Friday, 27 April 2012

Committees May Not Change the Rules


















The Definition of Committee in the Rules of Golf book is as follows;
The “Committee’’ is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the course.
Rule 33 describes the various responsibilities of the Committee under eight headings;
  • Conditions; Waiving Rule
  • The Course
  • Times of Starting and Groups
  • Handicap Stroke Table
  • Score Card
  • Decision of Ties
  • Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion
  • Local Rules
These responsibilities are onerous and in many member-owned Golf Clubs and Societies the Committee (or Committees if there is a separate course Committee) is/are comprised of volunteers who do not receive any compensation for their hard work. However, their responsibilities are limited, in that they have no power to waive or modify a Rule of Golf without permission from the R&A or USGA.

From time to time I hear about over-enthusiastic Committees that disqualify players for not conforming to conditions that they have imposed, often with the good intention of making life easier for the scorer(s) responsible for checking the accuracy of returned score cards. Here are four examples of what I am referring to;

  1. The Committee required partners in a four-ball Stableford competition to enter their initials at the top of the A and B columns of the score card, where the gross scores are entered, and disqualified a pair for not doing so.
  2. The Committee required that alterations made on score cards be initialled or the card would not be accepted?
  3. The Committee introduced a condition of competition that competitors must enter their scores into a computer or be disqualified?
  4. The Committee disqualified a player for returning a different score card from the one that was given to them before they commenced their round.
There are various Decisions on Rule 6-6a and 6-6b that show that Committees cannot penalise players for any of the above situations, because they have not breached any Rule of Golf. But that is not necessarily the end of it. The answer in Decision 6-6b/8, relating to the Committee’s requirement for competitors to enter their scores into a computer states;
However, while it is not permissible to penalise a player under the Rules of Golf for failing to enter his score into a computer, a Committee may, in order to assist in the administration of the competition, introduce a "club regulation" to this effect and provide disciplinary sanctions (e.g., ineligibility to play in the next club competition(s)) for failure to act in accordance with the regulation.
So, whilst players who do not conform to ‘club regulations’ that have been introduced by a Committee to assist in administration of competitions, may not be penalised strokes, or be disqualified, they may be subjected to other disciplinary sanctions that could effectively be more punitive. My recommendation is to accede to such conditions, as they are designed to make life easier for those who have to administer the competitions.

Good golfing,




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Friday, 20 April 2012

Ball Moving After Address – Rule 18-2b

Photo: perfectconnectiongolfswing.com













Note that this blog will no longer be relevant after the Rules of Golf revisions dated 1st January 2016 become effective.

Following the recent amendment to Rule 18-2b I think that readers might welcome some examples of the circumstances in which a penalty is incurred. The situation is far from simple. First, this is the revised wording;
If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.
The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.
It is likely, that the incident that caused this Rule to be revised occurred at the unusually windy 2008 British Open at Royal Birkdale, when a player, whose ball lay in a bunker, was wary of even approaching it, as he was concerned that the strong winds could cause the ball to move at any moment. After he had eventually taken his stance the ball did move. There was no doubt that it was the wind that caused the ball to move, yet the player incurred a penalty. This situation caused concern to the Ruling Bodies as there was no way the player could have protected himself from penalty (as he could have done through the green or on the putting green by not grounding his club). There were several subsequent situations, mostly on the putting green, that brought the Rule under even more scrutiny. While the old Rule was black and white, it could sometimes result in inequitable penalties being incurred in situations where the player had obviously not caused their ball to move.

I am providing my opinion of the appropriate ruling in 6 different scenarios. However, the cause of the ball moving can be subjective and I am avoiding the issue that I blogged about last week of how far behind the ball is ‘immediately’ in this context. Remember, that stance is no longer a requirement for addressing ball (see this link).

1. On a windless day, on a level putting green, a player grounds their club immediately behind their ball and as they prepare to make their stroke the ball moves. It is not known whether the grounding of the club was the cause of the ball moving.
Ruling: one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced, Rule 18-2b.
Note: As there is no obvious reason why the ball moved after the player had addressed it the player is deemed to have moved it.

2. On a windy day, on a level putting green, a player grounds their club immediately behind their ball and as they prepare to make their stroke the ball moves. It is obvious that the wind caused the ball to move.
Ruling: no penalty and the ball must be played from where it came to rest, Exception to Rule 18-2b.
Note: It was known or virtually certain that it was the wind that caused the ball to move and not the player.

3. On a windless day, on a putting green steeply sloping down to the hole, a player grounds their club immediately behind their ball and as they prepare to make their stroke the ball moves nearer to the hole. Everyone present agrees that the player could not have caused their ball to move.
Ruling: (edited 21st April 2012) one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced, Decision 18-2b/1.
Note: Decision 18-2b/1 confirms that gravity is not in itself an element that should be considered when applying the Exception to Rule 18-2b and so the player is still deemed to have moved their ball after taking address.

4. Through the green, a player takes their stance but does not ground their club and their ball moves. Everyone present agrees that the player could not have caused their ball to move.
Ruling: no penalty and the ball must be played from where it came to rest, Decision 18-2b/1.
Note: Stance is not now a requirement for addressing the ball.
5. In the rough, a player grounds their club a short distance behind their ball, so as not to disturb the long grass growing around it. After a second or so the ball sinks further into the grass. Everyone present agrees that the player could not have caused their ball to move.
Ruling: no penalty and the ball must be played from where it came to rest, Decision 18-2b/4.
Note: The player had not grounded their club in front of or immediately behind the ball within the Definition of Address.

6. A player’s ball is at rest. They rest their club on the grass immediately behind their ball and it moves.
Ruling: penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced, Decision 18-2b/5.
Note: If the club has been rested on the grass to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered to be grounded, so the ball has been addressed and Rule 18-2b applies.
You will note that if a player grounds their club according the Definition and there is no obvious cause of the ball moving such as wind or another element, the player is still deemed to have moved their ball under Rule 18-2b. Of course, there is no change in the Rules where a player does cause their ball to move; there is a one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a, notwithstanding the weather conditions prevailing or the slope at where the ball was at rest, and the ball must be replaced.

I think most Rules enthusiasts welcome this change to the Rules, but as I said at the start it is still far from simple to arrive at the correct ruling.

Good golfing,





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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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Friday, 6 April 2012

Luke Donald and His Smudged Score Card

Luke Donald














The Augusta National Golf Club Tournament Committee does a great job in organising the Masters, the favourite event of the year for most golf fans. But sometimes they get it embarrassingly wrong. This was the case yesterday when having finished his round, world No.1 golfer, Luke Donald, spent a frustrating hour or so listening to stories that he may be disqualified from playing in the rest of the tournament for signing for a wrong score. The media, was buzzing with the news that he had signed for a 3 on the Par-4 5th hole, when in fact he had bogeyed this hole. The bizarre explanation appears to be that someone who had been eating a doughnut (!) faxed a copy of the signed score card to the official scoring unit who wrongly interpreted a smudged digit ‘5’ for a ‘3’. I am sure that you are as surprised as I am to know that the august body at Augusta still uses the antiquated fax as a method of communicating the players’ scores; I wonder what their sponsor, IBM, thinks of that.

I was following events at the Masters on Twitter (@BarryRhodes999Q) when this incident occurred and was surprised at how much ill-informed comment there was. One tweeter asserted that Donald could not be disqualified as the total score of 75 he signed for was correct and it didn’t matter what had been written in his individual hole scores, whereas another proclaimed that he would be disqualified for signing for a total score which did not add up. More and more I realize that Twitter is a great tool for keeping abreast of what is happening at live sports events, but that you have to carefully to filter out the  misinformation.

Here are some relevant Rules factors concerning the accuracy of a competitor’s score card;
•    The competitor is responsible for the correctness of their score recorded for each hole (Rule 6-6d).
•    The Committee is responsible for the addition of scores (Rule 33-5).
•    If the competitor records a wrong total score, the Committee must correct the error, without penalty to the competitor (Decision 6-6d/2).
•    If the competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, they are disqualified (Rule 6-6d).
•    If the competitor returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score as returned stands (Rule 6-6d).
•    Any alterations on the score card do not have to be initialled (6-6a/6).
•    No alterations may be made to the score card after the competitor has returned it to the Committee (Rule 6-6c).

Now back to watching the Masters for me.

Good golfing,




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

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Monday, 2 April 2012

Gopher, Crawfish, Half-Eaten Pear and Poison Ivy

Gopher – a small burrowing rodent endemic to North America















There are many unusual references in the Rules of Golf and the Decisions on the Rules of Golf and for no particular reason I am listing some of them here;

Gopher - Part of the Definition of Burrowing Animal:
A “burrowing animal” is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher or salamander.

Crawfish - Decision 25-1b/18:
Q. When a crawfish digs a hole it creates a sizable mound of mud. If such a mound interferes with a player's stance or swing, does he get relief under Rule 25-1b?
A. Yes, provided the player's ball does not lie in a water hazard - see first paragraph of Rule 25-1b. A crawfish is a burrowing animal.

 
Half-eaten Pear – Decision 23/3:
Q. A half-eaten pear lies directly in front of a ball in a bunker and there is no pear tree in the vicinity of the bunker. In the circumstances, is the pear an obstruction rather than a loose impediment, in which case the player could remove it without penalty?
A. No. A pear is a natural object. When detached from a tree it is a loose impediment. The fact that a pear has been half-eaten and there is no pear tree in the vicinity does not alter the status of the pear.


Poison Ivy – Decision 1-4/11:
Q. According to Decision 1-4/10, a ball lying near a live rattlesnake or a bees' nest is a "dangerous situation" and relief should be granted in equity.
If a player's ball comes to rest in or near an area of plants such as poison ivy, cacti or stinging nettles, should the provisions of Decision 1-4/10 apply?
A. No. The player must either play the ball as it lies or, if applicable, proceed under Rule 26 (Water Hazards) or Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable). Decision 1-4/10 contemplates a situation which is unrelated to conditions normally encountered on the course. Unpleasant lies are a common occurrence which players must accept.

 
Saliva – Decision 25/6:
Q. What is the status of saliva?
A. In equity (Rule 1-4), saliva may be treated as either an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a loose impediment (Rule 23-1), at the option of the player.


Plumb-Line – Decision 14-3/11:
Q. Is a plumb-line, i.e. a weight suspended on a string, an artificial device within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3?
A. Yes. If a player uses such a device to assist him in his play he is in breach of Rule 14-3.


Parked Car
– Decision 24/8
Q. A player's ball lies under a parked car. What is the procedure?
A. If the car is readily movable, it should be treated as a movable obstruction and moved - see Rule 24-1.
If the car is not readily movable, it should be treated as an immovable obstruction and the player is entitled to relief as provided in Rule 24-2b.


Unlike the Rules of Golf booklet the Decisions on the Rules of Golf are interesting and are easy to read and understand. An excellent index makes it easy to reference situations that you may experience on the course, or discuss in the bar. I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules purchase this book for only £9.89 from Amazon at this link, if not for yourself then for your Club. If you do purchase the Decisions book, or anything else from Amazon, using this link I make a few cents affiliate commission, but it does not cost you any more.


Good Golfing




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

Please check out my new web site at http://www.RhodesRulesSchool.com – an indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf.