Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Jeff Overton’s Disqualification

A Rules question for you;
A player may use an alignment aid to practice their putting during a competitive round of golf. True or False?
Now, I would be extremely surprised if more than 2% of you answered, ‘True’ to this question. I am confident that a very large majority of amateur golfers know that they are not permitted to use any kind of artificial device to assist them while they are playing a competitive round of golf. Surprisingly, US PGA Tour player, Jeff Overton, who represented US in the 2010 Ryder Cup, not only did not know this Rule but then blamed an official for not specifically telling him that he was not permitted to use an alignment aid while he was practice putting in the middle of his round!

This is the sequence of events that led to Overton’s disqualification for breaching Rule 14-3 on the third day of the Crowne Plaza Colonial Invitational. As he approached the 10th teeing ground he saw that there was a back-up of players waiting there, due to both the 1st and 10th being used as starting holes, following the weather-suspended second round. Mark Russell, PGA Tour Vice President of Rules and Competition said that Overton asked a starter if he was allowed to practice while he waited for the backup to clear at the 10th tee and he was informed that he could and was allowed to use the nearby practice area. However, from the tweets below, it seems that Overton claims that the conversation about practice was initiated by the starter. The relevant Rule is 7-2, part of which states;
Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practice putting or chipping on or near:
a. the putting green of the hole last played,
b. any practice putting green, or
c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7).
Where Overton went wrong is that he apparently placed an alignment aid on the practice putting green to assist him to line up his putts, presumably of a similar type to the rods in the photo above. This was reported to the Rules officials, not by a TV viewer this time, but apparently by a fellow competitor, though this has not been officially confirmed.

Jeff Overton was aggrieved at his misfortune and like many before him made the questionable decision to use Twitter as the medium to vent his frustration (read from bottom up).
Jeff Overton is not new to golf. He turned Pro in 2005 and qualified for the PGA Tour the following year. He celebrates his 30th birthday today (29th May). Once again I arrive at the conclusion that players should spend more time obtaining a working knowledge of the rules of the game that provides their livelihood. They should also demand that their caddie does the same, so that they can properly fulfill their responsibility of assisting their primary source of income whenever there is a need. They could do worse than to start by subscribing to my free, weekly blog, by entering their email address at the top right of this home page, and my free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly emails on the Rules at this link.

Good golfing,

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

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nicolas Colsaerts Takes Relief in a Toilet

An amusing incident that occurred during the Volvo World Match Play event at Thracian Cliffs course in Bulgaria last week provides an illustration of how to proceed if, when taking relief under penalty of one stroke from a water hazard, there is an immovable obstruction in the permitted area of drop.

Nicolas Colsaerts was the player involved. His downhill tee shot on the 10th hole was pulled left off the tee and his ball landed inside a lateral water hazard. There was much hilarity amongst those present when European Tour referee, Mark Litton, ruled that the ball had last crossed the margin of the hazard over a course toilet block. This meant that Colsaerts, who opted to take relief under Rule 26-1c, by dropping a ball within two club-lengths of where his drive had last crossed the margin of the hazard, had to drop his ball inside the toilet area, for a penalty of one stroke. Note that although it was obvious that by dropping a ball inside the immovable obstruction he was then entitled to get free relief from the interference by that obstruction, under Rule 24-2b, he still had to make the drop to establish a reference point for determining the nearest point of relief.

The whole episode was captured on this video which comes with a bad pun warning.
Note: If you are receiving a copy of this blog by email you can view the video at this link.

Unfortunately, the commentary on the video does not explain why Colsaerts was not required to drop on the path, a separate immovable obstruction to the toilet block. Either Mark Litton made a mistake, or the building and the path were designated as a single obstruction in the Local Rules. (Edit: I have since received information that the toilet block and the cart path were deemed to be one obstruction by the European Tour Rules Committee.) If there was no Local Rule the correct procedure would have been to determine the nearest point where there was no interference from the toilet block, which would have been on the path, and drop a ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. If that drop was valid and the ball came to rest where there was interference from the path, then once again the nearest point of relief would have to be determined from that place and the ball dropped within one club-length of it, not nearer the hole.

There is also a doubt about the accuracy of the spot that Mark Litton ruled as being the nearest point of relief. There does seem to be an area of grass to the left of the building, which appears to be nearer to where the ball was at rest than where Colsaerts was then instructed to drop. However, we must give the player and Rules Official the benefit of doubt, as they were there and we were not. As previously mentioned, the drop could have been affected by Local Rule that we are not privy to (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself!) and we know that camera angles can sometimes be deceptive.

Although Colsaerts managed to get his par on this par-four 10th, for a half, he did lose the match by 2 & 1, to Graeme McDowell, the eventual winner of the Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria.

Anchoring Rule confirmed for January 2016
Most readers will be aware that on Tuesday 21st May the R&A and the USGA jointly announced their final approval of Rule 14-1b that will prohibit the use of ‘anchored’ strokes from January 1st, 2016. There is an excellent report detailing how the Ruling Bodies arrived at this decision at this link;

Please note that despite some misguided commentary on this subject this Rule will not affect the use of any conforming belly-length or long-handled putter in any manner that does not constitute anchoring the club while making a stroke.

Good golfing,


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

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Saucer Pass Stroke Ruled Illegal

James Lepp's saucer pass

It is not often that someone comes along with a revolutionary way to strike a golf ball; let’s not get into anchoring the putter or the Happy Gilmore stroke! But Canadian, James Lepp, did just that back in 2010. As a big ice hockey fan, he converted a commonly used hockey shot to chip balls from a tight fairway lie to the putting green. This was successfully demonstrated to the large and knowledgeable US TV golfing audience that followed last season’s ‘Big Break - Greenbrier’ on Golf Channel, during which Lepp used the his invented  short game stroke, which he named the ‘saucer pass’, to reach the final.

Here is a short video tutorial by James Lepp on the ‘saucer pass’ stroke;

If you are receiving this blog by email click here for the video.

Amongst the comments under this YouTube video is one from a poster named as, ‘USGARulesCommittee’ dated December 2012;
"In response to several inquiries, we have decided to comment on this video: The golf shot shown in the above video is -- in fact -- a 'push' and thus an illegal golf shot under the Rules of Golf. The USGA is also investigating the use of this shot, without penalty, in the television program The Big Break. Such inconsistent and erroneous application of the Rules of Golf in a public television forum poses significant threat to the integrity of Game."
Whilst there is still nothing relating to this stroke on the R&A or USGA web sites, it seems that following a meeting of a Joint Rules Committee last week, with representatives from the R&A, USGA and Golf Canada, the ‘saucer pass’ shot has now been ruled non-conforming. Dale Jackson, Chairman of Golf Canada’s Rules Committee confirmed;
"The rule that would be breached is Rule 14-1 that says in part the club can't be pushed, spooned or scraped, Scraped here basically means you are intentionally dragging or pulling the club along the ground before it hits the ball, which is what he (James Lepp) does."
According to Jackson, Golf Canada originally deemed the stroke legal, as Lepp has previously used it in competition, but his success on the reality TV show caused the issue to be revisited.
"We had dealt with the issue in Canada when James did his demonstration videos on his Web site and we felt it was a conforming stroke at that time," he added. "But when he did it on the Big Break, the USGA got a bunch of calls and they came to a different conclusion and as a result of that, the powers that be, the R&A, the USGA and Golf Canada, who all sit on the Joint Rules Committee, considered it and viewed it as non-conforming."
Lepp has declined to comment until he receives official word and an explanation of the ruling, but on 4th May he twittered;
“It's true. Saucer pass deemed illegal by governing bodies. Thankfully, fun, birdies, and cart girls still allowed...for now.”
Two days later he followed-up with;
"I should have called the Saucer Pass the 'Extended Chunk'. Then it would still be legal."
I cannot help feeling sorry for James Lepp, who came up with a stroke that could possibly have helped many high handicappers around the putting green. Personally, I am not convinced that the stroke does breach Rule 14-1, which states;
The ball must be fairly struck at with the head of the club and must not be pushed, scraped or spooned.
In my opinion, this clearly suggests that it is the ball that must not be scraped, whereas in the ‘saucer pass’ it is the club that is scraped along the ground until it strikes the ball. Presumably, one would need to use high-speed camera technology to see whether the ball leaves the clubface as soon as it is struck, or whether the scraping of the club means that the ball is also scraped along the ground for a short time after the initial point of impact. We may not have heard the end of this!

Good golfing,


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

Friday, 10 May 2013

Grounding a Club

Dustin Johnson infamously grounded his club in a bunker on the last hole of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits

Here are 10 questions relating to a player grounding their club. The answers and Rules references are at the end of the blog.

1.    A player takes two practice swings in a water hazard, touching the ground each time. He incurs total penalties of four strokes for twice grounding his club in a hazard.
True or False?

2.    In a match, a player accidentally moves their ball in the act of grounding their putter on the putting green. They lose the hole. True or False?

3.    Whilst taking a practice swing in a water hazard a player does not ground their club, but they do touch long grasses growing behind their ball on the backswing. They are penalised two strokes in stroke play. True or False?

4.    A player may use their club to prevent themselves from falling as they enter a bunker. True or False?

5.    A player has addressed their ball simply by grounding their club immediately in front of or behind their ball, regardless of whether or not they have taken their stance. True or False?

6.    When a player chooses to play their ball that has come to rest on a bridge within the margins of a water hazard, they may ground their club on the bridge in doing so. True or False?

7.    During a match, a player’s ball lies on the downslope of a bunker and they lightly brush the sand with their club in preparation for their stroke. They lose the hole. True or False?

8.    A player may not touch the water in a water hazard with their club on the backswing of their stroke. True or False?

9.    A player may place a spare club brought into a hazard on the ground in the hazard while they plays a stroke with another club.
True or False?

10.    A player whose ball is plugged inside the margin of a water hazard may not wash their club in the water before making their stroke from within the hazard. True or False?


Answer 1: False. Decision 1-4/12(3). Note: A single penalty is incurred when related acts result in one Rule being breached more than once.
Answer 2: False. The player only incurs a penalty of one stroke and must replace the ball. Rule 18-2a.
Answer 3: False. There is no penalty for touching grass, bushes, trees or other growing things with either a practice swing or a stroke, Note to Rule 13-4.
Answer 4: True. Rule 13-4 Exception 1(a). Providing that nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard or improves the lie of their ball.
Answer 5: True. Definition of Address. Note: Stance is no longer a requirement for addressing the ball.
Answer 6: True. Decision 13-4/30. Grounding a club on a bridge is permissible, because an obstruction in a water hazard is not ground in the hazard.
Answer 7: True. Rule 13-4b. The player must not touch the sand in the hazard with their hand or club.
Answer 8: True. Rule 13-4b. The player must not touch the ground in a hazard or water in a water hazard with his hand or club before making a stroke at a ball that lies within the water hazard. A stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball.
Answer 9: True. Exception 1b to Rule 13-4. The player may place their clubs in a hazard without penalty, providing they do not test the condition of the hazard or improve their lie.
Answer 10: True. Rule 13-4b. When a player’s ball lies inside the margin of a water hazard they may not touch water in the hazard with their hand or a club, other than during a stroke.

All of these Q&As are included in my eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’. In my opinion, this is the easiest way for golfers to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf. Click here for details on how you may obtain a copy of this eBook for your tablet, smart phone, computer or eReader.

Good golfing,

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

Friday, 3 May 2013

Water Hazard Margins

There is obviously a stake missing on the left side of the photo.
Photo: Boleslav Bobcik

I have been asked to clarify the situation where a player is not absolutely sure whether their ball lies within the margin of a water hazard, or not. This can arise when a stake defining the margin of the hazard has either been wrongly positioned or is missing.

Part of the Definition of Lateral Water Hazard states;

When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level.
That is fine when the stakes have been correctly positioned, but if it is obvious that the stakes have been improperly installed, or there is a stake missing, then Decision 26/2 applies;
Q. Stakes defining the margin of a water hazard were improperly installed. As a result, an area which clearly was part of the water hazard was outside the stakes and, thus, technically was outside the hazard. A player's ball came to rest in water in this area. The player claimed that, in view of the alignment of the stakes, his ball was in casual water through the green. Was the claim valid?

A. No. The Committee erred in not properly defining the margin of the hazard as required by Rule 33-2a, but a player is not entitled to take advantage of such an error. Since it was clear that the place where the player's ball lay was within the natural boundaries of the water hazard, the claim should not be upheld.
I am surprised at how many courses I have played where the stakes surrounding a water hazard have been positioned incorrectly in that they are placed on the sloping bank leading down to the water. So a player who has to take relief from the hazard is not only penalised one stroke under Rule 26-1a, but then has to drop their ball on the slope, with the result that their ball is going to be either some way above or below their feet, depending on the direction they are playing, when they make their next stroke. Decision 33-2a/4 is relevant in this context;
Lines and stakes defining the margins of a water hazard should be placed as nearly as possible along the natural limits of the hazard, i.e., where the ground breaks down to form the depression containing the water.
This means that Committees should ensure that sloping banks should be included within the margins of the hazard, as it is their responsibility. Rule 33-2 states;
The Committee must define accurately:
(i) the course and out of bounds,
(ii) the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards,
(iii) ground under repair, and
(iv) obstructions and integral parts of the course.
If your Committee is guilty of incorrectly positioning the stakes around water hazards, or if there are stakes missing, you should immediately bring it to their attention, for the benefit of other members and visitors playing the course.

Good golfing,

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