Friday, 13 April 2012

Addressing the Ball – Update from R&A / USGA

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.
Check here for the full statement issued by R&A.
Check here for the same statement from USGA.
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.

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.

Good golfing,


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conor maguire said...

Barry do you know when was addressing the ball clarified and surely the word CLOSELY will lead to more confusion DEC'18-2B/11 is very informative re addressing the ball especially the reference to gravity CONOR

Barry Rhodes said...


The date of the clarification of the New Definition of "Addressing the Ball" by the R&A and USGA was April 11th, 2012.

In my opinion, the most important part of this clarification were the words;

"in a position where it would be customary for a player to ground the club prior to making a particular stroke."

The effect of this is that if it is customary for a player to literally touch their ball (without moving it) at address, then presumably grounding the club 1/2 inch away would not be addressing the ball in their customary manner.

Did you read my follow-up blog, dated April 20thy, 2012, in which I provide several examples of this Rule in action?