Monday, 29 August 2011

Concession of Stroke, Hole or Match

The concession of a player’s next stroke only applies in match play. In stroke play, a putt cannot be conceded; no matter how short it is, because the player must hole out on every hole of the stipulated round (Rule 3-2).

These are the essential things you need to know about concessions in match play;
  • A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start, or before the finish of that match.
  • A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or before the finish of that hole.
  • A player may concede his opponent's next stroke at any time, provided the opponent's ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.
  • A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.
The last point is the one that many golfers query. Most of us have experienced the situation where we conceded an opponent’s short putt but they go ahead and putt anyway, often missing the hole because they are not concentrating. It does not matter. The concession has been made and nothing that happens after the concession can alter their score.

The only time that a concession of a hole is not valid is when the result of the hole has already been decided, even if the players are not aware that this is the case. For example, if A concedes a hole to B and it transpires that B had played a wrong ball during play of the hole the hole was already lost before the concession was made (Decision 2-4/9).

Be extremely careful before conceding a hole to an opponent, especially when they are claiming to have won a hole because of a Rule that you were not aware of. Decision 2-4/12 provides a good example; in a match between A and B, A putts out of turn, B incorrectly claims that A loses the hole for putting out of turn, A protests but concedes the hole. Although there was no basis for B claiming the hole, A’s concession stands because it cannot be withdrawn.

Once a match has been decided it cannot be conceded. So, if a player wins a match and then realises that he is not able to play in the next round he may not concede the match to the beaten opponent. The winner’s next round opponent would win the match by default (Decision 2-4/19).

Finally, be aware that concessions can be implied; so picking-up an opponent’s ball-marker implies the concession of their next stroke; saying “let’s move on to the next hole”, when you cannot find your ball implies concession of a hole; lifting your ball and shaking hands with your opponent implies the concession of the match.

Good golfing,

I have just downloaded my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, to my iPhone, using Kindle for iPhone. It cost me just $9.99 (~€6.90). It is also available on Kindle for PC, Kindle for iPod, Kindle for Android and Kindle for Blackberry, at the same price. Of course, it is also available on the Kindle itself. The Kindle for iPhone app is a free download at the iTunes app store. So, now I carry around my 999 questions, answers, references and explanations on the Rules of Golf in my pocket, on my iPhone. Brilliant!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Anger on the Golf Course

Breaking a club in anger!

Anyone who plays golf regularly will almost certainly have experienced instances of anger on the course; perhaps after playing too many bad shots, or suffering seemingly unfair ‘rubs of the green’, or even being on the receiving end of others’ indiscretions. I thought that it might be interesting to consider some of the rulings that apply when anger takes over.
In the following examples, references to the general penalty denote two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play.

• After leaving a putt just short of the hole a player instinctively throws their putter at the ball, but misses. Such an instinctive action is obviously not a stroke and is not considered to be an attempt to influence the position of the ball. There is no penalty, unless the putter does move the ball, in which case the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced (Decision 1-2/4.5).

• After nearly being struck by a ball played by someone in the group playing behind, a player hits the offending ball back towards the group. This is not considered to be a practice stroke but Decision 1-4/4 rules that, in equity, the player should incur the general penalty.

• A player who breaks a club in anger (i.e. not in the normal course of play) may not replace it unless they started their round with less than 14 clubs, in which case they are entitled to add another club under Rule 4-4a (Decision 4-3/8). Click here to see an amusing, short video of Woody Austin breaking his putter on his head back in 1997.

• A player who fails to get their ball out of a bunker with a stroke and then either kicks the sand or swings their club into the sand is penalised with the general penalty (Decisions 13-4/0.5 and 13-4/35). However, it seems that if a player throws their club, letting go of it before it hits the sand, no penalty is incurred because players are permitted to place their clubs in a bunker (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4).

• A player makes a stroke at their ball, which lies against a tree root, and it pops up into the air. The player swings at it angrily as it falls to the ground, but misses. Similar to the first example above the instinctive swing in anger is not a stroke and there is no penalty unless the ball is actually hit. If the player does accidentally strike the ball the penalty is one stroke in either stroke play or match play (Decision 14/6).

• In frustration with their poor play a player picks-up their ball and throws it into a nearby lake. When they recover their composure they place another ball at the same spot. Although Note 1 to Rule 18 states, "If a ball to be replaced under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted”, as the player's ball became irrecoverable only due to the player's subsequent actions after his breach of Rule 18-2a, the Note is not applicable and the general penalty applies (Decision 18-2a/13.5).

Finally, what do the Rules have to say about a player’s anger that may have been induced by the actions of someone else? Most of us will have experienced situations where our playing partners have caused us considerable frustration. Rule 33-7 states that if a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification. Decision 33-7/8 gives just two examples of what may constitute a ‘serious breach of etiquette’; intentionally distracting another player and intentionally offending someone. Of course, Committees may impose whatever sanctions they see fit outside of the Rules of Golf. So, for example if a player repeatedly breached etiquette guidelines they might be banned from entering competitions for a period of time, or even have their club membership suspended.

It goes without saying that all payers should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf.

Edit September 9th: In the 4th bullet point above I said, “A player who fails to get their ball out of a bunker with a stroke and then either kicks the sand or swings their club into the sand is penalised with the general penalty (Decision 13-4/0.5).” I should have used the word hazard, instead of bunker, because the same Rule applies to water hazards. Take a look at what happened to Nick Watney at the Deutsche Bank Championship just two weeks after I wrote this blog on anger:

Watney's shot hit a rock and stayed in the water hazard. In frustration he struck his club into the ground, inside the margin of the hazard. This incurred a two strokes penalty for grounding his club while his ball was still in the hazard. Surprisingly, for a professional golfer (!), he did not realise that his action incurred a penalty until a Rules Official told him on the 10th hole.

Good golfing,
Don’t forget that there is a site search facility at the right-hand side of my blog home page. For example, if you want to read about Rory McIlroy avoiding a penalty for kicking/smoothing the sand in a bunker at the 2008 Masters just enter “Rory McIlroy” and press “search”. The fourth result displayed is the one that you are looking for.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Playing Out of Turn / Late on Tee

The above tweet from Bubba Watson, with Ian Poulter’s reply, were sent on Saturday, after the third round of the PGA Championship in Atlanta. This good natured banter on Twitter is a useful introduction to who has the ‘honour’ on the teeing ground. In strokes competitions, the competitor with the lowest score at a hole takes the honour at the next teeing ground. The competitor with the second lowest score plays next and so on. If two or more competitors have the same score at a hole, they play from the next teeing ground in the same order as at the previous teeing ground. However, the important thing to remember is that there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play, unless the Committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, in which case they are disqualified. No doubt Ian Poulter made a mistake in ‘stealing’ Bubba Watson’s honour, but his only penalty was the subsequent ribbing that followed. If you read my blog from last week you will remember that in Stableford competitions the competitor with the lowest net score (i.e. the most points scored) at a hole takes the honour at the next teeing ground.

I covered this subject of playing out of turn in more detail in this previous blog entry.

Another Rules issue that arose during the PGA Championship was when Brandt Snedeker showed up 2 mins & 15 secs late for his 8:10 am tee time and was penalised two strokes. Some readers may be confused as to why Snedeker was not disqualified, as Rule 6-3a clearly states;

The player must start at the time established by the Committee.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 6-3: Disqualification.
However, there is a Note to the same Rule that states;
The Committee may provide, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), that if the player arrives at his starting point, ready to play, within five minutes after his starting time, in the absence of circumstances that warrant waiving the penalty of disqualification as provided in Rule 33-7, the penalty for failure to start on time is loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play instead of disqualification.
I guess that this Condition of Competition operates for most tour events for professionals, but in my experience this in not true for most member club competitions. In these cases, anyone who is not present on the first teeing ground for their allotted tee-time should properly be disqualified from the competition.

Like many others before him Brandt Snedeker learned the hard way;

"I thought my tee time was 8.20 and it was at 8.10," Snedeker said. "That's the first time that's happened in my career, and I guarantee it'll be my last."
There was no mention as to why his caddie had not alerted him to the correct tee time. So, what was the consequence of Snedeker receiving a penalty for being late? He was playing three off the first tee and went on to card a 73, missing the cut and a decent pay cheque, by? Yes, you guessed it...!

Good golfing,

Have you subscribed to ‘Rhodes Rules School’, a series of weekly emails where I use photographs to illustrate rulings regularly encountered by golfers on the course?  If not, I recommend that you do so now as it is a great way to understand the Rules better. There is no charge (yes, each issue is totally free) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here and join over 5,000 other satisfied subscribers.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Stableford Format - Rule 32

Frank Barney Gorton Stableford (1870 - 1959)

The Stableford (not Stapleford!) system of scoring was invented in 1931 by Dr. Frank Stableford of the Wallasey & Royal Liverpool Golf Clubs, a +1 handicapper in his thirties. The Stableford system was included in the end pages of the unified Rules books from 1952, and in 1968 received official recognition as a form of play by being moved to the main body of the Rules. This format of golf is most popular in the UK and Ireland but is increasingly being adopted as an optional competition format across the world. There are two main benefits claimed for Stableford competitions. First, it should speed up the pace of play, as once it is no longer possible to score a point, a player does not have to complete the hole but can simply pick up their ball and proceed to the next hole. Second, it is still possible for a player to record a competitive score despite having the occasional bad hole.

So, how does the Stableford scoring system work? The traditional way to calculate the number of Stableford points scored on each hole is to compare the player’s net score for each hole (i.e. taking their handicap and the stroke index for the hole into account) against the fixed par score. Once a player has taken two strokes more than the adjusted fixed score, they should pick up their ball, as it is then not possible or them to score any points on that hole. For example a player who receives a handicap stroke on a par-4 hole should pick-up once they have had six strokes, as they cannot then score any points for that hole. The winner of a Stableford competition is the player with the highest points total. This table explains the scoring system:

1. Player A, handicap 5, on Par 4, index 14, scores 4 = 2 points
2. Player B, handicap 16, on Par 4, index 14, scores 5 = 2 points
3. Player C, handicap 32, on Par 4, index 14, scores 6 = 2 points
4. Player D, handicap 5, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 0 points
5. Player E, handicap 11, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 1 point
6. Player F, handicap 25, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 2 points

The Rules for stroke play apply to Stableford competitions where they are not at variance with the format. These are some points to note;

  • The competitor who has scored the most points at a hole takes the honour at the next teeing ground. If two or more players have scored the same number of points on the hole then the honour between them remains the same as on the previous teeing ground.
  • The marker is responsible for marking only the gross number of strokes at each hole where the competitor's net score earns one or more points.
  • There are several instances where in a strokes competition the player would be disqualified where in a Stableford competition they are only disqualified for the hole, e.g.;
    - not holing out
    - playing from a wrong place
    - partners exchange balls during play of a hole
    - not playing one or more holes of the stipulated round
    - recording a lower score than actually scored if it does not affect the points for the hole (e.g. a competitor with no handicap stroke records a 6 instead of a 7 for a par-4 hole).
Of course, no points would be scored for the hole in any of the above examples.

None of the above precludes a player from being disqualified if they sign and return a score card that does not include a penalty that has been incurred, such as playing from a wrong place.

One final point to make is that the player does not have to work out the Stableford points scored for their round, it is the Committee’s responsibility. However, as someone who has acted as a competitions secretary at Club level, I can assure you that it saves a considerable amount of time if the scores only have to be checked, rather than calculated for every competitor.

Good golfing,