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.

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Unknown said...

When in a bunker, on your take away while attempting your shot, you brush the sand, you hve inccurred a penalty. Correct?

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, brushing the sand, or a loose impediment, on the backswing of your stroke in a bunker incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. Rule 13-4.


Anonymous said...

so if you are lying 2 in a bunker and brush the sand on takeaway and splash the ball on the green,what is the procedure and what are you lying?

Barry Rhodes said...


You would be lying 5 on the putting green and must continue playing out the hole from there; two strokes into the bunker, stroke from bunker, two penalty strokes for brushing the ground (sand) in the bunker on your takeaway.


John Laverick said...

Hi Barry, can you clarify for me please, a member chipped his ball onto the green and it came to rest against the flag stick and the hole. the whole of the ball was not below the hole. the member moved the flag stick away from the ball and the the ball fell in the hole. His partner said that he should not have pushed the flag stick but merely straightened it up and then removed it. The rules state that should he "move" the flag stick and the ball falls in the hole then it is holed. Is there any rule stating how a flag stick should be removed. Thanks John

Barry Rhodes said...


No, the Rules do not specify how the flagstick should be removed in this situation. The ball was correctly holed when the player moved the flagstick away from the ball and it fell into the hole.

You have provided me with another myth on the Rules that I can add to my collection!


Anonymous said...

Barry - if players, during a stipulated competition, play a different competition (e.g. stableford rather than a medal round, from the one on the fixture list, does this lead to disqualification, or can the scores be modified and used to enter into the results for the correct competition?

Barry Rhodes said...


Providing the player has entered their gross scores for each and every hole of the stipulated round the score card is valid for both Stableford and medal competitions. However, certain specific Rules governing stroke play are so substantially different from those governing match play that combining these two forms of play is not practicable and is not permitted, Rule 33-1.


SJS said...

Thanks, Barry - very helpful. It was a stableford/sroke play situation that I was thinking of, not a match-play swap.

Stewart said...

Touching sand in bunker - penalty?

Here's a real sequence from our club Foursomes Championships, a stroke event.

Player A, a person with a very high sense of self-worth, fluffs a chip from near a green and the ball goes into the greenside bunker. Player A then throws his club in disgust and it lands in the same bunker that his partner, Player B, is now due to play from, although the club did not interfere with the line or lie of the ball. Team A/B's marker, Player C, suggests this may require Team A/B to be penalized under Rule 13-4. Player A huffs and puffs and harangues Player C into a backdown (Player C regularly plays with Player A and does not wish to damage the relationship). Both the marker and Player A sign the card without any penalty applying. No information about this finds its way to the Committee. (Fortunately, Team A/B are not winners of the event.)

In my opinion, the correct action here would have been that Team A/B incurred a two stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 and because none of the exceptions to that rule apply to these circumstances. Decision 29/5 deals with a situation that is quite similar (albeit in a match play situation so the penalty varies). Moreover, the marker should not have signed the card but reported the circumstances to the Committee. Team A/B should have been disqualified for signing for a lower score on a hole than their correct score.

Would you agree with this assessment Barry?

Barry Rhodes said...


I agree. A&B should have been penalised two strokes for a clear breach of Rule 13-4. The marker, presumably C or D, should not have signed the card, without obtaining clarification of the ruling from the Committee. In my opinion, the Committee would have been justified in disqualifying both pairs for agreeing to waive the penalty incurred (Rule 1-3).

P.S. Please address these type of questions to me directly at rules at barryrhodes d o t c o m.

Del. said...

Evening Peeps,
Need a rule guide please...!!
On a Sunday stableford comp I shot the game of a life time in a winter league comp, handicap 23.5 playing 24, I have come 3rd previously so docked 0.5 so now shooting 23.
That's ok, had a few lessons and a few more beers the night before so was just chilled,shot a score of 47 points with 3 blobs...!!
Played the 23 handicap but didn't write it on the card...!!
Reading rule 6-6b
. If no handicap is recorded on his score card before it is returned (Rule 6-6b), or if the recorded handicap is higher than that to which he is entitled and this affects the number of strokes received, he is disqualified from the handicap competition; otherwise, the score stands.
Now I interpret this to mean although now handicap was recorded but played to the score stands??
Help please.... Del.

Barry Rhodes said...


The disqualification penalty was correct.

The relevant part of Rule 6-2 states;

If no handicap is recorded on his score card before it is returned (Rule 6-6b)... he is disqualified from the handicap competition.

There is something else! In most handicapping systems your score will count, even though you were disqualified.