information. I call myself a golfer, but many friends in the USA call me a traditional or purist golfer. A title that I do not really enjoy. Sorry to go on and trust that I have not bored you.
Melvyn Hunter Morrow

I am sympathetic to your views of how golf should be played (walking the course and using eye, brain and swing co-ordination to determine which club to use), but having said that, I fully support the R&A / USGA in permitting the use of carts and distance aids. Remember, that there are estimated to be over 60 million persons playing golf and only relatively few of them are blessed to be playing links or parkland golf on verdant courses. I have played many rounds of golf in temperatures over 35°c and have welcomed being able to use a cart, or buggie as I call them. Also, I am beginning to suffer from arthritis and on a recent week's golf in the West of Ireland, where I played 18 holes on four
consecutive days in cold, wet and windy conditions. I know that I could not have done so if buggies had not been available. Having said that, they are not permitted in my own Club, Milltown G.C. in Dublin, except for half a dozen players with medical exemptions, and they have to purchase them for themselves.
As for the Rules of Golf, there is nothing contained therein to prohibit the use of carts and indeed there are many references to them, including the Definition of Equipment, which states, "Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorised." However, I am sure that you are aware that the Rules of Competition (totally different from the Rules of Golf) may prohibit their usage. This certainly applies to the Pro tours, with certain exceptions (e.g. ferrying players between a putting green and the next teeing ground) and it is my understanding that the Golfing Union of Ireland restricts the use of motorised
buggies, in all their competitions, to persons in possession of a medical certificate of disability issued in the current Calendar Year. I am reasonably sure that this is still the situation with competitions run by most National Golfing Bodies and Authorities.
With regard to the use of distance aids, there were changes to the Rules of Golf affecting them in the revisions that took effect from 1st January 2008. The Definition of Advice now includes the statement that, "Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick on the putting green, is not advice." Also, a Note to Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment, now states, "Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only." I am aware that this Local Rule has been adopted by most 'resort' courses, where slow play has become endemic, and that it is increasingly being introduced by member Clubs across the world. I know that my Club,
which celebrated its centenary year in 2007, is coming under pressure from some members to allow GPS distance measuring devices, but I am pleased to say that the Golf Committee has recently agreed to put it off, at least for the current season.
I think that the above views are indicative of golfers all over the world, there are those ‘traditionalists’ that would like to see buggies banned from courses and others who rarely play the game without them. Similarly, there are those that think that GPS distance devices spoil the game and others who want them to be permitted in all competitions, to help reduce the time it takes to play 18 holes under the 4 hours that was once considered the maximum.

Whatever your preferences, I hope that you will always respect and abide by the Rules of Golf, the Local Rules and the Rules of Competition.

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