Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Simon Dyson Disqualified After Touching Line of Putt

Six-times European Tour winner, Simon Dyson, was lying in joint second place after two rounds of the halfway stage at Lake Malaren Golf Club, Shanghai, when he was disqualified for signing for a wrong score. Once again, it was a case of a professional tour player unnecessarily breaching a Rule when he should have known better. As can be seen in this short YouTube video clip, he pressed down on his line of putt with his ball after marking its position;

Note: If you are receiving this blog by email you can view the video at this link.

Dyson incurred a penalty of two strokes for a breach of Rule 16-1a, which states that the line of putt must not be touched, with seven exceptions listed (see this blog of mine for details), none of which applied to this situation. However, as he had returned his score card before the breach came to light, there was no option but to disqualify him for signing for a wrong score, because it did not include the penalty incurred, which he readily accepted.

Subsequently, European chief referee, John Paramor, issued this statement on the incident;

"Simon Dyson has been disqualified from the BMW Masters presented by SRE Group under the rules of golf (6-6d). Simon was found to have breached rule 16-1a, which states that a player must not touch his line of putt.
Television viewers alerted the European Tour to the incident, which took place on the eighth green during the second round, and when the footage was reviewed Simon was seen to touch the line of his second putt after marking and lifting his ball on the green. He subsequently failed to add a two-shot penalty to his score when signing his card, and as a result has now been disqualified."
Later, Dyson was reported to say that he could not explain why or how he came to do what he did and had no recollection of doing it, until he was shown the video. As often seems to be the case in these matters, his disqualification could cost him dearly. He started the tournament in 66th place on the Race to Dubai, with 60 eligible for the final event. Missing out on what could possibly have been a top-ten finish will have made it considerably more difficult for him to book a place in the finale.
(Edit 6th December 2013: Yesterday, the European Tour Disciplinary Panel's decision was 
a) to impose upon Mr Dyson a period of suspension from the Tour of two months, but to suspend its operation for a period of 18 months.  The effect of this is that, if during that 18 month period, Mr Dyson commits any breach of the Rules of Golf, his case will be referred back to the Panel to determine whether in the circumstances the suspension should immediately become effective.  If, however, at the end of that period, he has committed no such breach, then the threat of a suspension will fall away;
(b) to fine Mr Dyson the sum of £30,000;
(c) to order Mr Dyson to pay the sum of £7,500 towards the Tour’s costs of these proceedings;
(d) Mr Dyson is to make such payments within 56 days.
In my opinion, this was a harsh penalty, especially as the panel found that "it was a momentary aberration on his part, not a premeditated act of cheating".

Good golfing,


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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Kim Hyung-tae Grounds Club in a Hazard – Or Did He?

There was a rather unusual Rules incident last Sunday in which a player disagreed with a ruling and so did three members of the event Rules Committee, but the player, Kim Hyung-tae, was penalised two strokes anyway, which meant that he lost the Korean Open title by one stroke.

Although there have been some reports that the hazard margin was poorly marked on the par-3, island green 13th hole at the 2013 Kolon Korean Open, it seems that this was not relevant to the ruling, as Kim was adamant that he had not grounded his club anyway. The ruling was originally made by the officials as Kim stood on the 17th tee, thinking that he held a two shot lead. He was deemed to have grounded a club in the area defined as a water hazard on the 13th hole. However, after the round was completed he returned to the scene and pleaded his case with officials for over an hour and twenty minutes. The Korean Golf Association Rules Committee apparently took the unusual step of taking a vote after viewing the available TV evidence and by a split vote of five against three, ruled that Kim had breached Rule 13-4, incurring a penalty of two strokes.

This is what Decision 13-4/8 states re grounding a club;

Q. If a player's ball lies in a water hazard, when is his club in tall grass considered to be touching the ground in the water hazard, in breach of Rule 13-4b?

A. When the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (i.e., when the club is grounded).
Now have a look at the admittedly limited video evidence of the incident. The only clip that I can find is at 5 mins 9 secs on the official event, final day highlights video, which many observers think is inconclusive. Unfortunately, the clip is edited away to the trophy ceremony at the crucial moment.  Remember, that a player may touch growing grass in the hazard during a practice swing, but they must not ground their club.

The two stroke penalty meant that Kim Hyung-tai lost the Korean Open title by one stroke to his good friend Kang Sung-hoon, finishing tied for 2nd place along with Rory McIlroy and three other Korean golfers.

Good Golfing,


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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Autumn Leaves and Golf Balls

Autumn (fall) has arrived in the northern hemisphere and with it the seasonal problems resulting from falling leaves. I am certain that in my part of the world more golf balls will be lost in the next few weeks than any other period of the year, some of them even on the fairways, because they are hidden under leaves. I thought that it would be opportune to clarify some Rules relating to leaves on the course.

Leaves are loose impediments, providing they are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball (Definition of Loose Impediments).

Photo a): Except when both the leaf and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any leaf or leaves may be removed by any means, without penalty, Rule 23-1.

Photo b): A leaf that is resting against a ball may be removed, as above.

Photo c): A leaf that is adhering to a ball is not a loose impediment and may not be removed, Definition of Loose Impediment.

Photo d): (Edited 18th October 2013) A leaf that is lying under a ball should be left as it is. It is unlikely that the leaf could be removed without causing the ball to move, which would incur a penalty of one stroke, even if it only moved one dimple from its spot.

Note that if a player’s ball lies on the putting green they do not incur a penalty if they cause their ball to move while they are removing a leaf (or any loose impediment) and the ball must be replaced. However, if they cause their ball to move while removing a leaf when their ball is not on a putting green they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced, Rule 18-2a.

On the subject of leaves, I am regularly asked whether a player automatically incurs a penalty if they accidentally knock down a leaf or leaves from a tree during a practice swing. A definitive answer to this question does depend on the circumstances, but in the majority of cases no penalty is incurred, providing there are still leaves or branches remaining, so that the area of intended swing has not been materially affected. There is more on this subject at this blog of mine and it is covered in Decision 13-2/0.5.

Good golfing,


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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Relief From Tee Boxes

In my experience, the term ‘tee box’ is often wrongly applied to describe what should be called the ‘teeing ground’, which is defined in the Rules of Golf as follows;
The “teeing ground’’ is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
So, now that I have clarified what is meant by teeing ground, what should we call the whole area prepared by course maintenance staff for the siting of numerous, optional teeing grounds at the start of each hole? Well, I use the term ‘tee box’, but I am aware that others may call them teeing areas, tee decks or just tees. The term 'tee box' originates from the days before wooden or plastic golf tees became commonly used, when the practice was to place a box of sand alongside the tee markers, so that golfers could make a small mound to place their ball on before making their first stroke on that hole. The larger the total area of the tee box the more likely it is that a reasonably maintained teeing ground can be used for successive competitions, as a teeing ground that is repeatedly used will obviously be subject to more wear and tear damage, particularly on par-3s where many players do not tee-up their ball and can take significant divots.

It is because tee boxes can suffer from worn areas that some Committees introduce a Local Rule prohibiting players from playing a ball that comes to rest on any part of a tee box, apart from that of the hole being played. This is an example of such a Local Rule;

Tee boxes - A ball lying on a tee box other than the one being played must be lifted and dropped at the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole.
Although this type of Local Rule is not uncommon, I am totally against its introduction and I encourage all golfers to recommend that it does not operate at their Club or Society course. My main concern is that golfers who find their balls at rest on a tee box other than the hole that they are playing may not take the permitted relief correctly. This is especially true when dropping a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief may mean dropping on a downslope, or in an area of rough, which is not unusual where teeing boxes are built on raised ground. I am a great believer in requiring players to play their ball as it lies wherever possible; the more often a player is permitted to lift their ball under the Rules the more likely they are to breach one. Also, Rule 33-8 permits Committees to establish Local Rules to deal with “local abnormal conditions”, which in my opinion does not include protecting tee boxes, which are common to all golf courses, except possibly on newly laid teeing surfaces, when a Local Rule may be appropriate on a temporary basis. In any case, it is my experience that the number of occasions that a player‘s ball comes to rest on a ‘wrong’ tee box is minimal and is unlikely to damage the playing surface to any material extent that would then negatively affect the area when it is next used as a teeing ground.

Good golfing,

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Injured Golfers and Their Artificial Equipment

One of golf’s best known phrases amongst both professionals and amateurs is, “Beware of the sick or injured golfer”. As a recent example of this truism, I mention Henrik Stenson, who claimed to be suffering from a cold and fatigue immediately before recording a 63, his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, during the Deutsche Bank Championship, at the beginning of September, which he went on to win. Subsequently, he has also won the Tour Championship to wrap up the FedEx Cup, with its $10 million prize. On an entirely different level, I know that I have often played well (OK better!) when I have taken to the course wearing a lower back brace, knee support or ankle bandage to minimise the discomfort of an arthritic joint. I am definitely not a swing expert, but I presume that when a golfer plays whilst suffering from an illness or injury, they may subconsciously correct unidentified bad practices by being forced to swing slower, rotate more conservatively, improve concentration, stay relaxed, etc.

Anyway, what has the above got to do with the Rules of Golf? It is Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment, that is the most relevant Rule. In particular, Exception 1 states;
A player is not in breach of this Rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed for or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition, (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and (c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
This Exception is further clarified by these Decisions:
  • Decision 14-3/7 rules that although a player may wear an elastic bandage for medical purposes they must not insert their thumb under the bandage, as such an action would constitute use of equipment in an unusual manner.
  • Decision 14-3/8 rules that the use of adhesive tape, or similar coverings of the hand, for any medical reasons, e.g., to reduce blisters or to eliminate the possibility of skin splits between the fingers, is permitted. However, if the tape is used solely to aid the player in gripping the club (e.g., it is used to bind two fingers together), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3, as such use of tape is the use of equipment in an unusual manner.
  • Decision 14-3/13 rules that golfers who suffer from cold hands may use a hand warmer, even though it is an artificial device, because its use to warm the hands is traditionally accepted. However, it may not be used to purposely warm a golf ball during a stipulated round (Decision 14-3/13.5).
  • Decision 14-3/15 rules that a player who has a legitimate medical reason to wear an artificial limb may wear it to play competitive golf, even if the limb has been modified to aid them in playing the game. However, the Committee must be satisfied that the artificial limb does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
According to ‘Dr. Divot's Guide to Golf Injuries’ the top ten golfing injuries are;
1. Back Pain
2. Golfer's Elbow (similar to tennis elbow)
3. Shoulder Pain
4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
5. DeQuervain's Tendinitis (pain in the wrist near the base of the thumb)
6. Knee Pain
7. Trigger Finger (causing fingers to lock up)
8 – 10. Various wrist injuries
I suspect that many of us can tick off one or more of these when we take to the course. Just ensure that if you use any equipment or device to alleviate a medical condition you do not do so in a way that could give you an undue advantage over other players.
Good golfing,

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