Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Embedded Balls through the Green

Photo: John Retzer

Whenever I check the keywords that have been used on various search engines by viewers that have been guided to my blog site, “embedded ball” is always towards the top of the list. I therefore deduce that many golfers do not fully understand this area of the Rules and resort to Internet search engines for help. As we approach the time of year where those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere have begun to encounter embedded balls, both on and off the fairway, I think that it is timely for me to write on this subject again. In this previous blog I answered the most commonly asked questions on embedded balls.

Now let me confirm the situation that applies at any time of year, anywhere in the world, notwithstanding the course conditions. A player may always take relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area. Rule 25-2 states;

A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
Of course, the difficulty that many golfers have is whether they may take relief for a ball that is embedded in ‘the rough’. My understanding is that this subject has been, and probably still is, an issue that the R&A and USGA do not see eye-to-eye on. Back in 2007, prior to the amendments to the Rules of Golf that were announced for January 2008, there were strong rumours / suggestions that Rule 25-2 was going to be extended to permit relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green. I know that the Golf Club that I am a member of in Dublin, received a letter to this effect from the Golfing Union of Ireland, suggesting that we might want to introduce a Local Rule prior to the anticipated change. Apparently, the pressure for the change was coming from the USGA, but it seems that the R&A were reluctant. This text was taken from the USGA's web site relating to the US Open for 2007;
"The USGA also adopts (and recommends the universal adoption of) the Local Rule for Embedded Balls Through the Green. This Local Rule, in Appendix I; Part B; Section 3a, entitles players to relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark anywhere through the green (as opposed to Rule 25-2 which is applicable only in closely mown areas through the green)."
When the 2008 four-yearly amendments to the Rules were announced, the expected change was not included and a Local Rule is still required to permit relief for embedded balls other than on closely mown areas. I understand that this Local Rule is on the hard card for US tour events and operates permanently in most US Golf Clubs. It is definitely not in operation for the R&A's Open Championship (unless course conditions are particularly bad) and is only introduced by most UK and Irish Committees as a temporary Local Rule, when course conditions might interfere with proper playing of the game, including mud and extreme wetness. This extract is taken from the R&A booklet on ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
“Rule 25-2 gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely-mown area through the green. However, where the ground is unusually soft, the Committee may, by temporary Local Rule, allow the lifting of an embedded ball anywhere “through the green” if it is satisfied that the proper playing of the game would otherwise be prevented. It is recommended that the Local Rule would be for a short period only and, if practicable, confined to specified areas. The Committee must withdraw the Local Rule as soon as conditions warrant and therefore, it should not be printed on the score card.
The USGA’s and R&A’s recommended wording for such a Local Rule is contained in Appendix I, Part B, 4 of the Rules of Golf. Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the Local Rules in operation before commencing any competitive round of golf.

Good golfing,

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

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

When a Ball Must Be Marked Before Lifting

This week, I received a few queries from recipients of my ‘How Many Strokes?’ weekly email series, who thought that I had missed counting a penalty for a player who did not mark their ball before lifting it when taking free relief from an immovable obstruction. Many golfers are surprised when they learn that the Rules of Golf do not require that a ball is marked before lifting when taking relief under the Rules.

Of course, there are some occasions when the position of a ball must be marked before it is lifted;

  • Anywhere on the putting green, Rule 16-1b. (Exception: if the player is taking relief from an immovable obstruction on the putting green).
  • To determine if it is unfit for play, Rule 5-3.
  • For identification, Rule 12-2.
  • Because it is assisting or interfering with play, Rule 22.
In the above circumstances, if a ball is not marked the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. If it is not replaced, the player incurs the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play) for breach of this Rule, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 20-1.

Conversely, the position of a ball does not have to be marked before it is lifted;

  • When it has been deemed unplayable, Rule 28.
  • When taking relief from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b.
  • When taking relief from an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1b.
  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1.
(Edit 17th October: My thanks to a subscriber for providing this easy to remember principle; if you will be returning the ball to the same spot, it must be marked before being lifted; if you will be dropping the ball to a new spot, marking is not required.)

Having identified those circumstances where a player is not required by the Rules to mark their ball before lifting it, let me make it perfectly clear that it is good practice to do so, in order that the referee, marker of fellow competitor can be assured that the ensuing drop is within the prescribed area. However, it is a ‘should’ rather than a ‘must’.

Good golfing,

For a number of reasons, I have now decided not to re-publish my ‘999 Questions’ book in hard copy (bad experience with the publishers, inconvenience of stocking, high postal charges, daily trips to post office, etc.) However, my main reason is that the acceptance of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 -2015’, as an eBook has exceeded my expectations. You can purchase the Kindle version through Amazon, but if you purchase through this link, for the same price I will send you both a pdf file (all computers) and a Mobipocket file (Kindle, iPad, Blackberry, smart phone or other compatible device). I am pleased to say that although some readers were unsure as to whether they would be able to transfer the downloadable file onto their various devices, every one of them has been able to do so. Check it out here – it will help you get a better understanding of the Rules.

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

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Dog Takes Paul Casey’s Ball

Photo: Getty Images

An amusing Rules incident occurred at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last Friday. Paul Casey was eyeing-up an eagle putt on the par-5, 12th green at Kingsbarns Golf Links in St. Andrews when a dog picked-up his ball from the putting green and ran off with it. As you can see from the photo, Casey tried to persuade the dog to drop his ball, presumably nearer to the hole, but it ran off gripping it with its teeth. A sprightly spectator caught the ball thief on the 13th and retrieved Casey's original ball, which he correctly replaced on the green where it had been at rest and took his putt.

This was a simple application of Rule 18-1, which states;

If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
Note: It is a question of fact whether a ball has been moved by an outside agency. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that an outside agency has moved the ball. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must play the ball as it lies or, if the ball is not found, proceed under Rule 27-1.
Let us now consider what the ruling would be on similar situations;
•    No-one actually witnessed the dog moving or taking the ball from the putting green.
     If it is not known or virtually certain that an outside agency moved the ball, the player must play the ball as it lies or, if the ball is not found, proceed under Rule 27-1 under penalty of stroke and distance.
•    (Edited 11th Oct 12) The player’s ball in motion on a putting green, after a stroke made from off the putting green, was picked-up by a dog that then dropped it in a bunker.
     The player must place the ball, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the ball was when the dog picked it up from the putting green, Decision 19-1/6.
•    The player’s ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green was picked-up by a dog that then dropped it in the hole, or off the putting green.
    The stroke is cancelled and the ball must be replaced and replayed, Rule 19-1b.
 (Edited 11th Oct 12) Providing it is known or virtually certain that a dog, or other outside agency, took a ball, the player may replace another ball if the original ball cannot be easily retrieved, or has been rendered unfit for play (e.g. by teeth marks).
Good golfing,

I have received many testimonials regarding my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ photo series. The set of 99 issues with questions and answers based on over 200 photo/diagrams is now available as a .pdf download for just $9 (€7 or £6). Details and specimen issue at this link.

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

Monday, 1 October 2012

Tees Attached by String

Various tees connected by string

Well, this year's Ryder Cup had everything, except interesting Rules issues for me to comment on! What a match! The US exceeded everyone's forecast by dominating the four-balls and foursomes and then capitulated. You could make a case for many 'pivotal' moments, but for me Justin Rose's long. looping putt on the 17th, after Phil Mickelson had put an 'impossible' chip to within a few inches of the hole for par was the first time that I believed that the US could be beaten. Congratulations to Europe - a great team performance.

One might assume that there could be little that is controversial about how a player tees their ball on the teeing ground, but there is more to this subject than you might imagine, so I am summarising some of the main points in a Q&A format. First, let us see what constitutes a conforming tee, as found in Appendix IV of the Rules book - Devices and Other Equipment; 
1. Tees (Rule 11)
A tee is a device designed to raise the ball off the ground. A tee must not:
•    be longer than 4 inches (101.6 mm);
•    be designed or manufactured in such a way that it could indicate line of play;
•    unduly influence the movement of the ball; or
•    otherwise assist the player in making a stroke or in his play.
Q. May one tee be inserted into another tee to make a single, longer tee?
A. Yes, providing the total length of the connected tees does not exceed 4 inches (101.6 mm).

Q. May a player use a beer can or bottle top as a tee?
A. No the tee must be designed to raise a golf ball off the ground.

Q. May a player gouge up a bit of turf with their club to tee their ball on?
A. Yes, in fact, the English pro golfer, Laura Davies, regularly uses this method to tee her ball.

Q. May a player use a broken tee that they find on the teeing ground, or borrow one from another player?
A. Yes a player may borrow equipment other than a club from another player.

Q. May a player use a tee that is attached to a pitch repairer to ensure that they do not lose it?
A. No, the R&A has recently clarified that this is not a traditionally accepted use for a pitch repairer and it would therefore incur a breach of Rule 14-3.

Q. May a player use a tee that is connected to other size tees by a string (as in the photo above)?
A. Yes, providing the player does not use the string to indicate the line of play, which would be a breach of Rule 8-2a.

With regard to the last question there does seem to be a difference of opinion between the R&A and the USGA. This statement is taken from the R&A’s web site;

“In many countries, but particularly in the UK, the use of two or more tees tied together with string has been fairly common for many years – especially in the winter when the ground can be hard due to frost, or when winter mats are in use.

Therefore, within The R&A’s area of jurisdiction (i.e. everywhere except the USA and Mexico) the use of a conforming tee which is connected to one or more other conforming tees by a length of cord or string is permissible – provided the cord or string and other tees are not used to aid the player in his alignment. Such a practice would render the player in breach of Rule 8-2a (Indicating Line of Play).”
Note that this statement specifically excludes the USA and Mexico. It is my understanding that the USGA has indicated that in their view tees with an attachment that could indicate the line of play may be non-conforming. However, as there is still no official Decision banning them, I think that it would be difficult for any Club or Society Committee to rule that they are non-conforming and impose the disqualification penalty. That does not mean that you are likely to see them used by tour players any time soon!

In my opinion, if a player regularly uses such a tee, with neither the string nor the other tees pointing to their line of play or their desired path of swing, I do not think that they should be penalised if occasionally the string or tees may coincidentally point in either of these directions. In stroke play the penalty for someone who does deliberately line up their ball using this method would be two strokes for a breach of Rule 8-2, not disqualification.

My suggestion is that if you see a fellow competitor purposely align the string of their connected tees to their desired line of play you should advise them that they will incur a penalty of two strokes if they make their stroke without moving the string to another position. It is always better to stop a player from breaching a Rule and you certainly should not ignore any breach in stroke play competitions.

Good golfing,

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