Thursday, 12 November 2009

Is my Ball on the Putting Green or the Fringe?

This ball is on the putting green
A fellow blogger from Australia told me that he finds it difficult to remember the Rules of Golf as they contain anomalies. As an example, he quoted these two questions from my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’;
Q.81. When a ball touches a line defining out of bounds the player must take a stroke and distance penalty. True or False?
Answer: False. Definition of Out of Bounds.
Note: A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.

Q.132. A ball is deemed to be on the putting green only when all of it lies on the putting green. True or False?
Answer: False. Definition of Putting Green.
Note: A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.
His point was that in the first question all of the ball must be fully outside the line to be OB and in the second, only part of the ball has to touch the putting green to be on it. I argued that conversely, in my opinion, these questions provide a good example of the consistency in the writing of the Rules of golf, because when any part of a ball touches the green it is on the green, when any part of a ball touches the course (i.e. it is not wholly out of bounds) it is in bounds!

Over the past few years, I have come to realise that Rules of Golf that initially may seem to be over-officious, illogical, or unnecessary, are there for very good reason and I have come to admire those that are responsible for covering every eventuality that can possibly occur on a golf course. In addition to Golf, I also take an interest in Rugby, Soccer, Gaelic Football, Hurling, Aussie Rules, Baseball and American Football. If only the Rules in these games were as precise and non-controversial as those of Golf!

If you are ever in doubt as to the status of where your ball lies this little memory jogger may help;

When any part of a ball touches:-
  • a putting green, it is on the putting green
  • the teeing ground, it is in the teeing ground
  • a bunker, it is in the bunker
  • a water hazard (or overhangs the margin of a water hazard), it is in the water hazard
  • casual water, it is in casual water
  • an abnormal ground condition, it is in the abnormal ground condition*
  • the course,(or overhangs the course) it is in bounds (i.e. not out of bounds)
* Note: An abnormal ground condition is any casual water, ground under repair (GUR) or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
I’d say that the above explanations are all pretty logical.

Since writing this blog I have received another useful tip on this subject from someone I correspond with in Canada. The statement he uses to remind him is even simpler;
"The ball is on the part of the course it touches.
Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes
* Details of my special Christmas Offer on my book very soon.

26 comments:

courtgolf said...

I was thinking about this rule earlier this week while watching "The Big Break" on The Golf Channel.

During one of the challenges, one of the guys' approach shot crossed a water hazard and plugged passing right through the red marking line.

They made him go back across the lake to hit, saying that the ball was in the hazard because the ball was touching the boundary of the hazard.

What it looked like to me was that the ball was in play because it wasn't completely behind the line, AND it was embedded. He should have gotten a free drop to play up to the green.

Does this not sound right to you ?

Barry Rhodes said...

Courtgolf,

If the ball was touching the line of the hazard the ball was definitely in the hazard. Therefore the fact that it was embedded was not relevant as you do not get relief for an embedded ball in the hazard. The last time the ball crossed the margin of the hazard was on the far side of the lake and so, presuming he could not play from where the ball was at rest, the player had to drop a ball on the far side according to the options available in Rule 26-1.

Barry

courtgolf said...

If any part of the ball is in bounds, the ball is in bounds. Isn't that the rule ? The line is technically in bounds, so the ball has to be completely behind the line.

This ball was ON the line...well...actually UNDER the line...but that's not important right now. :-) So the ball should have been declared in bounds, and then embedded.

Or am I misreading the rule ?

Barry Rhodes said...

Courtgolf,

I think that you may be mixing up different Rules here. First you are absolutely correct in saying that "If any part of the ball is in bounds, the ball is in bounds." In bounds means within the boundaries of the course, which are defined by WHITE posts or lines.

Your original comment said that an "approach shot crossed a water hazard and plugged passing right through the red marking line." RED stakes and lines define the margins of water hazards, so the player's ball was inside the lateral water hazard (because part of it was inside the red line) and in bounds (i.e. within the boundaries of the course).

There is no relief for an embedded ball in water hazards, which includes lateral water hazards.

I am not sure which Rule you are reading but you are wrong in commenting that if a ball is on a white line, which defines the course boundary, it is in bounds. In fact, if a ball lies fully on that line, with no part of it overlapping the course side of the line, the ball is out of bounds.

I would refer you back to my blog, which provides a simple table to determine the status of a ball's location on the course.

Barry

courtgolf said...

Ah - I see my mistake. When you put the white stakes comment in there and then the red stakes comment, I got it. For some reason, I was thinking they were both treated the same way. (that if any part of the ball was in bounds, the ball is in bounds) The embedded ball was secondary and had no bearing since I was wrong about the hazard boundary.

Thanks !

34rules said...

Barry
If I can be so bold to suggest to your bloggers, the Rules of Golf book says exactly what it means. There are no hidden agendas and it is what it says. Knowing and understanding the definitions makes knowing and understanding the rules possible. Take the rules at face value and understand that what they say is simply what they mean.

Example Rule 4-4 says The player must not start a stipulated round with more than 14 clubs. There are no exceptions to this rule and if your partner from yesterday put his club in you bag and now you have 15 .......... well ........... you have a problem and there is no argument that will prevent you from being penalized. That is just a small example to make my point.
34rules

Larry Quah said...

I am of the opinion that the ROG is about one of the most comprehensive for any sport. It's also precise and contains language that is clear and easily interpreted. Accolades to those who have complied and updated it over the years.

34rules said...

Thats a big ditto from me.

Vince Spence said...

Barry,

Even the pros on occasion plat lift, clean and place. I do not think the ROG cover this situation, but what is your suggestion/thought on this?

Using your picture, but the shorter grass is the fringe and the longer grass is the first cut of rough. The ball would be deemed to be on grass where they are playing L,C & P, and the player could seek relief. Relief would not change the place of the next shot, but the nature of that shot - from pretty difficult up against the rough to pretty easy on the fringe. Your thought?

Thanks, still love book...

Vince Spence said...

I thought 25-2 only gives relief from an embedded ball in any closely mowed area 'through the green'. So, if it is embedded in the hazard or even in the rough, if you want relief, it'll cost you a stroke.

The PGA tour enacts a local rule each week for the tournament they are playing allowing relief in areas other than hazards. I think on the European tour, there is no local rule for embedded balls.

Barry Rhodes said...

Vince,

You are quite correct that Rule 25-2 only gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely mown area through the green. However, when course conditions are bad there may often be a Local Rule in place permitting relief anywhere through the green. My point above was that a player can never take relief for a ball embedded in a water hazard.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Vince,

Sorry, I missed the second part of your comment.

I am pretty sure that both the PGA Tour and the European Tour only bring in the Local Rule relating to embedded balls anywhere through the green when the course conditions are bad.

Barry

34rules said...

Vince
A local rule is not required for embedded ball ... 25-2 is the rule.
The local rule is required for Lift Clean and Cheat, sorry I mean place. I tend to think that should the course be in such a condition where the committee feels the need to implement this method of play that the tournament should be postponed. Unfortunately the pressures of TV contracts and scheduling seem to encourage the contrary.
34rules

Ruth said...

In your picture the ball is said to be on the green - if it is on green but against fringe can a local rule be made to give player releif from position - on grounds of not having back swing to putt?

Barry Rhodes said...

Ruth,

No absolutely not. Two of the principles of golf are to play the ball as it lies and the course as you find it. There are umpteen situations where the golfer does not get the lie that he would like; in a divot hole, behind a tree, in long grass, etc.

Rule 33-8 states that the Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf. A ball resting against the fringe of the green would definitely not qualify as an abnormal condition.

Barry

Anonymous said...

You say that if "any part of a ball touches the course (i.e. it is not wholly out of bounds) it is in bounds!" Geometry defines that the tangent plane to a surface at a given point is the plane that "just touches but does not intersect with" the surface at that point. Thus according to geometry a ball can be wholly behind the out of bounds line (plane) although touching it tangentially. Where I can find this ruling "any part of a ball touches the course"? I accept that this makes sense fully e.g. in situation when out of bounds starts immediately behind a water hazard. Without this touching rule a ball could be simultaneously in hazard and out of bounds. I just would like to know where this "touching thing" comes from. I even remember breaking this ruling just few months ago as marker ruling my partner's ball out of bounds as it was according to my mind wholly out although just touching the line.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

You are correct. I have corrected the above blog by adding "(or overhangs the course)".

The Definition of Out of Bounds includes this statement;

"A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds."

So, if any part of the ball overhangs the course it is in bounds.

Thank you for pointing out this error.

Barry

GregH said...

Hi Barry,

Ive searched for a definition of "ball lies" without success & your "overhangs" concept follows the idea that a section of a ball passes through a vertical plane & therefore "touches " the course. Following this train of thought it would seem logical that "if any part of the ball touches a hazard,putting green, abnormal ground condition, etc " it is in that condition.
It would therefore seem that if a ball lying on the course, is up against a hazard stake, then it is touching the hazard & should be , " in the hazard, as the stakes are deemed to be in the hazard.
Logically this seems correct, but I don't think Ill get much agreement at my local. :)

The argument at my local is that the rule says touches & not overhangs. As the ball is round it is only a very small segment of the ball that actually touches any ground.

However the OOB rule does qualify by stating "wholly"

Regards
GregH

Barry Rhodes said...

Greg,

I am not sure that I am properly understand your comment. Let me make a couple of observations to see if they clarify the issues for you. First, part of the Definition of Water Hazard states;

When the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the water hazard

So, a ball that touches a stake is definitely inside the hazard. The same Definition includes this statement;

The margin of a water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

So a ball is in a water hazard if part of it overhangs the margin, even if it does not touch any part of the ground inside the water hazard.

I will now edit this blog to clarify that when any part of a ball touches or overhangs a water hazard, it is in the water hazard.

Barry

GregH said...

Thanku Barry,

I can understand that the ball touches the stake , which by definition is in the hazard. However i struggle with the idea that that a ball in the same situation with the stake now removed, is in the hazard because it "touches" the air space of the hazard. The word touches seems to me to relate to a more tangible substance such as grass & the like.
The ball being round can only physically touch a very small amount of ground horizontally or indeed stake vertically , whereas it touches air for its entire circumference.
The rules say repeatedly …".where the ball lies in or any part of it touches….."
The disagreement arises from this concept of touches.
When the stake is there it clearly touches something.
when the stake is removed from the identical situation it is argued that it now touches nothing in the hazard.
The ball lies on the fairway, touching only the fairway.

Regards
GregH

Barry Rhodes said...

Greg,

Perhaps it is easier for you to understand the concept of the margin of a water hazard extending upwards by imagining a ball that is lodged in a branch of a tree inside the margin. In the Rules of Golf that ball is in the water hazard.

Barry

kevin go said...

Unfortunately, "touch" can be interpreted differently, from plan view and side view. If for instance, 1 cm of the ball overlaps the putting green, in plan view, it has touched the putting green, but viewing from the side, the rounded bottom of the ball is still sitting on the fringe, some deemed it not physically touching the putting green. Perhaps, the Rules should be clear about this issue.

Kevin Ho

Barry Rhodes said...

Kevin,

I disagree with you. There is a difference between a ball touching the putting green (on the PG) and overhanging the putting green (not on the PG). The side view only applies where the margin of a course feature (e.g. a water hazard) is upwards from ground level. This definitely does not apply to a putting green. The Rules are absolutely clear on this matter.

Barry

kevin go said...

Hi Barry

Thanks very much for your valuable advice, in quick time. But I can say, alot of golfers have the wrong answer as me.

The picture that you posted on 12 Nov 2009 didn't help our proper understanding of the rule, as it appeared 50% on. But if it had shown the ball slightly protruding into the putting green (say about 1 cm), then it would be crystal clear, that the ball would still not be on the putting green, with your guidance.

I have been diligently following your postings for several years. And I must say I have enjoyed them tremendously whilst being enriched with the knowledge you so willingly share with all of us.

With best regards

Michael Altobello said...

Hi Barry,

Thanks for the help on this one. Ball is on putting green ... "sort of".

Question is putting green was mowed that morning but mower missed a sliver on the edge. Is the ball on the green or is that deemed fringe for the day?

Thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Michael,

In the circumstance that you describe, the ball was not on the putting green, because no part of it was touching the grass that was cut to the putting green length.

Barry