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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Barry Rhodes said...

Hi Barry

This issue was discussed on the ModSquadGolf forum last December after one of our members tried it with some success. There was then a debate about whether or not it fell foul of 14-1 which was settled by this email from the R&A:

Dear Mr Xxxxx,

Thank you for your e-mail of 7 December in which you raised a query on the Rules of Golf.

This type of stroke is considered to be a scrape and would therefore be in breach of Rule 14-1.

I trust this is of some assistance.

Kind Regards


The R&A, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, KY16 9JD



Barry Rhodes said...


Thanks for this authoritative confirmation. It is interesting that in the same month a representative of USGA considered that it was a "push" stroke and a representative of R&A considered that it was a "scrape" stroke.

However, it now seems clear that the 'saucer pass' stroke may not be used in competition without risking a penalty of two strokes every time it is used.


Unknown said...

So putting from off the green is a scrape or a push and therefore illegal? Please explain the difference. In this case the ball is being "struck" just as with a putter. It is not being pushed or scraped.

Barry Rhodes said...


Personally, I have never seen anyone putt from on or off the putting green using a 'sliding' motion with the putter to set their ball in motion, but if they did it would definitely incur a penalty. There is a very obvious difference between striking a ball with the clubhead and pushing, scraping or spooning it, which is not allowed.

It is interesting that it is over 3 years since I posted this blog and since then I am not aware that anyone has adopted this illegal method of chipping and nobody else seems to have the difficulty that you are experiencing in seeing the difference between the 'saucer pass' stroke and striking the ball within the Rules.


Unknown said...

On second review I stand corrected. He's actually using the ground to help guide the club into the ball.

I found this site while researching another strange shot. Sometimes when pitching I'll seem to just behind the ball and the ball seems to just hang on the club face a lot longer than it should and gets flipped up into the air. I'm assuming this is a double hit although I don't feel 2 hits. Any insight about this shot would be appreciated.

Barry Rhodes said...


It is difficult for me to offer an opinion without actually seeing the stroke, however, in my experience, if a player has any doubt that they made a clean stroke at the ball it is almost certain that they had a double hit.


Barry Rhodes said...

Luke Daniel Borel,

Thank you for your comments, which I am not publishing here, as they contain self-promotional links, which is against my policy. Also, it is impossible for me to make a judgement as to whether the putting stroke that you describe in detail is within the Rules without seeing it, although I would guess that if you are not sure whether it is a push stroke, or not, it probably is.


Martin Flynt said...

a friend of mine was frustrated after not getting out of a sand bunker after two attempts. He then stuck his club in the sand under the ball and flipped it onto the gren I think it should betwo stroke penalty for grounding club in the sand and then the flipped ball should be re-set in the bunker and he should play another sand shot. Or maybe two for grounding, two for spooning, and then what? Reset in bunker or play from flipped ball. Please help.

Barry Rhodes said...


In my opinion, the player incurred a penalty of two strokes for breaching more than one Rule with a single action, Decision 1-4/12 illustration 2. The stroke counts and the ball must be played from where it came to rest.