Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Do You Always Play Golf by the Rules?

Photo: One Tree Hill Studios

Here’s a leading question that I would like you to think about;

Have you ever been guilty of any of the following actions on the golf course, without declaring a penalty on yourself?
  • Moved a ball while searching for it in the rough?
  • Touched a ball in play, perhaps to identify it, without marking it first and asking a fellow competitor to witness the lift?
  • Finished out a hole with a ball that you are not absolutely certain was the one that you were playing with?
  • Discontinued play during a competition while a heavy rain shower passes over?
  • Given advice to a fellow competitor on his grip, swing or which option to take, during a round?
  • Moved your ball fractionally while removing a leaf, twig or stone that was lying close to your ball?
  • Played a ball from the fairway, or on the putting green, that moved just as you were starting your downstroke?
  • Improved your intended area of swing by knocking down a small branch of an overhanging tree with a practice swing?
  • Placed a ball when preferred lies are in operation and then placed it again because it rolled of the original spot?
  • Moved something growing (e.g. a bramble), thinking that it was a loose impediment?
Well, all of the above instances do incur a penalty under the Rules of Golf. I strongly suspect that there are very few of us that can honestly answer that we have always penalised ourselves in these situations. So, under what circumstance do you call a penalty on yourself and when do you ignore it, because it does not seem to be relevant? Here are a few sample situations to consider;
  • You are playing a practice round on your own.
  • You are playing casual golf with friends and there are no bets on the result.
  • You are playing casual golf with friends and the loser has to buy the lunches.
  • You are playing winter golf at your Club in a non-counting sweep of 20 players.
  • You are playing in your Club’s monthly medal.
  • You are playing in your Club’s Captain’s prize.
  • You are playing in an Open competition at a neighbouring Club.
  • You are representing your Club at provincial level with a referee monitoring the game.
  • You are playing in a qualifying round of The Open Championship.
  • You are playing in a match and your opponent did not witness your breach.
You may have guessed by now that it is my contention that it does not matter which of the above situations apply, players must be totally honest to themselves, their fellow competitors, or their opponents. Whatever game you play there has to be rules. There is no personal satisfaction in finishing out a game of solitaire if you have bent the rules along the way. Surely, there can be no pleasure in winning any game if you know that you have deliberately deceived others in order to do so. Rules have to be respected and observed in order that the competitors are playing against each other on an equal footing. It makes no sense at all for one player to be penalised for an action if others are not also penalised for the same action. If players participate in the same game but apply different rules it will almost certainly lead to arguments, confusion, disagreement and mayhem. Without rules and regulations there cannot be a satisfactory outcome to the game, competition or match

Golf is very special in that the vast majority of rounds are played without the intervention of any referee, umpire, judge or arbiter being present, so it up to the players to apply the Rules to the best of their ability and integrity. Ignorance of the Rules cannot be used as any kind of excuse, as Rule 6-1 states;
“The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules.”
My conclusion is that if you are not playing golf to its Rules, you are not playing golf.

Best regards,

Barry Rhodes

Get to know the Rules the easy and fun way with my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf'. Click on the link to order a signed copy at a discounted price, including postage.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Barry,

• Played a ball from the fairway, or on the putting green, that moved just as you were starting your downstroke?

Does NOT incur a penalty. Rule 14-5

Cheers

Neil Opbroek

Barry Rhodes said...

Neil,

Yes, there is a penalty. Like many other golfers you have misunderstood Rule 14-5, which in part states;
"When the ball begins to move only after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of his club for the stroke, he incurs no penalty under this Rule for playing a moving ball, but he is not exempt from any penalty under the following Rules:
· Ball at rest moved by player - Rule 18-2a.
· Ball at rest moving after address - Rule 18-2b."

So, what this is saying is that in the circumstance I described there is no penalty for playing a stroke at a ball that is moving, but there is a penalty of one stroke for the ball moving off its spot after the player has addressed it, under Rule 18-2b.

If you still have a problem with understanding this subtlety, please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Sorry Barry, all your comment says is "Played a ball from the fairway, or on the putting green, that moved just as you were starting your downstroke?"
Nothing says the player has addressed the ball. i.e. grounded his club. I might have misunderstood you but not the rule.
Cheers
Neil

Barry Rhodes said...

Neil,

The vast majority of players do address their ball before making a stroke from the fairway and therefore do incur a penalty when the ball moves as they commence their stroke. For clarification to all readers here is the relevant Decision;

"14-5/1 Ball Moving During Backswing Struck While Still Moving

Q. A player's ball starts moving during his backswing and he strikes the ball while it is still moving. What is the ruling?

A. There is no penalty under Rule 14-5 because the ball began to move after the player had begun his backswing. However, if the player had caused the ball to move or had addressed it, he incurred a penalty stroke — Rule 18-2a or -2b.

I intend to elaborate on this subject in a new blog entry.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Played a ball from the fairway, or on the putting green, that moved just as you were starting your downstroke?
Barry in one of your blogs you said that a penalty is imposed if your ball moves prior to your downstroke. Rule 18-2 b says no penalty if ball moves after you begin your backstroke.

Anonymous said...

it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

No, you are making a common mistake in interpreting this Rule. Rule 18-2b states;
“If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.”

What this is saying is that there is always a penalty of one stroke when the ball moves after address but it does not have to be replaced if it starts moving after the player has commenced his stroke. If the ball moves after address but before the stroke is commenced the player must replace it where it was before it moved.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous 2 said;
"it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made."

Yes, this is correct, but a penalty stroke is still incurred if the ball was addressed before the stroke was made.

Barry

Anonymous said...

I think I am getting confused by all of this!

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous3,

Can I suggest that you regularly read my blog, and perhaps purchase my book at http://www.barryrhodes.com/recommends, and soon all will become much clearer!

Barry

K said...

If I'm playing by myself or even with some mates during a social round that will not count towards my handicap or cause anybody to lose money, then I won't play to every rule. Sometimes I'll even play two balls if I decide to have a bit more practice. Following every rule is important to me only when it affects other people such as in an official competition or when bets are on.

Barry Rhodes said...

K,

Of course. What you are doing in this circumstance is practising, not playing Golf. However, in my opinion, it is still a good idea to play to the Rules when you are playing casual golf, so that you are better prepared when playing in a handicap counting round, or in a competition.

Barry