Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ian Poulter Breaches Rule 20-3

Photo by Kamran Jebreili

In what could be the last interesting ruling in this season’s tournament golf, in a year that has seen many of them, Ian Poulter called a penalty on himself on the second playoff hole of the European Tour’s final tournament in Dubai. The circumstances were that as he went to replace his golf ball he accidentally dropped it onto his marker, flipping it over. Ironically, Poulter’s marker is a ‘lucky’ coin featuring his children's names. His one stroke penalty for this breach meant that Robert Karlsson had two putts to win the $1.25 million first prize. Fortunately, he sunk his first putt of around 4-feet for a birdie, which means that Poulter can probably sleep a little sounder over his winter break.


Now some may claim that there was no penalty as part of Rule 20-3a states;
If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of placing or replacing the ball, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker. Otherwise, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a or 20-1.
However, Decision 20-1/15 clearly states;
Q. What is meant by the phrase "directly attributable to the specific act" in Rules 20-1 and 20-3a?

A. In Rule 20-1 the phrase means the specific act of placing a ball-marker behind the ball, placing a club to the side of the ball, or lifting the ball such that the player's hand, the placement of the ball-marker or the club, or the lifting of the ball causes the ball or the ball-marker to move.
In Rule 20-3a the phrase means the specific act of placing or replacing a ball in front of a ball-marker, placing a club to the side of the ball-marker, or lifting the ball-marker such that the player's hand, the placement of the ball or the club, or the lifting of the ball-marker causes the ball or the ball-marker to move.

Under either Rule, any accidental movement of the ball or the ball-marker which occurs before or after this specific act, such as dropping the ball or ball-marker, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered to be "directly attributable" and would result in the player incurring a penalty stroke.
So, there is no doubt that Ian Poulter was correct in penalising himself one stroke. This leads to the question of whether it is a fair ruling? Well, there has to be some point at which the movement of a ball or ball-marker incurs a penalty. The Rules have to be very precise, or there would be arguments in almost every competition or match ever played. The Rules cannot be expected to protect us from clumsiness, forgetfulness or bad luck.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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14 comments:

Beth said...

During a ladies club championship at our course, one of our top players had a similar situation with her ball marker. We really were not sure of what to do.
After marking her ball she tapped the marker down with her putter so that it would lie flatter. In doing so, she did not realize that when whe picked her putter back up the plastic ball marker was stuck to her putter and therefore moved.
When she went to place her ball down to putt, she could not find her ballmarker, not realizing it was stuck to the putter.
We estimated where her marker should have been and went on without assessing a penalty, was this correct?

Barry Rhodes said...

Beth,

No, the player did incur a penalty of one stroke.

This is not such an unusual occurrence as you may think. I have witnessed it myself in a Club competition and the Ruling Bodies have clarified the ruling in Decision 20-1/5.5;

Q. A player marked the position of his ball on the putting green and lifted the ball. When it was the player's turn to play, he could not find his ball-marker. Subsequently, he found the ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe. He concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt. What is the ruling?

A. The player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1 which requires that the position of a ball be marked before it is lifted, and contemplates that the ball-marker will remain in position until the ball is replaced. The player must place the ball as near as possible to its original position but not nearer the hole — Rule 20-3c.

Under the last paragraph of Rule 20-1, a player is exempt from penalty if his ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball or marking its position. In this case the ball-marker was not moved during such process.


Barry

Beth said...

Barry,

Thank you for the quick reply and information about this, interesting.

I enjoy learning the rules and knowing what is right and wrong when situations come up on the course.

I just stumbled on to your blog today and look forward to following it. Thank for sharing.

Barry Rhodes said...

Beth,

Welcome to my growing subscriber base. It is my belief that by understanding more about the Rules players will enjoy their golf even more.

I think that you will also be interested in my 'Rhodes Rules School' series of weekly emails that use photos to pose questions and answers on the Rules. There is no charge and you can subscribe at;
http://tinyurl.com/3acdsb6

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,

What about decision 20-1/6? I think this describes the above situation exactly and says that there is no penalty.

Michael

Barry Rhodes said...

Michael,

No, Ian Poulter has admitted;
"Just for the record I dropped my golf ball from 5 inches above my marker, the marker flipped over & thats 1 shot penalty."

If you read the third paragraph of Decision 20-1/15 again you will se that it says;
"Under either Rule, any accidental movement of the ball or the ball-marker which occurs before or after this specific act, such as dropping the ball or ball-marker, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered to be "directly attributable" and would result in the player incurring a penalty stroke."

Barry

Beth said...

Barry,

I made another comment to my question but it must not have went through...
wouldn't 20.1/6 apply to the situation I described?

Thanks again,
Beth

aussieowl said...

Barry,
Like alot of rules this one is way too open to interpretation. At what point does the "specific act of placing a ball marker behind the ball" begin and end. When I pull my marker from my pocket preparing to mark my ball? When I bend down preparing to mark my ball? When I'm a foot away from the ball? Or when I'm 3cms from my ball? Surely "dropping the ball marker regardless of the height" occurs in each instance.

Sean.

Barry Rhodes said...

Beth,

Before receiving this second comment from you I answered the same query from Michael above. Because Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker before he started the action of replacing it he did incur the penalty.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Aussieowl,

It is because some Rules of Golf may be open to interpretation that we have Decisions on the Rules. Why do we need two reference sources? Because the Rules book would be unwieldy if every interpretation was to be included. Remember that this great game is played to the same Rules in almost every country in the world under a huge range of topographical and climactic conditions.

You will see in my answer to Michael's comment above that Decision 20-1/5.5 makes it absolutely clear that if a ball is dropped accidentally the penalty is incurred. This is very different to a situation where the player 'nudges' their marker off its mark as they are replacing their ball on the putting surface, which would not incur a penalty.

Barry

Michael said...

Barry,

I was referring to Beth's situation above from her Club Championship, not Ian Poulter. I agree completely with you regarding Ian Poulter, but disagree with your ruling about Beth's Ladies Club Championship where the ball marker attached to the putter when the marker was tapped down. The ruling 20-1/6 seems to describe this exact situation?
Michael

Barry Rhodes said...

Michael,

My apologies to you on two accounts. Firstly, for wrongly assuming that you were referring to the Poulter incident in your earlier comment. Secondly, and more importantly, for getting my answer wrong. You are absolutely correct in drawing my attention to Decision 20-1/6, which for the benefit of others I quote here;

Q. A player marked the position of his ball with a coin, lifted the ball and pressed down the coin with the sole of his putter. He walked to the edge of the green and then noticed that the coin had stuck to the sole of the putter. What is the ruling?

A. In this case, the movement of the ball-marker was directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of the ball.

Accordingly, no penalty is incurred and the ball or the ball-marker must be replaced. If the spot where the ball or ball-marker lay is not known, it must be placed as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole (Rule 20-3c).


As you rightly point out the circumstances of this Decision mirror those in Beth's comment and my answer to her was wrong. Mea Culpa!

Thanks for putting me straight.

Barry

Michael said...

Barry,

Thank you for the follow up. The more I learn about the rules, the more I realize that I am almost never certain of a ruling (even with the rule book and decisions in front of me). So many decisions seem to contridict themselves. That's what makes it so intersting. Glad I found your blog.

Michael

jim in SA said...

"Thanks for putting me straight."
....the last words heard from the little white ball as it dropped into the hole 15ft down the green ..

keep up the very informative rules blogs Barry