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.


Anonymous said...

Dear Barry

Thanks as always for your very informative blog which I look forward to.

I had one minor quibble with regard to the putting debacle that may not change your view in any way but here goes:

The 7th is a par 5, and Paula Creamer's putt was for par. The Europeans had scored a conceded birdie already. The only purpose in Creamer putting was to give her partner (who had a birdie putt - subsequently made for a half) the line.

Now, while there may be nothing specific in the rules for such a proposed action, I think it is at least a breach of etiquette (to putt in such circumstances) and I also think that if there is a decision for the more blatant action in 30 3f6, there should possibly be a decision around this potentially unsporting action as well?

Good golfing

dick kusleika said...

As usual, you are a kind and reasonable person. I'm less so. My main problem is:

"27 minutes to reach a decision"


"in the heat of the moment"

I love that the officials take the time to get it right (27 minutes is absurd in any situation). But taking the time and getting it wrong?

Barry Rhodes said...


I note that I got the facts of this incident slightly wrong in that Lexi Thompson's putt was for birdie and a half (which I have now corrected). I don't disagree with what you have said, but the main point is that it has to be the players that concede a putt and not the caddies, or the assistant team manager. I think that the US lack of match play experience may be a factor here. Apparently, one US team member had never played match play before!


Barry Rhodes said...


It was certainly a very embarrassing incident for golf and its Rules


conor said...

Thanks for comments re SOLHEIM CUP not sure if CREAMER picked up after the concession but DEC 2-4/6 could be relevent

Barry Rhodes said...


Creamer did indeed pick-up after the concession, which as you point out she had to, so as to avoid her partner, Lexi Thompson, being disqualified from the hole.


LUU5 said...

" 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. "

I did not see this, but same happened to US team. Kerr and Wie hit balls that ended inches from each other. Kerr lifted her ball and tossed it to her caddie who cleaned the ball. The Sky commentators (Murray?) noticed this and so did Xtina Kim also. Luckily Kerr did not putt his ball into hole off the green. Golf gods did not let it happen.

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, I think that this was the same incident, which I wrongly attributed to a European player. However, someone else has said that the ball had been moved by the other ball before it came to rest close by. If that was the case then the player/caddie was entitled to clean the ball, as it had been lifted under Rule 18-5 and not 22-2 as we had assumed.


frank said...

I am shocked that you have not removed the incorrect details of the incident re cleaning the ball from your main report. The officials receive enough "stick" from the commentators , who once again , are the people who get things wrong but never apologise or correct their errors.

Barry Rhodes said...


I have not removed any details because only one other person has commented that the commentators and I were probably wrong in our reporting of the incident, and if you read the comment immediately above yours you will see that I did clarify that the player was entitled to clean her ball if it had been moved by the other ball. However, I have not been able to confirm that this was the case. Perhaps you have some concrete evidence.