Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Facts About the Rules of Golf

Royal & Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews, Scotland

With very little happening in the golfing world over the holiday season I am devoting my last blog of 2009 to some miscellaneous facts about the Rules of Golf, some of which I am sure that you will know and some that I hope are new to you.
  1. The first recorded rules of the game of golf were created by the golfers playing at Leith Links, Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1744.
  2. There were originally 13 Rules which can be viewed here.
  3. In 1897 the Royal and Ancient were given sole control of the Rules of Golf Committee.
  4. The Royal & Ancient (R&A), located in St. Andrews, Scotland, is golf ’s world rules and development body that operates with the consent of more than 136 national and international, amateur and professional organisations, from over 123 countries and on behalf of an estimated 30 million golfers in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and The Americas (outside the USA and Mexico).
  5. The United States Golf Association (USGA) is the game’s governing body in the United States and Mexico, also representing an estimated 30 million golfers.
  6. The R&A and USGA have worked closely together since 1952 to produce a uniform code of rules, so that wherever in the world the game is played the same rules apply.
  7. There are now 34 Rules of Golf and over 1,200 Decisions on the Rules.
  8. There is only one issue on which the R&A and USGA have failed to agree and that relates to the maximum prize that may be awarded for a hole-in-one. See my blog on this.
  9. In 1952 the ‘stymie’ was abolished; previously players had to chip over an opponent's ball coming to rest between their ball and the hole in match play.
  10. From 1984 a ball to be dropped is no longer dropped over the player's shoulder, but at arm's length and at shoulder height.
  11. Every four years the two governing bodies agree any necessary amendments or clarifications to the Rules of Golf, whereas the Decisions on the Rules are reviewed on a two-year cycle.
  12. The next changes to the Rules of Golf will be on 1st January 2012.
  13. A new Decisions on the Rules book has just been published, with 30 new Decisions, 49 revised Decisions and one withdrawn Decision, that take effect on 1st January 2010.
  14. Both the Rules of Golf and the Decisions on the Rules of Golf can be accessed online at either; http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Rules-of-Golf/Rules-and-Decisions or http://www.randa.org/rules/rulessub/rulespage.
Now is an excellent time to set your golfing goals for 2010, however simple or ambitious they may be. My New Year’s wishes are that you can always enjoy the wonderful game of golf, and that you will play your part in maintaining its unique integrity by playing to, and observing, the Rules at all times.

Barry Rhodes
Author of the easiest way to get to know the Rules, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’.
rules@barryrhodes.com

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

9 Golfing Nuggets - Before You Start Your Round

Photo: Dansk Golf Union

A year ago, my good friend Andy Brown, of GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com, and I launched a 75-minute compact disk, ‘99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’, containing 11 chapters of tips on how to avoid penalties and save strokes on the golf course.

The following are shortened versions of the 9 nuggets that every player should use as a check list before they even commence their round. Many of them are self-evident but I guarantee that the majority of golfers will be caught out
by at least one of them during 2010.
  1. Arrive at the course well before your starting time. The penalty for not being on the1st tee at your allotted tee time is disqualification (Rule 6-1).
  2. Check that your competition score card date has your name and the date on it and enter your correct handicap.
  3. Ensure that you know the exact format of the competition that you are about to play in (e.g. strokes, par or Stableford) and which colour tees you are to play from.
  4. Read the Local Rules on the back of the score card and on the course notice board. This is so important that I will do a separate blog on it next week.
  5. Ensure that you carry a current Rules of Golf book in your golf bag. Rule 6-1 states that it’s up to each individual player to know the Rules, and being able to reference the book during a round could assist you to make a right decision out on the course.
  6. Put recognisable personal identification marks on all your golf balls. Knowing that you are playing a Titleist 1 Pro V1 is not good enough, as so are thousands of other golfers.
  7. Check that you have enough golf balls to complete your round - even the best players lose balls!
  8. Count your clubs on the first tee to make sure that you are carrying 14, or less
  9. If you arrive early enough you may practice anywhere on the course for a match play competition, but not for a stroke play competition. However, this does not prevent you from using the practice putting green or driving range. You may also practice putting, or chipping, on or near the first teeing ground.
Now you’re ready to start your round.

Happy New Golfing Year

Barry Rhodes

We still have some copies of ‘99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’. If you would like a copy at the special price of $27 (or $17 as MP3 files), plus bonus transcription, click on this link.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Casual Water in Bunkers - Rule 25-1b(ii)

Photo - BunkerBlaster .com
Many golf courses in Western Europe have had significantly higher rainfalls than is usual for this time of year. This has raised the subject of how players should proceed when their ball lies in water-filled bunkers. Here is a question I received two weeks ago from a Committee member of a Club close to where I live in South Dublin.
“If bunkers are out of play (due to really wet conditions) where is ball played from - nearest point of relief or club length back in line where ball was originally played from. Hope you can assist me here or tell me where I can find out. I have searched the rule book but it does not specify what to do when a bunker is out of play completely.”
The first important point that I must make here is that a Committee may not take bunkers out of play just because they are waterlogged. Decision 33-8/27 states;
Q. May a Committee make a Local Rule allowing a player to drop out of any bunker filled with casual water, without penalty, contrary to Rule 25-1b(ii)?
A. No. The Committee may not make a Local Rule providing generally that flooded bunkers are ground under repair through the green as such a Local Rule waives a penalty imposed by the Rules of Golf, contrary to Rule 33-8b.
However, in conditions of extreme wetness, where certain specific bunkers are completely flooded prior to the competition commencing and there is no reasonable likelihood of the bunkers drying up during the competition, the Committee may, in such exceptional circumstances, introduce a Local Rule providing that specific bunkers, which are known to be flooded prior to the competition commencing, are deemed to be ground under repair and classified as through the green. Therefore relief may be taken outside these bunkers without penalty in accordance with Rule 25-1b(i). In a competition played over more than one round, such a Local Rule may be introduced or rescinded between rounds. (Revised)
So, what can a player do under the Rules when a bunker is completely covered by water? Decision 25-1b/8 clearly sets out that they have
three options;
"Q. If a player's ball lies in a bunker completely covered by casual water, what are his options?
A. The player may play the ball as it lies or:
(1) drop the ball in the bunker without penalty at the nearest point, not nearer the hole, where the depth of the casual water is least — Rule 25-1b(ii)(a); or
(2) drop the ball behind the bunker under penalty of one stroke — Rule 25-1b(ii)(b); or
(3) deem the ball unplayable and proceed in accordance with Rule 28.”
Note that the second option above incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be dropped outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay in the water in the bunker 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.

So, if a Committee wants to take individual bunkers out of play, whether it’s because they are being renovated or because they are completely filled with water, it must introduce a Local Rule. This is the revised wording for Decision 25/13 that comes into effect from 1st January 2010;
"If a bunker is being renovated and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, the bunker loses its status as a hazard and is automatically classified as ‘through the green’. Therefore, unless a Committee specifically states otherwise, Rule 25–1b(i) applies, not Rule 25–1b(ii). (Revised)"
Please pass this blog entry along to your Club Committee if they are having a problem as to how to deal with waterlogged bunkers.

Happy golfing, wherever you play,

Barry Rhodes
Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf'. Click here for special Christmas gift offer.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Relief from Immovable Obstruction in a Water Hazard

Earlier this week, a Rules aficionado from Bangladesh raised an interesting point relating to taking relief from an immovable obstruction in a water hazard. His query was all the more interesting because he provided a photograph of the circumstances.

Here is the question. If a player’s ball lies through the green (e.g. on the fringe of the putting green) may they take relief from an immovable obstruction that is located within the margin of a water hazard?

Before you answer, take a look at the photo. I apologise that you cannot clearly read the captions but I will explain the situation below.

The ball lies on the fringe about 3’ from the putting green, which is to the right side of the photo. The margin of the water hazard is defined by the log heads, which support the bank above the water level. The log heads interfere with the swing and/or the normal stance of a player making a stroke to the green. So, do the Rules of Golf permit the player to take relief, without penalty, in this situation?

Yes, they do. Rule 24-2b states that a player may take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction, except when the ball is in a water hazard or lateral water hazard.

Another example of when relief is available under Rule 24-2b is when there is a bridge/path inside the margin of a water hazard that interferes with a player’s stance, or area of intended swing, when their ball lies outside of the margin.

Now, let me add a word of caution. In the circumstances described in the question above it is highly likely that the Committee could have made a Local Rule declaring that the log heads were integral parts of the course. In this case there would be no relief and the ball would have to be played as it lies. This illustrates one of my most important nuggets on the Rules; you should never commence a round of golf on a new course without reading the Local Rules first. This can save you several strokes over the course of a year.

I wish happy golfing to everyone in this holiday month.

Barry Rhodes

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