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,

The above content (apart from the copied article) is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

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