The day after Rory McIlroy’s epic win at the Congressional a reader wrote to me with this observation;
“There was a situation last night when Rory swept the putting green ‘line of putt’ with his hand (palm side I thought). Can’t remember the hole but it was in the middle of the round. Looked strange to me at the time but nobody commented on it so I assume it was okay.”I was able to assure him that no penalty had been incurred. He was simply removing loose impediments from his line of putt (e.g. sand, seeds or leaves) and that can be done by any means providing nothing is pressed down (Decision 23-1/1). Strangely, you may even carry a brush to sweep away loose imediments on your line of putt, though I must quickly add that I have never seen anyone do so, nor would I approve of it.
I had a phone call from my own Club this week. On the 7th hole of an inter-club four-ball match it was realised that one of the players was carrying 15 clubs in her bag. They knew that a penalty had been incurred but was it only to the player, or to her partner as well, and how was the penalty to be applied? This is not quite as simple as it may at first appear. The penalty for starting a round with more than 14 clubs in match play, regardless of number of excess clubs carried, is not incurred until the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered. Then the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred, with a maximum deduction of two holes per round (Rule 4-4a). The loss of hole penalty is not applied to a specific hole, but to the state of the match at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, Simply stated, this means that if the breach is discovered before anyone tees off at the second hole the offending player is one hole worse off that they would otherwise be, (i.e. 1 down becomes 2 down, all square becomes 1 down, 1 up becomes all square). At any other time during the round the offending player is two holes worse off that they would otherwise be. Rule 30-3d confirms that in four-balls it is the side that is penalised and not just the player who is carrying the extra club(s).
Here are three more recent questions;
Question: On the putting green, if a player is standing immediately behind you or directly in front of you (i.e. on the far side of the hole), so as to get a close look at your line of putt, can they be penalised, or is it just a breach of etiquette?
Answer: A penalty is incurred if a caddie, or a partner in a four-ball competition, stands behind you while you putt (Rule 14-2). However, there is no penalty if a fellow competitor or opponent stands either behind you or behind the hole. It is up to the player to ask them to move, pointing out that it is good etiquette to do so. If they refuse, the circumstances should be reported to the Committee for them to take whatever action they think is appropriate.
Question: Where in the rules does it say you can mark clean and replace your golf ball on the green from the same place more than once?
Answer: Rule 16-1b states that a ball on the putting green may be lifted and, if desired, cleaned. Nowhere in the Rules does it state that this only applies once. In fact, there are several Decisions that confirm that a player may repeat the action more than once (e.g. Decision 16-1b/1).
Question: Our matches are always match play with plenty of parents spectating. Can a spectator intervene if a Rule is about to be broken; for instance if a drop is being taken incorrectly?Finally, I was asked about a situation where a player who had asked for the flagstick to be removed chipped his ball directly into the hole where it hit the bottom and bounced straight out again. The player argued that the ball was holed because it had touched the base of the cup and there was no Rule or Decision to contradict this. I was able to confirm that the ball was not holed because it did not come to rest below the level of the lip of the hole, as required by the Definition of 'Holed'. Often it is unnecessary to confirm an unusual occurrence with a Decision because the Rule or Definition is sufficiently clear.
Answer: Spectators may certainly step in to prevent a Rule being broken. Information on the Rules is not advice. I encourage players in stroke play competitions to stop a fellow competitor breaking a Rule, but they have to remember that they can only state what the options are; they may not suggest which option is best in the circumstances prevailing.
If you have found some of the questions above interesting and perhaps have learned something new, then I think that you will enjoy my book, ’999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’’. Click here for my special offer.