Sunday, 27 June 2010

Causing Your Ball to Move – Rule 18-2

In most circumstances, when a golfer accidentally moves their ball that is in play there is a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 and the ball has to be replaced. For example, this includes;
  • Treading on, or kicking their ball while searching for it in most situations – but see the first exception below.
  • Striking their ball as they make a practice stroke.
  • Dropping a glove, towel, club or other equipment on their ball.

The same is true when a player picks up their ball when they are not entitled to under the Rules. For example;

  • When their ball is on the apron and not on the putting green.
  • When identifying their ball without following the correct procedure (click here for my blog on this subject).
  • When they think that a hole has been won in match play and it has not.
  • When they forget that it is a strokes competition in which they must hole out (or be disqualified).
  • When they mistakenly think that it is not the ball that they have been playing with on that hole.
  • When they think that they are entitled to relief and they are not.
  • When the wind or gravity has moved their ball and they wrongly assume that it must be replaced.

However, it is important to remember that there are seven exceptions listed in Rule 18-2a, where no penalty is incurred when a player causes their ball in play to be moved. They are;

  • In searching for a ball in a hazard covered by loose impediments or sand, for a ball in an obstruction or abnormal ground condition or for a ball believed to be in water in a water hazard - Rule 12-1. (This Rules was changed in January 2012 and the penalty is now the same as for causing a ball to move through the green.)
  • In repairing a hole plug or ball mark - Rule 16-1c
  • In measuring - Rule 18-6
  • In lifting a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-1
  • In placing or replacing a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-3a
  • In removing a loose impediment on the putting green - Rule 23-1
  • In removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.

Remember, that the provisions and exceptions to Rule 18-2a also apply when the player’s caddie, or partner in a four-ball or foursomes, causes the player’s ball to move.

I will cover the rulings that apply when somebody else moves your ball in play in a separate blog.

Until then, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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Monday, 21 June 2010

Dustin Johnson Rues the Rules


Having just scored a triple-bogey on the 2nd hole of his final round in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach yesterday, the tournament leader, Dustin Johnson, then went and hit his tee shot into a dense area of undergrowth around a water hazard on the 3rd hole. Unfortunately, although it was likely that his ball had finished within the margin of the water hazard, the circumstances did not meet the strict requirement of the Rules for it to be “known or virtually certain” that it was, as apparently no-one had witnessed where his ball came to rest. For example, it could have bounced back off a tree into the rough at the side of the hazard. The importance of this lack of certainty is that as the ball was not found Johnson had to treat it as lost and return to the teeing ground to play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1), whereas, if it was known to be in the water hazard, he could have dropped a ball under Rule 26-1b or 1c, for a penalty of one stroke, probably very close to where his ball had crossed the margin of that hazard. To make matters (much) worse his ball was then found inside the hazard, but not until 5 minutes and 19 seconds from when search for it had commenced, as timed by the Rules Official following him and his partner, Graeme McDowell, the eventual winner of this  major tournament. Under the definition of ‘lost ball’ one of the conditions is that;
“A ball is deemed lost if: a) it is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it.”
For more on the subject of ‘lost ball’ see my earlier blog here.

Johnson went on to double-bogey the third hole. Those 19 seconds almost certainly cost him at least one stroke. He then bogeyed the 4th hole to go 6-over for probably the four most important golf holes of his life. He ended with a fourth round score of 82, tied for 8th place.

What is the situation if a player does play his ball; even though it was found more than five minutes after search for it had begun? Decision 27/8 explains;
"Q. A player searches for his ball for five minutes and does not find it. He continues to search, finds the ball and plays it. What is the ruling?
A. The ball was lost and therefore out of play when the five-minute period allowed for search expired — see Definitions of "Ball in Play" and "Lost Ball." When the player played a stroke with a ball out of play, he played a wrong ball — see Definition of "Wrong Ball" — and incurred a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play — Rule 15-3. In stroke play, he was disqualified if he did not correct the error by proceeding under Rule 27-1 before playing from the next tee — Rule 15-3b."
Sincerest congratulations to Graeme McDowell, from Northern Ireland on being the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. His agent, Conor Ridge, is a member of my own Golf Club in Dublin and Graeme was very good in coming to visit us a little while back, in particular spending time with our juniors. He seems a really nice guy as well as being an amusing, down to earth character. And by the way, his name should be pronounced mic-doo-uhl. Commentators please note!

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Have you signed-up for ‘Rhodes Rules School’; a series of weekly emails with Q&As based on photos of various situations that golfers may regularly encounter on the course? There is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to subscribe. I am certain that these emails with photos will help you get to understand the Rules better.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Spike Marks - Rule 16-1c

Most golfers are aware that on the putting green they may repair an old hole plug or damage to the putting green caused by the impact of a ball. Any other damage to the putting green must not be repaired if it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole (Rule 16-1c). Players are not therefore permitted to repair spike marks that are in the vicinity of their line of play. Why not? Many argue that it is unfair for a player to suffer from damage to the putting green that has been caused by the carelessness of a player in a previous group.

Here is the USGA’s position on this subject?

“The Rules of Golf are based on two fundamental principles: (1) play the ball as it lies and (2) play the course as you find it. Permitting the repair of spike marks on a player`s line of play or putt would be contrary to these fundamental principles. Rule 16-1c permits the repair of old hole plugs and ball marks but does not permit the repair of spike damage or other irregularities of surface on the putting green if they are on a player`s line of play or putt or might assist him in his subsequent play of the hole. The distinction lies in the fact that old hole plugs and ball marks are easily identifiable as such, whereas it is impossible to differentiate between spike damage and other irregularities of surface on the putting green. Permitting the repair of spike marks would also inevitably lead to a slower place of play. Please note that proper etiquette recommends that damage to the putting green caused by golf shoe spikes be repaired on completion of the hole by all players, just as a player should fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by him before leaving a bunker. We feel that improved education and players` consideration for others rather than a change in the Rules of Golf is the proper solution to the problem.”
Note the words “might assist him in his subsequent play of the hole”. The restriction on repairing irregularities is much wider than just the intended line of putt. This is because players do not always strike their ball along their intended line, or they may putt way past the hole, requiring a return putt on a totally different line. Hence, spike marks may not be repaired anywhere in the vicinity of the hole, as it may affect their subsequent play of the hole.

What about the situation where a player repairs a spike mark after they have completed the hole in order to benefit a fellow competitor who still has to putt out? Well, Decision 13-2/36 makes it clear that not only does the person who repaired the spike mark incur a penalty of two strokes but, if the player who benefitted from this action tacitly agreed to it, then they are penalised as well. The correct action by the player who still has to putt out is for them to try and stop the repair being made. If they are too late, then they should try and recreate the spike mark, so as to ensure that they are not penalised, although the player that made the repair is. Here is the wording of Decision 1-2/36.
Q. If a fellow-competitor purposely improves the competitor's line of putt by repairing spike damage, the fellow-competitor is penalised under Rule 1-2. If the fellow-competitor's action is sanctioned, tacitly or otherwise, by the competitor, is the competitor also subject to penalty?
A. Yes, under Rule 13-2, for allowing his line of play to be improved.
Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

It is Father’s Day on Sunday 20th June in 55 different countries. If you are receiving this blog by email you just have time to order a signed copy of my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ for the Dad in your life. It’s a great present for any golfer. Click here.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Striking a Moving Ball

Have you ever seen a player miss a short putt and in frustration tap the ball into the hole before it has come to rest? And did you realise that this incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play? Rule 14-5 states that a player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.

However, this same Rule goes on to list three exceptional circumstances when a player is permitted to make a stroke at a moving ball;
a) When a ball is falling off a tee on the teeing ground (Rule 11-3). The reason for this is that a ball is not in play until a stroke has been made at it on the teeing ground. However, if a player makes a stroke at a teed ball but misses it altogether (a fresh air, or whiff), addresses the ball again and then accidentally knocks it off the tee, they do incur a penalty, because as soon as they made their first stroke at the ball, it was in play even though they did not move it. When a ball in play moves after it has been addressed, the player incurs a penalty stroke and is obliged to replace their ball (Rule 18-2b).

b) When a player strikes their ball more than once (e.g. when playing out of a bunker or rough and the club catches up with the ball hitting it again), there is no additional penalty for striking a moving ball but off course a penalty is incurred under Rule 14-4 (see my previous blog on this subject).

c) When a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make their stroke at it, but they must not delay the stroke in order to allow the wind or current to improve the position of the ball (Rule 14-6).
In my experience many golfers think that there is no penalty if their ball moves as they are making a stroke at it through the green. To understand the ruling here you need to read the wording of Rule 14-4 carefully. It 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, for example, in playing a stroke from the fairway or the rough, if a player has completed their address (i.e. taken their stance and also grounded their club) and the ball moves just as they start their backswing, they do incur a penalty. Decision 14-5/1 explains;
“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.”
It is for this reason that I always advise players not to ground their club before making a stroke on the putting green on a windy day, or when their ball is sitting on long grass in a situation where their ball could move due to gravity. Provided they have not grounded their club, they will not incur any penalty if their ball moves as they are making their stroke and they must play their ball from where the wind or gravity moves it. You may already have heard my mantra in this respect; if the player accidentally moves the ball there is a one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced, if God moves the ball there is no penalty and you play it from where it comes to rest.

Understanding the Rules can be as important to your game as understanding your swing,

Barry Rhodes

Have you signed-up for ‘Rhodes Rules School’; a series of weekly emails with Q&As based on photos of various situations that golfers may regularly encounter on the course? There is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to subscribe. I am certain that these emails with photos will help you get to understand the Rules better.