Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Relief from Greenside Sprinkler Heads

More and more golf courses install irrigation systems around their greens to keep the turf healthy and ensure that grasses are properly watered, to assist their recovery and provide a better surface for putting. Sprinkler heads around putting greens can sometimes lead to confusion amongst golfers as to whether they get relief from them in a variety of circumstances, which I will try to clarify here.
Q. May I take relief if my ball lies on or against a sprinkler head? Photo a) above.
A. Yes, a sprinkler head is an immovable obstruction, from which the player may take relief under Rule 24-2b.

Q. May I take relief if a sprinkler head interferes with my stance? Photo b) above.
A. Yes, as in the first question, a sprinkler head is an immovable obstruction, from which the player may take relief under Rule 24-2b if it interferes with their stance or area of intended swing.

Q. May I take relief if there is mental interference, but not physical interference, for my intended stroke by a sprinkler head? Photo c) above.
A. No, there is no relief for mental interference by an immovable obstruction, Decision 24-2a/1.

Q. May I take relief from a sprinkler head at the side of a putting green that is on my line of play if there is no relevant Local Rule in operation? Photo d) above.
A. No, in the absence of any Local Rule the Rules of Golf do not provide for line of play relief; but see the next question.

Q. May a Committee introduce a Local Rule permitting line of play from a sprinkler head close to a putting green?
A. Yes, Appendix l, Part A permits a Local Rule providing relief from intervention by immovable obstructions on or within two club-lengths of the putting green when the ball lies within two club-lengths of the immovable obstruction.

So, many Committees introduce a Local Rule following this specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 6;

If a ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief as follows:

The ball must be lifted and dropped at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard or on a putting green.

If the player’s ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction within two club-lengths of the putting green intervenes on his line of putt, the player may take relief as follows:

The ball must be lifted and placed at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard.

The ball may be cleaned when lifted.

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable.
Q. May I take relief from a sprinkler head on the putting green that is on my line of putt? 
A. Yes, you may take line of putt relief from any immovable obstruction on a putting green, (but it would be unusual to have a sprinkler head located on a putting green), Rule 24-2a.

Q. If my ball has been deflected by a sprinkler head may I replay the stroke, without penalty?
A. No. A sprinkler head is an outside agency and the deflection of a ball by it is a rub of the green and the ball must be played as it lies, Rule 19-1.

Good golfing,

Regular readers will know that I regularly promote my eBook, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2015-2015’. If you have considered purchasing it, but are not sure how helpful it would be to you, I recommend reading the six reviews that are on the relevant Amazon book sites that I link to in the next sentence. All six of them rate my book five stars out of five. You can purchase the Kindle version from this link ($ price) and this link (£ price). Remember that you can also purchase my book directly from me at this link and you will receive the bonus of a .pdf file for computers in addition to the Kindle version for eReaders, smart phones, tablets and notebooks.

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

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Rose and Woods Penalised for Moving Their Balls

Here is a new tip that is not in my eDocument, '99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'*.
"Don’t take a practice swing behind your ball in play."
Take a look at what happened to Justin Rose during the third round of the 2013 BMW Championship, when he made a divot with a practice swing.


Justin was penalised one stroke for causing his ball to move, under Rule 18-2a. Fortunately, he correctly replaced his ball where it was and avoided incurring an additional penalty for playing from the wrong place.

In the same event Tiger Woods did incur the additional penalty for playing from the wrong place when he did not replace his ball, which was subsequently adjudged to have moved by no less than the redoubtable PGA Tour VP of Rules and Competition, Slugger White. If you view this video clip, courtesy of PGA Tour, you will see the (not very clear) evidence that led to the penalty. Watch closely the markings on Tiger’s ball, as he first touches the stick, a loose impediment, which he is carefully trying to remove from where it is lying against his ball.

Before returning his score card Tiger was shown this video clip. White said that Tiger had thought his ball had only oscillated slightly. So, what is the difference between a ball moving and oscillating? Here is the Definition of Move or Moved;
A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
When a ball oscillates it swings from side to side but returns to exactly the same spot.

If Tiger had recognised that his ball had moved he would have been able to replace it for a penalty of one stroke. Because he did not think it moved the penalty imposed by the officials increased to two strokes, under Rule 20-7a, because he played his ball from the wrong place, even though it might only have been a dimple away. The relevant part of Rule 20-7b states;

A player has played from a wrong place if he makes a stroke at his ball in play:
(i) on a part of the course where the Rules do not permit a stroke to be made or a ball to be dropped or placed; or
(ii) when the Rules require a dropped ball to be re-dropped or a moved ball to be replaced.

As I write this, I know that probably half of the readers will think that Tiger was treated unfairly on this occasion, whereas the other half will think that he knew the ball had moved and he should have called the penalty on himself. It is obvious that Rules incidents involving Tiger Woods provoke sharply polarized opinions!

Good golfing,

* Click on this link for details on my eDocument, '99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Caddie and the Rules of Golf

Fluff Cowan, one of golf's most recognisable caddies

I suspect that most readers of this blog play their golf without the luxury of a caddie to assist them during their rounds. However, for some of us there may be occasions when we might splash out when playing a ‘special’ course for the first time, or we manage to persuade a willing son, daughter or grandchild to help us carry our clubs for some extra pocket money, or we accept an offer from a friend when we are selected to play in an inter-club match. So, in this week’s blog I am going to highlight some of the Rules that apply to players who have a caddie with them during a round. This is from the Definition of a Caddie;
A “caddie” is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.
The Rules permit a caddie to give advice to their player. This includes; information on distances, topography of the course (e.g. slope and speed of fairways and putting greens), position of the flagsticks, club selection, type of stroke to be played, line of putts and direction of play. They may also provide shelter to their player from the elements, but not while the player makes their stroke. A caddie may also give advice to their player’s partner in four-balls or foursomes.

The wording of Rule 6-1 is interesting;

The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.
So, in match play if a caddie picks-up the ball in play of their opponent, without authorisation, their player is penalised one stroke and the ball must be replaced.

Here are a few other interesting rulings concerning caddies;
  • A caddie does not have the authority to make a concession, so any purported concession made by them is invalid (Decision 2-4/3.5). Remember the incident in the 2013 Solheim Cup?
  • A player may only have one caddie at a time, but there is no restriction on how many caddies a player may have during a round. So, a player may swap one caddie for another during their round (Decision 6-4/7). (Edit 12th September: I am reminded that Decision 8-1/26 rules that a player may not briefly change caddies for the purpose of receiving advice from the new caddie and would incur the general penalty for doing so).
  • There is no restriction on a caddie competing in the same competition that they are caddying in. So a player may complete their own round and then caddie for another competitor (Decision 6-4/8).
  • When one caddie is shared by more than one player, they are always deemed to be the caddie of the player whose ball is involved (Definition of Caddie).
Whilst I know that there are many professional golfers and Rules officials amongst my thousands of subscribers, I am not aware that there is any professional caddie that follows me, but would be pleased to hear from them if this is not the case. I find this surprising, as caddies make their living looking after the interests of their players on the course. I cannot recall witnessing a single incident when a caddie has stepped in to prevent their player from breaching a Rule of Golf, whereas I have blogged about several incidents in which players incurred penalties for simple breaches that should have been prevented by their caddie (e.g. Tigergate at the Masters). My strong recommendation is that all caddies should enhance their value to their players by using the spare time, which is endemic to their profession (e.g. travelling, waiting for their player to arrive, days between tournaments), to gain an improved understanding of the Rules. Purchasing my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ from this link would be a great start!

Good golfing,

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


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

R&A’s Rules Summary for 2013 Open

This shot of Thomas Bjorn hit a TV camera, breaking the screen

As with last year, The Royal & Ancient has released some limited information relating to rulings made over the four days of play at the Open Championship, which was held at Muirfield, Scotland, in July.

There were 234 rulings given by the Rules officials (approximately 70 of them), compared to 339 at Lytham last year. This significant reduction was mainly due to the fact that last year there was a significant number of rulings relating to relief from casual water (58) and ground under repair (48) on a course that had experienced abnormal amounts of summer rain.

Here are a few comparative numbers, with last year’s rulings in red;

Unplayable ball: 18 (32)
Identifying ball: 17 (7)
Interference by movable obstructions such as cables: 20 (12)
Relief from immovable obstructions such as sprinkler heads: 29 (16)
Slow play: 1 (Hideki Matsuyama): (0)
Again I am surprised at the number of seemingly simple rulings where Rules officials obviously had to get involved. Being charitable, I would suggest that much of this is due to players’ paranoia that their every move is being scrutinized by millions of armchair officials. However, I am not sure that is the whole truth; for four years now I have been blogging on simple Rules breaches incurred by tournament professionals (and their caddies), when they should definitely have known better.

The R&A summary featured two interesting rub of the green incidents, the first of which was to the player’s disadvantage, the second to their advantage. I think they are worth quoting, as rub of the green is a golfing term that is often misunderstood and/or misused.

“Thomas Bjorn had a smashing start to his first round of The 2013 Open Championship, when he found the rough with his tee shot. In playing his second from the rough, he managed to hit the ball into a TV camera, breaking its screen.

TV cameras positioned on the course are outside agencies so when a player’s ball in motion is deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green and there is no penalty. The ball is then played as it lies (Rule 19-1).”

“Luke Donald’s third shot at the 9th hole during the first round benefitted from a rub of the green when the Englishman’s pulled approach shot first hit the top of the boundary wall before hitting the hospitality complex situated beyond the boundary and ricocheting back in bounds to the front of the green, allowing him to get up and down for a regulation par 5.”
An even more fortuitous rub of the green was caught on camera at The Barclays last week, when Scott Brown’s ball bounced off a narrow, water hazard foot-bridge and came to rest close to the flagstick. His errant drive and tap-in putt for eagle on the par-4 16th hole can be viewed at this YouTube link.

Returning to the R&A’s 2013 Open rulings summary, there was an explanation of an incident that caught out several TV viewers who thought that Graham McDowell had incurred a penalty for playing from the wrong place. I was not watching at the time, but apparently he was shown marking his ball to one side because it was interfering with Tiger Wood’s putt. When it was his turn to putt he replaced his ball at the marker and putted out from this spot. This is the relevant part of the explanation provided by an R&A spokesperson, as to why no penalty was incurred;

“It therefore appeared that McDowell had putted out from a wrong place (in breach of Rule 20-7). However, what was not shown on camera was the fact that Tiger Woods had asked McDowell to mark his ball and move the ball-marker to the side as it was interfering with his first putt. When Tiger’s first putt finished short of the hole, it was still his turn to play. But now McDowell’s ball-marker, in its moved position, was interfering with Tiger’s next putt. Woods asked McDowell to replace it back to his original spot so he could putt out. McDowell did this and was filmed doing so. He actually returned the ball-marker to its original position and eventually replaced the ball and putted out from the correct place.”
Good golfing,

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