Thursday, 24 January 2013

Justin Rose's Ball Moves After Address

Justin Rose and Referee, Paul Carrigill (

Note that this blog will no longer be relevant after the Rules of Golf revisions dated 1st January 2012 become effective.
Justin Rose incurred a one stroke penalty on his opening round at the Qatar Masters on Wednesday. After he had addressed his ball, by grounding his putter immediately behind it, for a tap-in par on the 17th green, he saw it move. Fortunately, he called for a ruling because it later transpired that he and his two fellow competitors, Martin Kaymer and Louis Ossthuizen, all thought that, following the amendment to Rule 18-2b on the 1st January last year, there was no penalty when the ball moved.

Having established that wind was not the cause of Rose’s ball moving, the Rules Official, Paul Carrigill, a former European Tour player, confirmed that a penalty had indeed been incurred, under Rule 18-2b and that the ball must be replaced;

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.
The amendment to the Rules that had confused these three players was the introduction of the Exception to Rule 18-2b that I have underlined above, which was not relevant to the circumstances of Justin Rose’s breach, as his ball was definitely not moved by wind, water another element or an outside agency.

Following his round of 68 Justin commented that he was "completely hard done by", but accepted the penalty was correct;

"I think that's happened to a lot of guys in the past. To cut to the chase, the greens aren't perfect and have a lot of ridges and humps and hollows.

"It was just unfortunate timing that as I put my putter behind the ball, which I know didn't cause the ball to move, the ball was finding some indentation.

"I'm deemed to have caused it to move even though in your heart of hearts you know you haven't.

"There has been a change in the rule, but that only applies to a wind gust, when you are allowed to place it back without penalty.

"Unfortunately I was on the wrong end of it, but I guess that's the good thing about golf – you have to self-police out there. Nobody else in the group saw it, but I knew the ball had moved when I addressed it."
(Edit 25th January 2013: Several readers have pointed out that I should have drawn attention to the other mistake that Justin Rose made, in his post-round interview as reported above. When it is known or virtually certain that it was wind that caused the ball to move, before or after address, the player must play it from where it came to rest.) 

Was Justin hard done by? Maybe, but it is also possible that he did cause his ball to move when addressing it. I am sure that most of us have experienced situations when we have grounded our club close to our ball and the fact that we have moved grass growing beneath our club has had a ‘domino effect’, resulting in our ball moving off its lie, even though we did not actually touch it.

Could Justin have avoided this penalty? Yes, but it would have meant altering his pre-putt routine, which is not an easy thing to do. By not grounding his club immediately behind his ball (see this blog of mine on this subject), he would not have addressed his ball according to the Definition. When the ball then moved and there was no evidence that he caused it to move, no penalty would have been incurred and he could have played the ball from its new location (Decision 18-2b/4). Not grounding your club when you think that there may be a chance that it might move is just one of my '99 tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'. A great help for only $8 / £5. Click here for more details.

If you would like to see how confused the players were over this Rule and how even the Referee took several minutes to make and explain what should have been obvious to everyone, then check out this six-minutes video, courtesy of the excellent on-line resource.

If only more tour players would read my blogs!

Good Golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Tiger Breaches Rule re Embedded Ball

In this new golfing season it did not take long for a tournament Pro to have been penalised for a penalty that he did not realise he had incurred. The surprise is that the player was Tiger Woods, who has a reputation of having a considerably better knowledge of the Rules than most of his fellow Pros.

The breach occurred on the second day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. On the 5th hole Tiger had hit a wayward drive into an area of sand and brush. He found his ball embedded in sand and asked one of his fellow competitors, Martin Kaymer, to come over and watch as he marked and lifted his ball to check that it was embedded. Kaymer agreed that it was. Woods threw the ball to his caddie for cleaning and then dropped it as near as  possible to the spot where it lay, but not nearer the hole. He then chipped his ball back onto the fairway. Everything would have been fine had the ball not been embedded in sand. Rule 25-2 only permits relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area, but increasingly we see that tournaments adopt a Local Rule that extends this relief to through the green and this was the case in Abu Dhabi. However, the Local Rule, which can be found in Appendix l, Part B, 4, reads as follows;

“Through the green, a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted, without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.
1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.
2. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the condition covered by this Local Rule makes the stroke clearly impracticable.

Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.”
Apparently, it was a golf writer following the group that asked a rules official about the situation, and the European Tour's Senior Referee, Andy McFee, determined that the ball was indeed embedded in a sandy area, meaning that Tiger was not entitled to relief without penalty. This proved to be critical, because his resulting penalty of two strokes turned a bogey 5 into a triple bogey 7, a round of 73 into a 75, and a two-day total of 145 into 147. He subsequently missed the cut by a single stroke!

There is a two minute video of the incident on the Golf Channel web site (following a short ad), but be warned that you cannot actually see the embedded ball at all. Click on this link if you are interested in the scenario that led to the ruling. However, you can clearly see from the photo above that the area where his drive landed was definitely sandy.

Good golfing,


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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Doubt re Line of Play and Advice

A player new to this hole could not know the line of play without assistance

The Rules of Golf have evolved continuously for more than 250 years, so that they now cover practically every situation that can possibly arise on the golf course, either by direct reference to the 34 Rules in the Rules book, or where further clarification is required, through one of the 1,200 plus Decisions in the current Decisions on the Rules of Golf book. However, from time to time situations arise on the golf course where even Rules experts differ in arriving at the correct ruling. Recently, I have been challenged on my interpretation of the Rules relating to Line of Play and Advice and now I am in a position where I cannot make up my mind as to whether I was right or wrong. I accept that this subject may be a little esoteric for some regular readers, but offer it as an illustration as to how matters are not always black and white when officials make golf rulings (although they usually are!).

I will start by providing the Definitions of Line of Play and Advice;

The “line of play’’ is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.
“Advice’’ is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.
Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick on the putting green, is not advice.
This is the Rule that is at the root of the disagreement that perplexes me;
8-2. Indicating Line of Play
a. Other Than on Putting Green
Except on the putting green, a player may have the line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line or an extension of the line beyond the hole while the stroke is being made. Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line must be removed before the stroke is made.
And now for the scenario from one of my ‘How Many Strokes?’ questions, which is the subject of the disagreement;
George is a senior, high handicapper who has played golf for 50 years. His eyesight is not the best. On the third teeing ground, a blind shot up a steep incline he asks his fellow competitor to show him the direction that he should be playing his ball. (See the above photo for an illustration of a similar location).
In my answer, I said that George’s request did not incur a penalty. Some other Rules aficionados agree with that ruling, but just as many claim that a penalty of two strokes was incurred for asking for advice from a fellow competitor. Their case is that;
The Line of Play is "the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke". It is not the direction someone else thinks you should be playing.

So, it would be fine for a player to state that he wants to play up the left side of the fairway and ask his fellow competitor which tree on the horizon would that be, but asking him to show him the direction he should be playing his ball is asking how the hole should be played.
A further amplification of this argument is that;
Only the player himself is permitted to select his line of play. Once he has selected that line, he may get someone to indicate it. For example, the player might be in a position where he has selected his line of play, having walked to the brow of a hill, but knows that he will not be able to see the target line when he returns to the teeing ground, and so he asks someone stand on the line to indicate it for him as he prepares for his stroke and then move away before he the stroke is made.
On the other side of the discussion the question is asked why, if the above arguments are correct, Rule 8-2a exists. They claim that Rule 8-2a overrides Rule 8-1; otherwise it would not be needed, as Rule 8-1 plus the Definition of Advice fulfills the above argument without it. They also point out that there are no Decisions for Rule 8-2a that qualify my highlighted first clause of that Rule in any way. Literally, the clause would appear to permit anyone to point out a line of play anywhere other than on the putting green, without penalty.

Another opinion is that the Rule 8-2a clause only applies to the line to the hole and does not permit a player to ask, or be given, any information other than that, because the Definition of Line of Play is literally limited to the direction that the player wishes his ball to take and does not leave room for information to be received from another player.

I have already admitted that I am now uncertain as to which interpretation is correct. However, here are some of the points that originally led me to believe that a player could assist a fellow competitor in pointing out a line of play;

  • Why would the Rules disadvantage a player who has not played a hole before from knowing the line of play, especially on a blind tee shot?
  • Why cause unnecessary delays to play by obliging a player to walk forward to the brow of a hill, or around the corner of a dog-leg, to see what lies in front of them before assessing their line of play?
  • Is it logical to not permit a player from providing public information about the course that may also be obtained from a local caddie, course signage with an illustration of the hole, an overhead photo of the hole (e.g. from an electronic device), or large painted stones or marker posts that have been specifically positioned to indicate the optimum line of play?
  • Decisions 14-3/5 and 14-3/16 expressly permit the use of advice-related matters that have been produced prior to the start of the player's round, e.g. a Strokesaver that might even include the Pro’s tips on how to play the hole, which probably provide considerably more information on how to play the hole than just the line of play.
  • A common dictionary definition of ‘indicate’ is ‘point out’. If we substitute these words in the contentious part of Rule 8-2a, it reads, “a player may have the line of play pointed out to him by anyone”, which to me, in this scenario, includes the place from where the stroke is to be made, not just a point on the brow of the hill.
So, there are good arguments on both sides and the conflicting opinions are strongly held and unshakable. I am unsure, although I want my original understanding of the ruling to be right, as I think that it is better for the game. What I am certain about is that this matter is unlikely to be satisfactorily resolved until the Ruling Bodies introduce a Decision that resolves the confusion.

Good golfing,

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Pitfalls in 'Winter Rules'

My attention was recently drawn to an article that appeared in the autumn 1948 edition of the USGA journal, written by Isaac B. Grainger, who was Chairman of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee at that time. I am copying the first part of the article, as it deals with a subject that is still a problem at some Golf Clubs;
A golfer with a more-than-casual familiarity with the Rules of Golf was preparing to play in a club tournament recently and noticed a sign on the first tee: “WINTER RULES”.
Sharpening his needle slightly, he approached the chairman of the golf committee.
“Does that sign mean we can tee up in the fairway?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” the chairman responded.
“May we place the ball by hand, or should we just move it with the clubhead?”
“Mmmmm. . . . I guess you can place it with your hand.”
“Is there any limit on how far we can move it toward the hole before we tee it up?”
“I don’t know of any limit, but I don’t suppose you should move it much nearer the hole.”
“If I hook a ball into the wrong fairway, can I tee up there?”
 “I don’t believe we’ve made any decision on that.” The chairman’s face was slowly turning red.
“Can I tee up in the rough? Or in a hazard?”
“Now, look here” the chairman confessed. “I don’t know what ‘Winter Rules’ really means. We’ve never studied the question. That’s just a sign the greenkeeper brings out of his shed each fall and posts on the first tee.”

And out on the course half a hundred golfers were playing in a tournament; and no doubt half a hundred different interpretations of ‘Winter Rules’ were being effected, some leaning backward to take no unfair advantage and some using ‘Winter Rules’ as a license to cut many strokes from their normal scores. This situation doubtless is duplicated at any clubs all over the country. 
Remember this was in 1948! The remainder of the article (which can be viewed in full at this link) went on to give the detail of a question on the subject of Winter Rules, addressed to the USGA by Mrs. William Hockenjos, Jr., President of the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association in the New York district, and the answer, provided by the article's author who, as already mentioned, was the Chairman of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee at that time.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that many Golf Committees still think that it is sufficient to simply provide a notice saying ‘Winter Rules’ or ‘Preferred Lies’, without backing it up with a properly worded Local Rule that is posted in a convenient position, where all players can read and apply it There is no excuse for this, as the USGA and R&A have provided this specimen wording for an appropriate Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 4 c;

“A ball lying on a closely mown area through the green (or specify a more restricted area, e.g., at the 6th hole) may be lifted, without penalty, and cleaned. Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, he must place it on a spot within (specify area, e.g., six inches, one club-length, etc.) of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

A player may place his ball only once, and it is in play when it has been placed (Rule 20-4). If the ball fails to come to rest on the spot on which it is placed, Rule 20-3d applies. If the ball when placed comes to rest on the spot on which it is placed and it subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, unless the provisions of any other Rule apply.

If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs a penalty of one stroke."
Note: “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
One point worth emphasising here is that usually the Local Rule specifies that, "a player may place his ball only once". This means that you cannot place it again if it topples off the lie that you placed it on, or if you have not aligned the trade mark satisfactorily to your intended line of play.

Good golfing in 2013,

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