Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Professional Golfers Ignoring Local Rules - Again!

This season has seen some spectacular Rules screw-ups from professional golfers that should really know better. But we rarely have three of them in a single tournament, which is what happened in the pro-celebrity Star Trophy at Mission Hills in Haikou, China, last weekend.

First, six-time Major winner, Sir Nick Faldo, suffered the indignity of a Round 1 disqualification. He missed a putt on the eighth hole and picked-up his ball, thinking that he could not better his playing partner’s score. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that the pro-celebrity format included a professionals only competition. His mistake was not brought to his attention until he had teed off at the next hole, by which time it was too late to rectify and he was automatically disqualified, under Rule 3-2, Failure to Hole Out.

Next, Colin Montgomerie was the weekend’s biggest loser when, during the final against retired lady golfer, Lorena Ochoa, his caddy moved an advertising sign on his line of play. This is permitted in any PGA or European Tour event. But a Local Rule at the Star Trophy, contained in a sheet handed out to the competitors before the competition started, stated that these signs could not be moved. Monty was penalised two strokes for his caddie's action; the same number of strokes that kept him from making a playoff against Lorena Ochoa, who therefore took the winner’s prize money of $1.28 million. Ouch!

Finally, the most spectacular penalty situation at this event was the 26-stroke penalty incurred by Ryuji Imada, who actually admitted that he did not bother to read the Local Rules sheet. When difficult course conditions require that ‘lift, clean and place’ operates on the PGA Tour, where Imada usually plays, players are able to place the ball within one club-length of its original position. But on the Asian and European tours, the ball must be placed within the length of a scorecard (about 6 inches). It wasn’t until the 12th hole that his fellow competitor, Danny Lee, noticed that Imada was breaking the rule and informed him accordingly. He was penalised two strokes for every ball that he had lifted, cleaned and placed on the fairway, a total of 26 strokes. When asked about his infraction, Imada succinctly replied, “I’m an idiot”.

Is it unreasonable, following Dustin Johnson’s high-profile and high-cost ‘Bunker-gate’ affair (see this link), to expect that golf Pros, and especially their caddies, should now pay more attention to the sheets that are given to all competitors prior to the start of each event detailing Local Rules and Conditions of Competitions? I don’t think so. Once again I recommend that you make this chore a regular feature of your own pre-game routine, especially when playing on a course that you are not totally familiar with. You can only gain by doing so.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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janet said...

We have a local rule in place at present that says that all white lined areas are mandatory GUR. On about half of our holes, the fringe of the greens is marked as GUR - the white line is along the edge of the green and the GUR goes back about six feet or so into the rough, so it is a big disadvantage to drop from the GUR. My question is do you have to drop from the GUR if your ball is on the green but you are standing on the fringe.

Barry Rhodes said...


It depends how your Cub's Local Rule is worded. See the second paragraph of this Rule 25-1;

Interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player's ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an abnormal ground condition on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that interference by an abnormal ground condition with a player's stance is deemed not to be, of itself, interference under this Rule.

If there is no reference to this in the Local Rule then the player must take the mandatory relief if their stance is in an area designated as GUR, even though their ball is on the putting green, which I cannot believe is your Committee's intention. It seems to me that they may need to redefine the GUR margins.