Saturday, 29 December 2012

Rules Riddle and Ireland’s Gathering

I have another Rules riddle for you for this New Year’s holiday.
Brian arrives early at his Club for the monthly medal strokes competition. He has heard that the Course Committee has directed the greenkeeper to replace the sand in the bunkers and wondered how they were playing. He takes a sand wedge into a bunker on the 18th green and without putting down a ball makes several swings in the bunker, moving an inch or so of sand on each occasion. He then takes a rake and carefully smoothes the area of sand that he has just disturbed.

On returning to the first teeing ground Brian greets Arthur and Colin, his two fellow competitors, and tells them that the new bunker sand is much finer than they have been used to and is completely dry, making sand shots much easier than in previous weeks. There are still a few minutes to wait until their start time so Brian asks Arthur if he may try out his new long-handled putter. He then realises that he does not have any decent balls with him and asks Colin if he can borrow a sleeve of three balls, which he will replace after their round is over. He drops the three borrowed balls on the teeing area and putts each of them from within the blue teeing ground aiming for the left hand yellow tee marker. At this point, the marshall asks them to start and Colin, who has the lowest handicap of the group of three players, tees up and makes his drive even though Brian’s name was the first one on the time sheet.
Before making his first stroke, has Brian breached, a) no Rule, b) one Rule, c) two Rules, d) three Rules, e) more than three Rules? Answer below.

The Gathering Ireland 2013

I have had the pleasure of living in Dublin for the past 36 years. I am not Irish by birth, but my grandparents on my mother’s side were Traynors from County Monaghan, who together with their brothers and sisters had to emigrate from Ireland to the United States early in the 20th century. I married an Irish girl 26 years ago and have no intention of ever leaving this wonderful country.

Throughout 2013, Ireland will open its arms to friends and family from all over the world, inviting them home to locally organised gatherings in villages, towns and cities. A variety of  clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts will be taking place all across the country, throughout the year. Most golfers recognise Ireland as being a very special place to play golf, due to the tradition, the quality of the courses, the greenness of the countryside, the warm and friendly reception that they receive and, thanks to our recent recession, great value for sleeping, eating, drinking and playing. As my small  contribution to making ‘the gathering Ireland 2013’ a success I am offering my services to any overseas golfing group that will be in the Greater Dublin area at any time during the year. I would be pleased to meet you, either in the Clubhouse after your golf, or back in your hotel or restaurant over dinner. I would be at your service, without charge, in whichever way you choose to use my expertise on the Rules of Golf. This might include running a quiz, giving a talk, recounting a few stories or answering any questions that you may have. If you have any interest in discussing this offer with me just address an email to barry at barryrhodes dot com with any information about your planned visit and we can take it from there. Unfortunately, I have to restrict this offer to groups that will be staying for part of their trip in the Greater Dublin area (say within 50 miles of the City Centre).

Answer to Rules Riddle
It may surprise you that Brian did not breach any Rule of Golf for his actions prior to starting his round.

Did he not breach Rule 7-1b by practicing before his round on the day of the competition?
No, Brian did not make any practice stroke as he was not using a ball when swinging his club in the bunker on the 18th green. Note 1 to Rule 7-2 confirms that a practice swing is not a practice stroke.

Did he not breach Rule 7-1b by testing the surface of the bunker?
No, Rule 7-2b only prohibits testing the surface of a putting green on the course.

Did he not breach Rule 8-1a by giving advice on the state of the bunkers to his fellow competitors?
No, Rule 8-1a only prohibits a player giving advice to another competitor during a stipulated round. There is no restriction on giving advice before starting a round.

Did he not breach Rule 4-4 by borrowing Arthur’s long-handled putter?
No, there is no restriction in using another player’s club before the stipulated round has commenced.

Did he not breach Rule 5-1 by borrowing a sleeve of balls from Colin, intending to use them during his round?
No, there is no restriction on borrowing items of equipment (balls, towels, gloves, tees, etc.) from another player.

Did he not breach Rule 7-1b by practicing putting on the first teeing area?
No, The Exception to Rule 7-1b permits practice putting on or near the first teeing ground.
Did he not breach Rule 10-2a by not playing first on the first tee, as per the time sheet.
No, although Rule 10-1a states that the honour on the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw, or in the absence of a draw by lot, there is no penalty for not doing so, unless  competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage.
I wonder how many of you are surprised to find out that Brian did not breach any Rule before starting his round?

A Very Happy Golfing Year to all my readers. I have lots of plans for 2013. In the meantime, perhaps I can encourage you to join me in a resolution that can only lead to better golf, a happier life and improvements in our relations with others;

"Develop and maintain a positive attitude
for everything that is important to you."

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Top 10 Golfing Tantrums

As most of us know, golf can be a very frustrating game. Apologies to those of you who have already seen this short YouTube video from Golfing World, but for those that have not I think that you might get a certain sadistic satisfaction from watching some well-known professional golfers letting their emotions get the better of them. My particular favourite is number 7, featuring Hennie Otto’s famous 6-putt!


For those of you receiving this blog by email please click on this link.
I covered the Rules relating to anger on the golf course last year in this blog.

As has become my custom for the past couple of years, I will be setting a New Year Rules teaser next week. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy a wonderful Christmas break with your families and friends.

Good golfing,


If you haven’t checked it out already please visit my other web site,, where I offer several products that can assist golfers to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Avoid Playing a Wrong Ball

Home-made ball marker using a standard PVC 1-1/4 coupling

If you are in receipt of my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails (either the photo series or ‘How Many Strokes?’) you will be aware that I have just made my ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’ available as a simple, downloadable .pdf file, which can be read on any computer, laptop, or tablet (see below for details).

I am taking this opportunity to highlight what I think is one of the most important tips from my list of 99, which is to ensure that you put personal identification marks on all your golf balls, so that you can immediately recognise them. In my experience, having a distinct personal identification mark on your golf balls is the easiest way to avoid playing a wrong ball and can save you many penalty strokes over the course of a year. I have a theory that there are probably over 100 Titleist balls, numbered 1 - 4, on most golf courses at any time, either in play, or having been abandoned as lost. The chances are that if you are playing this particular brand of ball, without any personal identification mark, you will regularly play the wrong ball by mistake.

Although Rule 12-2 states that players should put identifications marks on their golf balls my strong recommendation is that you make this a must. In fact, my recommendation is that you also draw a line on your golf balls, preferably all around the central circumference of the ball. You can then use this line to point along your intended line of play before making your stroke on the both the teeing grounds and the putting greens. I am aware that some ‘experts’ claim that this is against the Rules, but Decision 20-3a/2 is definitive;

Q. May a player draw a line on his ball and, when replacing his ball, position the ball so that the line or the trademark on the ball is aimed to indicate the line of play?
A. Yes.
Be bold with the personal identification mark that you use. There was a good illustration of a tournament player getting it wrong last October, when Scottish golfer, Stephen Gallacher, was penalised two strokes during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He had played his second shot from the fairway, when he realised that the amateur playing in his Pro-Am group was still looking for his ball. Here is Gallacher’s version of what happened;
“On 16, I hit my tee shot down the left and the mistake I made was not really watching where the amateur hit it. When I got down there was only one ball sitting and I was just happy it wasn't in the bunker.
Then the amateur, who was standing about five yards left in the rough, said, ‘Have you seen my ball? I’ve got one here but it’s not mine’.  It turns out it was mine.
We were both playing Titleist 1s, his marked with a red dot and mine a green. Unfortunately the way it was sitting I couldn't see the marking. From now on I think I’ll look a bit closer.”
So, Gallacher’s single identification dot on his ball (which as it happened was red and not green) was not visible in the position that the ball lay and two players happened to be playing the same brand and number ball. Gallacher therefore incurred a penalty of two strokes for playing a wrong ball, Rule 15-3b, and had to correct his mistake by playing his own ball from where it had come to rest following his drive.

There are 98 more tips about the Rules of Golf in my eDocument, ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’, a downloadable Adobe .pdf file which can be read on any computer, laptop, or tablet. This will definitely save you penalty strokes and add to the enjoyment of your game. Please check this link for more details.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 7 December 2012

What May You Remove from a Bunker/Water Hazard?

You may remove the score card and can before making a stroke, but not the leaf
This subject is an easy one, but surprisingly it catches out many amateur golfers, who incur unnecessary penalties as a result.

It is essential that you are able to distinguish between obstructions, which are artificial objects, and loose impediments, which are natural objects, especially when your ball lies in a bunker or water hazard.

Loose impediments are natural objects that are not fixed or growing, not solidly embedded and not adhering to your ball. If a player’s ball lies in a hazard, the player must not touch or move any loose impediment lying in or touching the same hazard, Rule 13-4c.

Loose impediments include;

Stones (but see *), leaves, branches and twigs, pine cones, dung and droppings,  insects, worms and their casts, spiders and their webs, half-eaten fruit, fruit skins, ant hills, dead birds and animals, aeration plugs, clods of earth, gravel, crushed shells, wood chips.
* Note that whilst the Rules do not permit players to remove stones from bunkers, that is often overridden by a Local Rule that does permit their removal for safety reasons.

Obstructions, providing they are easily movable (and are not out of bounds stakes), may be removed from anywhere on the course, which obviously includes bunkers and water hazards.

Movable obstructions include;

bunker rakes, golf clubs, bottles, cans, score cards, pens and pencils, paper and tissues, plastic bags, wrappers, boxes, toys, match sticks, cigarettes and cigarette packets, abandoned golf balls, cables
Remember, if it is natural it is a loose impediment and if it is artificial it is an obstruction. Don’t be tempted to remove that leaf or twig lying close to your ball in a hazard.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Here is a low-cost Christmas present idea that does not need to be wrapped, posted or hand-delivered.

My eBook ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 – 2015’ can be purchased on-line at my web site On the same day, I will send to your email address (or the recipient’s, if it is a gift) two files; a .pdf file for reading and printing out from any computer or laptop, and a Mobipocket file for transferring to any eReader, tablet or smart phone. Click here for details.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

R&A and USGA Proposal to Prohibit Anchoring

USGA infographic on anchoring the club

Apologies if you are receiving this old (November 2012) blog by email. I made a mistake whilst editing it and could not find a way of retaining the blog on my web site without publishingit again. Please just delete! Thanks, Barry Rhodes

At last, we can view the proposal from the R&A and USGA that would prohibit anchoring the club (typically a long-handled putter) in making a stroke.

I emphasise that these are proposals, which even if they are implemented (highly likely), it will not be until 1st January 2016, over 3 years away. The proposed change to Rule 14-1b would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters after that date, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke.

Personally, I welcome the proposals, albeit that I consider them belated by several years, but leave you to make up your own mind. I strongly recommend that you view the proposal, together with video and illustrations of what constitutes anchoring and what does not.

Here are the relevant USGA and R&A web site links, which will enable you to make an informed decision on their proposals.

Good golfing,

NEW: My ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’ (previously published on DVD) is now available as a downloadable .pdf file, which can be read and printed out from any computer. More details and a link to specimen pages here. Only $8 (or equivalent currency); less than 10c per tip!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Sun Young Yoo Penalised for Improper Drop

Ridiculous though it may seem, a lady tournament golfer was penalised one stroke for dropping her ball in an improper manner last week. The incident occurred during the final LPGA event of the year, at the CME Group Titleholders held at TwinEagles, Naples, Florida.

Here is what Rule 20-2 has to say about how to drop a ball;

A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped by the player himself. He must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it. If a ball is dropped by any other person or in any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.
Now have a look at this video, courtesy of Golf Channel (after the 12 seconds ad). Note how her caddie (incorrectly) demonstrates what she must do before she drops her ball;

Click here to view the YouTube video.

So, I think that everyone will agree that a penalty was definitely incurred, as the ball was not properly dropped from shoulder height. How can any golfer become a professional without knowing this simplest of Rules? How can any caddie allow their player to make such an elementary mistake without stepping-in? If the caddie had told Sun Young Yoo that she had dropped her ball improperly, she could have picked it up and dropped it again, this time according to the Rules, without incurring a penalty. Rule 20-6 states;
A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.
Just as worrying for me was the commentary following the improper drop. It seems that Sun Young Yoo, her caddie, and her fellow competitors were all unsure what to do when her ball bounced outside of the permitted two club-lengths when she dropped it under penalty of one stroke, having deemed her ball unplayable. Apparently, the fellow competitors thought that if the ball rolled outside of the permitted area of drop you should re-drop. When in fact, the ball may roll up to a further two club-lengths from where it first strikes a part of the course within the permitted area, providing it does not roll nearer to the hole, Rule 20-2c(vi). If a player does pick up a ball that is in play, thinking that they may re-drop it, there is a penalty of one stroke, which increases to two strokes if the ball is then dropped instead of being replaced at the spot that it was lifted from.

Good golfing,

NEW: I am pleased to announce that I am making my ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’ (previously published on DVD) available as a downloadable .pdf file, which can be read and printed out from any computer. More details and a link to specimen pages here.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Testing the Condition of a Bunker

This week I was asked if a golfer who had gone onto the course to rake some bunkers, prior to starting their competition round, had incurred any penalty. The answer, which may surprise some readers, is that there is nothing in the Rules of Golf that penalises a player from testing the condition of a bunker before playing a stipulated round, providing they do not make a stroke at a ball. The common misunderstanding probably arises from the fact that you may not test the surface of a putting green before commencing a round. Part of Rule 7-1b states;
Before a round or play-off on any day of a stroke-play competition, a competitor must not practice on the competition course or test the surface of any putting green on the course by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.
In fact, there is nothing to stop players testing the surface of a bunker at any time, providing their ball is not at rest in a bunker and they do not unduly delay play. So, for example, a player drives their first tee shot to the side of the fairway. While they are waiting for a fellow competitor to make their second stroke they may walk into a bunker, make a practice swing with their club that disturbs the sand and then rake the bunker, without incurring any penalty. The restriction for testing the surface of a bunker only applies when your ball is in a bunker. Part of Rule 13-4 states;
Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
     a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard; …
Those of you that regularly follow my blog will know that since 1st January 2012 there has been a further relaxation of the Rules relating to raking bunkers, but in this case it only applies to actions that are for the sole purpose of caring for the course and are not for the purpose of testing the condition of the bunker. Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 states;
At any time, the player may smooth sand or soil in a hazard provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke. If a ball played from a hazard is outside the hazard after the stroke, the player may smooth sand or soil in the hazard without restriction.
This means that in the photo above a player may walk into the bunker to pick-up the rake, smooth the area where the rake was lying, smooth footsteps and other irregularities as they leave the bunker, lay the rake down and then make a stroke at their ball in the bunker. The only restrictions are that they must not do this if their purpose is in any way to test the condition of the bunker and they must not improve the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing or their line of play. In short, do not make the mistake of raking any sand between your ball and the hole.

Good golfing,

Christmas is coming and many of you will be buying tablets or other digital devices for friends and family. Why not surprise them with a copy of my eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 -2015’. You can buy it direct from Amazon, but if you purchase direct from my web site, at the same low price, I will provide you with two downloadable files; a pdf file (which can be read on all computers) and a Mobipocket file (which can be read on Kindles, iPads, Blackberries, smart phones and other compatible digital devices). Click here for details.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Taking Relief from Staked Trees

Staked tree

Most golfers assume that they may take relief from young trees that are staked. Whilst this is often the case, it is only true when there is a Local Rule affording relief. The Rules of Golf do not provide relief from staked trees. Obviously, the reason that most Committees introduce a Local Rule is to protect those trees that have been newly planted, but you cannot take this for granted; you must study the Local Rules in operation before commencing a round of golf.

Here is a short summary of the various situations that may apply regarding young trees on the golf course;

1. A Local Rule requires mandatory relief from staked trees.
This is self-explanatory, you must take relief if any part of the tree interferes with the lie of their ball, their stance or the area of their intended swing. Read the Local Rule carefully to ensure that you are taking proper relief.
2. No Local Rule regarding staked trees.
The player does not get relief from the tree, but if there is an artificial stake that supports, or did support the tree, this is an immovable obstruction, from which relief is available under Rule 24-2.
3. Occasionally, there may be a Local Rule that says that there is no relief from staked trees and that any stakes supporting them are integral to the course
No relief is available from either the tree or the stake.
A point that I have made here before, which surprises many seasoned golfers, is that if there is a Local Rule making it mandatory to take relief from staked trees and the player touches any part of the tree, even a single leaf on the outermost branch, with their body or club during their next stroke, they incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for not properly taking relief. This applies whether they took relief or not, as the Rules require you to take complete relief from any interference by the tree when there is a Local Rule requiring you to do so.

When Committees decide that they do want to protect young trees on the course I strongly recommend that they strictly follow the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 3, so as to avoid confusion. You may be interested in reading this blog item of mine from nearly four years ago, where I point out confusing deficiencies in the Local Rules for Staked Trees in three neighbouring Clubs in the South East of Ireland (please note that they may since have updated their Local Rules in this respect).

Good golfing,

I am delighted that my subscriber base grows on a daily basis. Those of you that have recently found this blog site may not know about my free, weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ photo series, where I use photos and diagrams to pose questions and provide answers, explanations and references to situations that we encounter on the golf course. Click here for more details. Remember that this is a free email service, you can unsubscribe at any time and I do not share email addresses with anyone.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Undue Delay (Rule 6-7) - Toilet Break


I have been asked on more than one occasion whether a player that takes a toilet break during a round of golf should be penalised for undue delay. Like most questions of this nature there is no definitive answer, as there are a myriad of differing circumstances.

Rule 6-7 is clear in that a player who unduly delays play incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. However, undue delay is subjective and could depend on a number of factors. For this reason, it is rare for a tournament player to be penalised for breaching this Rule and probably even rarer in Club and Society competitions. I covered an unusual example of US Senior golfer, Peter Oakley, being penalised under Rule 6-7 in this blog last August.

Unfortunately, the Decisions book only provides two direct instances of what constitutes undue delay and they are not particularly helpful.

6-7/1 Player Returns to Tee to Retrieve Forgotten Club
Q. A player arrives at a green and discovers that he has left his putter at the tee. He returns to the tee to retrieve the putter. If this delays play, is the player subject to penalty?
A. Yes. Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay) and not Rule 6-8a (Discontinuance of Play) applies in this case.

6-7/2 Searching Ten Minutes for Lost Ball
Q. If a player searches for a lost ball for ten minutes, is he subject to penalty under Rule 6-7 for undue delay?
A. Yes.
There is nothing in the Rules of Golf that specifically permits or disallows a player from taking a toilet break. Obviously, it happens all the time and many courses have facilities on the course, which help players to conveniently relieve themselves without unduly delaying play, I think that most of us are sympathetic to the needs of a competitor that has to take a break in play in these circumstances and will try and accommodate them by quickening-up our play after they return, or asking a following group to play through. But it might be a different story if we suspect that a competitor is using a toilet break as a reason for composing themselves after a bad run of play, or purposely interrupting the momentum of another player. In these cases the Committee should be informed and they would then have to make their decision as to whether a penalty should be imposed under Rule 6-7.

A further consideration is whether the player's urgent needs could be perceived to be a physical problem. Decision 6-8/3 rules that this would also be a matter for the Committee to consider. Rule 6-8a (iv) permits a player to discontinue play because of sudden illness and the player incurs no penalty if he reports to the Committee as soon as practicable and the Committee considers his reason satisfactory. The Decision indicates that it would seem reasonable for a Committee to allow a player 10 or 15 minutes to recuperate from such a physical problem but ordinarily allowing more time than that would be inadvisable.

A good rule of thumb before calling a penalty for undue delay on an unfortunate fellow competitor, who has to relieve themself during a round, may be to put yourself in their position. If they have done everything possible to minimise their temporary absence then it would be a hard-hearted person who insisted on a penalty.

Good golfing,

My sincere thanks to whoever authored this Kindle review on Amazon re my eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015'.
"Fantastic, easy to understand explanations by the author Barry Rhodes. Amazing how many so-called experienced golfers get even the basic Rules wrong. Have used Barry's book to great effect on numerous occasions. Would give it 999 stars if I could."
You can either purchase my eBook from Amazon or directly from me via this link.
P.S. If you have already purchased my eBook I would be grateful if you could spend the time to write a short review of it at Amazon (US) or Amazon (UK).

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Embedded Balls through the Green

Photo: John Retzer

Whenever I check the keywords that have been used on various search engines by viewers that have been guided to my blog site, “embedded ball” is always towards the top of the list. I therefore deduce that many golfers do not fully understand this area of the Rules and resort to Internet search engines for help. As we approach the time of year where those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere have begun to encounter embedded balls, both on and off the fairway, I think that it is timely for me to write on this subject again. In this previous blog I answered the most commonly asked questions on embedded balls.

Now let me confirm the situation that applies at any time of year, anywhere in the world, notwithstanding the course conditions. A player may always take relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area. Rule 25-2 states;

A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
Of course, the difficulty that many golfers have is whether they may take relief for a ball that is embedded in ‘the rough’. My understanding is that this subject has been, and probably still is, an issue that the R&A and USGA do not see eye-to-eye on. Back in 2007, prior to the amendments to the Rules of Golf that were announced for January 2008, there were strong rumours / suggestions that Rule 25-2 was going to be extended to permit relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green. I know that the Golf Club that I am a member of in Dublin, received a letter to this effect from the Golfing Union of Ireland, suggesting that we might want to introduce a Local Rule prior to the anticipated change. Apparently, the pressure for the change was coming from the USGA, but it seems that the R&A were reluctant. This text was taken from the USGA's web site relating to the US Open for 2007;
"The USGA also adopts (and recommends the universal adoption of) the Local Rule for Embedded Balls Through the Green. This Local Rule, in Appendix I; Part B; Section 3a, entitles players to relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark anywhere through the green (as opposed to Rule 25-2 which is applicable only in closely mown areas through the green)."
When the 2008 four-yearly amendments to the Rules were announced, the expected change was not included and a Local Rule is still required to permit relief for embedded balls other than on closely mown areas. I understand that this Local Rule is on the hard card for US tour events and operates permanently in most US Golf Clubs. It is definitely not in operation for the R&A's Open Championship (unless course conditions are particularly bad) and is only introduced by most UK and Irish Committees as a temporary Local Rule, when course conditions might interfere with proper playing of the game, including mud and extreme wetness. This extract is taken from the R&A booklet on ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
“Rule 25-2 gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely-mown area through the green. However, where the ground is unusually soft, the Committee may, by temporary Local Rule, allow the lifting of an embedded ball anywhere “through the green” if it is satisfied that the proper playing of the game would otherwise be prevented. It is recommended that the Local Rule would be for a short period only and, if practicable, confined to specified areas. The Committee must withdraw the Local Rule as soon as conditions warrant and therefore, it should not be printed on the score card.
The USGA’s and R&A’s recommended wording for such a Local Rule is contained in Appendix I, Part B, 4 of the Rules of Golf. Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the Local Rules in operation before commencing any competitive round of golf.

Good golfing,

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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

When a Ball Must Be Marked Before Lifting

This week, I received a few queries from recipients of my ‘How Many Strokes?’ weekly email series, who thought that I had missed counting a penalty for a player who did not mark their ball before lifting it when taking free relief from an immovable obstruction. Many golfers are surprised when they learn that the Rules of Golf do not require that a ball is marked before lifting when taking relief under the Rules.

Of course, there are some occasions when the position of a ball must be marked before it is lifted;

  • Anywhere on the putting green, Rule 16-1b. (Exception: if the player is taking relief from an immovable obstruction on the putting green).
  • To determine if it is unfit for play, Rule 5-3.
  • For identification, Rule 12-2.
  • Because it is assisting or interfering with play, Rule 22.
In the above circumstances, if a ball is not marked the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. If it is not replaced, the player incurs the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play) for breach of this Rule, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 20-1.

Conversely, the position of a ball does not have to be marked before it is lifted;

  • When it has been deemed unplayable, Rule 28.
  • When taking relief from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b.
  • When taking relief from an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1b.
  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1.
(Edit 17th October: My thanks to a subscriber for providing this easy to remember principle; if you will be returning the ball to the same spot, it must be marked before being lifted; if you will be dropping the ball to a new spot, marking is not required.)

Having identified those circumstances where a player is not required by the Rules to mark their ball before lifting it, let me make it perfectly clear that it is good practice to do so, in order that the referee, marker of fellow competitor can be assured that the ensuing drop is within the prescribed area. However, it is a ‘should’ rather than a ‘must’.

Good golfing,

For a number of reasons, I have now decided not to re-publish my ‘999 Questions’ book in hard copy (bad experience with the publishers, inconvenience of stocking, high postal charges, daily trips to post office, etc.) However, my main reason is that the acceptance of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 -2015’, as an eBook has exceeded my expectations. You can purchase the Kindle version through Amazon, but if you purchase through this link, for the same price I will send you both a pdf file (all computers) and a Mobipocket file (Kindle, iPad, Blackberry, smart phone or other compatible device). I am pleased to say that although some readers were unsure as to whether they would be able to transfer the downloadable file onto their various devices, every one of them has been able to do so. Check it out here – it will help you get a better understanding of the Rules.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Dog Takes Paul Casey’s Ball

Photo: Getty Images

An amusing Rules incident occurred at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last Friday. Paul Casey was eyeing-up an eagle putt on the par-5, 12th green at Kingsbarns Golf Links in St. Andrews when a dog picked-up his ball from the putting green and ran off with it. As you can see from the photo, Casey tried to persuade the dog to drop his ball, presumably nearer to the hole, but it ran off gripping it with its teeth. A sprightly spectator caught the ball thief on the 13th and retrieved Casey's original ball, which he correctly replaced on the green where it had been at rest and took his putt.

This was a simple application of Rule 18-1, which states;

If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
Note: It is a question of fact whether a ball has been moved by an outside agency. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that an outside agency has moved the ball. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must play the ball as it lies or, if the ball is not found, proceed under Rule 27-1.
Let us now consider what the ruling would be on similar situations;
•    No-one actually witnessed the dog moving or taking the ball from the putting green.
     If it is not known or virtually certain that an outside agency moved the ball, the player must play the ball as it lies or, if the ball is not found, proceed under Rule 27-1 under penalty of stroke and distance.
•    (Edited 11th Oct 12) The player’s ball in motion on a putting green, after a stroke made from off the putting green, was picked-up by a dog that then dropped it in a bunker.
     The player must place the ball, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the ball was when the dog picked it up from the putting green, Decision 19-1/6.
•    The player’s ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green was picked-up by a dog that then dropped it in the hole, or off the putting green.
    The stroke is cancelled and the ball must be replaced and replayed, Rule 19-1b.
 (Edited 11th Oct 12) Providing it is known or virtually certain that a dog, or other outside agency, took a ball, the player may replace another ball if the original ball cannot be easily retrieved, or has been rendered unfit for play (e.g. by teeth marks).
Good golfing,

I have received many testimonials regarding my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ photo series. The set of 99 issues with questions and answers based on over 200 photo/diagrams is now available as a .pdf download for just $9 (€7 or £6). Details and specimen issue at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Tees Attached by String

Various tees connected by string

Well, this year's Ryder Cup had everything, except interesting Rules issues for me to comment on! What a match! The US exceeded everyone's forecast by dominating the four-balls and foursomes and then capitulated. You could make a case for many 'pivotal' moments, but for me Justin Rose's long. looping putt on the 17th, after Phil Mickelson had put an 'impossible' chip to within a few inches of the hole for par was the first time that I believed that the US could be beaten. Congratulations to Europe - a great team performance.

One might assume that there could be little that is controversial about how a player tees their ball on the teeing ground, but there is more to this subject than you might imagine, so I am summarising some of the main points in a Q&A format. First, let us see what constitutes a conforming tee, as found in Appendix IV of the Rules book - Devices and Other Equipment; 
1. Tees (Rule 11)
A tee is a device designed to raise the ball off the ground. A tee must not:
•    be longer than 4 inches (101.6 mm);
•    be designed or manufactured in such a way that it could indicate line of play;
•    unduly influence the movement of the ball; or
•    otherwise assist the player in making a stroke or in his play.
Q. May one tee be inserted into another tee to make a single, longer tee?
A. Yes, providing the total length of the connected tees does not exceed 4 inches (101.6 mm).

Q. May a player use a beer can or bottle top as a tee?
A. No the tee must be designed to raise a golf ball off the ground.

Q. May a player gouge up a bit of turf with their club to tee their ball on?
A. Yes, in fact, the English pro golfer, Laura Davies, regularly uses this method to tee her ball.

Q. May a player use a broken tee that they find on the teeing ground, or borrow one from another player?
A. Yes a player may borrow equipment other than a club from another player.

Q. May a player use a tee that is attached to a pitch repairer to ensure that they do not lose it?
A. No, the R&A has recently clarified that this is not a traditionally accepted use for a pitch repairer and it would therefore incur a breach of Rule 14-3.

Q. May a player use a tee that is connected to other size tees by a string (as in the photo above)?
A. Yes, providing the player does not use the string to indicate the line of play, which would be a breach of Rule 8-2a.

With regard to the last question there does seem to be a difference of opinion between the R&A and the USGA. This statement is taken from the R&A’s web site;

“In many countries, but particularly in the UK, the use of two or more tees tied together with string has been fairly common for many years – especially in the winter when the ground can be hard due to frost, or when winter mats are in use.

Therefore, within The R&A’s area of jurisdiction (i.e. everywhere except the USA and Mexico) the use of a conforming tee which is connected to one or more other conforming tees by a length of cord or string is permissible – provided the cord or string and other tees are not used to aid the player in his alignment. Such a practice would render the player in breach of Rule 8-2a (Indicating Line of Play).”
Note that this statement specifically excludes the USA and Mexico. It is my understanding that the USGA has indicated that in their view tees with an attachment that could indicate the line of play may be non-conforming. However, as there is still no official Decision banning them, I think that it would be difficult for any Club or Society Committee to rule that they are non-conforming and impose the disqualification penalty. That does not mean that you are likely to see them used by tour players any time soon!

In my opinion, if a player regularly uses such a tee, with neither the string nor the other tees pointing to their line of play or their desired path of swing, I do not think that they should be penalised if occasionally the string or tees may coincidentally point in either of these directions. In stroke play the penalty for someone who does deliberately line up their ball using this method would be two strokes for a breach of Rule 8-2, not disqualification.

My suggestion is that if you see a fellow competitor purposely align the string of their connected tees to their desired line of play you should advise them that they will incur a penalty of two strokes if they make their stroke without moving the string to another position. It is always better to stop a player from breaching a Rule and you certainly should not ignore any breach in stroke play competitions.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.