Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Laird Penalised for Not Announcing the Identification of His Ball

Ian Poulter’s ball lies just outside the long, fescue grass at Muirfield

Scottish professional golfer, Martin Laird, who mainly plays on the US PGA Tour, was penalised one stroke for a breach of Rule that many amateurs are guilty of, but are less often penalised for. On his third round of The Open Championship at Muirfield, he failed to notify his fellow competitors that he was identifying his ball lying in the wispy, long fescue grass. He had just suffered a nightmare 9 strokes on the previous hole when his hit both his drive and his second shot into the rough, so one can imagine that his mind might have been scrambled at the time. However, he failed to meet one of the requirements of Rule 12-2 for touching a ball to identify it. The relevant part of this Rule states;
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.
Martin Laird insists that he did announce that he was going to touch his ball, but it was directed to the ball-spotter and not to Dustin Johnson, who he was paired with, or to the walking referee, neither of whom heard his comment. After his round he commented;
"If I had said, 'Dustin, just went down to find my ball,' or, 'Rules official, I'm going to identify my ball', loud enough for one of them to hear, it would have been fine. It's the fact that none of them heard it, even though I said it. A spotter said to me, 'There's a ball here. I'm not sure if it's yours'. I said, 'I'm going to identify it'. I put the tee in the ground and didn't even lift my ball, just moved it a quarter roll to see the number. At the time I was thinking more about the golf shot I had coming up than about the ruling. It's one of those lovely Rules of golf."
I would take issue with part of Martin Laird’s interpretation of this Rule. In my opinion, it is not sufficient to say “I’m going to identify my ball”, loud enough for a fellow competitor or referee to hear. The Rule requires that they are given the opportunity to witness the lifting and replacement of the ball, which means waiting until they have walked over to where the ball is at rest before touching it.

Please note the important point that the ball may not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification, Rule 21b. (edited 24th July 2013)

When a player fails to comply with all or any part of the procedure detailed in Rule 12-2, or if they lift their ball in order to identify it without having good reason to do so, they incur a penalty of one stroke. Of course, no penalty is incurred if the touched ball is not the player’s ball.

Some readers may be wondering why a player has to follow this procedure when all they want to do is ensure that they do not play a wrong ball. It has to be remembered that a fellow competitor/marker has a responsibility to protect the interests of the rest of the field. The identification requirements mean that they have the opportunity to ensure that when the player lifts their ball, they do not clean it, except to the extent necessary for identification, and they return it to precisely the same spot and lie that they had before touching it.

Good golfing,

Please visit my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site for more useful information on improving your understanding of the Rules of Golf

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

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Advice from a Spectator During a Round

Copyright © E.L. Cheney

Here is an interesting situation that I am told is representative of an increasingly common occurrence, especially in junior golf competitions. A doting mother was following the progress of her child prodigy son around the course and had noticed that he was lifting his club too steeply on his takeaway. On the next teeing ground she pulled him aside and told him what she thought that he was doing wrong on his backswing. He said nothing and carried on with his game. Two holes later she again called him over and told him that now he was not transferring his weight at the top of his backswing. I will return to whether the player incurred a penalty, or not, later in this blog.

Interestingly, the International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT) publishes a spectator Code of Conduct, which includes this clause;

4. Do not give advice to any player. "Advice is any counsel or suggestion which could influence a player in determining his play, choice of club or method of making a stroke." Penalty for breach of this rule is two-strokes on the player (USGA Rule 8-1). Talking to competitors during tournament play is not allowed and can be construed as giving advice. (My bolding)
So, apart from the Definition of Advice included in the above clause, what do the Rules say about advice? Rule 8-1, Advice, states;
During a stipulated round, a player must not:
a. give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner, or
b. ask for advice from anyone other than his partner or either of their caddies.
Returning to the scenario that I started with, it may be argued that the young player in the situation above had not asked for advice from his mother, but Decision 8-1/24 shows us that the player can incur a penalty without asking for advice, if they fail to take a positive action to stop the advice being given;
Q. A team competition is being played, and in the conditions the Committee has not authorized captains or coaches to give advice under the Note to Rule 8. A non-playing coach or captain gives advice during a round to one of the members of his team. What is the ruling?

A. There is no penalty. However, the player should take action to stop this irregular procedure. If he does not do so, he should, in equity (Rule 1-4), incur a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play in view of the purpose of Rule 8-1.
So, Rule 8-1 prohibits a player from asking for advice from a spectator, but does not prohibit a player from receiving unsolicited advice, because the player is not in a position to control such an act. However, once a spectator has offered unsolicited advice the player must take an action to prevent it from happening again. If they do not, they risk incurring a penalty for a breach of the Rule. One can imagine a situation whereby a particularly stubborn spectator (parent!) might continue to offer advice, but providing the player makes their best effort to stop it happening, it would be extremely harsh for them to be penalised for it.

Advice does not have to be spoken. Actions can constitute advice. For example, if someone holds up a number of fingers indicating the club that they recommend the player should use, it is the same as if they had spoken the number when assessing whether a penalty has been incurred, or not.

The two main points to remember from the above is that players must not initiate any communication that leads to advice being received from an outside agent and that they should try and stop any unsolicited advice being offered to them.

Good golfing,


My thanks to those of you that have bought my eBook, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf', through Amazon; it has helped me make their US top 100 golf books list again. However, if you purchase from my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site, I will send you, not only the Mobipocket eBook file for eReaders, tablets, notebooks and smart phones, but also a .pdf file so that you can print out any sections that you want on any computer.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Conditions of Competition at Major Events

Muirfield, the venue for the 2013 Open. Photo: Ross Kinnaird

Misunderstandings (arguments!) often occur between golfers, due to the Rules of Golf that they watch on television appearing to be different to those that apply at their Clubs, societies or when playing casual golf. Let me emphasise that the 34 Rules of Golf are the same wherever golf is played in the world and whoever is playing the game. The last remaining Rules difference between the USGA (US and Mexico) and the R&A (rest of the world), which concerned a limit of the monetary value of a prize for a hole-in-one, was removed in 2012. So, why is it that we hear golfers arguing as to whether they can change from a hard ball to a soft ball between holes, practice a putt between holes, or take line of play relief from an immovable obstruction close to the putting green? The reason is that Pro Tour events often operate Conditions of Competition that are rarely used in the amateur game. Specimen Conditions of Competition can be found in Appendix l, Part C. The subjects include the following;

•    One Ball Condition: For when it is desired to prohibit changing brands and models of golf balls during a stipulated round.

•    Practice between Holes: Prohibiting a player from making any practice stroke on or near the putting green of the hole last played, as per Note 2 to Rule 7-2.

•    Transportation: Prohibiting players from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round, unless authorised by the Committee.

•    Pace of Play: The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines to help prevent slow play, in accordance with Note 2 to Rule 6-7. For example, the US PGA Tour’s Condition of Competition for pace of play permits a player to take 40 seconds over a stroke with an additional 20 seconds under certain exceptions, such as for the first putt on the putting green, as not all shots take the same amount of time to play.

•    (Edit July 12th 2013) Embedded Balls: In USGA, and PGA Tour events, relief for an embedded ball is provided through the green and not just from closely mown areas.

Another misunderstanding that can arise from watching golf on TV occurs when non-permanent artificial objects have been erected in conjunction with the competition (such as tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories). In these situations there will be a Local Rule in operation providing line of play relief from these temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs). When amateur golfers see the Pros getting this line of play relief they sometimes assume that the Rules of Golf must offer similar relief from all fixed, artificial obstructions that are blocking their intended shot. Of course, the only relief that can be taken in these circumstances is when the immovable obstruction interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, under Rule 24-2, not their line of play.

Good golfing,

If you are involved in assisting Junior golfers you might be interested in purchasing my 36-hole Quiz for Juniors, which includes 9 questions on etiquette. This quiz has now been successfully run at several clubs worldwide. Please check out the details at this link.

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

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Placing and Replacing a Ball – Rule 20-3

Photo: golf.about.com

It seems such a simple matter, but there are considerations about placing and replacing a ball that golfers should be aware of. I hope that you find this question and answer format useful.

What is the difference between placing and replacing?
Sometimes the Rules require a ball to be ‘placed’ at a different spot from where it came to rest (e.g. after a ball has been dropped and re-dropped under penalty from an unplayable lie and it has again rolled to a place that makes the drop invalid, it must then be placed at the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped). When the Rules require that the ball is put back at the same spot that it was lifted from it is being ‘replaced’ (e.g. having been marked and lifted from the putting green).

Who may place and replace a ball?
A ball to be placed under the Rules must be placed by the player or his partner. A ball to be replaced under the Rules must be replaced by any one of the following: (i) the person who lifted or moved the ball, (ii) the player, or (iii) the player’s partner.

Is there a penalty if I move my ball-marker while replacing my ball, or move my ball when I am placing my ball marker?

There is no penalty, providing the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker. However, if you accidentally drop your ball on your ball-marker, causing it to move, then you incur a penalty, as Ian Poulter found to his cost in Dubai in November, 2010. (Click on this link for the details).

What must I do if the original lie of my ball on a fairway or in the rough has been altered?
The ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length away, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.

What must I do if the original lie of my ball in a bunker has been altered?
The original lie must be re-created as nearly as possible and the ball must be placed in that lie.

What must I do if it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be placed or replaced (e.g. someone wrongly played my ball while I was some way away from it and they threw it back to me)?
If the ball was lying through the green it must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay, but not in a hazard or on a putting green; if it was in a hazard, the ball must be dropped in the hazard as near as possible to the place where it lay; if it was on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay, but not in a hazard.

What must I do if my ball will not come to rest at the spot that I have to place or replace it?
The ball must be placed at the nearest spot where it will come to rest that is not nearer the hole. If it was in a hazard that spot must be in the hazard, if it was not then it must not be placed in a hazard, even if that is where the nearest point is.

What must I do if, after I have placed my ball at rest, it subsequently moves?
The ball is in play as soon as it is at rest, so it must be played from where it moves to, without penalty, whether that is nearer to the hole or farther away from it.

May I (re)place my ball more than once?

If you have replaced your ball at a marker on the putting green you may mark and lift it again (e.g. to line-up markings on the ball to the line of putt). However, a ball that has been (re)placed off the putting green (e.g. when a Local Rule for Preferred Lies is in operation) may not be lifted again once it has come to rest after placing, because it is in play.

What is the penalty if I wrongly substitute a ball when placing or replacing it (i.e. exchange the original ball with another ball)?
The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

What is the penalty if I drop a ball that should have been placed, or place a ball that should have been dropped?

The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

What is the penalty if a ball that is to be placed or replaced is placed other than on the spot from which it was lifted or moved and the error is not corrected?

The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

(Addition 4th July 2013) If I place my ball at the wrong spot may I correct the error before making my stroke?
Yes, A ball placed at a wrong spot but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the placed at the correct place (Rule 20-6). 

So, placing and replacing is not such a simple matter and can incur unnecessary penalties if not carried out according to the Rules!

Carrying 15 Clubs Costs Irish Pro Golfer Dearly
40-year old Irish Professional golfer, David Higgins, just failed to qualify for The Open Championship at Muirfield the week after next, due to an elementary Rule 4-4 infraction. He was tied second with two other players in a 36-hole qualifier at North Berwick, Scotland, with only three to qualify. The three second-placers were in a two-from-three sudden death playoff when Higgins discovered that he had 15 clubs in his bag. A two-stroke penalty resulted, and he was eliminated with a double bogey on the first extra hole. It seems that he had put his clubs into his car, thinking that he was finished for the day. There was a spare club in the car’s trunk and either he or his caddie, put it into his bag of clubs ready for transporting home.

I am sure that we all feel for David Higgins for being eliminated from the important play-off in this manner, but counting your clubs on the first tee is a habit that all of us should get into. There are eight other tips that I recommend to golfers before they commence any round of golf, in section one of my useful document, ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’. More details at this link.

Good golfing,

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