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.

Copyright PGATOUR.com

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.


Stuart said...

Hi Barry

We were discussing this incident on a golf forum recently, which lead to another discussion about what Tiger's options would have been if he would have seen the ball move and then had to replace it.

If his ball was moved during the removal of a loose impediment, does the loose impediment have to be replaced in its original position when the ball is replaced, thus recreating the original lie of the ball?

Decision 20-3b/8 seems to suggest that the lie of the ball does not include loose impediments, and so it would not need to be replaced in it's original position. However, decision 23-1/7 seems to contradict that and suggests that the loose impediment must be replaced.

If we assume that the loose impediment doesn't need to be replaced (possibly 23-1/7 doesn't apply because the player has been penalised already under a separate rule?), does that also mean that other loose impediments can also be removed from the area before the ball is replaced?

So essentially he could have assessed himself the penalty, lifted his ball, cleared the area of loose impediments, and then replaced his ball and played the shot?

Interested to hear your views as it has created quite a debate!



Conor said...

Dec23-1/8 says a player incurs a penalty if he causes his ball to move as a result of moving a loose impediment. It would circumvent this rule if before a ball is replaced it was permissable to remove loose impediments which affected the players lie before the ball was lifted.In equity (rule 1-4) the player should be penalised one stroke. Tiger was penalised 2strokes for a wrong place.

Barry Rhodes said...


I accept that there are others that support your view, but I think that you are wrong and there are many other Rules aficionados that agree with me. Our opinion is that Decision 23-1/8 is not relevant because, as the heading states it concerns, "Loose Impediments Affecting Lie Removed While Ball Lifted". In the Tiger incident the ball had not been lifted.

I offer you an admittedly unlikely scenario that supports my opinion. Decision 23-1/1 states that loose impediments may be removed by any means. So, a player takes a brush and lightly sweeps just above the earth surface to remove leaves, twigs and his ball in one movement. Of course, he incurs a penalty of one stroke for causing his ball to move, but under what Rule would you impose an additional penalty if he then replaced his ball where it was at rest?


Conor said...

My comment was a reaction to a question from "Stuart" if Tigers ball moved and he had to replace it would he have to replace the loose impediment. The answer it seems is YES under equity Dec1-4. If he fails to do so the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. I accept that in Tigers case the ball was NOT lifted.

Barry Rhodes said...


I am confused; you appear to now accept that Decision 23-1/8 is not relevant, but instead are quoting 'Decision 1-4'. There is no such Decision; I have checked all the Decision 1-4/? Decisions and in my opinion none are relevant to this incident. Nor is Rule 1-4, as I hope that I have shown in the scenario that I described in my previous comment that Rule 23-1 and in particular Decision 23-1/1 are relevant.

Stuart asked, "So essentially he could have assessed himself the penalty, lifted his ball, cleared the area of loose impediments, and then replaced his ball and played the shot?" I am now confident that the answer is, yes, and I have had this confirmed by several Rules experts whose opinions I respect. One of them quoted Decision 23-1/6.5 as being relevant.

Also consider this point made by another correspondent; "It was the moment I thought how a player whose ball was sitting on a hopeless tangle of twigs and leaves, for example, could simply deem his ball unplayable and clear away all the debris before dropping, that clearing the loose impediments after causing the ball to move no longer seemed specially advantageous. Same outcome; same penalty!"