Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Embedded Ball - Rule 25-2

Regular readers will be aware that I play my golf in Ireland, where at this time of year we are often faced with balls that are embedded. So, I thought that it would be timely to explain when relief without penalty may be taken for an embedded ball and how that relief must be taken. The relevant Rule is 25-2.

When is a ball considered to be embedded?
It must be in its own pitch-mark with part of the ball below the level of the ground. However, the ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be considered embedded, e.g., grass or loose impediments may intervene between the ball and the soil (Decision 25-2/0.5).
Where is relief without penalty available for a ball that is embedded?
When the ball is embedded in any closely mown area through the green.
What is a closely mown area?
Any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
Interestingly, the above reference is the only time that the word 'fairway' is mentioned in the Rules of Golf.

What relief is available?
An embedded ball in a closely mown area may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.
What if the dropped ball embeds again on impact?
The player is entitled to drop the ball again, Decision 25-2/2.
What if the re-dropped ball embeds?
The player may, in equity (Rule 1-4), place the ball as near as possible to the spot where it embedded when re-dropped, but not nearer the hole, Decision 25-2/2.5.
Are grass banks or faces of bunkers considered to be closely mown areas?
Only if they are cut to fairway height or less, Decision 25-2/5.
If a player strikes their ball straight into a fairway bank, i.e., the ball is never airborne, is the player entitled to relief for an embedded ball?
No, relief is only available if a ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark, which implies that the ball has to be airborne after the stroke.
Is there ever free relief for a ball that is embedded in the rough?
Only if the Committee has made a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green, due to abnormal course conditions that warrant such relief. The relief has to specifically permit relief for an embedded ball through the green, for example, it is not sufficient for a notice to say ‘”Winter Rules in operation”.
(Edit: I have confirmed that the USGA invokes a Local Rule permitting relief without penalty for embedded balls 'through the green' in all their championships, which I am sure has contributed to the confusion on this subject from those that regularly watch these events on TV).

Wishing you good golfing in 2011, whatever the course conditions.

Barry Rhodes

• Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
• Author and narrator of the CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’
• Content provider for the iPhone application, 'Golf Rules Quiz'
• Author of the weekly email photo Q&A series, ‘Rhodes Rules School’

Monday, 20 December 2010

Golfers Will Understand... !

Your practice swing is always better than the one you use to hit the ball.

The less skilled the player, the more likely they are to share their ideas about the golf swing.

No matter how bad you are playing, it is always possible to play worse.

Everyone replaces their divot after a perfect approach shot.

A golf match is a test of your skill against your opponent’s luck.

The moment that you think you’ve cracked the game, it sneaks up and mugs you.

The shortest distance between any two points on a golf course is a straight line that passes directly through the centre of a very large tree.

You can hit a two acre fairway 10% of the time and a two inch branch 90% of the time.

If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age.

If you play golf as a form of relaxation, how do you ever manage to work?

Since bad shots come in groups of three, a fourth bad shot is actually the beginning of the next group of three.

Every time a golfer makes a birdie, he must subsequently make two double bogeys to restore the fundamental equilibrium of the universe.

Golf can be described as a lot of walking broken up by disappointment and bad arithmetic.

To calculate the speed of a player's downswing, multiply the speed of his back-swing by his handicap.

There are two things you can learn by stopping your back-swing at the top and checking the position of your hands: how many hands you have, and which one is wearing the glove.

Golf’s law of physics: hazards attract, fairways repel.

If there is a ball on the apron and another in the bunker, your ball is in the bunker. If both balls are in the bunker, yours is in the footprint.

A good shot on the 18th hole has stopped many a golfer from giving up the game.

Golf balls are like eggs: they are white, they are sold in dozens and you need to buy fresh ones each week.

It's amazing how some golfers who never help out around the house will replace their divots, repair their ball marks, and rake their footsteps in bunkers.

If your opponent has trouble remembering whether they shot a six or a seven, they probably shot an eight.

Always remember that both good and bad luck are integral parts of the game of golf.

Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, during which all your balls lie in green pastures and not in still waters!

Barry Rhodes

‘Rhodes Rules School’: Would you like to receive a short email every week, with a different scenario that you may encounter on the golf course, illustrated with one or two photos? There is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here.

Here are some comments that I have received from ‘Rhodes Rules School’ subscribers in the past month;
  • “Hi Barry. Keep it up. Best rules presentation I have seen in 40 years of golf.” David M.
  • “May I also congratulate and thank you for a great service to golfers.” Ian M.
  • “Thoroughly enjoy your deliberations on explaining the rules of golf. The rules of golf are many and varied and it is no surprise that so many golfers, old and new, are so unsure of what to do when faced with making a decision. Thank you.” Sam Mc.
  • “Please know I've been singing your praises to all and sundry.” Ed B.
  • “Thank you for the service you provide, I love reading random rules and the effort you go to, to put rules into context of a real situation, really helps to clarify each one.” Matt.
  • “I find the explanation of the rules most informative and often recommend the service to others.” Graeme J.
  • “Your newsletter is well read and well received.” Terence L.
  • “Your help with the golf rules has been simply tremendous; I have had some great fun with my peers asking them questions regarding the rules.” Fred W.
  • “I continue to enjoy your “Rhodes Rules School” emails and find them helpful in my preparation for the USGA Rules Seminar and written exam. Thank you!” Belinda M.
  • “I am a great fan of your blog and newsletter and have often forwarded your mails to many Golfers in India that could benefit from your work.” Akshat P.
  • “Sent it to about 20 some golfing friends - the least I can do to show appreciation for your excellent emails!” Dean V.
  • “Thank you for this info. I have enjoyed receiving the rules of golf, these have helped me out during our club comp, as they are put where not only do you have a question, but you can decide your answer before you scroll down.” Ray L.
  • “I am not at all surprised to learn that there are so many requests for your articles since they are marvelously good and informative.” Priscilla W.
  • “Well done. Keep them coming.” Joe G.
Click here to subscribe to 'Rhodes Rules School'.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Hold on to Your Putter!

Mike Clayton is an Australian golfer who had seven wins as a Tour professional. However, undoubtedly he will be mostly remembered for a bizarre Rules incident, which was later featured in the R&A’s 2001 video, ‘Golf: Know the Rules’. I apologise to him in advance for resurrecting something that he no doubt wants to forget, but it is a clip that I think will amuse you, is appropriate for the approaching holiday season and it does contain a serious Rules message. I recommend that you open this short video clip.

If you are receiving this blog by email from FeedBurner
click here to view the video.

So, what is the appropriate ruling for throwing your club at your ball in frustration? Well, here is a Q&A based on this incident taken directly from my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’;
Q.537: After missing a short putt Mark throws his club in the air in frustration. Unfortunately, he doesn’t catch it cleanly on the way down and it falls onto his ball, moving it away from the hole. What is the ruling?
Answer: Mark is penalised one stroke for moving his ball in play and must replace his ball. Rule 18-2a.
Note: If equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced.
If the ball had still been moving when the player’s club hit it there would still be a one stroke penalty, but when this happens the relevant Rule is 19-2, which requires the ball to be played from where it comes to rest. This ruling is confirmed in Decision 14/6, which ironically, also rules that if a player instinctively throws his putter towards their ball, but misses, there is no penalty, as their action does not count as a stroke and their ball was not moved.

Fortunately, Mike Clayton did not incur an additional penalty when the ball went on to hit his arm while he was lying prone on the ground. Decision 1-4/12 confirms that when a single act results in one Rule being breached more than once the player only incurs a single penalty.

Of course, Mike Clayton’s biggest penalty was that he will never be allowed to forget this amusing (for us) golfing incident.

Have you checked out my Christmas video? If not, please click here. It’s not too late to get my book as a very acceptable Christmas present for any golfing friend or family member. Order now and I will rush it to you.

Very best wishes,


Barry Rhodes

Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’

Thursday, 2 December 2010

How to Understand the Rules of Golf Better

A seasonal message for those that find my blog content interesting.

Please click on the video;

If you are receiving this blog by email click here

Click here to purchase my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’

Click here to subscribe to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly emails

Seasonal Greetings,

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ian Poulter Breaches Rule 20-3

Photo by Kamran Jebreili

In what could be the last interesting ruling in this season’s tournament golf, in a year that has seen many of them, Ian Poulter called a penalty on himself on the second playoff hole of the European Tour’s final tournament in Dubai. The circumstances were that as he went to replace his golf ball he accidentally dropped it onto his marker, flipping it over. Ironically, Poulter’s marker is a ‘lucky’ coin featuring his children's names. His one stroke penalty for this breach meant that Robert Karlsson had two putts to win the $1.25 million first prize. Fortunately, he sunk his first putt of around 4-feet for a birdie, which means that Poulter can probably sleep a little sounder over his winter break.

Now some may claim that there was no penalty as part of Rule 20-3a states;
If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of placing or replacing the ball, 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 placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker. Otherwise, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a or 20-1.
However, Decision 20-1/15 clearly states;
Q. What is meant by the phrase "directly attributable to the specific act" in Rules 20-1 and 20-3a?

A. In Rule 20-1 the phrase means the specific act of placing a ball-marker behind the ball, placing a club to the side of the ball, or lifting the ball such that the player's hand, the placement of the ball-marker or the club, or the lifting of the ball causes the ball or the ball-marker to move.
In Rule 20-3a the phrase means the specific act of placing or replacing a ball in front of a ball-marker, placing a club to the side of the ball-marker, or lifting the ball-marker such that the player's hand, the placement of the ball or the club, or the lifting of the ball-marker causes the ball or the ball-marker to move.

Under either Rule, any accidental movement of the ball or the ball-marker which occurs before or after this specific act, such as dropping the ball or ball-marker, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered to be "directly attributable" and would result in the player incurring a penalty stroke.
So, there is no doubt that Ian Poulter was correct in penalising himself one stroke. This leads to the question of whether it is a fair ruling? Well, there has to be some point at which the movement of a ball or ball-marker incurs a penalty. The Rules have to be very precise, or there would be arguments in almost every competition or match ever played. The Rules cannot be expected to protect us from clumsiness, forgetfulness or bad luck.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

If you enjoy reading my blog items and are not receiving them by email you can subscribe at the top right hand corner of this blog page. If you are already a subscriber I would ask you to recommend the site to someone else that you know that you think might benefit from the content. Thank you.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Marking a Ball to the Side

Here is a situation that happens to most golfers sooner or later. You are requested to mark your ball to the side of where it came to rest on a putting green, because otherwise your ball marker may interfere with a fellow competitor’s line of putt. You carefully mark the ball one or two putter-lengths to the side and then get absorbed in watching the line of other players’ putts and conversing with them about their good (or poor) attempts. When it is your turn to play, you replace your ball at your marker, forgetting to reverse the steps that were used to mark it to the side. This results in you playing from the wrong place. So what is the ruling? The player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play under Rule 20-7, Playing from Wrong Place, and must carry on playing their ball from where it came to rest or, if the ball was putted into the hole, they had holed out.

This is important. Once a player has played from the wrong place in stroke play they must continue play of the hole. Part of Rule 20-7c states;
If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule. He must play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place, without correcting his error, provided he has not committed a serious breach (see Note 1).
The Note 1 referred to above explains that a competitor is deemed to have committed a serious breach of the applicable Rule if the Committee considers he has gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place. Obviously putting from a putter-length or two from where you should have is not a serious breach. In match play the player loses the hole as soon as they play from a wrong place.

If a player plays from a wrong place in the circumstances described above and then realises what they have done, they should not try and rectify the situation or they will incur an additional penalty of two strokes. Decision 20-7c/2 confirms;
Q. In stroke play, A mistakenly replaced his ball in front of B's ball-marker (which was near A's ball-marker) and putted. The ball came to rest about one foot from the hole. The error was then discovered and A lifted his ball without marking its position, placed it in front of his own ball-marker and finished the hole. What is the ruling?

A. When A replaced his ball in front of B's ball-marker and putted, he played from a wrong place and incurred a penalty of two strokes; the ball was in play — Rule 20-7c.
When A then lifted his ball from where it lay about one foot from the hole without marking its position and did not replace it, he incurred the general penalty (two strokes) for a breach of Rule 20-1 — see second paragraph of Rule 20-1.

Thus, A incurred a total penalty of four strokes.
This is a good example of how not knowing a Rule of Golf can be costly in terms of penalty strokes. I have a useful tip that might help you to avoid this breach of Rule in the first place. When I mark a ball to the side as a courtesy to another player I immediately turn my putter upside-down and hold it by the putter head. I only ever do this when my ball marker has been placed to the side, so it serves as a trigger reminder for me to replace my marker when it is my turn to putt. I recommend this routine that has worked for me for several years now.

My final point concerns how the player marks their ball to the side. It does not matter what method they use, providing the steps to move the ball or ball-marker to the side are then strictly reversed when the ball is replaced. This ensures that the ball is accurately replaced on the spot from which it was lifted.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Christmas is approaching fast. Why not buy 3 or 5 copies of my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ at big discounts, keep one for yourself to help you understand the Rules better and pass on the others to golfing friends and family as a low-cost gift that they will always thank you for. Click here for details on how to purchase on-line.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Barry Rhodes 'Stars' in TV Ad

Several weeks ago I was approached by a eminent US advertising agency who asked if I would mind if they used short clips from my YouTube videos on the Rules of Golf. They explained that they were creating a TV advertisement for Golfnow.com, the largest online tee-time retailer in the United States, owned and operated by Golf Channel of Orlando, Florida. Of course, I was intrigued as to the context in which they wanted to use my low-cost, self-produced videos, but was happy to obtain any additional exposure that may result from the TV ads (and a nominal license fee helped me make-up my mind!). I think that the resulting ad will amuse you. I understand that it is already being aired to TV audiences in both the Atlanta and San Diego areas. Be patient, it takes a couple of seconds to start.

If you haven’t seen the original videos from which these ad clips were taken, each of which runs between 3 1/2 and 5 minutes, they can be viewed by clicking on these links;
Water Hazard
Lateral Water Hazard
Nearest Point of Relief
Ball Unplayable
The Rules of Golf aren’t really hard, and I hope that by following my blog you can get a better understanding that will help you enjoy your game more.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes is;

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Professional Golfers Ignoring Local Rules - Again!

This season has seen some spectacular Rules screw-ups from professional golfers that should really know better. But we rarely have three of them in a single tournament, which is what happened in the pro-celebrity Star Trophy at Mission Hills in Haikou, China, last weekend.

First, six-time Major winner, Sir Nick Faldo, suffered the indignity of a Round 1 disqualification. He missed a putt on the eighth hole and picked-up his ball, thinking that he could not better his playing partner’s score. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that the pro-celebrity format included a professionals only competition. His mistake was not brought to his attention until he had teed off at the next hole, by which time it was too late to rectify and he was automatically disqualified, under Rule 3-2, Failure to Hole Out.

Next, Colin Montgomerie was the weekend’s biggest loser when, during the final against retired lady golfer, Lorena Ochoa, his caddy moved an advertising sign on his line of play. This is permitted in any PGA or European Tour event. But a Local Rule at the Star Trophy, contained in a sheet handed out to the competitors before the competition started, stated that these signs could not be moved. Monty was penalised two strokes for his caddie's action; the same number of strokes that kept him from making a playoff against Lorena Ochoa, who therefore took the winner’s prize money of $1.28 million. Ouch!

Finally, the most spectacular penalty situation at this event was the 26-stroke penalty incurred by Ryuji Imada, who actually admitted that he did not bother to read the Local Rules sheet. When difficult course conditions require that ‘lift, clean and place’ operates on the PGA Tour, where Imada usually plays, players are able to place the ball within one club-length of its original position. But on the Asian and European tours, the ball must be placed within the length of a scorecard (about 6 inches). It wasn’t until the 12th hole that his fellow competitor, Danny Lee, noticed that Imada was breaking the rule and informed him accordingly. He was penalised two strokes for every ball that he had lifted, cleaned and placed on the fairway, a total of 26 strokes. When asked about his infraction, Imada succinctly replied, “I’m an idiot”.

Is it unreasonable, following Dustin Johnson’s high-profile and high-cost ‘Bunker-gate’ affair (see this link), to expect that golf Pros, and especially their caddies, should now pay more attention to the sheets that are given to all competitors prior to the start of each event detailing Local Rules and Conditions of Competitions? I don’t think so. Once again I recommend that you make this chore a regular feature of your own pre-game routine, especially when playing on a course that you are not totally familiar with. You can only gain by doing so.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are coming to the end of another golf season. Why not use the off-season time to get a better understanding of the Rules. If you have not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series I recommend that you do so now. This weekly email, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Be assured that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link to subscribe.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Club-lengths Don't Have to be Measured

Here is a question that raises some interesting issues relating to club-lengths.
“Please resolve a dispute amongst our group of members at the Golf Club. When measuring club-lengths using a driver, does the head-cover have to be removed?”
Some readers may be surprised to hear that there is nothing in the Rules that says that a club must be used in measuring club-lengths. A drop is valid providing the ball first touches the course within the distance required by the Rule and does not come to rest in a place that requires it to be re-dropped (e.g. nearer the hole or out of bounds). Thus, one or two club-length distances may be estimated and don’t have to be accurately marked, although it is obviously wise to do so if you want to use the full extent of the relief that is available. If a club is used to define the extent of the area in which the ball is to be dropped there is no requirement for the head-cover to be removed. However, the measurement obviously does not include the extra length provided by the head-cover, as this is not part of the club.

There are a couple of other interesting points regarding measuring club-lengths. First, a player may use another competitor’s club to measure distances, but only if they carry a club in their bag that is as long, or longer, as the one that they have borrowed. If the player could not have achieved the same outcome by measuring with one of their own clubs they incur the penalty for playing from a wrong place (Decision 20/2).

The second situation is when a player taking relief under a Rule, uses their driver to measure two club-lengths prescribed in the relevant Rule. They drop their ball correctly and the ball rolls less than two driver-lengths, but more than two putter-lengths, from where the ball first struck a part of the course when dropped. If their ball comes to rest in a poor lie, may they then opt to use their putter to measure the distance their ball has rolled, in which case they could re-drop under Rule 20-2c and escape the poor lie? As you would expect, the answer is that they must continue to use the club originally used for measuring for all measuring in a given situation (Decision 20/1).

Before anyone reading this blog item writes to me asking if a player is permitted to use their long-handled for measuring club-lengths, let me state that there is nothing in the Rules that prohibits this practice, but don’t do it! It would be considered to be very poor etiquette, as it obviously offers an advantage not intended by the Ruling Bodies to anyone using this type of club for putting. In my opinion, use of a long-handled putter should be prohibited anyway!

In February of this year I wrote about how to correctly measure club-lengths in various different circumstances, illustrated with a series of graphics. Click here to see this blog entry.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes is;

• Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ http://www2.barryrhodes.com/recommends
• Author and narrator of the CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’
• Content provider for the iPhone application, ‘Golf Rules Quiz’

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

John Paramor on the 2010 Ryder Cup

I am taking a break t
his week and pointing you towards an excellent blog from John Paramor, Chief Referee for the 38th Ryder Cup. He writes very interestingly about his duties over the course of eight days in Celtic Manor before and during the Ryder Cup matches. Well worth the read.
Click here for John Paramor’s Ryder Cup Blog
Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes is;
• Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
• Author and narrator of the CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’
• Content provider for the iPhone application, ‘Golf Rules Quiz’

Click on the above products for more information

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Searching for a Golf Ball

I was recently asked whether you have to search for your ball before putting another ball in play or continuing play with a provisional ball. The simple answer is, “No, you do not”. If a player thinks that their ball may have come to rest in a position where they would be unable to play it, or if they could it might take them several strokes to get back onto the fairway, then they can play another ball (without calling it a provisional ball) from where they last played, under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1. However, if anyone finds the player’s ball in bounds before they have put another ball in play then the player has to proceed with that original ball.

Decision 27-2b/1 describes an unusual situation, but one which I think will help you understand and remember the paragraph above;
At a par-3 hole, a player hits his tee shot into dense woods. He then hits a provisional ball which comes to rest near the hole. In view of the position of the provisional ball, the player does not wish to find his original ball. He does not search for it and walks directly towards his provisional ball to continue play with it. His opponent (or fellow-competitor) believes it would be beneficial to him if the original ball were found. May the opponent (or fellow-competitor) search for the player's ball?

A. Yes. In equity (Rule 1-4), he may search for five minutes provided that in the meantime the player does not play a stroke with the provisional ball, it being nearer the hole than the place where the original ball is likely to be. The player is entitled to play such a stroke. If he does, the original ball is then lost under Rule 27-2b and further search for it would serve no purpose. In match play, if the player so proceeds and his provisional ball is closer to the hole than his opponent's ball, his opponent may recall the stroke (Rule 10-1c). However, recalling the stroke would not change the status of the original ball, which was lost when the provisional ball was played out of turn.
Here are some other points relating to searching for a ball;
  • If a player wants to play a provisional ball they must do so before they or their partner go forward to search for their original ball (Rule 27-2).
  • The five minutes that is permitted to search for a ball commences as soon as the player, their partner, or either of their caddies have begun to search for it (Definition of Lost Ball).
  • Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search (Definition of Lost Ball).
  • A player is allowed five minutes to search for their original ball and another five minutes to search for their provisional ball, providing both balls are not believed to be so close together that, in effect, both balls would be searched for simultaneously (Decision 27-4).
  • If a player finds their ball after two minutes leaves the area to get a club and is then unable to find the ball again, they are allowed three minutes (being the balance of five minutes) for further search (Decision 27/2).
  • If a ball that is believed to be a player’s original ball is found in bounds the player must inspect it and, if it is their original ball, they must continue play with it (or proceed under the unplayable ball Rule), abandoning any provisional ball (Decision 27-2c/2).
As always, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

If any reader who has not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series would like to see an example before subscribing please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com. However, I would remind you that this weekly series, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. I promise that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link now to subscribe.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Ricky Fowler Incorrectly Substitutes a Ball During Ryder Cup Match

The most interesting Rules situation at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales so far (I’m writing this on Sunday evening and the 12 singles matches will now be played tomorrow), concerned Corey Pavin’s pick, the 21-year old Rickie Fowler. He and his Thursday foursomes partner, Jim Furyk, suffered a loss of hole penalty on the 4th hole to go 2-down when Fowler incorrectly substituted a ball. To their credit they fought back to salvage a half against their formidable opponents, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, with Fowler sinking a tricky 5 foot putt for birdie on the 18th green.

The circumstances of the penalty were that Furyk's drive from the 4th teeing ground flew into a very muddy area that was ruled to be an abnormal ground condition from which relief was available. Instead of picking the ball out of the mud and cleaning it, Fowler, whose turn it was to play the next stroke, pulled a ball out of his pocket and dropped it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. The relevant Rule is 25-1b, Abnormal Ground Conditions Relief;
"(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green."
Note that the player “must lift the ball and drop it”. Therefore, by dropping another ball Fowler had incorrectly substituted a ball. In stroke play this breach incurs a penalty of two strokes, but in match play it is loss of hole.

Fowler has probably not played the foursomes format very often but the mistake was still inexcusable at this level. At the very least, Jim Furyk or either of their caddies should have spotted the error before Fowler actually played his stroke. Had any of them done so, he could have re-dropped the correct ball without penalty. Rule 20-6;
“A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.”
Immediately following this ruling there was a follow-up incident, illustrating another interesting Rules question. When Lee Westwood learned that he and Martin Kaymer had won the hole he returned to his ball and played a stroke to the green, which was over 150 yards away. Since the hole was over, was Westwood permitted to play his shot or does it amount to a practice stroke? Decision 7-2/1.5 confirms;
"Q. In a match between A and B, A holes out for a 4. B has played four strokes and his ball lies in a bunker. Thus, the hole has been decided. If B plays from the bunker, would the stroke be considered a practice stroke?
A. No. Strokes played in continuing play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes — see Rule 7-2."
I don’t know about you, but for me the Ryder Cup is the ultimate event of all the sports that I follow. It seems that most of the players feel this way too; their enthusiasm for this team competition, for which they do not get paid, is patently obvious. Long may it continue!

Barry Rhodes

If any reader who has not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series would like to see an example before subscribing please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com. However, I would remind you that this weekly series, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. I promise that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link to subscribe.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Golf - Responsibilities of a Marker

The definition of a marker in the Rule book is;
A marker is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor's score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.
In my last blog I left readers to ponder whether a marker should sign the score card of a player who has played a number of strokes when the marker was not present. At first, it would seem obvious that the marker has to be present during the whole stipulated round in order that they can properly attest the player’s gross scores for each hole. Decision 6-6a/2 is relevant;
Q. A plays three holes by himself while his marker, B, rests. B then resumes play and marks A's scores for the holes he (A) played alone as well as his scores for the remainder of the holes. Should A's card be accepted?
A. No. A should have insisted on B accompanying him or have discontinued play and reported to the Committee. Since A was not accompanied by a marker for three holes, he did not have an acceptable score.
However, it would seem that it is not quite that clear-cut. I am sure that every one of us has marked a player’s card without witnessing every single stroke they made. For example, their ball may have been in the woods on one side of a fairway and our ball may have been in the rough behind a steep mound on the other side; or their ball may have been under a bush and they had a ‘fresh air’, or ‘whiff’ in trying to strike it; or they may have incurred a penalty because their stroke from a pot bunker hit the lip and rebounded hitting them on the leg. If we did not personally witness every stroke and/or penalty does it mean that we cannot sign their card as marker? Of course it does not. Rather surprisingly, Rule 6-6a, which deals with the recording of scores, does not offer much guidance;
After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round, the marker must sign the score card and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible.
The only other Decision on this subject is 6-6a/4, in which the marker refuses to sign the competitor's card after a dispute over a penalty incurred, which is not really relevant to the subject of this blog.

The point to remember is that the Rules require the marker to sign the player’s card so that he has a score that is acceptable for the purposes of the competition. The rules recommend that a marker should check the score with the competitor after each hole although this is not mandatory. Ultimately, this is a game that relies on integrity of the player and the witnessing of every stroke by their marker is not specifically required. If a marker says that they will not sign the card because they could not be sure of the score the player made, or they were not accompanying the player on every stroke, then it becomes an issue that the Committee has to deal with, as to whether the player’s score is acceptable, or not, based on whatever evidence that they can gather.

I have one final point on this subject. In some playing groups it is common for one person to mark all the scorecards, including their own. This is not an acceptable practice in competitions and must be discouraged.

It is a truism that golf brings the best out in a good man and the worst out in a bad man.

Barry Rhodes

If any reader who has not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series would like to see an example before subscribing please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com. However, I would remind you that this weekly series, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. I promise that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link to subscribe.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Replacing a Damaged Club

A few days ago, I received an interesting communication from a new subscriber to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. It concerned an incident that had occurred during a regular Saturday stroke play competition at his Club;
A player, who was carrying 14 clubs, discovered that his putter was broken. He declared that he did not intentionally damage the club, but it just broke. It was not damaged during the play of a shot. Thinking he was allowed to replace the club, he left his group to go and purchase another putter in the golf shop. Now the shop was quite a distance from the hole so it took him a while. The other members of his group finished putting out and proceeded to play the next hole without him. After purchasing a putter he went to the hole he hadn’t completed, putted out and played from the next teeing ground, taking three strokes to reach the second green, where his group was waiting for him. By this time 2-3 groups were backed up waiting for him to finish his incomplete hole and play the next hole catching up with his group. It seems to me that more than one rule was broken?
This situation raises three interesting Rules issues. As the writer intimated, the broken putter should not have been replaced once the round had started as it was not broken in the normal course of play. The penalty is disqualification, Rule 4-3b:
b. Damage Other than in Normal Course of Play If, during a stipulated round, a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.

c. Damage Prior to Round
A player may use a club damaged prior to a round, provided the club, in its damaged state, conforms with the Rules. Damage to a club that occurred prior to a round may be repaired during the round, provided the playing characteristics are not changed and play is not unduly delayed.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 4-3b or c: Disqualification.
Note that the player was carrying 14 clubs, the maximum permitted by the Rules. If the player had been carrying fewer than 14 clubs he would have been permitted to acquire another putter during his round.

Even if the putter had been damaged in the normal course of play the player’s actions were completely unacceptable and he undoubtedly incurred a minimum penalty of two strokes for unduly delaying play. Decision 6-7/1 rules on what on the face of it would appear to be a far less serious breach than the one outlined above;
Q. A player arrives at a green and discovers that he has left his putter at the tee. He returns to the tee to retrieve the putter. If this delays play, is the player subject to penalty?

A. Yes. Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay; Slow Play) and not Rule 6-8a (Discontinuance of Play) applies in this case.
Note the words, “if this delays play”. This is not necessarily a ‘get out of jail’ card when there is no following group within a couple of holes. At the very least the player is delaying the play of his fellow competitors, or opponents, in the same group. Of course, if they willingly give permission to go back to retrieve the club and no-one else is affected, then it would be unlikely that they, or a Committee, would seek to impose the penalty.

The third issue that this scenario raises is the responsibility of the marker, who may not have witnessed all of the strokes made by the player that left the group to visit the golf shop. I think that this is a subject that merits a blog on its own (next week) and will leave you to ponder whether a marker should sign the score card of a player who has played a number of strokes when the marker was not present.

In the meantime, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

For those readers that have my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, there are two Q&As on Rule 4-3b and six on Rule 6-7. If you do not have my book then you are missing out on an easy and fun way to learn, absorb and understand the Rules. Why not purchase three at a discount and give two away to golfing friends or relatives. Click here for details.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Precise Language of the Rules of Golf

Part of the Rolex advertisement from the R&A Rules of Golf 2008-2011 book

There is a very useful warning in the opening pages of the Rule book;
The Rule book is written in a very precise and deliberate fashion. You should be aware of and understand the following differences in word use:
• “may” (e.g. the player may cancel the stroke) means the action is optional
• “should” (e.g. the marker should check the score) means the action is recommended but is not mandatory
• “must” (e.g. the player’s clubs must conform) means it is an instruction and there is a penalty if it is not carried out
• “a ball” (e.g. drop a ball behind the point) means you may substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 26, 27 and 28)
• “the ball” (e.g. the player must lift the ball and drop it) means you must not substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 24-2 and 25-1)
The more that you get to understand the Rules the more you will appreciate the relevance of the above advice. Here are some more instances of where some of the above words are relevant;
May – Except when their ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition, such as casual water or ground under repair, without penalty (Rule 25-1b). However, unless there is a Local Rule specifying otherwise, the player may also play the ball as it lies.

Should - The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball (Rule 12-2). So, it is not mandatory to put a mark on your Titleist Pro V1s, but please take my advice and never play a ball that you have not put your personalized identification mark on; you will undoubtedly save many strokes over a season by not playing ‘wrong balls’.

Must – be careful if a Local Rule says that you must take relief from staked trees. If you think that your ball is in a good lie under the staked tree and then touch any part of the tree with your next stroke you incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, because you have not taken full relief from it as required by the Local Rule.

A Ball – You may deem your ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except in a water hazard, and it is solely your judgment, no-one can challenge you that your ball is playable. Rule 28 provides three options for relief, all of them under penalty of one stroke. Each of these options refers to the fact that a ball is to be dropped. In other words the player may continue play with a different ball from the one that they deem unplayable. The obvious reason for this is that although the player may be able to identify their ball in its unplayable situation (e.g. in a cactus bush or out of reach up a tree), it might not be reasonable for them to retrieve it without difficulty or delay. However, a player may substitute their ball under this Rule even if their original ball is available to them.
The ball – Conversely, when the Rule specifies the ball, the player must continue with the original ball. An excellent example of this was in 2008 when Ian Poulter, having marked his ball on the putting green after a poor putt, attempted to whisk it up. Unfortunately, he didn’t hold on to it and it ended up in the adjacent water hazard. Even though his ball had been marked on the putting green the Rules require the player to replace the same ball. If Poulter was not able to retrieve his ball he would have been forced to take a penalty for an incorrect substitution. Fortunately, his personal physio was following his round, waded into the water and located the ball within a couple of minutes.
The words in the Rolex advertisement above are apposite in relation to the wording of the Rules of Golf; Meticulous. Precise. Intensely detailed. I hope that by regularly visiting this blog I can help you to obtain a better understanding and knowledge of them.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

My book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, will help demystify the Rules of Golf for you. Order a personally signed copy and have it posted to anywhere in the world for just $19.99 (or £12.99, €14.99). It makes an excellent gift, or prize for your golf competitions. Click here for more information.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Rule 10, Order of Play. Who Plays First?

There is sometimes confusion amongst golfers as to who has the honour on the teeing ground. For example, many players observe a convention that the lowest handicap player has the honour on the first tee, which strictly speaking is incorrect. Rule 10-2 states that in stroke play;
"The competitor who has the honor at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honor should be decided by lot."
Deciding by lot can be achieved by such means as tossing coins, choosing different size tees from a closed hand, or throwing balls in the air to see which lands nearest to a predetermined spot. Of course, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn, which is why the convention referred to above has flourished; but it is not according to the Rules.

Another misunderstanding is that the competitor with the lowest score at a hole always takes the honor at the next teeing ground and if two or more competitors have the same score at a hole, they play from the next teeing ground in the same order as at the previous teeing ground. This is certainly true for ‘strokes’ competitions, where players have to hole out on every hole, with the handicap adjustments only being taken into account when the round is completed. However in handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions it is different as Rule 32-1 confirms;
“In handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions, the competitor with the lowest net score at a hole takes the honor at the next teeing ground.”
For example, on the index 11 hole in a Stableford competition, player A (handicap 9), scores 4, and player B (handicap 14) scores 5, net 4. If player B had the honour on the hole he would retain it on the next teeing ground even though his gross score was higher than A’s.

What is the correct order of play if one player’s ball is in a bunker fourteen feet from the hole, another player’s ball is on the fringe ten feet away and a third player’s ball is thirty feet away, but on the putting green, as in the illustration above? Rule 10-2b states;
“After the competitors have started play of the hole, the ball farthest from the hole is played first. If two or more balls are equidistant from the hole or their positions relative to the hole are not determinable, the ball to be played first should be decided by lot.”
So, in this example the player whose ball lies on the putting green should play first, the player in the bunker second, and the player on the fringe third. However, as previously noted, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn and, particularly where it helps to speed up play, there may be a case for inviting the player whose ball is in the bunker to play first.

There is also no penalty for playing out of turn in match play, but there is an important difference in that an opponent may immediately require the player who has played out of turn to cancel the stroke so made and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. Probably the most famous incident of this occurred during the 2000 Solheim Cup, which brought Annika Sorenstam to tears. Click here for an account of the incident by a Sports Illustrated journalist.

I have three more reminders concerning order of play; First, in four-ball competitions balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best (Rules 30-3b and 31-4). Second, in stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball (Rule 22-2). Third, if a player plays a provisional ball or another ball from the teeing ground, they must do so after their opponent or fellow-competitor has made their first stroke.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Here are some of the comments that I received in during August relating to my free email series, ‘Rhodes Rules School’ where I use photos to illustrate and answer Rules situations that you are likely to encounter on the golf course. You can subscribe here.

  • Barry, you found the best and most effective way to explain the rules! Thanks. Eric T
  • I really enjoy your emails. Jeff S
  • May I request permission to copy your brilliant questions and answers? My idea is to leave one or two copies around the bar for members to read after the I must say your emails are a wealth of information. Jeffrey R
  • Really enjoy your info about the rules, it makes the game so much more fun. I am a volunteer coach for the younger kids between 6 and14 and this is very helpful. John H
  • I appreciate your rules update & hope that others in our club do too! Paul D
  • Nice group of questions - no doubt about the answers when the rules are applied. Bob K.
  • I am delighted that a friend of mine (and a fine golfer) forwarded this to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I did with your 'quizzes'. I am still a novice to 'true' golf. I love it and it's a challenge and knowing more about the rules makes me feel much better about playing the toughest game I am ever played. Thomas S
Remember there is no charge, your email address will not be shared with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time you choose. Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Are Rules Made to be Broken?

There has naturally been an increased focus on the severity of the Rules of Golf following a number of high profile situations over the past few weeks. These include; S.Korean LPGA players Shi Hyun Ahn and Ilmi Chun (both disqualified for playing each other’s balls on the 18th fairway, putting out with the wrong balls and signing their cards), Jim Furyk (disqualified from The Barclays for missing his tee time at the preceding pro-am*), Juli Inkster (use of a swing aid during her round), Dustin Johnson (grounding his club in a bunker and also asking spectators to block the sunlight over his ball), Sarah Brown (wrongly disqualified having been accused of using non-conforming clubs), Mark Calcavecchia (lifting his provisional ball when it was the ball in play), and Robert Rock (signing for transposed hole scores on the score card he returned). There appears to be mounting criticism that the Rules, governed by the USGA and R&A around the world, have become too numerous, too draconian and too complicated.

Why is it that a large number of Joe or Josephine Publics suppose that rules, not just the Rules of Golf, are primarily made for others and don’t really apply to themselves? Cases in point are exceeding speed limits, parking in restricted areas, incomplete income disclosure on tax returns, exaggerated expense claims and using a mobile phone in the Clubhouse. In golf, it seems that every time we hear of a player being penalised for an infraction of a Rule, a typical reaction is that the officials should have turned a blind eye to it. This is even more obvious if the breach has been reported by a television viewer or on-course spectator, which some claim is unfair, as it means that the more well-known players, who appear on our televisions most regularly, are being scrutinised more closely than the outsiders. I take a different view in that I want every breach of the Rules to be fairly penalised, either by the player calling it upon themselves, which I am pleased to say regularly happens, or by a fellow competitor or observer bringing it to the player/officials attention. Put it this way, I have never got close to winning the Captain’s prize at my Club, but if by some miracle I was to come second and then find out that the winner had breached a Rule and had not been penalised, I would probably be apoplectic. Now this may seem an extreme example, but in my mind, exactly the same principle applies whether the avoidance of a penalty incurred affects the winning of the PGA Championship, as it might have done with Dustin Johnson, or the result of a $2 dollar wager between two hackers. The only way to fairly compete in any sport or game is for the players to be playing to the same Rules. There has to be a level playing field.

So, why are the there so many Rules of Golf and why are they so convoluted? Consider that they have evolved over a period of over 250 years and far from being the creation of a few blue blazers in the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse at St. Andrews they amalgamate the combined experiences of around 140 national affiliated organisations, who in turn reflect the experiences of the Clubs and their members that they represent. The procedure is that if a Golf Committee anywhere in the world has any doubt about a ruling, then a representative of that Committee can submit written details to the USGA (United States and Mexico) or the R&A (anywhere else in the world). These Ruling Bodies receive about 3,000 such requests every year. Naturally, most rulings can be made from the current Rules of Golf or Decisions on the Rules of Golf. However, when a new situation arises, then it will be referred to the Rules of Golf Committee who meet twice a year to discuss any revisions that may be required. After consultation with amateur and professional golfing bodies worldwide revisions may be made to the Decisions, which are published every two years, and/or to the Rules of Golf, which are published every four years. The large number of the Rules and Decisions is therefore a result of the need to provide consistent rulings on any possible situation that may possibly occur, regardless of geographical location, climate, topography, or any outside influences that could pertain.

If you don’t accept the Rules of Golf, as enforced by the USGA and R&A, then whose Rules are you going to use and just as importantly, who are you going to play with? It may be convenient for a regular flight of four players to play to their own ‘casual’ rules, but as soon as they want to play a little more competitively they are going to run into trouble. If you are not playing by all the Rules of Golf, no matter how silly they may appear to you, you are not playing golf.

Finally, let me emphasise some of the many positives that have arisen due to the strict way in which the Rules of Golf are applied;

  • There is one unified set of Rules that applies to every official golf competition worldwide.
  • The game is self-regulated in that players are responsible for knowing the Rules (Rule 6-1) and call any penalties incurred on themselves.
  • The large majority of golf rounds are played without the presence of referees, umpires or officials.
  • In addition to the Rules of Golf there are well-defined matters of etiquette, as a result of which most games are played in a truly sporting manner
  • The practice of ‘sledging’ (verbal insults or intimidation of an opponent) is unheard of in golf.
  • Of all sports, golf is recognised as the one where players are expected to exercise the highest level of integrity.

No Rules, no knowledge; know Rules, know knowledge.

Barry Rhodes

* I am aware that it was actually a PGA Tour byelaw that Jim Furyk breached when he missed his tee time at the Pro-Am. However, this arises from Rule 6-3; “The player must start at the time established by the Committee.”

Barry Rhodes is;

Sunday, 22 August 2010

'Bunker-gate' - Golf is the Winner

18th hole, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin Aug 8th 2010
Despite the poor quality photo it does resemble a bunker to me!

I sense that there have been several positive outcomes for golf in the wake of ‘Bunker-gate’ at Whistling Straits last week.

The first and most important, is that Dustin Johnson has emerged from the babble of comment, some of it insightful but much of it uninformed, with a heightened respect from everyone that has followed this absorbing sporting controversy. In post-tournament interviews the 26-year-old from South Carolina has accepted that he did make a mistake and has not tried to apportion blame to anyone else. Contrast this with the attitude of professionals in virtually every other sport (especially soccer) where to blame others and avoid any personal responsibility or accountability appears to be the norm. His acceptance that he did unintentionally break a Rule of Golf is a breath of fresh air and means that he joins a long list of his fellow tour professionals in demonstrating why golf is different from all other sports; an admirable role model for the 60 million amateur golfers around the world.

In my opinion, the universal Rules of Golf, and the way in which they were consistently applied without fear or favour by PGA officials, have emerged unscathed. Johnson’s ball was definitely in a bunker, as carefully defined in the detailed Local Rules sheet given to each player prior to the start of the competition, and he incontrovertibly grounded his club twice in that bunker. I applaud the event Rules officials for making the quick, correct decision to bring Johnson’s attention to the penalty he had incurred before he returned his score card, despite the inevitable consequences that they must have realised would follow. It would have been easier to have let it lie, especially when he failed to make the putt that everyone thought would have won him the Championship. Of course, it was 13-4b that was the Rule at issue; if your ball is in a bunker you may not touch the ground in that bunker with your hand or a club. This is the case even if you don’t recognise the area as a hazard. In stroke play the penalty is two strokes. This is obviously the case whether you are playing casual golf, the monthly medal or, as in this case, the closing hole of a major. It is black and white; there can be no exceptions.

A very positive consequence of this episode is that golfers of all abilities (and hopefully even TV commentators) should now be more aware, and therefore more attentive, to familiarising themselves with the Local Rules pertaining. As my previous blog entry emphasised, it is essential for all players to scrutinise the Local Rules in operation before starting a competitive round of golf.

It irritates me when I hear anyone use the term ‘waste bunker’, as I have so many times over the past two weeks. There is no such thing as a ‘waste bunker’ in the Rules of Golf. Any sandy areas that are not bunkers are ‘through the green’. I am hoping that the events at at Whistling Straits will have educated players and golf spectators to realise that this is the case. The players were well aware that there were over 1,200 bunkers in play (an average of 67 per hole!) as every golf writer had mentioned it for weeks beforehand. In fact, a detail that has conveniently been overlooked by many of those that have been criticising the ruling behind this issue, is that there are no sandy waste areas in Whistling Straits, therefore a ball lying in a sandy area has to be in a bunker. This was confirmed by Shona McRae, Manager - Rules of Golf for the R&A on her official Rules blog.

Another likely outcome of bunker-gate is that there will be a better understanding of the role of the Rules Officials that walk with the tour players. They are not referees and nor are they present to try and catch-out the players, imposing on-the-spot penalties. On the contrary, they are encouraged to prevent players from breaching Rules. For example, by intervening if they suspect that they may be about to incur a penalty, or to outline the relief options that are available. Unfortunately, the walking official with Dustin Johnson was preoccupied with crowd control problems and did not get close enough to him to warn him that his ball was in a bunker. Of course, both the player and his caddie knew that he was present and could have/should have asked for a clarification.

My advice to those that still believe that the decision to impose the two stroke penalty on Dustin Johnson was wrong, is to imagine the outrage that would have followed if he had not been appropriately penalised and had gone on to win PGA Championship playoff. I think that it is safe to assume that he would not have wanted his penalty offence to have been ignored. Greg Norman, the Great White Shark, summed it up very succinctly;
“The PGA [of America] made the right decision. The Rules of Golf are the Rules of Golf. The bottom line is it’s the responsibility of the player and it’s the responsibility of the caddie, too.”
Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Stop Press: Juli Inkster was disqualified from the LPGA’s Safeway Classic on Saturday for violating Rule 14-3. Decision 14-3/10, Use of a Training or Swing Aid During Round, states that a player may not make a stroke or practice swing using a club with a weighted headcover or “donut” on it, or use any other device designed as a training or swing aid. Inkster admitted using a weighted device during her 30-minute wait on the 10th tee, providing another reminder that Rule 6-1 states that a player and their caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules.

Barry Rhodes is;
Author of the book: '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf'
Author and narrator of the CD: '99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf'
Content provider for the iPhone application: ‘Golf Rules Quiz’

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Importance of Knowing the Local Rules

A Rules Official gives Dustin Johnson the bad news.
By Gannett Wisconsin Media photo

Coincidentally, I had already drafted this blog entry before the dramatic conclusion to the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin on Sunday, when Dustin Johnson was penalised two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker on his 72nd hole, resulting in him not making the playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, the eventual winner.

As is the custom in major golf tournaments all the competitors had been handed a sheet containing the Local Rules and Conditions of Competition as they checked-in. One of these conditions unambiguously stated;
“All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers [hazards], whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”
The organisers even taped an 8" x 11" sheet of paper containing this clarification to the mirrors in the locker rooms. So, you will gather that I have little sympathy for Dustin Johnson, an elite professional golfer who makes a very substantial living from the game, for not knowing, or perhaps forgetting, that he could not ground his club in any of the 1,000 plus bunkers on the Whistling Straights course.

It is Rule 33-8a that permits Committees to make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy established in Appendix l to the Rules book.

Let us consider why it is so important to familiarise yourself with Local Rules by posing a few questions.

If there are no Local Rules in effect;
  1. May you take relief without penalty when your ball comes to rest on a teeing area?
  2. May you remove stones from bunkers?
  3. May you use an artificial device that solely measures distances?
  4. May you use binoculars?
  5. May you take relief from young, staked trees?
  6. May you take relief from woodchip pathways?
  7. May you choose to play from ground under repair rather than take relief?
  8. May you take relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the fairway?
  9. May you take line of putt relief from a sprinkler head located at the edge of a putting green?
  10. May you take relief without penalty if your ball comes to rest in an aeration hole made by a greenkeeper?
Here are the answers. Remember, this is when there are no Local Rules in effect;
  1. May you take relief without penalty when your ball comes to rest on a teeing area? No.
  2. May you remove stones from bunkers? No.
  3. May you use an artificial device that solely measures distances? No.
  4. May you use binoculars? Yes.
  5. May you take relief from young, staked trees? No.
  6. May you take relief from woodchip pathways? Yes.
  7. May you choose to play from ground under repair rather than take relief? Yes.
  8. May you take relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the fairway? Yes.
  9. May you take line of putt relief from a sprinkler head located at the edge of a putting green? No.
  10. May you take relief without penalty if your ball comes to rest in an aeration hole made by a greenkeeper? No.
How many did you get right out of 10?

Now, if the Committee had introduced Local Rules; to prohibit playing from all teeing areas; permitting the removal of stones from bunkers, relief from sprinkler heads located close to putting greens and the use of devices to measure distances only; making it mandatory to take relief from staked trees and GUR; then six of these answers would have been different. I hope that this persuades you that it is imperative to scrutinise the Local Rules before you start a competitive round of golf.

A related point that many players overlook is that if you do not fully comply with a Local Rule then you still incur the penalty. For example, if your ball comes to rest close to a staked tree and there is a Local Rule stating that you must take relief from staked trees, you must ensure that neither your club nor any part of your body touches any part of that tree during your stroke, or you will incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. This is true even if you have taken relief, but not sufficiently to have avoided the tree during your stroke. That is, you must take full relief from the staked tree that interferes with your stroke.

Knowing the Local Rules and Conditions of Competition that are in effect is essential before commencing any round of golf. Ask Dustin Johnson!

Good Golfing,

Barry Rhodes

There are 20 questions relating to Local Rules in my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. Order a personally signed copy and have it posted to anywhere in the world for just $19.99 (£12.99, €14.99). This book can help every golfer enjoy their sport more, improve their scores and make the right decisions on the course. Click here for more information.