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I am pleased to report that over the past month I have sold more copies of my new document, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ than I expected and better still, have received several compliments from those that have already used it to their benefit (click here for details). I believe that one item of feedback that I received will be of interest, even to experienced match play participants. Unlike stroke play, where you have an obligation to your fellow competitors to report every breach of a Rule that you witness, there is no such obligation in match play, as you may disregard, or overlook any breach of a Rule by your opponent. The reason for this is that only you, or your side, are affected by any breach by an opponent; it does not affect any other entrant in the match play competition
You may ask why a player might want to ignore a breach of a Rule that they witness during their match. Well, there are occasions when a breach may not benefit an opponent in any way and you may consider that to raise it may cause unnecessary friction in an otherwise friendly contest. I had an example of this myself two weeks ago, when I noticed that a foursomes opponent did not mark his ball before lifting and cleaning it on the fairway, as was required by a Local Rule for Preferred Lies that was in operation. I did not want to call the one stroke penalty on the player, a fellow Club member, but I knew that it might upset my own game if I said nothing, as I could have been concentrating on observing whether he continued to breach the Rule, rather than on my own play. This is where you have to be careful. Whilst there is no compunction on you to call the penalty, you still must not say anything to your opponent(s) during play of the hole, as under Rule 1-3 players must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule, or to waive any penalty incurred by either side. A simple remark to an opponent that you noticed him breach a Rule opens both sides to disqualification from the match, unless they insist on the penalty applying before they finish the hole. However, the breach may be openly discussed by both sides as soon as any player has made a stroke from the next teeing ground. The reason for this can be found in Rule 2-5, which outlines the procedure to follow if a doubt or dispute arises between players in match play. Part of that Rule states;
A claim is considered to have been made in a timely manner if, upon discovery of circumstances giving rise to a claim, the player makes his claim (i) before any player in the match plays from the next teeing ground, or (ii) in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players in the match leave the putting green, or (iii) when the circumstances giving rise to the claim are discovered after all the players in the match have left the putting green of the final hole, before the result of the match has been officially announced.So, once the result of the hole has been decided and the players have commenced play of the next hole, any discussion on a penalty that may have previously been incurred does not affect that result, as there was no agreement between the sides to waive the Rule.
Returning to the personal situation that I described earlier, I waited until all players had teed off from the next hole and then advised the offending opponent’s partner that he should have a word with his playing partner, to explain that he must mark his ball on the fairway before lifting it. The breach was not repeated during the rest of the match, but had it been I would have felt fully justified in imposing the penalty.
I am not suggesting that players ignore all Rules breaches in match play just because they are in a friendly competition; it is up to each player to make up their own minds, depending on the situation. But please do not extend this choice, as to whether to call a penalty or not, to when you are playing the stroke play format, where you do have an obligation to protect the interests of every other player in the competition. Of course, as I have often said before, the best way to do this, in order to avoid the risk of an unpleasant incident, is to stop a player before he breaches a Rule. Giving information on the Rules is not advice and is to be encouraged in both stroke play and match play.
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