Sunday, 25 September 2011

John Daly Walks off the Course in Austria

John Daly shows Andy McFee where he dropped his ball in taking relief.

There has been much confused and ill-informed media comment on the John Daly incident at Diamond Country Club golf course at the Austrian Open last Friday, where he walked off the course after he had been penalised for dropping in the wrong place. Here is a link providing comprehensive coverage of what actually happened, courtesy of ESPN.

A two stroke penalty for dropping at the wrong place was imposed rather than disqualification, because it was not considered to be a serious breach. Daly chose to shake hands with Jiminez and Wiegele and walk off the course without completing his round. He was not going to make the cut anyway, but once again he has shown what little respect he has for the game. All golfers should respect the Rules, particularly those that make their living from it.

(Edit 27th September 2011: Several readers have asked exactly why John Daly incurred the penalty for not dropping in the correct place. The answer lies in the fact that tour events have a Local Rule affording relief from temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs), such as tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories. As well as the relief under Rule 24-2 for interference to a player’s stance or area of intended swing by an immovable obstruction, there is also relief where a TIO is on the player's line of play. Where the interference is on the player’s line of play the reference point for relief is not the nearest point of relief, but is one club-length of a spot equidistant from the hole where line of play intervention would exist. The player must then drop their ball within one club-length of this point. If you listen carefully to the video clip you will hear Andy Mcfee say, “the way you gotta’ do that John is you gotta’ go more than one and less than two”. Presumably, Daly had previously dropped within one club-length of what he had determined  to be the nearest point of relief.)

Good golfing,

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Did They Agree to Waive a Rule at Walker Cup?

I wonder how many of my readers took the same interest in the USA v GB&I Walker Cup matches as I did last week. For me, as a spectator, match play is the most absorbing format of our beloved game. As a supporter of the GB&I side I was extremely nervous right to the end, even though we had started the final singles with a lead of 5 points, requiring only 3 more points from the 10 singles matches. An illustration of how you can never be sure which way a match will go occurred in the very last match. Northern Ireland’s Paul Cutler was four up with four to play against world number one ranked amateur, Patrick Cantlay from California, who staged a stunning comeback to achieve a half.

This brings me to the first of two unusual Rules incidents that occurred this week. On the opening morning of the Walker Cup, Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan (GB&I) defeated Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft (USA), by 2 and 1. However, after the match had been decided it was realised that Senior’s older brother, who is a golf pro, had been caddying for him, which was a breach of a long-standing Walker Cup Condition of Competition prohibiting golf professionals from caddying. When the announcement was made that the result of the match would stand many reporters felt that the R&A and USGA officials were ignoring Rule 1-3, which states that players (and logically Committees) must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule or to waive any penalty incurred.

However, it is clear that this incident was not a violation of Rule 1-3. Although Jack Senior had indisputably used a professional golfer as his caddie, none of the players involved, nor their team captains, were aware of the Condition of Competition banning professional golfers as caddies until after their match had been decided.

This part of the answer to Decision 1-3/1 clarifies the ruling;

In order to waive a Rule, players must be aware that they are doing so. …If the players were ignorant of the Rules there is no penalty.
As no claim was made by the Americans during the match (because they were unaware of the breach until after it had concluded) there were no grounds on which the state of the match could be adjusted (Rule 2-5). There can be no doubting that the Walker Cup Committee ruled correctly.

Now we come to one of the oddest breaches of the Rules that I have heard of. It happened last week during the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at the Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While watching one of the matches, a Rules official spotted that a player’s caddie had a short string of yarn attached to his divot repair tool, which he was using to judge wind direction. It was a violation of Rule 14-3b part of which states;

Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner:…
… b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play
The penalty for breaching Rule 14-3 is disqualification. Incredibly, the lady concerned was lying dormie 7 when she was disqualified. You could say that the other player won the match with no strings attached!

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes ©2011 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ten Misused Terms in Golf

I came across an article the other day listing the ten most misused terms of golf. It was written by an impeccable source, Travis Lesser, a Rules of Golf Associate at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J and I am reproducing it here for your interest and education;

Ten Misused Terms in Golf

No. 10, "Through the Green"
No. 9, "Rough"
No. 8, "Fairway"
These three terms have a strong relationship to one another in that they are typically misused when referring to areas of the course. The terms "rough" and "fairway" are actually areas of the course that the Rules call "through the green".

The issue with "through the green" is that most tend to believe it refers to the area over the back of the green. However, by definition within the Rules of Golf, if an area of the golf course is not a hazard (i.e. a bunker or a water hazard) and is not the teeing ground or the putting green of the hole you are playing, it is "through the green".

Did you know the word "rough" does not appear in the Rules of Golf, and the word "fairway" appears only once? Ironically "fairway", while not defined in the Rules, is used to clarify the term "closely mown area" for where a player is entitled to relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark (Rule 25-2). Although golfers at all skill levels use these terms, you will not be able to find these words in the index when attempting to look them up in the Rules of Golf booklet. Quite simply, both fairway and rough fall under one term: "through the green".

No. 7, "Waste Area/Waste Bunker"
Many modern golf courses have areas often referred to as "waste areas" or "waste bunkers". These are typically areas that don't meet the definition of either a water hazard or a bunker. Generally, they are unmaintained natural areas installed by modern-day course architects to add another test for golfers to negotiate (or to reduce maintenance costs), and are simply "through the green". That means the Rules allow you to ground your club and/or take practice swings in these areas. And that can be a good thing.

No. 6, "Trap"
Continuing with bunkers, let's get another misnomer out of the way. A bunker is not a "trap".
By definition, a bunker is a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like. Many golfers like to refer to them as traps or sand traps. Now, the last time I checked, a "trap" is not something anyone or anything wants to be in (i.e., bear traps, rat traps, speed traps). What's more, if one attempts to look up the word "trap" in the Rules of Golf, the search will be fruitless, as the word is not there. A bunker, on the other hand, has a much less punitive connotation and is the proper term as defined in the Rules of Golf.

No. 5, "Cup"
No. 4, "Pin"
It is a bit of a mystery as to how the terms "cup" and "pin" came to replace the proper terms of "hole" and "flagstick". Seems that it is just as easy to refer to them as a "hole," and a "flag" or a "stick". Most golfers should cringe every time they hear television announcers refer to the hole location as the day's "pin placement". After all, the purpose of the game as laid out in Rule 1-1 is to put the ball in the hole, not in the cup.
No. 3, "Tee Box"
Let's talk about the "tee box". Historically, the tee box was a small wood crate filled with sand used for building a small mound to place the ball for the tee shot; that is until the wooden tee peg became all the rage in the early 1900s. The starting place of each hole is a rectangular area, two club-lengths in depth and the width of the tee-markers, and the proper term for it is "teeing ground".

No. 2, "Rub of the Green"
Another term often misused by television announcers is "rub of the green". Most use the term to refer to bad luck. According to the Rules of Golf, a rub of the green occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by an outside agency. Sure, it's frustrating when a perfectly good shot heads toward the flagstick, only to have the ball strike the flagstick and careen into a greenside bunker. That's a rub of the green that is bad luck. However, a ball destined for out of bounds or a bad place, that miraculously strikes a tree and comes to rest in a more desirable spot is a rub of the green that is good luck. Some know this as a "member's bounce".
No. 1, "Foursome"
Now, the most often misused term in the game of golf ... foursome. Most people refer to their group of golf buddies as their "foursome". However, those who watch the Ryder Cup matches may have learned that foursomes is a form of play in which partners play one ball alternately from the teeing grounds and alternately during play of each hole. When playing with your buddies in a group of four, you are most likely not alternating shots with a partner.
Edit: 15th September, 2011. A subscriber has correctly pointed out that the word "rough" also appear once in the Rules book, in the same sentence as "fairway". Rule 25-2 includes these words;
"Closely mown area" means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
Another subscriber offers an additional misused term, "partner". The definition of Partner is;
A "partner" is a player associated with another player on the same side.
Unfortunately, too often players refer to their playing partner(s) as someone who is playing in their same group. This can lead to confusion when rulings are required.

Good golfing,

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Knocking Down a Leaf or Leaves with a Practice Swing

Last weekend, I was a spectator at the final of a team match play competition at which a Rules incident occurred that caused much confusion and disagreement. My guess is that the circumstances that I am about to describe have been the cause of spirited debate in most Golf Clubs, as it concerns a ruling that is much misunderstood

A player had sliced his ball into an area of trees with low-hanging branches covered in small leaves. In preparing for his stroke he took one or more practice swings, to judge how much the overhanging branch may interfere with his backswing. After he had played out from the trees his opponent claimed the hole saying that at least one leaf had been knocked down during the practice swing, incurring a loss of hole penalty under Rule 13-2, for improving his intended area of swing. A Rules Official was summoned and his initial ruling was that the player had indeed incurred the loss of hole penalty. Although we had not witnessed the incident another spectator and I had visited the location of the alleged infringement and were both doubtful that the correct ruling had been made. We approached the Rules Official and requested that he check-out Decision 13-2/22 (see below), suggesting that because there were dozens of small leaves on the branch of the tree involved it was highly unlikely that the player’s area of intended swing had been improved to the extent that a penalty had been incurred. After much discussion he agreed and reversed his original ruling. This is an area of the Rules that many consider to be subjective, but in my opinion, the wording of the Decision 13-2/22 clearly leans in favour of the player in situations where many leaves remain after the practice swing and only a few had been knocked down.

Q. A player's ball lies near a tree or bush. The player takes a practice swing near his ball and knocks down leaves in the area of his intended swing. Is this a breach of Rule 13-2?

A. The answer depends on whether the area of the intended swing is improved. In some cases, the knocking down of a number of leaves would not improve the area of the intended swing as the player still has to swing through a number of remaining leaves when making his stroke. In such circumstances, there would be no breach of the Rules. In other cases, the knocking down of one leaf might improve the area of the intended swing, in which case there would be a breach of Rule 13-2.

If a player has improved the area of his intended swing by knocking down a leaf or a number of leaves, he cannot avoid penalty under Rule 13-2 by subsequently changing the area of his swing when he actually makes the stroke.
(Edit: From 1/1/2012 this Decision was withdrawn and the principle is now included in Decision 13-2/0.5)

The acid test for me is whether the fact that leaves have been removed from the area of intended swing by a practice swing, or swings, has lessened the distraction that the player will experience when they make their actual stroke. I suggest that this is not usually the case and therefore knocking down a small number of leaves does not incur a penalty in most instances. Of course, where any part of a branch has been knocked down then the reverse is probably true, as even the removal of a small branch is likely to reduce the distraction caused to the player.

Good Golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes ©2011 and may not be copied without permission.

I receive many emails asking me whether my weekly blogs and ‘Rhodes Rules School’ issues can be printed and posted on Golf Club notice boards for the general benefit of members. I am always pleased to grant permission for my content to be used in this way, providing the pages include this copyright statement:
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes ©2011 and may not be copied without permission.