The first was when Justin Rose’s ball came to rest under a tree on the 15th. Although the tree trunk did not interfere with his intended stroke he had to use a very flat swing to avoid overhanging branches. He was concerned that in executing his stroke he would need to chop down hard at the back of his ball and was concerned that there could be roots under the grass topsoil that could cause him injury. He checked with a referee that he was permitted to test the soil immediately in front of his ball by pushing a tee into the surrounding earth. I could not hear his conversation with the official but I am sure that he concurred that this was permitted providing he did not improve his lie, or line of play. One of the commentators, Wayne Reilly I think, wrongly thought that this amounted to testing the surface and should incur a penalty. Of course, you are not permitted to test the surface of any hazard or putting green but this restriction does not apply anywhere else on the course. So, Justin took out a long tee and pushed it into the ground in front of his ball several times, deduced that there were no underlying roots there and proceeded to punch his ball onto the putting green, going on to save his par. Decision 13-2/27 confirms that Justin got it right;
Q. A player's ball comes to rest through the green in such a position that he believes tree roots or rocks may be just below the surface of the ground. May he, without penalty, probe the area around his ball with a tee or the like to see if his club would strike a root or a rock in the course of making a stroke?Soon after this incident Padraig Harrington showed that he too knows that the Rules can be used to your advantage. He was having a very difficult round, hitting only 6 fairways out of 15 but had held his score together with some remarkable saves from off the putting green. On the 17th he pushed his ball deep into a gorse bush. I think that most viewers thought that he would have to declare his ball unplayable and take a penalty drop. Padraig obviously knew that he could not improve his stance, area of swing or line of play in the bush but realised that he was able to move parts of it in fairly taking his stance Wisely, he waited until a referee was there before backing into the gorse, realising that there was bound to be someone watching who was itching to call in to say that he had breached a Rule. While he was waiting he donned his wet suit trousers, to protect himself against the thorns. After the round he commented;
A. Yes, provided the lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or the line of play is not improved (Rule 13-2) and the ball is not moved (Rule 18-2). The same principle would apply if the player wishes to probe to determine the presence of an immovable obstruction.
“It’s one of those interesting things in golf, (where) sometimes the Rules, especially if you know them, can work in your favour. That’s why I needed the referee there. I wanted to confirm it was all above board and, by the time I had taken a stance, the bush had moved a good two feet. Sometimes you get a good break and sometimes you don’t. I managed to pitch it out,”Typically, for one of the best 'scramblers' in the world, Harrington muscled his ball through the bush onto the fairway, bounced his next shot through the back of the green and then chipped from there into the hole.
Decision 13-2/1 provides the explanation for “Fairly Taking His Stance”;
Q. Rule 13-2 states that a player must not improve the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing or his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds). An exception permits a player to do so in "fairly taking his stance." What is the significance of "fairly"?These two incidents at the Irish Open demonstrate that time spent improving your knowledge on the Rules of Golf can save you strokes, and avoid unnecessary penalties. Contrast them with the two players who were disqualified for signing for compensating wrong scores on two holes. Both England's Robert Rock, on the first day, and Scotland's Mark Warren, on the final day, signed for birdie threes at the 13th and par fours on the next instead of the other way round. Expensive and in my opinion inexcusable mistakes for two players who make their living by playing golf.
A. Without "fairly," the exception would permit improvement of position or lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play by anything that could be said to be taking a stance. The use of "fairly" is intended to limit the player to what is reasonably necessary to take a stance for the selected stroke without unduly improving the position of the ball, his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Thus, in taking his stance for the selected stroke the player should select the least intrusive course of action which results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. The player is not entitled to a normal stance or swing. He must accommodate the situation in which the ball is found and take a stance as normal as the circumstances permit. What is fair must be determined in the light of all circumstances.
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