Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Golf - Responsibilities of a Marker

The definition of a marker in the Rule book is;
A marker is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor's score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.
In my last blog I left readers to ponder whether a marker should sign the score card of a player who has played a number of strokes when the marker was not present. At first, it would seem obvious that the marker has to be present during the whole stipulated round in order that they can properly attest the player’s gross scores for each hole. Decision 6-6a/2 is relevant;
Q. A plays three holes by himself while his marker, B, rests. B then resumes play and marks A's scores for the holes he (A) played alone as well as his scores for the remainder of the holes. Should A's card be accepted?
A. No. A should have insisted on B accompanying him or have discontinued play and reported to the Committee. Since A was not accompanied by a marker for three holes, he did not have an acceptable score.
However, it would seem that it is not quite that clear-cut. I am sure that every one of us has marked a player’s card without witnessing every single stroke they made. For example, their ball may have been in the woods on one side of a fairway and our ball may have been in the rough behind a steep mound on the other side; or their ball may have been under a bush and they had a ‘fresh air’, or ‘whiff’ in trying to strike it; or they may have incurred a penalty because their stroke from a pot bunker hit the lip and rebounded hitting them on the leg. If we did not personally witness every stroke and/or penalty does it mean that we cannot sign their card as marker? Of course it does not. Rather surprisingly, Rule 6-6a, which deals with the recording of scores, does not offer much guidance;
After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round, the marker must sign the score card and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible.
The only other Decision on this subject is 6-6a/4, in which the marker refuses to sign the competitor's card after a dispute over a penalty incurred, which is not really relevant to the subject of this blog.

The point to remember is that the Rules require the marker to sign the player’s card so that he has a score that is acceptable for the purposes of the competition. The rules recommend that a marker should check the score with the competitor after each hole although this is not mandatory. Ultimately, this is a game that relies on integrity of the player and the witnessing of every stroke by their marker is not specifically required. If a marker says that they will not sign the card because they could not be sure of the score the player made, or they were not accompanying the player on every stroke, then it becomes an issue that the Committee has to deal with, as to whether the player’s score is acceptable, or not, based on whatever evidence that they can gather.

I have one final point on this subject. In some playing groups it is common for one person to mark all the scorecards, including their own. This is not an acceptable practice in competitions and must be discouraged.

It is a truism that golf brings the best out in a good man and the worst out in a bad man.

Barry Rhodes

If any reader who has not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series would like to see an example before subscribing please email me at rules at barryrhodes dot com. However, I would remind you that this weekly series, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. I promise that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link to subscribe.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Replacing a Damaged Club


A few days ago, I received an interesting communication from a new subscriber to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. It concerned an incident that had occurred during a regular Saturday stroke play competition at his Club;
A player, who was carrying 14 clubs, discovered that his putter was broken. He declared that he did not intentionally damage the club, but it just broke. It was not damaged during the play of a shot. Thinking he was allowed to replace the club, he left his group to go and purchase another putter in the golf shop. Now the shop was quite a distance from the hole so it took him a while. The other members of his group finished putting out and proceeded to play the next hole without him. After purchasing a putter he went to the hole he hadn’t completed, putted out and played from the next teeing ground, taking three strokes to reach the second green, where his group was waiting for him. By this time 2-3 groups were backed up waiting for him to finish his incomplete hole and play the next hole catching up with his group. It seems to me that more than one rule was broken?
This situation raises three interesting Rules issues. As the writer intimated, the broken putter should not have been replaced once the round had started as it was not broken in the normal course of play. The penalty is disqualification, Rule 4-3b:
b. Damage Other than in Normal Course of Play If, during a stipulated round, a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.

c. Damage Prior to Round
A player may use a club damaged prior to a round, provided the club, in its damaged state, conforms with the Rules. Damage to a club that occurred prior to a round may be repaired during the round, provided the playing characteristics are not changed and play is not unduly delayed.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 4-3b or c: Disqualification.
Note that the player was carrying 14 clubs, the maximum permitted by the Rules. If the player had been carrying fewer than 14 clubs he would have been permitted to acquire another putter during his round.

Even if the putter had been damaged in the normal course of play the player’s actions were completely unacceptable and he undoubtedly incurred a minimum penalty of two strokes for unduly delaying play. Decision 6-7/1 rules on what on the face of it would appear to be a far less serious breach than the one outlined above;
Q. A player arrives at a green and discovers that he has left his putter at the tee. He returns to the tee to retrieve the putter. If this delays play, is the player subject to penalty?

A. Yes. Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay; Slow Play) and not Rule 6-8a (Discontinuance of Play) applies in this case.
Note the words, “if this delays play”. This is not necessarily a ‘get out of jail’ card when there is no following group within a couple of holes. At the very least the player is delaying the play of his fellow competitors, or opponents, in the same group. Of course, if they willingly give permission to go back to retrieve the club and no-one else is affected, then it would be unlikely that they, or a Committee, would seek to impose the penalty.

The third issue that this scenario raises is the responsibility of the marker, who may not have witnessed all of the strokes made by the player that left the group to visit the golf shop. I think that this is a subject that merits a blog on its own (next week) and will leave you to ponder whether a marker should sign the score card of a player who has played a number of strokes when the marker was not present.

In the meantime, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

For those readers that have my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, there are two Q&As on Rule 4-3b and six on Rule 6-7. If you do not have my book then you are missing out on an easy and fun way to learn, absorb and understand the Rules. Why not purchase three at a discount and give two away to golfing friends or relatives. Click here for details.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Precise Language of the Rules of Golf

Part of the Rolex advertisement from the R&A Rules of Golf 2008-2011 book

There is a very useful warning in the opening pages of the Rule book;
The Rule book is written in a very precise and deliberate fashion. You should be aware of and understand the following differences in word use:
• “may” (e.g. the player may cancel the stroke) means the action is optional
• “should” (e.g. the marker should check the score) means the action is recommended but is not mandatory
• “must” (e.g. the player’s clubs must conform) means it is an instruction and there is a penalty if it is not carried out
• “a ball” (e.g. drop a ball behind the point) means you may substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 26, 27 and 28)
• “the ball” (e.g. the player must lift the ball and drop it) means you must not substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 24-2 and 25-1)
The more that you get to understand the Rules the more you will appreciate the relevance of the above advice. Here are some more instances of where some of the above words are relevant;
May – Except when their ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition, such as casual water or ground under repair, without penalty (Rule 25-1b). However, unless there is a Local Rule specifying otherwise, the player may also play the ball as it lies.

Should - The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball (Rule 12-2). So, it is not mandatory to put a mark on your Titleist Pro V1s, but please take my advice and never play a ball that you have not put your personalized identification mark on; you will undoubtedly save many strokes over a season by not playing ‘wrong balls’.

Must – be careful if a Local Rule says that you must take relief from staked trees. If you think that your ball is in a good lie under the staked tree and then touch any part of the tree with your next stroke you incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, because you have not taken full relief from it as required by the Local Rule.

A Ball – You may deem your ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except in a water hazard, and it is solely your judgment, no-one can challenge you that your ball is playable. Rule 28 provides three options for relief, all of them under penalty of one stroke. Each of these options refers to the fact that a ball is to be dropped. In other words the player may continue play with a different ball from the one that they deem unplayable. The obvious reason for this is that although the player may be able to identify their ball in its unplayable situation (e.g. in a cactus bush or out of reach up a tree), it might not be reasonable for them to retrieve it without difficulty or delay. However, a player may substitute their ball under this Rule even if their original ball is available to them.
The ball – Conversely, when the Rule specifies the ball, the player must continue with the original ball. An excellent example of this was in 2008 when Ian Poulter, having marked his ball on the putting green after a poor putt, attempted to whisk it up. Unfortunately, he didn’t hold on to it and it ended up in the adjacent water hazard. Even though his ball had been marked on the putting green the Rules require the player to replace the same ball. If Poulter was not able to retrieve his ball he would have been forced to take a penalty for an incorrect substitution. Fortunately, his personal physio was following his round, waded into the water and located the ball within a couple of minutes.
The words in the Rolex advertisement above are apposite in relation to the wording of the Rules of Golf; Meticulous. Precise. Intensely detailed. I hope that by regularly visiting this blog I can help you to obtain a better understanding and knowledge of them.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

My book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, will help demystify the Rules of Golf for you. Order a personally signed copy and have it posted to anywhere in the world for just $19.99 (or £12.99, €14.99). It makes an excellent gift, or prize for your golf competitions. Click here for more information.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Rule 10, Order of Play. Who Plays First?


There is sometimes confusion amongst golfers as to who has the honour on the teeing ground. For example, many players observe a convention that the lowest handicap player has the honour on the first tee, which strictly speaking is incorrect. Rule 10-2 states that in stroke play;
"The competitor who has the honor at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honor should be decided by lot."
Deciding by lot can be achieved by such means as tossing coins, choosing different size tees from a closed hand, or throwing balls in the air to see which lands nearest to a predetermined spot. Of course, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn, which is why the convention referred to above has flourished; but it is not according to the Rules.

Another misunderstanding is that the competitor with the lowest score at a hole always takes the honor at the next teeing ground and if two or more competitors have the same score at a hole, they play from the next teeing ground in the same order as at the previous teeing ground. This is certainly true for ‘strokes’ competitions, where players have to hole out on every hole, with the handicap adjustments only being taken into account when the round is completed. However in handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions it is different as Rule 32-1 confirms;
“In handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions, the competitor with the lowest net score at a hole takes the honor at the next teeing ground.”
For example, on the index 11 hole in a Stableford competition, player A (handicap 9), scores 4, and player B (handicap 14) scores 5, net 4. If player B had the honour on the hole he would retain it on the next teeing ground even though his gross score was higher than A’s.

What is the correct order of play if one player’s ball is in a bunker fourteen feet from the hole, another player’s ball is on the fringe ten feet away and a third player’s ball is thirty feet away, but on the putting green, as in the illustration above? Rule 10-2b states;
“After the competitors have started play of the hole, the ball farthest from the hole is played first. If two or more balls are equidistant from the hole or their positions relative to the hole are not determinable, the ball to be played first should be decided by lot.”
So, in this example the player whose ball lies on the putting green should play first, the player in the bunker second, and the player on the fringe third. However, as previously noted, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn and, particularly where it helps to speed up play, there may be a case for inviting the player whose ball is in the bunker to play first.

There is also no penalty for playing out of turn in match play, but there is an important difference in that an opponent may immediately require the player who has played out of turn to cancel the stroke so made and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. Probably the most famous incident of this occurred during the 2000 Solheim Cup, which brought Annika Sorenstam to tears. Click here for an account of the incident by a Sports Illustrated journalist.

I have three more reminders concerning order of play; First, in four-ball competitions balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best (Rules 30-3b and 31-4). Second, in stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball (Rule 22-2). Third, if a player plays a provisional ball or another ball from the teeing ground, they must do so after their opponent or fellow-competitor has made their first stroke.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Here are some of the comments that I received in during August relating to my free email series, ‘Rhodes Rules School’ where I use photos to illustrate and answer Rules situations that you are likely to encounter on the golf course. You can subscribe here.

  • Barry, you found the best and most effective way to explain the rules! Thanks. Eric T
  • I really enjoy your emails. Jeff S
  • May I request permission to copy your brilliant questions and answers? My idea is to leave one or two copies around the bar for members to read after the I must say your emails are a wealth of information. Jeffrey R
  • Really enjoy your info about the rules, it makes the game so much more fun. I am a volunteer coach for the younger kids between 6 and14 and this is very helpful. John H
  • I appreciate your rules update & hope that others in our club do too! Paul D
  • Nice group of questions - no doubt about the answers when the rules are applied. Bob K.
  • I am delighted that a friend of mine (and a fine golfer) forwarded this to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I did with your 'quizzes'. I am still a novice to 'true' golf. I love it and it's a challenge and knowing more about the rules makes me feel much better about playing the toughest game I am ever played. Thomas S
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