Soon after the 2012 amendments to the Rules of Golf became effective, on 1st January, I wrote a blog on ‘Addressing the Ball’ which included the following passage;
“It is less obvious why the second change to the definition has been introduced and it has already created much discussion and disagreement between Rules experts. How far is “immediately” in the phrase “has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball”? Does two inches (5 centimetres) qualify, or does it mean “any closer and it would be touching the ball”, as has been suggested by authoritative sources connected with the USGA? In my opinion, the player in the photo above has not grounded their club “immediately” behind their ball and so they have not addressed their ball. This is bound to cause a lot of arguments and I am very surprised that the Ruling Bodies did not clarify the introduction of the word “immediately” with a relevant Decision.”It now appears that the reason for using the words "immediately behind" instead of, for example, "close to" was to exclude the situation where a player who grounds their club near their feet and then slides it towards the ball from being considered to have addressed their ball before the club was positioned behind the ball. Unfortunately, the use of the word ‘immediately’ raised other issues that it seems had not been contemplated.
Well, the Ruling Bodies have now responded to the situation by taking the relatively unusual step of issuing a clarification, with reference to the new definition of ‘Addressing the Ball’, on page 22 of the Rules of Golf. The statement specifically deals with the newly introduced phrase “immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball”.
If the golf club is grounded “closely” behind the ball in a position where it would be customary for a player to ground the club prior to making a particular stroke, then the club is considered to have been grounded “immediately behind the ball.” The same interpretation of the definition would apply if a player grounds his or her golf club “closely” in front of the ball prior to making a stroke.I welcome this clarification from the Ruling Bodies and am pleased that they did not try to define exactly how close to the ball the club has to be to be ‘grounded’ in terms of inches or centimetres within the definition of address. In my opinion, this may be significantly further behind the ball when it is buried in the rough than when it lies on the putting green. Of course, the question as to whether a player has grounded their club or not is still subjective and even rules officials may not make the same judgements.
Check here for the full statement issued by R&A.
Check here for the same statement from USGA.
One minor, non-related point is that I notice that the clarification above includes the phrase, “if a player grounds his or her golf club”. As someone who promotes the singular use of they, to avoid being gender specific, I am pleased that the Ruling Bodies have recognised both genders in this statement.
I intend to return to this tricky subject of when a ball is addressed, with examples, in the next week, or so.
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