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.


Unknown said...

He didn't play from the toilet because Rule 14 says you cannot hit a ball in motion (ouch)

Barry Rhodes said...


My only comment is, "no comment".