Friday, 29 June 2012

Must You Search for Your Lost Ball

A question that I received last week raises a few issues on the Rules;
“One of the members of our group hit a ball off the tee and his ball veered sharply into the trees on the right. At the rear of these trees is a lake that has red stakes approximately four meters in front of the water. Thinking that the ball may be lost, or had entered the water hazard, the player then chose to hit a provisional ball, which he sent down the middle of the fairway. He immediately declared his first ball lost and designated his provisional ball as his ball in play. Was this a correct procedure or was he obliged to look for the first ball for up to 5 minutes? Also, if he had not played a provisional ball and could not find his ball in the woods, could he assume that it was in the hazard and drop another ball for a penalty of one stroke, or would it be necessary for some of us to have seen that the ball entering the margin of the hazard or indeed the lake?"
Here are some of the issues raised by the above scenario; why not test your knowledge of the Rules by comparing your answers with mine, which are below?
  1. May you play a provisional ball if it is likely that your original ball is in a (lateral) water hazard?
  2. May you declare that your ball is lost and therefore abandon it in favour of your provisional ball?
  3. May you choose not to search for your original ball if you would rather play your provisional ball?
  4. If you cannot find your original ball in these circumstances may you assume that it must be lost in a water hazard and take relief from the hazard under Rule 26-1?
  5. May you play a provisional ball if you find your original ball unplayable inside a water hazard?
Here are my answers to the above questions;
  1. Yes, even though it is likely that the original ball is in a water hazard, a player is entitled to play a provisional ball if it might also be lost outside of the water hazard, or might be out of bounds (Decision 27-2a/2.2).
  2. No a player may not declare their ball lost. Click on this previous blog link of mine for a full explanation.
  3. Yes, a player does not have to search for their ball if it is not visible and they choose not to play it. However, if someone finds a ball that is believed to be the player’s original ball before they have played their provisional ball from a point nearer to the hole than where it is thought that the original ball may be, then the player must identify it and if it is their original ball must continue play with it (Decision 27-2c/2). In stroke play, it is considered good etiquette for a fellow competitor not to search for a ball that the player wishes to abandon, but in match play an opponent may choose to search for it if they consider that it is to their advantage to find it.
  4. No, unless it is known or virtually certain that the ball is lost in a water hazard the player must treat the ball as lost outside of the hazard and must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).
  5. No, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue play with the original ball (Rule 27-2c). They must either play the ball from the hazard or take one of the options for taking relief from a water hazard as in Rule 26-1.
If you are interested in improving your understanding of the Rules of Golf then I am confident that you will enjoy my 99 issues of the ‘Rhodes Rules School’ photo series, each of which poses questions similar to the above, with photos or diagrams illustrating the different circumstances. You can either receive them by weekly email free of charge, or purchase them for just $9 (€7 or £6) as a complete set of over 200 questions and answers. Check out this link for more information.

Good golfing,

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

Friday, 22 June 2012

Lara’s Caddie Gets Him Disqualified

Jose Manuel Lara - Photo AP

Here are the details of the strangest Pro Tour disqualification so far this year. Double European Tour winner, Jose Manuel Lara, was disqualified from the BMW International Open after his caddie tried to hide one of his clubs in a bush on the second hole. The Argentinian caddie had been delayed in in a traffic jam on his way to the course in West Germany and had to jog the final three kilometers to get to the first teeing ground on time. In his haste, he failed to notice that there were 15 clubs in his Lara’s bag until the players had teed off at the second hole. Rule 4-4 limits players to a maximum of fourteen clubs at the start of their stipulated round. The penalty for a breach of this Rule regardless of the number of excess clubs carried is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes.

It is generally recognised that it is the caddie’s responsibility to ensure that the bag that he is carrying only contains 14 clubs by the time the player arrives at the first tee for the start of their round. This is a routine task for them as players will often practice on the range with a variety of extra clubs, although in Lara’s case he too had only arrived at the course an hour or so before his start time.

It is presumed that when the caddie realised that he was carrying more than the permitted maximum number of clubs he was too embarrassed to tell Lara. Instead, he stupidly disappeared into the bushes on the second hole to dispose of it. Lara’s fellow competitors, Ireland’s Damien McGrane and Swede, Peter Hedblom, thought that something was wrong and enquired as to what he was doing. Apparently, he immediately admitted his indiscretion (they could see the club lying in the bushes) and regretted what he had done. A ruling was sought on the penalty for carrying an extra club and he was penalised two strokes for the first hole and two for the second.

However, on hearing about the incident and discussing it with colleagues on the referees Rules panel, European Tour chief referee, John Paramor, ruled that it was a serious incident that warranted disqualification under Rule 33-7. When interviewed Lara said that he thought that his caddie had gone into the bushes to answer a ‘call of nature’ and this was accepted. Although he was unaware of his caddie’s actions the Rules make it clear that he is responsible for them. Rule 6-1 states;

The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.
In an interview with Sky Sports, John Paramor commented on the disqualification;
"Hopefully we won't have too many more of those. We interviewed the player and are perfectly satisfied that he had no knowledge of what was going on. It was clearly the caddie doing what he felt at the time was the right thing, but was clearly the wrong thing. He's kind of been asked not to come back and that's how the matter has been resolved."
Good golfing,

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Playing Provisional Ball after Going Forward to Search

Here is something that is often heard from amateur golfers, “I’ll go back and play a provisional, while you carry on searching for my ball”. Their hope is that, even if they have put a provisional ball in play from where they played their last stroke, someone will find their original ball within five minutes of search starting for it and they can therefore continue to play with it and abandon the provisional ball. Wrong! Part of Rule 27-2a states;
The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.  
So, once the player has dropped a ball at the point where they last played from (or played another ball from the teeing ground if it was their tee shot that is lost) that is now the ball in play. It cannot be a provisional ball, even if it is announced as such, and it is irrelevant whether or not the original ball is found, as it may not be played.

Decision 27-2a/1.5 clarifies what is meant by ‘goes forward to search’, (Edit: This Decision was revised at 1st January 2014. It now reads;)
Q.Under Rule 27-2a, when is a player considered to have gone forward to search for the original ball such that a provisional ball cannot be played?

A. A player will be considered to have gone forward to search when he has proceeded more than a short distance towards the place where his original ball is likely to be. As the purpose of Rule 27-2a is to save time, the player is permitted to go forward a short distance before determining that it would save time to return promptly to play a provisional ball. As a guideline, a player should be considered to have proceeded more than a short distance, and therefore to have gone forward to search, if he has proceeded more than approximately 50 yards. However, this guideline does not preclude a player from playing a provisional ball when he has proceeded more than a short distance for another specific purpose, such as to retrieve a ball or a different club to play a provisional ball, or to confer with a referee. (Revised)


Good golfing,

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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Taking Relief – Penalty, or Not?

There is no relief from an immovable obstruction when the ball
lies in a water hazard (Rule 24-2).

Golfers are sometimes confused as to whether they may take relief without penalty, or not. Here is my non-exhaustive list as to when you may take relief, when you are not entitled to take relief and when you may only take relief if there is a Local Rule that permits.

May Take Relief without Penalty:

•    From immovable obstructions on the course – that is anything artificial that is not easily moved and has not been declared integral to the course, e.g. paths, buildings, drain covers, course signage and wooden steps. However, you may not take relief from an immovable obstruction if your ball lies in a water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 24-2)
•    From any of the following abnormal ground conditions (Rule 25-1);
o    casual water
o    ground under repair
o    a hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird.
•    When your ball is embedded in a closely mown area (Rule 25-2).
•    From tee-markers after making your first stroke with a ball on a teeing ground (Definition of Tee Markers).
•    From a hole made by a green keeper, which qualifies as ground under repair (Decision 25/14).
•    From any material piled for removal by the course staff (Definition of Ground Under Repair).
•    From a situation that could be dangerous to the player, such as near a live rattlesnake or a bees' nest (Decision 1-4/10).

May Not Take Relief Without Penalty:

•    From immovable obstructions when your ball lies in a water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 24-2).
•    From objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings (Definition of Out of Bounds).
•    From tee-markers before making your first stroke with any ball on a teeing ground (Rule 11-2). (Edit 12th June 2012: In other words, the tee markers are fixed and may not be moved to give you a better swing or stance. It is the ball that must be moved to somewhere else in the teeing ground where the tee markers do not interfere.)
•    From soft, mushy earth, which is not casual water, unless water is visible on the surface before or after the player takes his stance (Decision 25/1).
•    Cracks in the earth and tyre ruts, which are not ground under repair unless declared as such by the Committee (Decision 25/12).
•    From footprints made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird (Decision 25/19.5).
•    From an unpleasant lie, such as when the ball is at rest in poison ivy, cacti or stinging nettles (Decision 1-4/11).
•    From grass cuttings and other material left on the course that have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed (Definition of Ground Under Repair).

Local Rule May Permit Relief without Penalty:
•    From staked trees (note that even if there is no Local Rule relating to staked trees golfers may take relief from the stake itself, which is an immovable obstruction).
•    From immovable obstructions that are close to the putting green, e.g. sprinkler heads.
•    From environmentally-sensitive areas.
•    When a ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark anywhere through the green.

Good golfing,

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

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