Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Miscellaneous - Ball Out of Bounds, Score Card, Immovable Obstruction

Milltown GC, Dublin, Ireland

There have been three interesting Rules incidents in my own Golf Club in the past few weeks that I think may be of interest to you.

The first situation concerned a junior who, in a stroke play competition, thinned his ball over the green into an out of bounds area. Unfortunately, he did not realise that his ball was out of bounds and played it from there back onto the putting green. At this point he was advised that he had played his ball from an area that was out of bounds. Then he correctly picked up his ball and returned to the place where he had previously thinned his shot to the green and dropped it there. However, h
e was unsure what penalties he had incurred. Because his ball lying out of bounds was no longer in play he had played a ‘wrong ball’ (see the Definition). Accordingly, he incurred a two-stroke penalty, in addition to the stroke and distance penalty, making three penalty strokes (Decision 15-6). It is worth emphasising that the only way to proceed when your ball has come to rest out of bounds is to return to where you last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance. If the junior had failed to rectify his error, by returning to where he had played his previous stroke, the Committee would have no alternative but to disqualify him from the competition.

The previous week, in a strokes competition, the team with the winning score were initially disqualified because, whilst everything else was correct on their score card (names, handicaps, the players gross scores and the required signatures), there was no date on it. They had been given a dated card at the Pro Shop but had returned a different one at the end of their round. I was able to advise the Committee that there is no Rule of Golf requiring the date to be on the score card when it is returned. Decision 6-6a/7 confirms that the player(s) may return a different card from the one issued by the Committee at the start of the round. When you think about it this is logical. For example, the original score card may have been lost or the scores become illegible due to wet weather.




The photo above shows that our first teeing area is bordered on the left by a wire fence with a hedge alongside. The fence is to protect players on the third teeing area and is not a boundary fence. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for players to mishit their opening drive against the fence. Sometimes, if they are fortunate the ball deflects onto the fairway, but occasionally the ball lodges in the hedge giving rise to an interesting Rules situation. Most golfers are aware that Rule 24-2 gives relief, without penalty, from an immovable obstruction (the wire fence) that interferes with a player’s stance or area of intended swing. However, many do not realise that there is an important exception to this Rule;
“Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.”
In the circumstance described above, the fact that the ball is lodged in the hedge obviously means that it would be unreasonable for the player to make a stroke and so the relief from the wire fence is not available. The player must deem their ball unplayable and take one of the options available under Rule 28, under penalty of one stroke.

Remember, that if you are not playing to the Rules of Golf you are not playing golf.

Barry Rhodes



I’ve had a great reaction to my new ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series of weekly emails that pose questions on the Rules based on an accompanying photo, or photos. Thanks to the more than three thousand subscribers. Don’t worry if you haven’t subscribed yet because you will not miss anything. When you do subscribe here you will start receiving the series of emails, one per week, starting from No.1. All new subscribers receive a small gift, a link to 27 Q&As on the Rules (9 easy, 9 slightly harder, and 9 more difficult), which you might like to use to test yourself and your Clubhouse friends. Of course, there is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Here is the link again.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Sharing Golf Clubs

The plume of volcanic ash over Europe was the cause of a very unusual situation concerning the Rules of Golf at the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup this week. A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano shut down European airspace for several days, meaning that most of the 36 lady golfers, from 18 European nations, had great difficulty in getting to the venue in Alicante, Spain. There are multiple stories of how they travelled over land and sea for several days in order to be there for the start. It reflects so well on the players, their tour and the event.

But the situation that interested me the most was one that I have not heard of before on an
y Pro Tour. Austria’s Stefanie Michl arrived in Spain on Wednesday night after a long and stressful journey from America. She eventually joined her compatriot Nicole Gergely just nine hours before her tee time. Unfortunately, her luggage and golf club were lost along the way. This is where the Rules situation arose. Stefanie and Nicole realised that they both use similar Titleist AP2 clubs and a Scotty Cameron putter and that the Rule 4-4b permits partners to share clubs, provided that the total number of clubs carried by them so sharing does not exceed 14.

And that is what happened on the first day. The Spanish duo shared one bag of clubs between them. Michl is quoted as saying;
“I felt I was hitting her irons really well. With the woods and the driver I struggled a bit but I felt comfortable because I knew she would play well and help me out. I did as much as I could.”
Amazingly, Michl birdied the 17th and eagled the 18th and the pair finished as joint leaders, at 6-under-Par, after the first day’s four-ball better ball format.

Please don’t misunderstand Rule 4-4b. It does not permit you to borrow or lend a
club during a round. It only applies to partners who do not have more than 14 clubs between them.

Learn the Rules and love the game,

Barry Rhodes



I’ve had a great reaction to my new ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series of weekly emails that pose questions on the Rules based on an accompanying photo, or photos. Thanks to the more than three thousand subscribers. Don’t worry if you haven’t subscribed yet because you will not miss anything. When you do subscribe here you will start receiving the series of emails, one per week, starting from No.1. All new subscribers receive a small gift, a link to 27 Q&As on the Rules (9 easy, 9 slightly harder, and 9 more difficult), which you might like to use to test yourself and your Clubhouse friends. Of course, there is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Here is the link again.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

You Cannot Declare Your Ball Lost

Here is an interesting question, which is typical of several that I have received on the same subject;
“I'm confused over you saying that you cannot declare your ball lost. If it is reasonable to assume that it is not in a hazard or out of bounds, I thought that you could declare it lost without looking for it.”
First, let me say that this is a common area of confusion amongst golfers. But please believe me that nothing a player says will render their ball lost. Decision 27/16 from the Rules of Golf helps to clarify this statement;
Q. A player searched for his ball for two minutes, declared it lost and started back to play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was played. Before he put another ball into play, his original ball was found within the five-minute period allowed for search. What is the ruling?

A. A player cannot render a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of 'Lost Ball'. The original ball remained in play — see Definition of 'Ball in Play'.
The definition of ‘Lost Ball’ lists the only circumstances under which a ball can be lost;
"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; or
b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or
c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 27-1a); or
d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1); or
e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.
Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search."
Of course, the correct thing to do if you definitely do not want to search for your original ball is to put another ball into play as quickly as possible, without declaring it as a provisional ball. Remember that on the teeing ground you have to wait until all the players in the group have played before you play your second ball from the tee. Once you have made a stroke at another ball, under penalty of stroke and distance, it does not matter if your original ball is then found, as it is no longer the ball in play.

I hope that this has clarified that nothing a player says can render a ball lost under the Rules of Golf.

Regards,

Barry Rhodes




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Thursday, 15 April 2010

Nearest Point of Relief

There is one particular subject on the Rules of Golf that I have great difficulty in explaining in terms that can easily be understood (just ask my wife!). And yet, it concerns an important area that every golfer must get right if they are to play the game properly. It is of course, Nearest Point of Relief. The reason it is so important is that you cannot play many rounds of golf without coming across one of these four circumstances that require dropping at the nearest point of relief.
  • Interference to your stance, or area of swing by an immovable obstruction. Examples of immovable obstructions are artificial paths, fences, bridges, or fixed course furniture, like ball washers, benches or direction posts.
  • Interference from an abnormal ground condition. Under the Rules there are three types of abnormal ground condition; areas of casual water, ground under repair as designated by a Committee, or a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird.
  • When your ball lies on a wrong putting green, which is any putting green other than the one on the hole being played, including the practice putting green.
  • When there is a Local Rule protecting young (staked) trees.
In the first two situations the player may take relief, without penalty, by dropping a ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief; relief from a wrong putting green is mandatory; and Local Rules affording relief from protected trees that are in the intended area of stance or swing are usually mandatory.

Now let me get to the point that most, yes most, players get wrong. There is only one physical point on the golf course that qualifies as the nearest point of relief. OK, so very occasionally there could be two equidistant points, but let’s ignore that detail for the purpose of this article. That nearest point could be in deep rough, in the middle of a bush, behind a wall that is not in the intended area of swing, or even within the trunk of a tree. Yes, you did read that
correctly, the nearest point of relief may be within the trunk of a tree. So, how do you measure the club-length in which you may drop your ball if that is the case? The answer to that is that you have to estimate the distance; so, if nearest point is in the centre of the tree trunk and the radius of the tree is half a club-length, then you may drop within another half club-length from the edge of the tree, not nearer the hole.

The mistake that many players make is that they think that when they are taking relief in one of the above circumstances it means that they get relief from anything that makes their next stroke difficult and drop a ball where it suits them. This is wrong. It is always the nearest point of relief from interference from whatever the Rules permit (e.g. pathway, bench, casual water, wrong putting green) and nowhere else. The player may not choose the nicest point of relief; you may only drop within a club-length of the nearest point of relief, n
ot nearer the hole. For this reason you should always determine where the nearest point is before you lift your ball, in case it happens to be in a position that is even more unfavourable than your current lie.

Here is the definition of ‘Nearest Point of Relief’, with the most relevant point to this article bolded;
“It is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).
It is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies:
(i) that is not nearer the hole, and
(ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.
Note: In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.”
Just in case you still don’t believe me that the nearest point of relief could be in a middle of a tree here is the relevant Decision 24-2b/3.5;
"Q. In proceeding under Rule 24-2b(i) or Rule 25-1b(i), the Definition of Nearest Point of Relief provides that to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he would have used from the original position had the obstruction or condition not been there. What is the procedure if a player is unable physically to determine the nearest point of relief because, for example, that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required address position?
A. The nearest point of relief in both cases must be estimated and the player must drop the ball within one club-length of the estimated point, not nearer the hole.
Decision 24-2b/3.7, clarifies the above point with the help of this diagram;

Diagram Illustrating Player Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Relief
from the R&A publication, Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2010 – 2011 (Decision 24-2b/3.7)

"The diagram illustrates the point raised in Decision 24-2b/3.5 where a player may be unable to determine the nearest point of relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate this point under Rule 24-2b.
B1 = position of ball on cart path
P1 = nearest point of relief (determined)
S1 = notional stance used to determine nearest point of relief at P1 – results in player's stance being out of bounds
B2 = position of ball on cart path
P2 = nearest point of relief (estimated)
S2 = notional stance used to determine nearest point of relief at P2 – unable to take this stance because of boundary wall
B3 = position of ball on cart path
P3 = nearest point of relief (estimated)
S3 = notional stance used to determine nearest point of relief at P3 – unable to take this stance because of tree trunk"
I included a short, explanatory video on how to find the nearest point of relief in an earlier blog. Check it out.


Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes




I've had a great reaction to my new ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series of weekly emails that pose questions on the Rules based on an accompanying photo, or photos. Thanks to all of the (nearly) three thousand subscribers, so far. Don’t worry if you haven’t subscribed yet because you will not miss anything. When you do subscribe here you will start receiving the series of emails, one per week, starting from the very first one. All new subscribers also receive a small gift, a link to 27 Q&As on the Rules (9 easy, 9 slightly harder and 9 more difficult), which you might like to use to test yourself and your Clubhouse friends. Of course, there is no charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Here is the link again.

Monday, 5 April 2010

When You May Not Play a Provisional Ball


If there is one thing that can help to speed up play it is the correct use of the provisional ball. It is frustrating to have to take that long walk back to where you last played from when you cannot find your ball and have to suffer the stroke and distance penalty. However, there is one important situation where you are not permitted to play a provisional ball if you think that your ball could be lost. Rule 27-2 states;

“If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1.”
In other words, if it is known or it is virtually certain that the ball is within the margins of a water hazard (or lateral water hazard) then the player may not play a provisional ball. The reason for this is that the relief options for a ball lost in a water hazard (Rule 26-1a) are significantly more advantageous than those for a ball that is lost or out of bounds Rule 27-1).

There are two Decisions that clearly illustrate this;

27-2a/2 Provisional Ball Played Solely in Belief Original Ball Might Be in Water Hazard
Q. A player's tee shot might be in a water hazard, but clearly it is not lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. The player announces that, since his ball might be in the hazard, he is going to play a provisional ball and he does so. Rule 27-2a seems to prohibit a provisional ball in the circumstances. What is the ruling?
A. The player did not play a provisional ball which, according to the Definition of "Provisional Ball," is a ball played under Rule 27-2 for a ball which may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds. The second ball from the tee was in play since it was not a provisional ball.

27-2a/2.2 Possibility That Original Ball Is in Water Hazard May Not Preclude Play of Provisional Ball
Q. If a player's original ball may have come to rest in a water hazard, is he precluded from playing a provisional ball?
A. No. Even though the original ball may be in a water hazard, the player is entitled to play a provisional ball if the original ball might also be lost outside the water hazard or out of bounds. In such a case, if the original ball is found in the water hazard, the provisional ball must be abandoned — Rule 27-2c (Formerly 27-2c/1)
The point made in the answer to this second Decision is important. Whether a ball may be lost inside or outside of a hazard may depend a lot on the surrounding terrain. If a wide fairway leads straight down to a water hazard then the ball will either be found on the fairway or will be in the water hazard. But if there is long grass and/or trees around the water hazard then the ball could be lost anywhere inside or outside of the hazard because it could be hidden in the deep rough or could have been deflected off trees in any direction.
There was a high profile incident concerning this Rule back in 2004 when Greg Norman told his fellow competitors, Fred Couples and Charles Howell lll, that he was going to play a provisional tee shot for his original ball that he thought went into a water hazard. As explained above the Rules only permit a provisional to be played if the original ball is believed to be lost or out of bounds, not when it is in a water hazard. Ironically, Norman found his original ball in a bunker. He then picked-up the ball that he thought was a provisional from the middle of the fairway and played from the bunker. The Rules Official accompanying the group, Slugger White, told Norman that he would have to return and drop a ball where his second tee shot had come to rest. Including the penalties for playing a wrong ball from the bunker and lifting a ball that was in play, he would have been playing his seventh shot to the green. "He chose not to do that," White said. "He said, 'I'm disqualified,' and left.” Surprisingly, Fred Couples said that he also was not aware of this Rule. Another case of tour professionals not knowing the Rules as well as they should, which always surprises me when I think about how much money can be riding on one or two extra strokes over a four-day competition.

Remember that the only two circumstances when you can hit a provisional ball are also the only two times when you are required to proceed under stroke and distance if you cannot find your original ball. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Good golfing,


Barry Rhodes

P.S. Since writing this blog I have recorded a short video on 'Playing a Provisional Ball'. Scroll down at this link.




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