Thursday, 29 August 2013

Six Top Tips to Reduce Penalties

When I make presentations on the Rules of Golf I like to leave those that attend with a number of ways that they can immediately improve their scores by eliminating unnecessary penalties for breaches of the Rules. Here are six of my top tips, none of which will be new to regular readers, but they are worth repeating.
6. Learn how to use Rule 3-3, which permits you to complete a hole with two balls when you are faced with a situation where you are doubtful of your rights or the correct procedure. It is surprising how few golfers are aware of this ’get out of jail card’ and gamble on an option that may cost them a penalty, or even disqualification. Click here for my blog on the subject.

5. Never touch your ball in play without marking it first. There are several occasions when the Rules do not require a ball to be marked before it is touched (e.g. if you have deemed it unplayable), but if you get into the habit of marking your ball first you will not have to remember when you can and when you cannot.

4. Read the Local Rules before playing. See this link for my blog outlining many reasons why this is important.

3. Always determine where the nearest point of relief is before you lift your ball, as it might be easier to play the ball as it lies rather than having to drop it in a potentially worse lie. I have often witnessed players that are so focused on the fact that they are able to take relief from an abnormal ground condition or immovable obstruction that they pick-up their ball before realising that the nearest point of relief is in deep rough or on a steep slope and that they would have been better off playing their ball as it lay.

2. Implement a trigger routine to use every time that you are asked to move your ball one or more putter heads to the side. Not replacing your ball where it was originally marked on the putting green costs you a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. Two examples of trigger routines are; i) to always use one side of a two-faced, customised ball-marker for normal ball-marking and the other, ‘wrong’ side, for when you have moved it to the side; and ii) holding your putter by the head rather than the grip until you reverse your ball-marker placement.

1. Put personal identification marks on every ball that you play - I repeat every ball that you play. I have been using the same red dot formation on all of my golf balls for some years now and it is a long time since I last played a wrong ball. Make sure that you put enough markings on your balls that you can easily see at least one of them, even when your ball is lying in deep rough. Also, you might consider drawing a line around the entire circumference of your ball. This can certainly assist you to line up your ball on both your line of putt and your intended line of play from the teeing ground.

Good golfing,

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

I have listed 95 other useful Rules tips in my eDocument, ’99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’. $8.00 / £5.00 / €6.25. Click here.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Solheim Cup Rules Round-up

Carlota Ciganda playing from the wrong place (photo: espnW)

Essential viewing, electrifying rivalry, wonderful skills and an excellent advertisement for golf; once again The Solheim Cup delivered three compelling days of golf for fans everywhere. Regrettably, the one black mark over the three days competition concerned more than one controversy concerning the Rules.

The first incident followed a wayward second shot from Spain's Carlota Ciganda into a lateral water hazard on the 15th hole. The players, their caddies and two Rules officials took 27 minutes to reach a decision on where she could drop – and then got it wrong. By now, many readers will know how they got it wrong, but let me try and explain for the benefit of others. When a ball lies within the margin of a lateral water hazard (marked by red lines and/or stakes) there are two additional relief options that are not available when a ball lies in a water hazard (yellow stakes and/or lines), under penalty of one stroke. Rule 26-1c;

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole. When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.  
Presumably, Carlota Ciganda decided that she might have an easier stroke to the putting green by crossing to the other side of the hazard from where her ball last crossed the margin, which was indeed an option. Laser measuring devices were used to define the exact spot that was equidistant from the hole on this far side. This then became the reference point from which she could drop her ball within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole. However, this is where the absurdity started. Much like the Tiger Woods ‘dropgate’ issue at the Masters, when he took relief from a water hazard by dropping at a wrong place, I am sure that all those involved, especially the two Rules officials, had a thorough understanding of the relief options under the Rules. However, in the heat of the moment, no doubt with many well-intentioned persons competing to make their various opinions known, the player was offered a drop as far back along a line from the hole through the equidistant point on the other side of the hazard, which was not a valid drop position, as there is no mention of the opposite margin of the hazard in the option set-out Rule 26-1b;
b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.
In view of such a basic Rules error having been made, resulting in Ciganda dropping a ball at least 40 yards away from where she was entitled, albeit further away from the hole, it was somewhat surprising that there was not more protest following the end of the day’s play. Ciganda made an unlikely par from the wrong dropping place, scrambling a half with her opponents, Lewis and Thompson, with her partner Petterson, who seemed to be in a better position after two strokes, making bogey. Ciganda and Petterson went on to win this match 1-up. In fact, the main concern raised by US team captain, Meg Mallon, was the disruption to her team’s momentum, caused by the unacceptable time it took to arrive at the (wrong) dropping place. It was therefore ironic, that both she and the European team captain, Liselotte Neumann, were both present and significantly involved in a very similar incident during the second day’s play. This time both Beatriz Recari (Europe) and Cristie Kerr (US) drove their balls into the lateral water hazard on the 16th hole and it took even longer for the players, caddies, team Captains and Rules official to determine the (correct) dropping points.

The above incidents followed another, less reported occurrence on the first day of play. I have to admit that I cannot remember the player and caddie involved, but there was a Rules infraction that was picked-up by the TV commentators, but not by the players or their caddies. One of the European players was asked to lift her ball because it was close to the ball of the US player, who was first to play. She lifted her ball and passed it to her caddie, who immediately began cleaning it with a towel. The relevant part of Rule 22-2 states;

Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.
A ball lifted under this Rule must be replaced (see Rule 20-3). The ball must not be cleaned, unless it lies on the putting green (see Rule 21).
It seems that no-one noticed this breach, which incurs a one stroke penalty, when it happened and in match play it is too late for a claim to be made after any player in the match has made a stroke from the next teeing ground (Rule 2-5). See this link on ‘Ignoring a Breach of Rule in Match Play’.

Yet more controversy occurred during the Saturday afternoon four-balls in the match between Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson versus Solheim Cup rookies, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and 17-year-old Charley Hull. On the 7th hole Paula Creamer had a putt for par on the par three. As her ball was on the same line as her partner, Lexi Thompson’s ball, who was putting for birdie to halve the hole, they agreed that Creamer should putt first to show the line. As Creamer addressed her ball it appears that European assistant captain, Annika Sorenstam, was heard to voice her opinion that the putt should be conceded and hearing this Ewart-Shadoff's caddie told Creamer, "That's good.". The Rules of Golf require that only an opponent may concede a putt. This is illustrated in Decision 2-4/3.5;

Q. In a match between A and B, B's caddie purports to concede A's next stroke, whereupon A lifts his ball. What is the ruling?
A. As a player's caddie does not have the authority to make a concession, the purported concession is invalid. As A had reasonably believed his next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), A incurs no penalty and must replace the ball. B incurs no penalty; however, had B's caddie lifted A's ball, B would have incurred a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-3b.
Of course, the reason that Creamer wanted to putt, was because she wanted to give her partner a good look at the line, but when the putt was conceded she was not permitted to make the stroke, because it would assist her partner. Decision 2-4/6 is relevant;
Rule 2-4 does not cover the question of whether a player may putt out after his next stroke has been conceded. A player incurs no penalty for holing out in such circumstances. However, if the act would be of assistance to a partner in a four-ball or best-ball match, the partner is, in equity (Rule 1-4), disqualified for the hole.
An argument ensued as a result of this unsavory episode and it was suggested that the Europeans should forfeit the hole for receiving advice. However, as I covered in a recent blog, a first instance of unsolicited advice from an outside agency does not incur a penalty. I think that most viewers of this incident sighed with relief when play eventually resumed and Lexi Thompson made her putt anyway, understandably celebrating with an expressive fist pump. Her win on this hole brought the match back to even, but the Europeans eventually won, 2 up.

Finally, I want to draw attention to incorrect comments that I heard more than once from the SKY TV commentators, which to be fair to them was a minor blemish on what I though was very good coverage, with many interesting experts contributions, including Christina Kim, who belied her on-course personality by being calm, even-handed, informative and articulate. Despite what some commentators may think there is no Rule that prohibits making a practice putt on the putting green following completion of the hole in stroke play, but permits the same action in match play, including the Solheim Cup. Rule 7-2a permits practice putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last played between the play of two holes in both formats of the game. The reason for this widespread misunderstanding is that for most stroke play Tour events a Condition of Competition operates, prohibiting players from practicing after they have holed out, to avoid slowing down play even further.

Good golfing,

US Residents Only: I am pleased to recommend a product on the Rules of Golf that I have recently discovered. It is a game based on flash cards, “Golf Rules! Know the Game?”, from Kent Matsumoto and Mark Freshwater.

You can find out all about this Rules game from this web site; Unfortunately, due to USGA licensing restrictions, ‘Golf Rules! Know the Game?’ is only offered for sale in the United States, which seems a shame when the objective is to help others obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf, which are now totally unified across the world.

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

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Provisional Ball - Video

I have written several blogs with information on playing a provisional ball including these three;
However, a few weeks ago I received a request from a large group of lady golfers to produce one of my short, instructional videos on the subject of playing a provisional ball, which I have now completed. You can view the video on my web site at this link (scroll down through the other four instructional videos).

Here are the five summary points from my new video;
  1. A provisional ball may only be played if the original ball may be out of bounds or lost outside of a water hazard. It may not be played for a ball that is known or virtually certain to be in a water hazard.
  2. A player must inform their fellow competitor, marker, or opponent of their intention to play a provisional ball.
  3. A provisional ball must be played before the player or their partner go forward to search for the original ball.
  4. A player does not have to search for their original ball but their provisional ball cannot be played if their original ball has been found in bounds within 5 minutes of search beginning for it.
  5. A provisional ball remains provisional until it has been played from the place where the original ball is likely to be, or from a point nearer the hole than that place.
Ball embedded in lip of bunker (or not?).
Photo: SB Nation

A ruling made by Chief European Tour Referee, John Paramor, on the final day of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill last Sunday provided some clarification to an ongoing debate amongst Rules enthusiasts, as to whether a ball is embedded in a bunker or through the green. I have previously referred to this subject in my blogs, ‘Big Break – Ball Embedded in Face of Bunker Controversy’ and more recently, ‘Doubt as to a Ruling in Stroke Play’.

In this most recent example, Matt Kuchar was permitted a free drop when his second stroke from a bunker became embedded. John Paramor ruled that the ball was not in the bunker but lay through the green, presumably because it was embedded in the roots of the grass covering the bunker. Kuchar was able to drop his ball outside the bunker without penalty, as there was a Condition of Competition operating permitting relief for a ball embedded through the green  You can view the incident at this link, but don’t pay too much attention to the text as, contrary to the accompanying report, the analysis of the triple bogey seven that Kuchar scored on the 2nd hole does not include any penalty.

Good golfing,

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

Note: The subjects of my other four videos are; Taking Relief from a Water Hazard and a Lateral Water Hazard, Ball Unplayable and Nearest Point of Relief. They can be viewed on YouTube, or by clicking on this link.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Playing a Four-Ball Match During a Singles Stroke Play Competition

I received this interesting question, which I think many Club golfers will relate to;
“In a club singles strokes competition, playing in groups of four, one of the groups decides to play a friendly four-ball match during the competition. Also, they agree in advance to play the match play order of play from each teeing ground during the round. What is the ruling please?”
First I have copied this related Q&A directly from the USGA web site;
Q.  Our group has a season long match play competition. Some of the players want to play in our weekly stroke play competition, and play their match at the same time. Is this permissible?

A.  No. Rule 33-1 states that certain special Rules governing stroke play are so substantially different from those governing match play that combining the two forms of play is not practicable and is not permitted. The results of matches played and the scores returned in these circumstances must not be accepted.
Now, let me clarify that this latter question concerned playing stroke play and match play competitions at the same time, which as I understand, is different from the circumstances of my subscriber’s question, where the 'match' is only a ‘friendly’ four-ball, probably with a small wager on the result. In this case, providing all four players strictly observe the Rules of Golf for singles stroke play, they are not breaching Rule 33-1. So, for example, players must not ask for, or receive, any advice from the other players in the group, must hole out on every hole, and must not ignore any breach of a Rule made by a fellow competitor that they observe.

Because they are playing in a singles stroke play competition the players should observe the order of play for that competition and not the four-ball order. A Committee could rule that by agreeing to play in four-ball match play order the players were agreeing to breach Rule 10-2a, which would result in their disqualification.

My recommendation is that players should refrain from these friendly four-ball wagers whilst playing in a competition as four singles. Apart from the obvious chance that a Rule of stroke play golf may be accidentally, or unwittingly breached, it is also likely to be detrimental to a player’s concentration if they have to keep track of their own singles score, the player whose score they are marking and the hole by hole status of the four-ball wager.

Good golfing,

If you are any way unsure about the many differences between the Rules for stroke play and match play I recommend that you purchase my 10 page eDocument, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play', for just $7 (€5.50 / £4.50). Click here for more details.

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

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Options after Putting a Ball in a Bunker

One of the worst experiences in golf can be when you take a long, or downhill putt and you watch your ball roll straight past the hole and on into a bunker, especially if you are as bad at playing from the sand as I am. Those of us lucky enough to have been able to watch The Open Championship in Muirfield in mid-July may have seen Rory McIlroy do just that during his first, disappointing round. There were several videos of Rory’s embarrassing putt, but I see that the Open Championship have demanded that they be taken down on copyright grounds. At the time of writing the incident could still be viewed at this link.

We know that many professional golfers would rather play from a pristinely raked bunker than from the surrounding rough and Rory certainly had no problem in extricating his ball from the sand, although he still made a double-bogey on this occasion. However, this incident raises the question as to what are the options when players deem their ball unplayable in a bunker, either because they have a problem playing from sand or their ball is so badly plugged, or close to the lip, that they are uncertain that they can play out in any direction with a single stroke. There are three options under Rule 28, all of which incur one penalty stroke;

  1. At any time, a player may choose to play a ball as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played. In the above scenario Rory could have lifted his ball from the bunker and replaced it on the putting green at the place that he had originally played from, for a penalty of one stroke.
  2. They may drop a ball in the same bunker behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped (providing it is still in the bunker).
  3. They may drop a ball in the bunker within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
I am sure that some readers may have thought that a player may choose to drop a ball outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped. This is a common misunderstanding. The option to drop outside the bunker along this line for a  penalty of one stroke, applies to situations where either the ball lies in an abnormal ground condition (e.g. casual water) in the bunker, Rule 25-1b(ii)(b), or there is interference from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b(ii)(b). (This last sentence was edited to include the immovable obstruction reference on Friday 3rd, August 2013)

I am also reminded that a player whose ball lies in a bunkere may also exercise the option of dropping outside a bunker for a penalty of one stroke to take relief from interference from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b(ii)(b).)

Good golfing,


In my opinion, the easiest way to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf is to regularly test yourself on situations that regularly arise on the golf course. My eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ makes this easy and fun. The book is divided into three sections, there are 333 simple questions that every golfer should be familiar with; there are 333 more difficult questions relevant to both casual golfers and Golf Club members; and there are 333 advanced questions for those seeing to expand their knowledge of the Rules. More information and how to purchase can be found by clicking on this link . The price is just $9.99, €8.99 or £7.79.

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