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

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17 comments:

courtgolf said...

This is a rule I have never understood. Spike marks are not naturally occuring - and they are left as a result of someone elses carelessness.

Thankfully, the days of soft spikes, the "pine trees" in the way of the ball are pretty much gone except on the PGA and European Tours.

But we still see scrapes and marks on greens compliments of golfers who don't pick up their feet as they walk. It doesn't seem reasonable to punish the players behind someone who doesn't care about the green surface.

(I played with a guy once who twisted his feet into the green when setting up for a putt, leaving huge circular gouges in the surface. We were horrified and rode him until he stopped doing it.)

Barry Rhodes said...

Courtgolf,

"Spike marks are not naturally occurring" - and nor are divots, footprints in bunkers, pitch-marks, course signage, rakes, stakes, sprinklers, etc., all of which can affect the run of a ball or a player's next stroke. As the USGA and R&A say, "play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it". No-one ever claims that golf is fair to all players. But it is a great game and bad fortune, and good fortune, make it so much more interesting.

Barry

courtgolf said...

All very true - but you can move a rake or stake, or get a drop from a sprinkler head or stake, etc.

But not a spike mark.

Barry Rhodes said...

Courtgolf,

I think that you are missing my point, which is that there are countless factors that influence a ball on a golf course, some of them after a stroke has been made (e.g. signs, rakes and sprinkler heads) and some of them that may affect the playing of the next stroke (e.g. divots, footprints in bunkers and spike marks).

In any case, for most of us high handicappers, a spike mark on our line of putt is just as likely to assist our line as it is to throw it off!

Barry

courtgolf said...

lol - been there with the help.

didn't miss your point at all. I understand the rub of the green idea, but not being allowed to fix a spike mark...which SHOULD be fixed by the person who made it, but rarely is...just doesn't sit well with me. Oh well - we all have our pet peeves.

Moita said...

Hi Barry - the rule is not clear as to the penalty. I read 2 strokes - but if a player has a 20 foot putt and "cleans" 10 different marks along his line (not being old plugs or ball indentations) - still 2 shots or 2 for every fix = 20 penalty strokes?
thanks
Rob

Barry Rhodes said...

Rob,

There is only a single penalty of two strokes in the circumstance that you describe. This is covered in Decision 1-4/12 (3);

"Multiple Occurrences of the Same or Similar Acts Result in One Rule Being Breached More Than Once — Single Penalty Applied
Example 1: In stroke play, a competitor takes several practice swings in a hazard, touching the ground each time. The ruling would be a single two-stroke penalty."

The subject of when multiple penalties apply is a difficult one, but I must try and address it in a blog some time soon.

Barry

Simon Davids said...

I was watching a replay of the 1986 Masters the other day and the bogey Jack made on 12 on Sunday. He referenced a spike mark during the review and taped it down dramatically after he missed his par putt.

I'm interested in this:

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.


On this basis - did Jack break the rule?

Barry Rhodes said...

Simon,

It is impossible for me to give an opinion on this incident without seeing it happen. What I can say with some confidence is that Jack Nicklaus's intended line line of putt, or return putt, is a lot narrower than for most of us. I would think that he was well aware of the Rule and did not think that there was any chance of his ball passing over the repaired spike mark before finishing out the hole.

Of course, all players should repair spike marks on the putting green on completion of the hole.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Probably late blog! If a spike mark is made by a player on the green walking in front of another player on the green I understand that in equity that spike mark can be repaired but only when it actually happens in front of you do to speak. Similar to sand on the fringe when put there by a fellow player in the same group.
Robert at

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, if the spike mark was made by a fellow competitor or opponent after the player's ball had come to rest, and it was on their line of putt, they are entitled to repair it. Decision 16-1a/13 is relevant;
Q.An opponent, fellow-competitor or one of their caddies accidentally steps on and damages the player's line of putt. What is the ruling?
A.There is no penalty. Rule 1-2 is not applicable as the physical conditions were not altered with the intent of affecting the playing of the hole.

In equity (Rule 1-4), the player may have the line of putt restored to its original condition. The player is entitled to the lie and line of putt he had when his ball came to rest. The line of putt may be restored by anyone.


Barry

James Hager said...

If this is true, then why wasn't jack Nicklaus penalized 2 strokes in the '86 Masters? In the feature, "' 86",he talks about a hole where he had a spike mark in his line. The mark causes him to miss the putt. Immediately after the miss, and again with Nicklaus talking about it, he smacks his putter down on the mark. There were still players behind him on the course. So, isn't that a violation of (what is in my opinion) the dumbest rule in golf? Or did he get a pass because of who he was and the situation, or significance, of what he was doing?

Barry Rhodes said...

James,

You seem to have misread this blog, because you say, "There were still players behind him on the course." Of course players should repair spike marks after they have putted out, providing it is not going to benefit a fellow competitor who still has to putt out. Fellow competitors are players playing in the same group. All players are encouraged to repair spike marks for the benefit of the competitors in groups following them.

Barry

Swampy said...

Yesterday in the open Justin rose repaired spike marks around the hole after he had putted out and yet another player had not putted out. This obviously lends it's self to the rule that another player has the right to have his line repaired to the condition it was when his ball came to rest?. How did he know which marks were he's and which ones were there before. ? Because he tapped Down around the hole in several places where he did not stand

Barry Rhodes said...

Swampy,

I did not see the incident that you describe, but it seems possible that he may have been tapping down damage to the green made by the impact of balls and not spikes.

Barry

Swampy said...

Surely he would have repaired ball marks before he putted not after. The rule like so many others in golf seem to me to contradict themselves.or they have to many side rules . Either you can repair them on your line before you put or you can't simple

Barry Rhodes said...

Swampy,

As I said, I did not see this incident, so I am speculating. Another possibility is that the damage was spike marks that were not in the vicinity of a fellow competitor's line of putt. Players are encouraged to repair any damage to the putting green after they have holed out, providing it is not on the line of putt of any other player that has yet to finish the hole. What I can assure you is that all professional golfers know that they incur a penalty if they reapir spike marks that are on their line of putt, or that of another in the same group.

Barry