Sunday, 16 May 2010

Striking the Ball More Than Once - Rule 14-4

Peter Hanson (photo

Swede Peter Hanson won his third European Tour title in Majorca this week, despite having incurred a one stroke penalty for a double hit on his final round. Only a slow motion television camera caught the fact that Hanson clipped his chip at the 12th a second time, but after being informed on the course about the incident he then birdied the 15th and 17th to put himself back in contention. He did well to get up and down from a bunker at the last to take the European Tour event into a sudden death playoff with Alejandro Canizares, which he won with a par at the first extra hole.

Hanson was penalised under Rule 14-4;
“If a player's club strikes the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the player must count the stroke and add a penalty stroke, making two strokes in all.”
Many golfers are confused as to whether they have to count the times they hit the ball (e.g. twice) as well as the penalty stroke. You will see from the wording of the Rule above that this is not the case. There is only one stroke at the ball and one penalty stroke; no matter how many times the ball is hit during the course of that stroke.

Striking the ball more than once is a different situation from when a ball that has been struck rebounds off something and hits the club again. However, the result is similar in that in the latter case the stroke counts and there is also a one stroke penalty, this time under Rule 19-2, Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by the Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

Decision 14-4/3 is also interesting regarding a double hit;
"Q. In playing a chip shot, a player's club strikes the ground several inches behind the ball and does not come into contact with the ball. However, the ground is struck with enough force to cause the ball to move. The player's club continues and strikes the ball while it is moving. What is the ruling?
A. The player must count his stroke and add a penalty stroke under Rule 14-4.
Even though the club itself did not initially strike the ball, the ball was put into motion due to the stroke; therefore, Rule 14-4 applies."
Here is an interesting video clip of Jeong Jang making a double hit at the US Women’s Open in 2006.

The initial ruling by the walking official, after asking Jang what had happened, was that he did not feel she had struck the ball twice with her stroke. However, some doubt remained and further replays were cued up for review by USGA officials. The video was run again and again before it was determined conclusively by USGA Senior Director of Rules and Competitions Mike Davis that Jang had indeed hit her ball twice
and she was penalised one stroke. In my opinion the evidence is pretty conclusive.

Keep playing by the Rules,

Barry Rhodes

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Slow Play and the Rules

While playing in a semi-open team competition this week, one of my guests showed me a ball marker, as in the photo above, and asked me what I thought it meant. Having rejected my first thought that it might be a Biblical reference, I did suggest that it might be the optimal time for completing 18 holes of golf. I was on the right track, as his answer was that the marker was given to him when he played the Old Course at St. Andrews, as a reminder of the target time there for players to complete their round. The Old Course range balls are also printed with this pace rating, which was established with Bill Yates, an acknowledged expert on pace of play*.

I don’t think that many of us would complain if our rounds of golf were regularly completed within four hours. Unfortunately, it seems that rounds are consistently taking longer and that on some courses five hours is more the norm. Of course, there are several factors that contribute to slow play but there is no doubt that player behaviour is one of the main causes. So, how can the Rules help in this respect?

There are really only two Rules of Golf that are directly relevant;
Rule 6-3a. Time of Starting: The player must start at the time established by the Committee.
The severe penalty for not being ready to play at the allotted tee time in a competition is disqualification. This may seem harsh, but on a busy time sheet, a player arriving late can result in all the subsequent groups being delayed and finishing later than they otherwise would have done. In fact, a note to Rule 6-3 permits the Committee to introduce a Condition of Competition that if the player arrives at his starting point, ready to play, within five minutes after his starting time, in the absence of circumstances that warrant waiving the penalty of disqualification as provided in Rule 33-7, the penalty for failure to start on time is loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play instead of disqualification. However, in my experience, this Condition of Competition is rarely invoked.
Rule 6-7. Undue Delay; Slow Play: The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.
The penalty for the first offence of undue delay in stroke play is two strokes and in match play is loss of hole. For a subsequent offense the penalty is disqualification.

Unfortunately, Committees rarely impose penalties for undue delay (slow play). On US tour events it has been 18 years since a PGA Tour player received a penalty for slow play, although players are now put ‘on the clock’ more often than was previously the case. This happens when a group is ‘out of position’, which is often defined as being at least one hole behind the group in front, but can be based on criteria set by the tournament's ruling body. Golfers who are ‘on the clock’ have their pace of play monitored and if they do not speed up their play they can be assessed the penalty of two strokes.

Slow play is a problem that all golfers can and should play their part in improving. Apart from ensuring that we maintain the correct pace of play ourselves, (e.g. by walking quicker between strokes; assessing our next shot while another player is preparing for theirs; eliminating unnecessary, time-wasting elements of our stroke routine; and leaving our golf bags at the exit to the putting green) we can also encourage the other players in our group to do the same. A good principle is to try and keep close to the group in front, no matter what is happening to the group behind.

Enjoy your golf and, where you can, help others to enjoy theirs,

Barry Rhodes

* I recommend that anyone interested in ‘Pace of Play’ on their course reads the feature interview with Bill Yates at;

P.S. A correspondent of mine from the Canadian Junior Golf Association has pointed out that the last time the Open Championship was played at St. Andrews, in 2005, the average time for a 2-ball was almost five hours! It will be interesting if they speed-up their play this year. In my opinion, there is no excuse for two professional golfers playing together to take five hours to complete their round. They play less strokes, they have a caddie to assist with yardages and carry their bags, and they hardly ever have to search for a ball because the spectators act as forecaddies.

P.P.S. I understand that some of you that receive my blogs by email (you can subscribe for them at the top right-hand corner of my home page)
may not have been able to open the video of Jeong Jang's double hit last week. If your email client will not permit you to play videos you can always go to my blog at to view them from there.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Facts: Golf Ball, Hole, Tee, Clubhead, etc.

Some of the Rules of Golf are wordy, some require reading several times over to determine the true meaning, some of the words are extremely precise, some are subjective and some are purely factual. It is this last category that is the subject of this week’s blog. A list of sizes, dimensions, times, etc. that form part of the Rules of Golf.
  • The hole must be 4¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep. If a lining is used it must be at least 1 inch (25.4mm) below the putting green surface.
  • The diameter of the ball must not be less than 1.68 inches (42.67mm) and the weight not greater than 1.62 ounces avoirdupois (45.93g) – it may be larger and lighter, but the player would obviously be playing at a disadvantage.
  • The flagstick must be circular in cross-section - you can imagine the deflections that could occur with square sticks. However, it may have sections of varying diameters.
  • A tee must not be longer than 4 inches (101.6mm).
  • The teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and sides of which are defined by the outside limits of the two tee-markers.
  • The overall length of the club must be at least 18 inches (0.457m) and, except for putters, must not exceed 48 inches (1.219m).
  • The volume of the clubhead must not exceed 460 cubic centimetres (28.06 cubic inches), plus a tolerance of 10 cubic centimetres (0.61 cubic inches).
  • When a ball is overhanging the lip of the hole a player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional 10 seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest.
  • A player must find or identify his ball within 5 minutes after the player’s side, or his or their caddies, have begun to search for it.
  • A player must not start a round with more than 14 clubs. If a player starts with fewer than 14 clubs they may add any number, provided the total number does not exceed 14.
  • There are 34 Rules of Golf with 126 sub-sections.
  • There are over 1,200 Decisions on the Rules of Golf.
There may be other measurements incorporated in Local Rules. For example, during adverse course conditions there may be a Local Rule that permits a player to lift their ball, clean it and place it on a spot within a specific area (e.g., six inches, one club-length, etc.) of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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