Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fairly Taking a Stance - Rule 13-2

I am sure that most of us have been faced with a situation where we find our ball lying in an area of thick undergrowth, under the low-hanging branches of a tree or a bush. Rule 13-2 tells us that we must not improve the area of our intended stance or swing by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, but that no penalty is incurred if we do so in fairly taking a stance. Some players query exactly what this exception, ‘fairly taking a stance’ means.

I am not a fan of the hackneyed script in this USGA produced video with Annika S├Ârenstam, but it does help clarify the Rule.

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So, when ‘fairly taking their stance’ the player is required to do so in the least intrusive manner that results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Decision 13-2/1 provides a more detailed explanation of how to interpret ‘fairly’ in this context;
Without "fairly," the exception would permit improvement of position or lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play by anything that could be said to be taking a stance. The use of "fairly" is intended to limit the player to what is reasonably necessary to take a stance for the selected stroke without unduly improving the position of the ball, his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Thus, in taking his stance for the selected stroke, the player should select the least intrusive course of action which results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. The player is not entitled to a normal stance or swing. He must accommodate the situation in which the ball is found and take a stance as normal as the circumstances permit. What is fair must be determined in the light of all the circumstances.

Examples of actions which do constitute fairly taking a stance are:
• backing into a branch or young sapling if that is the only way to take a stance for the selected stroke, even if this causes the branch to move out of the way or the sapling to bend or break.
• bending a branch of a tree with the hands in order to get under the tree to play a ball.

Examples of actions which do not constitute fairly taking a stance are:
• deliberately moving, bending or breaking branches with the hands, a leg or the body to get them out of the way of the backswing or stroke.
• standing on a branch to prevent it interfering with the backswing or stroke.
• hooking one branch on another or braiding two weeds for the same purpose.
• bending with a hand a branch obscuring the ball after the stance has been taken.
• bending an interfering branch with the hands, a leg or the body in taking a stance when the stance could have been taken without bending the branch.
Now, permit me to draw your attention to my new web site,, where I have attempted to provide an indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. In particular, check out how to obtain the all 99 issues of my photo series and my brand new, carefully devised quizzes; Juniors Quiz, General Quiz (for Club and Society golfers) and Match Play Quiz (highlighting the Rules differences in match play golf).

Good golfing,

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

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Left, Right and One Handed Golf Rules Queries

Here are five queries I have received that are loosely connected, as per the title;

•    May a player use both left and right-handed clubs during a round?

Yes, there is nothing in the Rules that penalises a player from carrying whichever clubs they like, providing the clubs are conforming, and the player does not use more than the permitted 14.

•    May a player use a right-handed club with a left-handed stroke?

Yes, a ball may be struck with any part of the head of the club. So a right-handed player, whose ball lies in a position whereby they cannot make a right-handed stroke at it, may either turn their clubhead 180┬║ to hit their ball with its face, or use the back of the clubhead to strike their ball from a left-handed stance. Rule 14-1.

•    Is the nearest point of relief always in a different place for a left-handed player than it is for a right-handed player?

Yes, with the very occasional exception where the points may be equidistant. Definition of Nearest Point of Relief. (If you are unsure as to why this is so, check out my video on Nearest Point of Relief here.

•    May a player putt their ball one-handed into the hole whilst holding the flagstick with the other?

Yes, providing they do not use the flagstick for assistance, e.g. by leaning on it, and also that the ball does not touch the flagstick. Decision 17-1/5.

•    If a player, who cannot play their natural right-handed stroke because of the position of their ball against a tree, decides to play left-handed away from the tree, may they take relief if they then find that their stance for the left-handed stroke means that one of their feet will be in casual water?

Yes, the player may take relief without penalty from the casual water in these circumstances and may then play their next stroke either right or left-handed. Rule 25-1b.

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

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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Differences in Match Play Rules (2)

Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images North America, 2009

Two blogs ago I covered four areas in which the Rules of match play differ from those of stroke play. Here are some more, but please remember that the two blogs should be read together to obtain the full picture;

•    A player may practice anywhere on the course, on the day of the match. Rule 7-1.
•    If you play a stroke and your ball hits your opponent, his caddie, or his equipment you can choose whether to replay the stroke or accept it and play your next shot from where it comes to rest. Rule 19-3. This might not seem fair if your wild shank has hit your opponent where it hurts and stops at his feet, but that is the Rule, so use it when it benefits you.
•    Similarly, if a player, when starting a hole, plays a ball from outside the teeing ground, there is no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke and play a ball from within the teeing ground.
•    Here is an unusual one, which not many match players know about. If a putt from the putting green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it is your side or your opponents' there is no penalty in match play, whereas there is a two stokes penalty in stroke play. Rule 19-5. Just play your ball from where it comes to rest and ensure that the ball that you moved is replaced back to where it was.
•    You are not required to keep a score card in match play, as each hole is either won by one side or the other, or halved between them, and the winner is the player who wins the most holes. For example, if a player is 3 holes up and there are only two holes of the stipulated round remaining the match is over with a result of 3 and 2.
•    In stroke play players may not suspend play for bad weather, unless they consider there is danger from lightning. If they do, the Committee would be justified in disqualifying them. Not so in match play, where players may discontinue their match by agreement, unless by so doing the competition is delayed.
•    If a match is discontinued by agreement, e.g. due to darkness or threat of lightning, the match must be resumed from where it was discontinued; the players do not start the round again.
•    Unlike stroke play, where you have an obligation to your fellow competitors to report every breach of a Rule that you witness, you do not have to in match play situations, as you may disregard, or overlook any breach of a Rule by your opponent. The reason for this is that only you, or your side, are affected. It does not affect anyone other entrant in the match play competition. However, you still must not say anything to your opponent, as under Rule 1-3 there cannot be agreement with your opponent to waive any penalty incurred by either side.
•    If a player incurs a penalty that was not observed by their opponent they must inform the opponent as soon as practicable. If the player fails to do so before their opponent makes their next stroke they lose the hole, Rule 9-2b. This penalty also applies if a player gives incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of strokes taken and does not correct the mistake before their opponent makes their next stroke.

Finally, players competing against each other in a match are opponents; in stroke play a fellow-competitor is any person with whom the competitor plays their round. Neither is partner of the other.

I hope that by overviewing these differences you will understand why it is not permitted to play a stroke play competition at the same time as a match play round of golf, Rule 33-1. Match play is a great format but when you play make sure that you understand where the Rules differ from those that you are more familiar with.

Good golfing,
If your Club/Society plays match play golf you should check out my quiz on Match Play Rules. It could mean the difference between your side winning and losing. Click here for more information.

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

Friday, 2 March 2012

Lee Westwood's Ball in Lady's Shirt - Rule 19-1

Lee Westwood experienced an unusual rub of the green during his Accenture Match Play semi-final against Rory McIlroy last Saturday. His tee shot on the par-5 13th hole was pulled a long way left into a crowd of spectators. His ball bounced once and came to rest lodged in the sweater of a lady spectator. Fortunately, she was not harmed in any way and it was all smiles as Westwood awkwardly approached her to find that his ball was still down the back of her yellow sweater. He left another spectator, her husband perhaps, to retrieve his ball and hand it back to him.

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Here are the main points to remember if the same thing happens to you;
•    A spectator is an outside agency.
•    The reference point is where the ball first came to rest in or on the outside agency (in this video, the reference point would not have changed had the lady had walked 250 yards nearer to the hole with the ball lodged in her shirt, as requested by Westwood’s caddie!).
•    Except on the putting green, the ball must be dropped and not placed (Nick Faldo famously got this wrong a few years ago and engaged in an embarrassing encounter with an intimidated, but unyielding Swedish Rules Official, which is now regularly shown on training courses for Referees).
•    If a ball is deflected or stopped by an outside agency following a stroke on the putting green (obviously, far less common) the procedure is different.

Here is the wording of the relevant Rule 19-1;
If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, except:
a. If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole, and
b. If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by, or comes to rest in or on, any moving or animate outside agency, except a worm, insect or the like, the stroke is cancelled. The ball must be replaced and replayed.
If the ball is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.
This incident, captured on video, obviously provided a good opportunity for me to explain a Rule that is often misunderstood, so I am holding the second part of my blog on ‘Differences on Match Play Rules’ until next week.

Good golfing,

P.S. If you have been receiving the 'Rhodes Rules School' photo series you may be interested to hear that, having updated the complete set of 99 issues with the January amendments to the Rules, I have now made them available as a downloadable file for just US $7.99 / EU €5.99 / St £4.99. Just login to PayPal and make payment to my account (barry at barryrhodes dot com) and I will fulfil your request the same day.

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