Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Searching for a Ball in a Bunker

Delay in Delivering the New Decisions Book
First, many thanks to those of you that used my associate link to purchase the new R&A Decisions book from Amazon, which will earn me a few cents in commission when they are eventually delivered. Unfortunately, like me, you have probably received an email from Amazon apologising for a delay in delivery, which apparently is due to the release date being changed by the supplier at late notice. It is not clear whether this is the fault of the R&A or their printer. On checking the R&A ‘shop’ I see two contradictory messages; “Will be available to buy in December” and “Sorry sold out”! Fortunately, Amazon does expect to fulfill the orders well before Christmas (I recommend this book as an ideal present for Rules enthusiasts) and the amendments do not take effect until 1st January. For those of you that have not yet ordered for yourself, or more importantly for your Club or Society, this is the link. As I write this blog the USGA publication is still not available to order from, but I will update the 'Recommendations' page on my Rhodes Rules School web site as soon as it is.

Yellow golf ball (circled) covered by leaves in a bunker.

Under Rule 23-1, when a loose impediment and a ball lie in or touch the same hazard, the loose impediment may be not be removed without incurring a penalty. Leaves, as shown in the photo, are all loose impediments, so how do we proceed if we believe that our ball may be lying somewhere amongst a pile of leaves that have gathered in a bunker? If we refer to Rule 12-1: Searching for and Identifying a Ball, we will find the answer to this question, which can be summarised, as follows;
  • Providing the player is searching for their ball they are permitted to touch and move leaves in a bunker to aid their search.
  • If the ball is found, the leaves that have been moved must be replaced.
  • If the player moves their ball while they are searching for it, they incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a and the ball must be replaced, the same as when searching for a ball through the green.
This is the wording of Rule 12-1b;
In a hazard, if the player’s ball is believed to be covered by loose impediments to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found or identified as his, the player must replace the loose impediments. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of loose impediments while searching for or identifying the ball, Rule 18-2a applies; if the ball is moved during the replacement of the loose impediments, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments, the player must re-cover the ball but is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.
Decision 12-1/4 confirms that no penalty is incurred if a player touches the sand in the bunker while probing for their ball, as Rule 12-1 overrides any prohibitions in Rule 13-4.

Interesting Slow Motion Video

This has nothing to do with the Rules of Golf, but I think that most golfers will be interested in seeing the fascinating difference between amateurs and professionals striking the ball at the point of impact. The short video at this link (skip the ad) was filmed, with a Konica/Minolta, 18,000 frames per second, high speed camera, during the third round of the PGA’s RBC Heritage tournament at Hilton Head earlier this year.

Good Golfing,

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

New! Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014 - 2015

The front cover of The R&A’s Decisions book 2014-2015

Today, 19th November 2013, the USGA and the R&A jointly announced the publication of the revised ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015’, which contains 3 new, 59 revised, 1 renumbered, and 24 withdrawn Decisions. Most readers will know that whilst the Rules of Golf are reviewed every four years, amendments to the 1,200+ Decisions are made on a two-yearly cycle. Let me clarify that there will be no changes to the Rules for another two years; the Decisions are published to help golfers better understand how the Rules are to be applied and interpreted. They are particularly useful to those of you who like to provide accurate answers to questions on the Rules from those that you play with, or fellow Club or Society members, and I strongly recommend that you purchase this new edition. You can purchase the R&A publication (all countries other than US and Mexico) by clicking on this link and then on the 'Buy Now' button underneath the 2014-2015 Decisions book image (price £10.30). It will cost you exactly the same as on the main Amazon site and, if you use this link, I will make a small commission on anything that you purchase there, which helps me to defray my costs. Surprisingly, the US version of the Decisions book does not yet appear to be available, but I will upload a link on the same page as soon as it is.

This statement is taken directly from the R&A web site;

“Among the changes for 2014-2015, four decisions are particularly noteworthy:
  • New Decision 14-3/18 confirms that players can access reports on weather conditions on a smartphone during a round without breaching the Rules. Importantly, this new Decision also clarifies that players are permitted to access information on the threat of an impending storm in order to protect their own safety.
  • New Decision 18/4 provides that, where enhanced technological evidence (e.g. HDTV, digital recording or online visual media, etc.) shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time. The R&A and the USGA have issued a Joint Statement on the Use of Video and other Visual Evidence* to further explain the governing bodies’ position on the use of this technology.
  • Revised Decision 25-2/0.5 helps to clarify when a golf ball is considered to be embedded in the ground through the use of illustrations.
  • Revised Decision 27-2a/1.5 allows a player to go forward up to approximately 50 yards without forfeiting his or her right to go back and play a provisional ball.”
*Click here for the statement on 'Use of Video and Visual Evidence'.
I have not yet had a chance to study the amendments but the one that stands out is the new Decision 18/4, as a result of which players will not be penalised for causing their ball to move if it was not reasonably discernable to the naked eye. Certainly, this Decision goes some way to appeasing those that complain vociferously about retrospective penalties being applied to players following calls from those watching the action on high definition television monitors. However, in my opinion it will not stop these calls from being made and now Committees will have to make the difficult decision as to whether the player knew that their ball had moved or not. For example, it might have saved Tiger Woods from being penalised for breaching Rule 18-2a at the BMW Championship in September, which I covered in this blog, as he claimed that he thought his ball had returned to its original position. But would it have reduced the widespread criticism that followed? 

My opinion on this subject can be summarised by the last sentence of the joint statement on ‘Use of Video and Visual Evidence’ linked to above; "the USGA and The R&A will continue to be guided by the view that, regardless of the timing or the type of evidence used, the integrity of the game is best served by getting the ruling right."

As soon as I have my copy of the new Decisions book I will check it for updates that may be required to any of my eDocuments and make those changes available to those that have purchased. Any new purchases (see this link for details of all of my eProducts on the Rules) will contain any necessary amendments.

Once again, here is the link to purchase 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015' R&A version.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Thorbjorn Olesen - Another TV Rules Blunder

I have had previous cause to be critical of some TV commentators’ understanding and interpretation of the Rules of Golf, but the reporting of a simple Rule 18-2a breach by Dane, Thorbjørn Olesen, at the Turkish Airlines Open last Friday, takes some beating.

Unfortunately, the video of the incident with the TV commentary is only available by following these rather complicated instructions; (Edit: 13th November, try this link first).

  • Click on this link
  • In the search box towards the top of the screen, to the left of the language flags type in; “Thorbjorn Olesen
  • Scroll down beneath the ‘News’ search results to the ‘Video’ search results and double click on the image similar to the one below.
Note: It is possible that this video may not be available after the date of this blog item.

If you did not get to see the video of this Rules incident here is an exact transcription of what the (unidentified) commentator confusingly said;
“Now, Strangely enough in golf you have to be positive you are making a stroke at the ball. You can replace it, I think, if he, if it er….. You know in the course of your stroke, if you are not actually playing a stroke at the ball then you’ve not deemed to have actually hit it. I mean it’s a really weird Rule though. Because norm… at any other time if you are deemed to have moved the ball you have deemed to have moved it.”  I know that this reads rather strangely, even for those of us who have English as our first language, but I can assure you that I have copied the commentary word for word.
It certainly would be a “weird Rule” if there was no penalty for causing your ball to move with your club when you did not mean to. Of course, this action does incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a, which I understand the commentator acknowledged later in the commentary.  Here is what Olesen had to say about the incident after he had completed his round;
“I was just about to tap in my putt, but when I put my foot down I hit the front of my shoe with the putter and hit the ball. I’ve never, ever done that before and I don’t want to do it ever again. My intentions were not to hit the ball or not to even make a stroke but then I wasn’t sure what to do, so that’s why I called over the referee.”
Note that Olesen had to replace his ball where it was before he moved it, even though it came to rest closer to the hole. This is because he did not make a stroke, as he did not intend to strike his ball and move it. The Definition of Stroke states;
A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.
If Olesen had not replaced his ball where it was at the time that he accidentally moved it, the penalty would have been increased to two strokes for playing from the wrong place, as per the penalty statement under Rule 18;
*If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, or if he makes a stroke at a ball substituted under Rule 18 when such substitution is not permitted, he incurs the general penalty for breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.
It follows that even if the ball had finished up in the hole after Olesen had accidentally hit it, he would still have incurred the penalty and would have had to replace the ball where it was, before finishing the hole by putting out.

I am by no means an expert on anything to do with golf other than the Rules, but even I know that players should concentrate as much for even the shortest of putts, as for any other stroke. Unfortunately, like many of you I am sure, I have learned that lesson the hard way!

Good golfing,

Are you subscribed to my free, weekly email series, ‘How Many Strokes?’ in which I pose questions based on an accompanying photo, or diagram, making it much easier for readers to put themselves in the position of the player facing a variety of Rules situations? Click here for more information on the photo series and click here for some testimonials from subscribers.

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

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ball Played within Water Hazard

Rule 26-2a: Ball played from A, within a water hazard, lands at B in the same water hazard

It was pleasing for me to see Rory McIlroy put in a good performance at the WGC – HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week, finishing tied 6th, having led by 2 strokes after the opening round. He might have done even better had he not made what could have been a tactical error on the 18th hole of his second round, an incident that provides me with an opportunity to discuss a little known Rule of Golf that could help you in the future.

Rory’s tee shot on the 18th hole stopped just a yard from the lake on the right-side of the fairway, but inside the margin of a lateral water hazard, 228 yards from the hole. Instead of taking a relief by dropping outside of the hazard under penalty of one stroke (Rule 26-1), he decided to play the ball as it lay within the hazard. His ambitious attempt to reach the green in two came up short and his ball splashed into the water. Now, this is where many players might have been unsure of what options they have if a ball played from inside a water hazard, comes to rest inside the same hazard. To his credit, Rory obviously was familiar with Rule 26-2, as he took a penalty drop back on to the fairway, close to where his ball had last crossed the margin of the hazard, before the subsequent shot into the water. This drop gave him a distance of about 250 yards to the hole from a fairway lie and he hit a superb shot to within 15 feet, but missed the par putt and signed for a bogey 6 (1 – drive into the hazard, 2 – stroke into the water, 3 – penalty stroke for taking relief from the water hazard, 4 – stroke to the putting green, 5 & 6 – two putts to hole out).

The relevant point here is that Rule 26-2 affords players some relief after making a bad decision or stroke from within a water hazard. If a ball played from within the margin of a water hazard comes to rest within the same water or another water hazard, the player is entitled, under penalty of one stroke, to choose any of the options they had before making the stroke. For example, the player could drop a ball at the place from where their last stroke was made outside the hazard, or if it was a lateral water hazard, could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where their original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (which was the option that Rory took). Rule 26-2a states;

Ball Comes to Rest in Same or Another Water Hazard
If a ball played from within a water hazard comes to rest in the same or another water hazard after the stroke, the player may:

(i) proceed under Rule 26-1a. If, after dropping in the hazard, the player elects not to play the dropped ball, he may:
(a) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c, adding the additional penalty of one stroke prescribed by the Rule and using as the reference point the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of this hazard before it came to rest in this hazard; or
(b) add an additional penalty of one stroke and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5); or

(ii) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c; or

(iii)under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5).
Rule 26-2b covers what options are available when a ball played from within a water hazard is lost or deemed unplayable outside of the hazard, or is out of bounds. But that is for another day.

Good golfing,

'99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage'. Check out my downloadable eDocument at this link.

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