Many of us will be familiar with seeing ‘Course Closed’ signs at this time of year, and there will probably have been other times when we have played and then wished that the course had been closed because of inclement weather. This week I am going to explain some of the Rules that apply when conditions on the course are less than favourable.
The first point that may surprise some readers is from the Definition of Loose Impediments;
Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.So, in the photo above, the player did not have to play his ball from the snow, he could have picked it out of the snow and dropped it in the sand within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, without penalty, as for casual water in a bunker. However, he was not entitled to remove the snow around his ball, as this would be treating the snow as loose impediments, which may not be removed while the ball is lying in the same bunker (Rule 23-1).
I wonder how many of us have breached Rule 6-8a from time to time. This Rule clarifies that bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play. The penalty for breaching Rule 6-8 in stroke play is disqualification. In match play, players may agree to discontinue their match for any reason, including bad weather, providing the competition is not delayed by them doing so. If the players do not agree, in other words one side wants to continue play and the other does not, then the match must proceed. There is one circumstance where players may discontinue play for bad weather and that is when the player believes there is danger from lightning. There have been several instances where players have been struck by lightning on a golf course, some with fatal consequences, so it is eminently sensible that the Rules permit players not to put themselves at risk when there is an electrical storm in the locality.
There is nothing in the Rules about playing in fog or thick mist, but for safety reasons courses should obviously be closed as soon as players cannot see where their ball may land. Unfortunately, the nature of fog and mist means that there can be poor visibility on one area of the course, but clear conditions on another. In my opinion, it would be wrong for a Committee to disqualify a player who insisted on discontinuing play in circumstances in which it could be dangerous to other players if they continued with their round.
Other Rules situations relating to bad weather are;
- A player may protect themselves with an umbrella while they make a stroke (e.g. a tap-in putt), but they may not accept protection from the elements from anyone else while making a stroke (Decision 14-2/2).
- Frost is not a loose impediment, so unlike hailstones and natural ice, frost may not be removed before making a stroke (Definition of Loose Impediment).
- A player may use a hand warmer to warm their hands, but not their golf balls once they have started their round (Decision 14-3/13).
- As has been covered in this earlier blog of mine, Committees should not take bunkers out of play just because they are waterlogged (Decision 33-8/27). Decision 25-1b/8 details the relief options that a player has when a bunker is completely covered by water. Of course, Committees may, in exceptional circumstances, introduce a Local Rule providing that specific bunkers, which are known to be flooded prior to the competition commencing, are deemed to be ground under repair and classified as through the green (Decision 33-8/27).
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