Sunday, 26 June 2011

Miscellaneous Questions on the Rules of Golf

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?

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.
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.

Good golfing,

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.


Spence Family NZ said...


I was looking at the relief that charl schwartzel got at the memorial recently from sprinkler heads (immovable obstructions?)

Here it is on Youtube

It seemed to me that he just took a club length from the obstruction rather than from the nearest point of relief (NPR).

Is this a local rule at the memorial do you think?

Because was not the NPR on the hazard side of the obstructions for a right hander? It looked to me like there was room to drop the ball on the hazard side.

If he had done this he may not have obtained such a perfect lie on the fairway?

although the club length may have extended onto the fairway because you can go through the obstruction - but then he probably would still have been standing on the obstruction??

Do you have any thoughts on the matter?


John Spence

Barry Rhodes said...

What you do not see, because of the break in the video at 36 seconds, is Charles Schwartzel marking the nearest point of relief with a tee about two inches behind where his ball lay. In my opinion this was the correct point, though I may not have been as generous as the Rules official in ruling that the sprinkler was indeed interfering with his next stroke! He is then fully entitled to take relief within one club-head length of that point, even though it gives him the advantage of dropping on the fairway. An excellent example of using the Rules to your advantage.

Kudos to PGA Tour for putting-up the video for us all to learn from, but a bit embarrassing that CBS Sports used the wrong Rule in trying to explain the relief option available. It was obviously a Rule 24-2 Immovable Obstruction relief and not 25-1 Abnormal Ground Condition! I will probably use this incident for next week's blog.


Spence Family NZ said...

Thank you very much - I can see it now! It did seem a generous ruling at the time - and I could not work out either why they called it an abnormal ground condition

I thoroughly enjoy your blog and website etc and look forward to receiving the instalments


John Spence