Saturday, 22 September 2012

Rulings from 2012 Women's British Open

Carin Koch coaxes her putt towards the hole

I know from the correspondence that I receive that readers like me to report on unusual breaches and/or rulings that have occurred on tour events. There were three interesting incidents during last week’s very windy, Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

On the first day, a young amateur hit her second shot past the green into thick rough. There was a heavy cable reel lying between her and the flagstick. As is normal on tour events there was a temporary Local Rule in operation permitting relief to be taken from temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs).  Unfortunately, before the referee had a chance to talk her through the options, the player picked up her ball and dropped it clear of the cable reel next to some staked trees in anticipation that she would then be entitled to further relief in a more favourable lie and position.  What she had not realised was that her nearest point of relief from the staked trees was in an unplayable lie in a bush, from which she then had to a drop under penalty of one stroke (Rule 28c).  This reinforces a point that I often make. You should always think through the options available to you before you pick up your ball. Once you have picked up your ball, it is too late to then change your mind and play your ball from where it was, without incurring a stroke for moving your ball in play. Work out the most attractive option before lifting your ball. The nearest point of relief may necessitate a drop in a less favourable position.

On Saturday, I happened to be watching the Women’s Open on TV when the second incident occurred on camera. Carin Koch was approaching her ball in a bunker when she saw a ‘daddy long-legs’ (spider) in the sand near her ball. She realised that it was struggling to extricate one of its legs that was buried in the sand and obviously would have liked to ‘set it free’. Happily, she was astute enough to summon the referee before doing so, because a live spider is a loose impediment (confirmed by Decision 23/5.5) and may not be removed from a hazard when the player’s ball lies in the same hazard. Had the spider been running around in the bunker she would have been permitted to take an action to encourage it to move away from her ball, such as waving her hand, club or towel near it (Decision 23-1/5.5), but this was not the case and the referee correctly ruled that she could not move it. Had the spider been stuck in the sand immediately behind the ball, in equity Carin could have dropped her ball, without penalty, within one club-length of the nearest spot not nearer the hole that would allow her to make her stroke without annihilating the spider (Decision 1-4/9). However, this was not necessary and Carin managed to play her stroke from the bunker without disturbing the spider, other than giving it a sand shower! It was good to see that immediately she had made her stroke her first concern was for the welfare of the spider, which she released from the sand and watched it scurry away.

There was another Rules incident, during the final round that confused the television commentators. Play was suspended as a result of a sudden squall that caused more than one ball to move on the more exposed putting greens. The horns had been sounded and most of the players, who had been instructed to stay on the course, immediately sheltered behind their umbrellas. However, one group was seen to be continuing play and questions were asked as to whether they had not heard the horns, or whether they could be penalised. However, the players were correct in knowing that they had the option of finishing the hole they were on before suspending their play, as the reason for the suspension was not due to a potentially dangerous situation, which is usually when there is an electric storm in the area, Rule 6-8b.

Good golfing,


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

Friday, 14 September 2012

Why is the Decisions Book Necessary?

Me with my Decisions Book

I am sometimes asked what relevance the Decisions of the Rules of Golf have in making a ruling on the course or in the Committee room. The Decisions book is the official interpretation of the Rules of Golf and is an indispensable tool when trying to resolve Rules problems, which are bound to arise at all levels of competitive golf. I compare the Decisions on the Rules to the role of case law with relation to statutory law; they are rulings which provide fuller interpretations of the Rules and can thereafter be used as precedents.

To illustrate how the Decisions can add meaning to the complexity of the 34 Rules of Golf that may sometimes seem confusing, I offer five short examples, which are also interesting in their own right;

Decision 13-3/1 Standing on Mat on Teeing Ground
Q. Is it permissible for a player to carry a mat and stand on it when playing from the teeing ground?
A. No. The player would be building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.

Decision 14-3/12.5 Bottled Drink Used as a Level
Q. A player places a bottled drink on the putting green in order to gauge the slope of the green. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?
A. Yes. The player is using equipment in an unusual manner to assist him in his play contrary to Rule 14-3.

Decision 18/2 Ball Oscillates During Address
Q. In addressing the ball, a player accidentally causes the ball to oscillate, but it returns to its original position. Has the ball "moved"?
A. No.

Decision 25/2 Overflow from Water Hazard
Q. If a pond (water hazard) has overflowed, is the overflow casual water?
A. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water.

Decision 23/12 Aeration Plugs
Q. Are plugs of compacted soil produced through aeration of fairways loose impediments?
A. Yes. Loose soil is not a loose impediment. However, such plugs, since they consist of compacted soil, are loose impediments.
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 2012-2013', 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 this free weekly blog.

Good golfing,

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

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Ten Golden Rules of Golf

The original Rules of Golf issued by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1744 numbered just 13. Today’s Rules of Golf has 34 Rules with over 200 sections and subsections, totalling more than 20,000 words. It is no wonder that most golfers never bother to read the Rules book at all and that even acknowledged experts will often disagree over the interpretation of some Rules.

In 1982, as a result of collaboration between the USGA and GOLF Magazine, George Peper was tasked to write a simplified summary of those Rules that affect most golfers, most often. More recently LINKS magazine took up the cause and partnered with the USGA to promote the original version with a few minor amendments.

If all golfers were to learn these 10 Golden Rules, George Peper estimates that they would be able to resolve 90% of the Rules situations that golfers routinely encounter in the course of an 18-hole round. I present them here to remind readers of some of the most basic principles of the game we love;

1. Play the ball as it lies.

2. Don’t move, bend, or break anything growing or fixed, except in fairly taking your stance or swing. Don’t press anything down.

3. You may lift natural objects not fixed or growing, except in a water hazard or bunker. No penalty.

4. Movable man-made objects may be moved. For immovable objects, you may take relief by dropping away from them within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole, except in a water hazard or if the object defines out of bounds. In a bunker, you must drop in the bunker. No penalty.

5. You may take relief from casual water, ground under repair, burrowing animal holes or casts, anywhere except in a water hazard. On the putting green, place at the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole; otherwise drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. In a bunker, you must drop in the bunker. No penalty.

6. In a water hazard or bunker, don’t touch the water or ground with your hand or club before the stroke.

7. If you hit your ball into a water hazard and cannot find or play it, either drop behind the point where the ball last crossed the hazard margin or at the place where you played the shot. On the tee, you may tee the ball. One penalty stroke. If you hit into a lateral hazard, you may also drop within two club-lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the hazard margin, or, within two club-lengths of a point equidistant from the hole on the opposite margin. One penalty stroke.

8. When you hit your ball out of bounds or cannot find it after 5 minutes of searching, add a penalty stroke, go back and drop a ball at the place where you played the shot. On the tee, you may tee the ball. If you think you have hit your ball out of bounds or lost it outside a water hazard, play a provisional ball before searching for the first one.

9. When you have an unplayable lie, you may drop a ball at the place where you played the previous shot, adding a penalty stroke. On the tee, you may tee the ball. Alternatively, drop within two club-lengths, no nearer the hole, or any distance behind the unplayable spot, keeping it between you and the hole. If the ball is in a bunker, you must drop in the bunker, under either of the alternative options. If you can’t play your ball that is in a water hazard, see Golden Rule #7.

10. You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the putting green that are on the line of your putt, but not spike marks.

(Edit: It has been pointed out to me that this list omits one of the Rules that is most commonly breached in amateur golf and that is purposely touching a ball in play, such as in identifying a ball in the rough. See my blog on this subject at this link).

Good golfing,

P.S. You would have thought that all tournament players would have learned that you may not touch a loose impediment on your backswing in a hazard, after Carl Pettersson spoilt his chances early in his final round at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last month, when he brushed a leaf on his backswing in a water hazard. Not so! Graeme McDowell was also penalised two strokes for a similar breach of Rule 13-4 at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick on Thursday. On this occasion, there was no blame attached to the caddie, as he had warned McDowell,
“You know you can’t touch that branch, right?”
But McDowell misunderstood, thinking that his long-time caddie, Ken Conboy, meant that the branch (a small twig really) could not be removed. There is a more detailed report of this incident at this link.