Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Guan Tianlang Makes a 'Schoolboy' Rules Error

Guan Tianlang – Photo Getty Images

I take no pleasure in highlighting another Rules breach by the 14-year-old Chinese golfing sensation, Guan TianLang. You may remember that he became one of the very few players to have ever been penalised for slow play in a major tour event when the penalty was imposed on him under Rule 6-7 at the Masters last April. He had received two separate warnings about his slow play from European Tour chief referee John Paramor, on his 12th and 16th holes, before being penalised one stroke on the 17th, after he had exceeded the US PGA Tour 40- seconds time limit for a stroke by a ‘considerable margin’.

Guang’s most recent breach almost defies belief for a golfer of his undoubted ability. On the second round of the Fedex St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, Juang walked into a bunker on the par-5 16th hole and picked-up his ball, because he wanted to make sure that it was indeed his ball. I have not been able to confirm whether he had marked where his ball was lying in the hazard first, but what is clear is that he failed to inform either of his fellow competitors in the group, Steven Bowditch (Australia) and Steve Lebrun (USA). Rule 12-2 outlines the procedure that must be followed for a player to identify their ball in play;
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
If a player believes that a ball at rest might be his, but he cannot identify it, the player may lift the ball for identification, without penalty. The right to lift a ball for identification is in addition to the actions permitted under Rule 12-1.
Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification when lifted under Rule 12-2.
If the ball is the player’s ball and he fails to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or he lifts his ball in order to identify it without having good reason to do so, he incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the lifted ball is the player’s ball, he must replace it. If he fails to do so, he incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 12-2, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.
Note: If the original lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered, see Rule 20-3b.
According to eyewitnesses, Bowditch confronted the teenager about his lack of knowledge of the Rule and at the end of the round reportedly refused to sign his score card, although he did eventually consent to do so once the penalty was imposed by the officials. Bowditch’s irritation may have reflected the critical view held by several tournament Pros that the 14-year-old amateur golfer is repeatedly taking the place of tour professionals who need the starts.

Guan’s lack of Rules knowledge was not a significant issue on this occasion, as he missed the weekend cut by 4 strokes, but one hopes that his two brushes with the Rules in less than two months will have taught him an important lesson for his promising golfing future.

A more entertaining incident occurred during the same FedEx St. Jude Classic when a duck moved Robert Karlsson’s ball on the 11th green. We can view what happened thanks to

Readers receiving this blog by email can view the video by clicking here.

The relevant Rule is 18-1;
If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced. 
Good Golfing,


Have you purchased a copy of my eDocument, '99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'? Click here for details.

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


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry

I thought you could not be penalised for playing the wrong ball from a hazard so he had no need to identify it away??

Barry Rhodes said...


No, you are wrong. That Rule was changed in January 2008. To summarise the change; Rule 12-2: Players are permitted to lift a ball in a bunker or a water hazard to identify it, with a corresponding change to Rule 15-3 removing the exemption from penalty for playing a wrong ball in a hazard.