Friday, 3 June 2011

Joost Luiten Is Disqualified for Signing for an Incorrect Score

Photo: Golf Turismo

If only Dutch golfer, Joost Luiten, had been a subscriber to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series he may have avoided disqualification after the first round of the Memorial Tournament for signing an incorrect score card. In issue No.3 I pointed out that a ball that touches a water hazard stake or line is in the hazard. I am sure that he already knew that when a ball is in a water hazard a player may not ground their club in that hazard. Here is the sequence of events that led to his disqualification, as I understand them;
  • Luiten’s ball came to rest with part of it touching a red line defining the margin of a lateral water hazard.
  • As he settled into his stance his ball moved.
  • He notified his playing competitor, Bobby Gates, and a walking Rules official.
  • Having not been informed that the ball was touching the hazard line the Rules official determined that because Luiten had not grounded his club no penalty had been incurred.
  • Later, the Rules official received more accurate information about the position of Luiten’s ball when it moved, confirming that it was touching the hazard line, an important fact that had not been conveyed to him by the player.
  • The official informed the Dutchman that because his ball was in the hazard, he had committed two Rules infractions: one for the ball moving after address (Rule 18-2b) and one for playing from the wrong place (Rule 20-7c). 
  • Because Luiten had signed and returned his score card without including the penalty incurred of two strokes he was disqualified.
I have spelled out this sequence because I have seen differing versions of this incident, particularly from Golf Channel reporter, Rex Hoggard, who reported that Luiten’s ball was in a bunker!

There are four rulings involved here; first when any part of a ball touches the hazard it is considered to be in the hazard; second, when a ball lies in a hazard you have addressed the ball as soon as you have taken your stance (because you are not permitted to ground your club in a bunker); third, if your ball moves after you have addressed it, but before you have made a stroke at it, there is a penalty of one stoke and the ball must be replaced; fourth, the total penalty incurred is two strokes, not three, because of this penalty statement included in Rule 18;
If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, or if he makes a stroke at a ball substituted under Rule 18 when such substitution is not permitted, he incurs the general penalty for breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.
Some golf correspondents are suggesting that the Rules official should take some blame for this Luiten’s disqualification. I really don’t think so. Of course, he could have specifically asked whether the ball was touching the line, but it was obviously the player’s responsibility to give the official all the relevant facts. In fact, I am incredulous that someone who must play golf nearly every day of his life did not consider that this was worth mentioning to the Rules official. If he did not know that the line defining the hazard was important to the ruling he was seeking then he should immediately be required to attend a Rules seminar as was suggested in March of last year by senior European Rules officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee (see this blog entry).

As I often say, when it comes to golf, know the Rules, know knowledge; whereas no Rules no knowledge.

5th June, 2011, edit: Thanks to one of my Dutch subscribers who has translated Joost Luiten's version of events from his web site. I don't think that it changes anything I have written above but it does explain that the official did not witness the incident and was not informed of the circumstances until the hole had been completed, at which time a relevant fact was omitted.
"My ball was in a water hazard and my feet were just outside the hazard. Just before I wanted to hit the ball, it moved. I asked my fellow competitors what to do and they confirmed my opinion that no penalty was incurred. I played hole 11 and told the referee about the incident. After that I didn't see or hear the referee about it. Only two hours after finishing my round the referee came up to me and wanted to hear the story. Then the referee concluded that as I had taken my stance and the ball was in the hazard I should have placed the ball back. (....) It is my mistake, I should have known the rule, but I was disappointed that the referee didn't come up to me before I signed my scorecard; he already knew at hole 11 that something was going on."
So, it was not just Joost Luiten that did not know that you have addressed your ball once you have taken your stance in a bunker, but his fellow competitors as well!

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courtgolf said...

Great explanation, as always. Thanks Barry.

Couple of quick questions - I didn't see the infraction and you got on Hoggard for saying he was in a bunker, but included grounding a club in a bunker below the time line of the infraction - I assumed this happened in a water hazard since there aren't lines around bunkers. Correct ?

On to the more important question. Since he called for an official, you would think that he would see that the ball had either settled inside the hazard line or at least further into the line since the ball isn't going to roll uphill.

I understand that the player is responsible for knowing the rules, but should an official ask if the ball was touching the line to make sure he is giving the correct answer ?

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, the ball was on the red line of a lateral water hazard, nowhere near any bunker.

I don't think that the incident was recorded on camera at all, but it is my understanding that the Rules official that Joost Luiten supplied the details to did not actually witness where the ball was at rest, but made his ruling on being told that the ball had moved before it was addressed. This was incorrect information, as Luiten had in fact completed his stance, which is all that is required for a ball to be addressed when it lies within a hazard. This is confirmed by a reported comment made by the Rules official after the disqualification, "He took his stance which means you’ve addressed the ball and then the ball moved which is a penalty. He and his caddie didn’t think he’d addressed his ball, but they didn’t know the definition of the rule.”

Maybe, the official should have asked whether the ball was close to the margin of a hazard, but I don't think that we can blame him for not doing so. It was clearly up to the player to disclose this essential information.