Friday, 22 February 2013

9 (More) Tips on What the Rules Permit

In September 2009, I blogged on 9 short tips on what the Rules permit you to do, a few of which came as a surprise to some readers, judging from a number of skeptical emails that I received! Click here for that blog.  Now here are 9 more tips, which may also surprise some of you;

Under the Rules of Golf you may…;

  1. Rake irregularities in a bunker before you play your ball out of that bunker, provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to your next stroke. Exception 2 to Rule 13-4.
  2. Carry a left-handed club, even if you usually play right-handed. Nothing in the Rules disallows this.
  3. Borrow balls, tees, gloves, towels etc. from another player during a round (in fact, you may borrow any equipment except a club). Decision 5-1/5.
  4. Have more than one caddie during a round, provided that you only have one caddie at any time. Decision 6-4/7.
  5. Enter the clubhouse, car park or pro shop during a round without penalty, providing you do not unduly delay play. Decision 6-8a/2.7.
  6. Knock down tree leaves with a practice swing, providing you do not actually improve the area of your intended swing. Decision 13-2/0.5.
  7. Test the condition of a bunker, providing your ball does not lie in or touch that bunker, or a similar bunker. Rule 13-4.
  8. Roll a ball over the putting green to a fellow competitor or opponent, providing you are not doing so to test the surface. Decision 16-1d/1.
  9. Remove a flagstick, or the equipment of any player, that has been left lying near to the hole if you think that any ball in motion might hit it. Rule 24-1.

A Slide Show that Might Interest You
Whilst I do not subscribe to all the comments on this slide show (27 slides), especially the final slide, which purports to give the reason why a round of golf is over 18 holes, I do support the message behind it. For me, the most important point that it illustrates is how lucky we are to engage in a sport that is played at such wonderful places. I recommend that you spend a couple of minutes checking out this link. For the real reason why a round of golf is over 18 holes check out this more authoritative link.

Good golfing,

Every golfer who would like to obtain a better understanding of the Rules should start by purchasing this eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ - Only $9.99. 
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Memory Aids on the Rules of Golf

Which of the three yellow golf balls is/are not lying out of bounds?
Answer at end of point 8.

I am often asked if I know of any tips or techniques that will help golfers to remember Rules of Golf, especially penalties. Here are a few suggestions that might help, but be warned that like most general aide-mémoires, there may be occasional exceptions that could catch you out.
  1. A penalty of one stroke in stroke play is also a penalty of one stroke in match play; a penalty of two strokes in stroke play is loss of hole in match play. (But see 1,2 & 3 below)
  2. If a player accidentally causes a ball at rest to move (or is deemed to have caused it to move, as in Rule 18-2b) there is a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced; if God moves the ball there is no penalty and the ball must be played from where He moved it to. 
  3. A ball must always be marked before it is lifted if it is to be replaced at the same spot.
  4. Relief under Rule 26-1 (from water hazard) and Rule 28 (ball unplayable). As easy as A,B,C!
    Option a) As near as possible (to the previous spot).
    Option b) Behind (the reference point).
    Option c) Close (within two club-lengths of the reference point).
  5. One club-length is for ‘free’; two club-lengths are for a ‘cost’. Meaning that whenever you have a free drop under the Rules you drop within one club-length of the reference point, but if you are taking relief under penalty (e.g. ball unplayable, water hazard) you drop within two club-lengths of the reference point. (edit 19th March 2013: There is NO such thing as one club-length relief! The relief is within one club-length of the nearest point of relief).
  6. You always have the option, under penalty of one stroke, of playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which you last played (Rule 27-1).
  7. Artificial objects (i.e. objects that have been changed by a manufacturing or construction process) are obstructions, whereas natural objects are loose impediments.
  8. When any part of a ball touches;
        * a putting green, it is on the putting green
        * the teeing ground, it is in the teeing ground
        * a bunker, it is in the bunker
        * a water hazard, it is in the water hazard (including touching the stake or line)
        * casual water, it is in casual water
        * an abnormal ground condition, it is in the abnormal ground condition
        * the course, it is in bounds (i.e. not out of bounds)
    (So, in the diagram above only ball A is not lying out of bounds, as balls B and C do not touch or overhang the course.) (Edit 15th February 2013: Readers have pointed out that the ball is always in the smallest of the two areas it touches.)
  9. (Edit 16th February 2013 submitted by readers:  Drop - Player; Place - Player or partner; Replace - Player, partner or person who lifted it.)
  10. CCOOS - Cut, cracked or out of shape. (Ball Unfit for Play, Rule 5-3).
  11. Remember the three times that you cannot clean the ball when you lift it I U I - identifying, unfit for play and interfering/assisting.
  12. Water hazard - 3 options, Lateral water hazard - 5 options,
    Unplayable lie - 3 options, Disqualifications for failure to correct - 5  (holing out, wrong ball, wrong teeing ground, wrong place significant breach, and wrong order on foursome competition).
  13. Water hazards - yellow lines/stakes; lateral water hazards - red lines/stakes

(Edit January 2016: Thanks to Richard O for supplying another memory aid;
A movable obstruction is movable without penalty anywhere in the universe.
Richard also pointed out that ther are two more instances when a ball must not be cleaned when lifted under the Rules; to determine whether it is in an abnormal ground condition (e.g. on rabbit scrapes) and whether it is embedded.)

Paul offered this tip: Note that the number sequence “3-1-2-3” is a convenient way to remember the number of persons authorized by Rule 20 [Lifting, Dropping and Placing …] to take a ball out of play or put a ball into play.  “3-1-2-3” relates to Lifting – Dropping – Placing – Replacing.
1 The penalty for a first offence of undue delay may be modified to one stroke in stroke play and loss of hole in match play by a condition of competition.
2 Rule 19-5a provides an exception where a penalty is incurred in stroke play, but not in match play, when a ball putted from the putting green is deflected or stopped by a ball at rest on the putting green.
3 In match play there is a penalty of one stroke for lifting an opponent’s ball, whereas in stroke play there is no penalty for lifting a fellow competitor’s ball.

If you know of other aide-mémoires that help you remember Rules of Golf please let me know.

Finally, it is worth memorising the following central principle of the Rules of Golf, as found on the inside front cover of the R&A Rules book;

“Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf.”
Good golfing,


Now I invite you to click on this link to view my indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Miscellaneous Rules Incidents

Unfortunately, this video is no longer available.

My attention has been drawn to four Rules incidents that occurred in tournament play over the past week or so.

Garcia’s bunker anger
Having played a poor short from a greenside bunker Sergio Garcia then proceeded to repeatedly smash his club into the sand (see the short video link in the caption to the photo). No penalty was incurred, because his ball was not in the bunker when he took his anger out on it. However, I am sure that most of us would agree that this is not a good example to set for young golfers.

Gallacher’s ball in tree

Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher’s ball was stuck in a palm tree and apparently, another player’s caddie borrowed a ladder to climb the tree to identify it. This brings up some interesting points;
•    A ball must be identified before it can be deemed unplayable if the player intends to proceed under options b) or c) of Rule 28. Of course, they can play under option a), under penalty of stroke and distance, without identifying their ball.
•    There is nothing that prevents a player using a ladder or other object to find or retrieve their ball. However a player is not permitted to stand on a ladder to play a stroke, as this would breach Rule 13-3, Building Stance.
•    Anyone may assist a player to positively identify their ball.
•    Having identified the ball the player does not have to play the same ball, they may substitute another (Rule 28).
•    If a ball cannot be positively identified the player must treat it as lost and proceed under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1.

Did Webb test the surface of the sand?

A reader informed me that during the Australian Ladies Masters, Karrie Webb walked into a bunker without a club to see how her ball was lying. Whilst there, she apparently swiveled one foot in the sand, presumably to check how wet and hard the sand was, as there had been torrential rain just before the day’s play. If this was the case then Karrie should have been penalised two strokes under Rule 13-4a, for testing the condition of the hazard. (Edit 10th Feb 2013: It has been pointed out by several readers that there is no penalty for digging in with the feet for a stance, including for a practice swing, anywhere in the bunker. However, from the report of the incident that I received, Karrie Webb was not simulating her stroke at the time she swivelled her foot in the sand). (Edit 16th March 2013: There was no doubt about the penalty of two strokes that Stacy Lewis incurred when her caddie performed a similar 'testing action' with his foot at the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup yesterday. Will they never learn?)

Unnamed Pro waves putter over ball

I am advised that a tournament player putted his ball up to the lip of the hole. He walked up to his ball and in frustration waved his club over it with a one-handed swinging motion, apparently trying to blow the ball into the hole with the draught created. The ball did not move in this incident, but was a penalty incurred? In the circumstances described, the player did not incur a penalty. Decision 1-2/4 rules that as the ball did not move, there was no penalty under Rule 18-2a. If the player had moved the ball with this action and it did fall into the hole he would have been penalised one stroke and the ball would have to be replaced on the lip.

Good golfing,

My eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf’ has been available on all the Amazon web sites for some time. However, for the same price I will deliver two files (a .pdf file for computers and a MobiPocket file for eReaders, smart phones, tablets and notebooks), for the same, low price. Full details at this link.

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

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bad Practices on the Golf Course

Marking a ball with the putter head should be avoided

As I was watching a fellow competitor clean mud from his ball, by rubbing it on the putting green surface beside his ball-marker, I started to think of other bad practices that are sometimes witnessed on the golf course, which do not incur a penalty, but should definitely be discouraged. Here are a few that I have thought of;
  • Cleaning a ball by rubbing it on the putting green. This is permitted (Decision 16-1d/5), providing the act is not for the purpose of testing the surface of the putting green. However, it is recommended that a ball be cleaned in other ways to eliminate any question as to the player's intentions.
  • Using a putter head, a tee or a loose impediment to mark a ball on the putting green (Decision 20-1/16). Players should always use a coin, ball-marker or other similar object for this purpose.
  • Placing a club, usually a putter, in front of a ball when addressing it. Even though this unusual pre-shot routine means that the player is touching their line of putt on the putting green, it does not incur a penalty. Rule 16-1(ii) specifically permits this action, providing the player does not press anything down. If they do press their club down on the ground as they address their ball they incur a penalty under Rule 13-2.
  • Standing behind a fellow competitor while he makes his stroke. Again this action does not breach any Rule, but it is extremely poor etiquette. Players should never stand close to or directly behind the line of play, or directly behind the hole, when a fellow competitor or opponent is about to play.
  • Not entering the player’s score on the score card after each hole when acting as their marker. Some markers only update the card every 3rd/4th hole, or even wait until the end of a round. There is no penalty for this, but the Rules say that the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it at the end of each hole (Rule 6-6a).
  • An even worse practice than the one above is when one player marks all the cards for the group, including his own scores. Perhaps surprisingly, this does not breach any Rule of Golf, but in my opinion Committees should introduce their own club regulation to prohibit this lazy and potentially inaccurate practice.
  • Not marking the nearest point of relief or club-lengths when taking relief. The Rules do not require that these limits are marked, but it is best to do so to ensure that it is obvious that the drop is made within the permitted limits.
  • Not marking your ball when lifting it to take relief. Rule 20-1 means that players only need to mark a ball before lifting it if they are going to have to replace it at the same spot (unless a Local Rule does require marking before lifting, e.g. ‘Preferred Lies’). However, always marking your ball before lifting it under the Rules is a good habit that could avoid an unnecessary penalty.
  • Not putting recognisable identification marks on each ball played. Time and again players find that they are not able to positively identify their ball in play. Rule 12-2 states that each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
  • Playing out a hole in a Stableford competition when no points can be scored. Although Rule 7-2 confirms that strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes, players should avoid doing so, especially if it could delay the play of others in any way (Rule 6-7).
  • The same Rule 6-7 could be applied to players who spend time in retrieving abandoned balls from water hazards. This can be frustrating to fellow golfers and should be avoided during competitive rounds. 
  • (Edit 17th January 2014: Thanks to Neville from Australia for this addition) Golfers are usually careful about not stepping on another player's line of putt or through-line, yet they have a habit of leaning on their putter. Using your putter as a crutch when removing the ball from the hole must create a small irregularity in the putting surface, especially if you use the toe of the putter. 
  • Using a putter to lift a ball out of the hole, as it may damage the lip of the hole.  
The above bad practices on the golf course may annoy and frustrate fellow competitors or opponents and can sometimes lead to penalty situations. Try to avoid them, so that you, and those that you play your rounds with, can all enjoy your games.

Good golfing,

I am still blushing after receiving this email from a subscriber;
"I really get great pleasure when I see one of your emails in my inbox. In fact I am like a child waiting in anticipation for the next one, wondering how I can finish what ever work I am doing, so I can read the next Barry Rhodes email." JW
If you would like to receive my weekly 'Rhodes Rules School' photo series by email click on this link.

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