Sunday, 3 July 2011

Charles Schwartzel Obtains Relief from Sprinkler

Thanks to PGA Tour for putting this interesting video clip on YouTube of a recent ruling at the 2011 Memorial Tournament, where Charles Schwartzel received relief from a sprinkler head that he claimed interfered with his next stroke. Whether you agree that the relief was justified or not, it does raise interesting points on the Rules.

For email recipients this video can be viewed here.

I know that many readers will think that Schwartzel was not entitled to relief in this situation, as his ball was clearly several inches from the sprinkler head. However, when asked by PGA Tour Official, Jon Brendle, he indicated that he felt it could interfere with his stroke, presumably when taking a divot on his follow-through. It seems that Brendle was unconvinced but in these circumstances it is very difficult for the Rules official to make a contrary judgement, as players hit their strokes in a wide variety of ways.

The other point that has been raised is that it seems as though Schwartzel is taking one club-length relief from where the ball was at rest. On closer examination this is not correct. There is a break in the video at around 36 seconds, during which time he marked his nearest point of relief, just a couple of inches further away from the sprinkler, with a tee peg. He then correctly measures the club-length from that mark and drops within the measured distance, not nearer the hole. The fact that this takes him out of the light rough and onto the fairway is his good fortune.

I wonder how many of you that watched the full video clip to the end noticed the embarrassing mistake by CBS Sports. Kudos to the PGA Tour for putting-up the video for us all to learn from, and to CBS Sports for trying to explain the Rule with a graphic and explanation. However, in just another example of how little golf programme commentators on TV understand the Rules of Golf, they 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! (Edit 24th July: I have since learned that the ruling made by Jon Brendle was in fact for relief under Rule 25-1. The sprinkler heads tops were about 2 inches below ground level and there was a vertically cut lip around the head...the "well" referred to by announcer Jim Nance.  The "well" was deemed a hole made by a greenkeeper and thus the relief given was under R25-1. So, I apologise to CBS Sports, but I am still critical that they used the right graphic combined with a wrong, or at least incomplete, explanation.)

One more point. This ruling apparently took 10 minutes to resolve. It’s too long!

Good golfing, 

P.S. Four European Tour players, including Ireland’s Damien McGrane, were disqualified after the first morning’s play at this week’s French Open, at Le Golf National (the 2018 Ryder Cup venue). Once again, the reason for their early exit was failing to read and conform to a Local Rule. All four found the water in playing their second shots to the par-4 18th hole. But in taking their penalty drops, the four incorrectly dropped their ball in a dropping zone, gaining a 50 to 80 yards advantage. They therefore played from a wrong place, incurring a penalty of two strokes. However, the Committee considered they had gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place and disqualified them for committing a serious breach (See Note 1 to Rule 20-7). Here is the exact wording of the Local Rule;
18th Hole Dropping Zone
The dropping zone for the
water hazard (yellow) at
the 18th hole can only be
used as an additional option
if the last point of entry is

It seems that there was a single green stake, around four feet high, alongside the yellow stakes defining the margin of the hazard. Players whose balls crossed the hazard margin before that green stake had to take one of the usual relief options under Rule 26-1a, whereas those whose balls crossed the margin after the green stake were permitted to play from a dropping zone some 15 yards to the right of the putting green. I certainly agree with the comment made by Andy McFee, European Tour Chief Referee, following the disqualifications;
“My line has always been that players spend hours after hours trying to save one shot on the practice range when five minutes with the rule book can have the same effect.”
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