Friday, 25 March 2011

Rhodes Rules School Questions

This week I am answering three questions that have arisen out of my free, ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly email series, which pose questions based on photos of situations that may be encountered on the golf course. (Click here if you are not already a subscriber).

No.24 Touching Sand in a Bunker 
“I have recently had a discussion covering the following points:
1.    A player takes his clubs into a hazard and lies them in the hazard after selecting the most suitable club for his shot (In his opinion)
2.    A player's trolley unintentionally rolls into a hazard where his ball lies (propelled by the wind or gravity)!
3.    Ignoring the etiquette issues - a player takes his trolley into a hazard (say a dry water course or even a very large bunker) and there selects his club!
In each of these cases I feel that the exception "provided that nothing is done which would constitute testing the hazard" then the player would incur no penalty? I am sure I have seen this answer - but I am unable to find my source! Would you be kind enough to point me in the right direction?”
You are correct, there is no penalty in any of the three circumstances that you have outlined, and you have correctly identified that the reason is because of Exception 1 to Rule 13-4.

The opening sentence to the answer of Decision 13-4/0.5 explains what is meant by 'test the condition of the hazard';

The term covers all actions by which the player could gain more information about the hazard than could be gained from taking his stance for the stroke to be made, bearing in mind that a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking the stance for a stroke.
This does not apply to any of the three circumstances that you describe.
No.29 Improving Line of Play
“I hit a lovely drive down the centre of the fairway but then my ball seemed to disappear. When I went to where I thought the ball was I still couldn't see it and wondered how I could have lost it. The answer was that my ball hit a divot that was still attached on its hinge line and as it hit the divot the divot flicked back over my ball and covered it, so I could only just see the ball from sideways on. All I could do was hit at the ball sideways without any view of the ball from under the divot only moving it a few yards. I presume I was right then in that I could not lift the divot in my case to see the ball.”
Yes, providing you were sure that it was your ball you could not move the attached divot before playing your ball. Rule 12-1 states,
    A player is not necessarily entitled to see his ball when making a stroke.
Of course, if you weren't sure that it was your ball you could move the divot, providing you followed the correct procedure of marking the ball and inviting a fellow competitor/opponent to witness the identification. But if did turn out to be your ball you would then have had to replace the divot as it was before you moved it. 

No.47 Marking the Ball

“Someone told me it was fine to mark a ball behind, in front, or to either side, as long as you place it back in its original position.  I see rule 20-1 only mentions ‘behind’ the ball.  Just curious.”
Part of Rule 20-1 states;
The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted under a Rule that requires it to be replaced.
Later in the same Rule there is a Note that states;
The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.
This note is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with it. In other words, providing the position of the ball is properly marked it doesn't have to be behind the ball. This is confirmed by Decision 20-1/19;
Q. When marking the position of a ball, must the ball-marker be placed behind the ball, or may it also be placed to the side of or in front of the ball?

A. There is no restriction. However, if a player positions his ball-marker in front of the ball on the putting green and in the process does something to the green which might influence the movement of the ball when played, e.g., presses down a raised tuft of grass, he is in breach of Rule 1-2.

Placing a ball-marker in front of the ball is not recommended but it is not a breach of Rule 16-1a because this Rule permits touching the line of putt in lifting a ball, and marking the position of the ball is part of the lifting process.
Learn the Rules and enjoy your game even more.

Have you subscribed to Rhodes Rules School, a series of weekly emails where I use photographs to illustrate rulings regularly encountered by golfers on the course?  If not, I recommend that you do so now as it is a great way to get to understand the Rules better. There is no charge (yes each issue is totally free) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here and join over 5,000 other satisfied subscribers.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Rory Sabbatini Tees Off While His Fellow Competitors Putt Out

Winds destroy 18th hole scoreboard at Doral's Blue Monster. photo @golfchronicles

There was an unusual situation at the rain interrupted first day of the TPC Blue Monster at Doral last Thursday. Rory Sabbatini, Zach Johnson and Geoff Ogilvy were nearing the end of their round when they learned that play was likely to be suspended for the day, as the worsening weather conditions were making it increasingly difficult for the players still on the course. On their 17th hole Zach Johnson suggested to the other two that they should do whatever possible to finish their round. They agreed that whoever finished the hole first would race to the tee at the par-3 ninth (their finishing hole) and tee-off.

They were obviously aware that Rule 6-8b states;
When play is suspended by the Committee, if the players in a match or group are between the play of two holes, they must not resume play until the Committee has ordered a resumption of play. If they have started play of a hole, they may discontinue play immediately or continue play of the hole, provided they do so without delay. If the players choose to continue play of the hole, they are permitted to discontinue play before completing it. In any case, play must be discontinued after the hole is completed.
It was agreed that whoever hit it closest at the eighth hole would finish out first and race to the ninth tee and hit, so as to start play of the hole before the horn signaling the suspension of  play was blown. Sabbatini was closest and after putting out for a birdie ran to the 9th. He had a rules official ride ahead to ask the group putting out on the ninth (Charley Hoffman, Aaron Baddeley and D.A. Points) if they minded Sabbatini teeing off while they were still on the Par-3 putting green. The forward group assented and stood back. The rules official told Sabbatini he needed to hurry and he was right; his tee shot was still in the air when the horn sounded. After the Sabbatini group finished their round they were quick to thank the three ahead for their understanding and generousity for standing aside while Sabbatini made his tee shot.

Could there have been any suggestion that the group should have been penalised for agreeing to play out of turn when Sabatini putted out on their penultimate hole from a point nearer the hole that his fellow competitors? The answer is No, there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play, unless it has been agreed in order to give one of them an advantage. Rule 10-2c states;
If a competitor plays out of turn, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. If, however, the Committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, they are disqualified.
This was obviously not the case at Doral, where through a good knowledge of the Rules and some quick thinking Messrs. Sabattini, Johnson and Ogilvy were able to finish their Thursday round and give themselves an extra four hours of sleep on Friday morning.

Good Golfing

Have you subscribed to ‘Rhodes Rules School’, a series of weekly emails where I use photographs to illustrate rulings regularly encountered by golfers on the course?  If not, I recommend that you do so now as it is a great way to get to understand the Rules better. There is no charge (yes each issue is totally free) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here and join over 5,000 other satisfied subscribers.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Tyre Tracks and Other Course Equipment Damage

Let’s clear up another common misunderstanding among golfers of all abilities. There is no free relief from tyre (or tire) tracks in the Rules of Golf, however deep they may be. Now, before you start arguing that there is, let me clarify why there is widespread confusion over this issue. When there are abnormal course conditions many Committees will correctly introduce a temporary Local Rule permitting free relief from tyre marks and other damage caused by course maintenance vehicles and equipment. Of course, the areas involved should be clearly marked as ground under repair, but sometimes this is not possible, due to the extensive nature of the damage, or because the white lines have been washed away during periods of wet weather.

My own Club introduced the following temporary Local Rule during a two-year period of extensive course re-development work, which coincided with some of the wettest weather experienced in years;

“Miscellaneous Course Damage
All course renovation works, including sand slits, newly seeded areas, drainage disruption and damage caused by heavy equipment, is ground under repair (GUR), even if not so marked with white lines. If a player’s ball lies in such a condition, or if such condition interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing, the player must take relief under Rule 25-1b(i): Abnormal Ground Conditions - Relief. The player must lift their ball and drop it without penalty within one club length, of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole.”
This temporary Local Rule was then withdrawn at the beginning of last summer, when the course had sufficiently recovered. However, it is surprising how many members think that the same relief still applies for the current 'Winter Rules', even though there is no mention of it on the current temporary Local Rules sheet, which is posted on the course notice board for all to read. Temporary Local Rules are just that – they are temporary. Players have to check them on a regular basis to ensure that they know what is permitted and what is not.

On a similar subject, I have heard more than one player this winter claiming that they are entitled to place a ball that is embedded in the ground inside the margin of a water hazard because there is a notice at the first teeing ground that says, “Winter Rules – placing everywhere”. Any such notice should be backed-up by the full wording of the temporary Local Rule, which should be based on the specimen Local Rule recommended in Appendix l, Part B, 4c of the Rules book. In any case, the Local Rule should certainly specify that relief is only available for a ball lying ‘through the green’, or even restricted to ‘a closely mown area through the green’ (i.e. the fairway). If Committees fail in their duty to correctly word their Local Rules then they deserve all the criticism they will garner when players start placing their ball in water hazards, bunkers or, as I heard a few weeks ago, placing six inches away from where they had marked their ball on the putting green.

Good golfing,

Have you subscribed to ‘Rhodes Rules School’, a series of weekly emails where I use photographs to illustrate rulings regularly encountered by golfers on the course?  If not, I recommend that you do so now as it is a great way to get to understand the Rules better. There is no charge (yes each issue is totally free) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here and join over 5,000 other satisfied subscribers.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Taking Complete Relief (e.g. from an Immovable Obstruction)

This week I will try to clarify what is meant by taking complete (or full) relief from an immovable obstruction. In golfing terms, immovable obstructions are those man-made objects on the course that are either permanently fixed in place, or cannot easily be moved. Examples are artificial paths, permanently fixed course furniture and signs, sprinkler heads, maintenance structures, and walls, fences and railings, except when they define out of bounds.

A player may take relief from an immovable obstruction, without penalty, when their ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player's stance or the area of their intended swing. Remember, that when an immovable obstruction intervenes on the intended line of play that is not, of itself, interference under this Rule. Nor is there relief for mental interference by an immovable obstruction, such as when a fence is close to, but not physically interfering with the intended stroke. Also, note that a player may take relief in this situation; that is they don’t have to. Quite often the nearest point of relief may result in the player having to deal with an even more difficult shot than where there ball is at rest close to the immovable obstruction.

When a player is taking relief from an immovable obstruction, they must first determine the nearest point, not nearer the hole, where there is no interference to the lie of their ball, their stance or the area of their intended swing, and then drop the ball (if they have been able to retrieve it) within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. The dropped ball must come to rest in a position that affords complete relief from the obstruction. For example, in the photo above, a player’s ball was lying on a cart path. They correctly identified the nearest point of relief, at point X, and dropped the ball there. However, the ball rolled to point Y and, instead of re-dropping the ball, they played it with the heel of one foot just touching the path. The reason why it is so important to take complete relief is that the player incurs the penalty for playing from the wrong place, if they fail to take relief that totally clears the interference; an expensive mistake when free relief is available when taken properly. This penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Another situation where you have to take complete relief is when a Committee has introduced a Local Rule giving fee relief from young/staked trees. Such a Local Rule is established to protect the trees and it is usual that taking relief is mandatory, not optional. Therefore, if a player drops away from the tree and they then touch any part of the tree (including overhanging leaves or branches) with their club or person while making their stroke, they incur the penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for breaching the Local Rule.

Taking complete relief is a tricky concept, but it is worth taking the time to understand it if you are to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties.

Good golfing

Golf Club Members
Here is something that I would like you to consider. All Golf Clubs would like their members to know the Rules better. Why not suggest that your Club purchases 12 signed copies of my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ to give as competition prizes. 12 copies sell at €179.88 retail but I am pleased to offer Clubs a heavily discounted price (over 40%, including postage to anywhere in the world) of just Eu€109 (which is approximately US$145 or St£91). Payments may be made through PayPal to barry at barryrhodes dot com