Friday, 31 August 2012

Repairing the Lip of a Hole

When do the Rules of Golf permit a player to repair the damaged lip of a hole? The answer to this question may not be quite as simple as it sounds. Decision 16-1a/5 confirms that if a player touches the inside of a hole they are considered to have touched their line of putt in breach of Rule 16-1a, unless they are doing so to repair damage that was clearly made by a ball, as in the photo above. So, if the damage to the lip of the hole was made by a flagstick, due to strong winds or having been replaced in the hole sloppily, a player may not repair the damage before making their stroke.

Decision 16-1a/6 clarifies the correct procedure for a player that notices that a hole has been damaged other than by a ball;

Q. Prior to putting, a player discovers that the hole has been damaged. What is the proper procedure?

A. If the damage is not clearly identifiable as a ball mark, then:

(a) If the damage is such that the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed materially, the player should continue play without repairing the hole. If he touches the hole in such circumstances, a breach of Rule 16-1a occurs.

(b) If the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, the player should request the Committee to have the hole repaired. If a member of the Committee is not readily available, the player may repair the damage, without penalty.

If a player repairs a materially damaged hole when a member of the Committee is readily available, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a. (Revised)
It is recommended that players should only repair flagstick damage to the edge of a hole after all players in the group or match have completed play of the hole, similar to caring for the course by repairing spike marks near the hole as all players are leaving the putting green. The reason for this is that if the smoothing of any ragged edge to the hole is in any way intended to influence the movement of an opponent's, fellow-competitor's or partner's ball the player incurs a penalty of two strokes for breaching Rule 1-2.

Good golfing,

I strongly recommend that every golfer with an interest in the Rules of Golf has a current copy of 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2012', jointly published by R&A and USGA. It is currently priced at $16.49 (USGA version) or £11.89 (R&A version) from Amazon via this link. If you do not want to purchase it for yourself you should consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. If you are going to purchase this book, or anything else from Amazon, please use this link, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission to help defray the costs of my free blog.

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

Saturday, 25 August 2012

2012 Open Championship Rulings Statistics

Having found his ball Phil Mickelson opted to take
relief under Rule 28b for a penalty of one stroke

The Royal & Ancient have released some interesting statistics relating to rulings made over the four days of play at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

There were 339 Rules incidents reported by the walking referees that accompanied every game. Here is the breakdown, as supplied by the R&A;

Ball unplayable, Rule 28 32
Casual water – bunker, Rule 25-1b(ii) 37
Casual water – through the green, Rule 25-1b(i) 21
Temporary Immovable Obstructions, Local Rule 47
Immovable obstructions close to putting green, Local Rule 16
Relief from crowd control fencing, Rule 24-2 15
Ground under repair, Rule 25-1b / Local Rule 48
Ball unfit for play, Rule 5-3 6
Identifying ball, Rule 12-2 7
Whether the ball was on the putting green or not 8
Ball at rest moved, Rule 18 14
Interference from cables, Rule 24-1 12
Lost ball, Rule 27-1 5
Out of bounds, Rule 27-1 5
This list totals 273 – there is no information on the other rulings.

I calculate that there were 188 games over the 4 days (groups of 3 on Thursday and Friday and groups of two on Saturday and Sunday). So, there was an average of 1.8 Rules incidents for each game where a ruling from the walking referee was sought. In my experience, this is probably lower than the number of Rules uncertainties that I would expect to occur during a typical round of stroke play golf involving three amateur golfers.

An unnamed spokesperson from the R&A commented,

“Although complicated situations do crop up from time to time, it is the basics that occur again and again. A referee must remain vigilant at all times though, and he must concentrate on each situation that is presented to him – it is easy to have a lapse of concentration and to get something wrong.”


I have received several queries as to whether my book ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ will be made available as a hard print copy.  Due to the steadily increasing sales of the eBook version and the previous difficulties that I experienced; unsatisfactory publisher relationships, stocking hundreds of copies in my spare room, daily visits to the post office and exorbitant postal charges, it is now highly unlikely. However, if you order the eBook version from me (which is much cheaper than the print version), you can still print it out section by section, if required. When you order at this link I will send you a .pdf file (for laptop and PC) and a Mobipocket file (for Kindle, iPad, Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or any other compatible device). ‘999 Questions’ is still the easiest and most fun way to improve your understanding of the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Using a Ball as a Backstop

I received a question this week asking if you may leave a ball in place as a ‘backstop’ when making a stroke from just off the putting green. This is an issue for many players and I will attempt to clarify the various situations here, using different scenarios, most of which are covered by Rule 22, Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play.

In all the scenarios below B’s ball lies just to the side of the hole in a position where it could act as a ‘backstop’ for A’s next stroke (as in the photo).

In stroke play, where no comment has been made by any player in the group about the position of B’s ball:

a)    A plays his ball from just off the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved.
b)    A putts from on the putting green. A incurs a penalty of two strokes if his ball moves B’s ball (Rule 19-5). B’s ball must be replaced.
In match play, where no comment has been made by any player in the group about the position of B’s ball:
c)    A plays his ball from just off the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved.
d)    A putts from on the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved. (Rule 19-5).
Note that in the above scenarios the ruling is the same whether A and B are partners (four-balls or foursomes) or fellow competitors (singles). 
e)    In stroke play, if A requests B to leave his ball where it is and B complies, or if B gives any indication to A that he will leave his ball where it is so as to assist A, both players are disqualified. Decision 22-6;
Q. In stroke play, B's ball lies just off the putting green. A's ball lies near the hole in a position to serve as a backstop for B's ball. B requests A not to lift his ball. Is such a request proper?
A. No. If A and B agree not to lift a ball that might assist B, both players are disqualified under Rule 22-1.
The disqualification penalty applies if the Committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor.
f)    In match play, where there is no requirement to protect the interests of other competitors, it is up to the opponent(s) to request that the ball is lifted and so there is no penalty if partners agree to leave a ball as a backstop.
With regard to scenarios a) to d) above, except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may lift the ball if it is his ball, or have any other ball lifted, Rule 22-1. In my opinion, it is incumbent on a fellow competitor to require that a ball is lifted if it could be of advantage to any other player in the group who is playing from on the putting green, or close to it.

Some readers may be questioning why no penalty is incurred in scenario d) above, as this is a little known part of match play Rules. Rule 19-5a states;

If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.
Good golfing,

If you are interested in improving your knowledge of the Rules of Golf and use an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Blackberry or other smart device, then I think that you will be interested in my eBook, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015'. At €9.99 it costs just 1c for each question, answer, reference and explanation! Click here for details.

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

Sunday, 12 August 2012

No Bunkers for Final Major of 2012 at Kiawah Island

Do you remember that for the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights, a notice was posted in the locker room clarifying that all areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers were to be played as bunkers? There were over 1200 of them! In complete contrast to this, the PGA of America decided that for the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, all sandy areas were designated as “through the green.” In layman terms, that meant that there were no bunkers at Kiawah Island for the final major golf tournament of the year. Players could ground their clubs in the sand, remove loose impediments and even take practice swings in over 200 areas that looked like bunkers to most of us. On the other hand, players had to be careful not to dig in the sand with their feet to make a firm stance. This is permitted in a bunker but would be considered as improving their stance in breach of Rule 13-2 anywhere through the green. (Edit, Sunday Aug 12th: The decision not to recognise bunkers has been made to look all the more bizarre by the two stroke penalty imposed on Carl Pettersson under Rule 13-4c, for moving a loose leaf on his backswing while playing out of a water hazard on his opening hole of the final round. See the PGA of America's statement on this incident below.)

Commenting on the decision to play all sandy areas as through the green, Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director of the championships said,
“This is exactly the same way that it was played in ‘91 at the Ryder Cup and at our two major champions that we played here at the Ocean Course. We think it’s the fairest and the best way to play. It’s certainly a unique golf course, which warrants this.”
As with the decision in Whistling Straights the players and their caddies were constantly reminded of the Local Rule by the notices posted in the locker rooms, headed: “NOTICE TO COMPETITORS. NO BUNKERS.”

I am sure that Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, was aware of this Local Rule, but it did not prevent him from being disqualified, following an excellent second round score of 70, which meant that he had easily survived the cut and was only 8 strokes off the lead at the half-way mark. On the 8th hole Hoey found a ball embedded in a ‘sandy area’. Under Rule 12-1a he was entitled to move sand around the ball and lift it in order to identify it as his, which he did. However, the Rule requires that even if the ball has not been moved during the identifying process, the player must re-create the lie of the ball before any sand was moved. Rule 12-1a states;
If the player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found, and identified as his, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.
In re-creating a lie under this Rule, the player is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.
Because he did not re-create the embedded lie, Hoey breached Rule 12-1a and incurred a penalty of two-strokes, but he did not realise this until after he had signed and returned his score card. This is what he had to say;
“About 8.20 after dinner, I went straight up to the club after calling my coach and caddy to make sure I had things right. I was just re-living the hole as I’d sunk a really long putt for par. As soon as I realised what had happened, I went to the club.”
The PGA of America Rules Committee had no option but to disqualify him under Rule 6-6d, for signing and returning a score card with a score for a hole lower than was actually scored, due to not having included the penalty strokes incurred.

Kudos is due to Michael Hoey for his integrity in bringing his breach to the attention of the officials, knowing that the inevitable outcome would be his disqualification. However, I despair of repeatedly having to make the point that it the responsibility of players to know the Rules (Rule 6-1) and this should especially apply to those that make their living from the game. If they do not want to spend the necessary time learning the Rules themselves they should at least employ a caddie who does. Surely a professional caddie has plenty of spare time, for example when travelling, to add this important area of relevant expertise to their qualifications for the job they are paid for.

Good golfing,

This is the statement from the PGA of America relating to Carl Pettersson's penalty;
Carl Pettersson was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the first hole of the final round of the 94th PGA Championship for a breach of Rule 13-4c when he moved a loose impediment lying in a lateral water hazard, while his ball was lying in the same hazard.
Pettersson hit his tee shot into the lateral water hazard to the right of the fairway. Before making the stroke, he asked the walking official, Brad Gregory, if he was allowed to touch grass, in the hazard, with his club, prior to the stroke.
Pettersson was correctly informed that he could do so, provided that he did not ground the club in the hazard. In making his backswing, Pettersson’s club brushed the grass behind the ball (not a breach) and at the same time moved a leaf (loose impediment), in breach of the Rule.
Pettersson was immediately notified by Gregory that there may have been a breach of Rule 13-4c, and that he (Gregory) wanted the stroke to be reviewed on video for confirmation.
PGA Rules Chairman, David Price, reviewed the stroke on video and confirmed that a loose impediment was moved during Pettersson’s backswing.
Pettersson was notified of the penalty as he left the fourth tee. His score for the par-4 first hole was a 6."
Does your Club have a problem with getting your Juniors to learn both golfing etiquette and the Rules? I have done the work for you. Check out my Juniors Quiz at this link.

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

Friday, 3 August 2012

Bizarre Undue Delay Penalty – Rule 6-7

US Senior Golfer, Pete Oakley  

Probably the strangest ruling of the year, so far, occurred at the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry last week. Most of us have lost balls in the rough but it is not often that a caddie is lost in the rough and their player gets penalised for it. American, Pete Oakley incurred a two-shot penalty for mislaying his caddie, Jennifer Oakley, who also happens to be his wife.

As Pete walked back to play his drive on the 13th tee, Jennifer walked on down the fairway to ball-spot. While waiting she took shelter from the wind behind a toilet. Hearing a ball land in nearby rough she started searching for it. A few minutes later she realised that the golfer searching alongside her was definitely not her husband, nor was it his fellow competitor. Meanwhile, Pete was standing at a bunker on the other side of the fairway, where his drive had landed, wondering where she was. After waiting a few minutes for her to arrive with his clubs he started back towards the teeing ground. When he got there he surprised the spectators by asking, “I’ve lost my wife – have you seen her?”

Andy McFee, European Tour senior referee, takes up the story;

“One of our rules officials spotted Pete walking back to the 13th tee. Assuming he had lost his ball, he went to pick him up in his buggy. But when he got to him, Pete said: ‘I’ve lost my caddie.’ Pete stood by the bunker for a good two or three minutes. Then he spent a couple of minutes wandering back to the tee, then another good couple of minutes for the rules official to go and get the caddie from the 10th and bring her back. So all in all it was at least seven minutes. That’s as clear a breach of the undue delay rule as you can get, so a penalty of two strokes was applied.”
Part of Rule 6-7 states;
The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.
PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 6-7: Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes. For subsequent offense – Disqualification.
Pete Oakley, who won the Senior British Open Championship in 2004, finished his round shooting 83. He was suitably philosophical about his wife’s disappearing act when he commented,
"I might not have been laughing so much about it if the two-shot penalty had seen me miss the cut".

Golfer Faces €½ million Debt for Legal Costs 
I usually try to avoid commenting on handicapping issues as, unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary considerably between national golf organisations. However, there was an important decision made in Dublin’s High Court last week, which will have many handicapping secretaries around the world sighing with relief. Thomas Talbot, a 75-year-old retired insurance official, was suing his Golf Club, its handicap subcommittee chairman at the time and the Golfing Union of Ireland, claiming his reputation was damaged after his handicap was reduced by 7.7 shots between 1999 and 2004, on the grounds that he was "handicap building". The 21-day case was heard back in February but was only struck out last Friday, a nervous wait of over five months for all those involved.
The judge found that the words ‘handicap building’, in the notice advising Talbot of his handicap adjustment, were defamatory and said any reasonable and well-informed golfer would fairly conclude he was being accused of consciously and deliberately inflating his handicap, to give himself an unfair advantage in the game by misrepresenting his true playing ability. However, because he was also satisfied the words were not published to any third party, which is a requirement for a document to be libellous; the judge dismissed the claim of libel. The certificate of his adjusted handicap was addressed to Mr Talbot only and was contained in a sealed envelope left for him in the men’s competition room.

Talbot resigned from the Club that he was suing some time ago, apparently because there were few members willing to play with him, and he has since joined another Dublin Club.

This sad story may not yet be over, as Talbot, who represented himself throughout the court case, says that he cannot afford to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

"I certainly haven't a tuppence to rub together. It has to be appealed because I can't afford €500,000 costs in a case I should have won.” He continued, "I am appealing to the Supreme Court on Monday on the basis there are arguments in fact and in law that are in dispute. I was aware that costs generally go with the judgment; I was aware of that risk from the outset."
In a short statement on the Golfing Union of Ireland’s web site they say,
" While the GUI is happy that the High Court has vindicated its position in finding against Mr Talbot, it is a matter of great regret to the GUI, a voluntary organisation, that it became embroiled in High Court proceedings, which it maintained at all times were entirely unmeritorious and which it had no option but to defend in the circumstances.”
For those that are interested there is more detail at this Irish Times link.

Good Golfing,

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