Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Concessions in Match Play

Taken from ESPN video
An interesting instance of sportsmanship by Sergio Garcia was widely misreported by the golfing media last Friday. I read several accounts that said Sergio had conceded his opponent, Rickie Fowler’s 17’ 7” putt, on the 7th hole at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. If he had conceded Fowler’s par putt he would then have had to have made his own 6’ 11” putt to halve the hole. What actually happened was that Garcia asked Fowler if he agreed to consider the hole halved, without either of them putting out. This sporting gesture of generosity, which obviously favoured Fowler, followed an incident on the previous hole, where Rickie Fowler was forced to wait some time for a ruling to be made. Garcia had requested a free drop away from some bees that were circling a greenside sprinkler where his ball was at rest. Having received permission from the match referee, he was still not comfortable and asked for further relief, which was also granted. This took quite a while to sort out and when it was Fowler’s turn to play he missed his makeable birdie putt. Garcia explained the incident in this way;
"I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my drop on 6 took so long. I felt like if I would have been in his position I would have been uncomfortable waiting so long to hit my birdie putt. So I just thought I have to do something. I have to do something to make sure that I feel good with myself."
If you would like to see the shortened video of this episode it is available at this ESPN link, following the advertisement.

The wording of Rule 2-4, which deals with concession of match, hole or next stroke, confirms that there was no concession between Garcia and Fowler;

A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match.

A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole.

A player may concede his opponent’s next stroke at any time, provided the opponent’s ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.

A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.
The agreement to halve a hole on which at least one player had made a stroke is ratified by Decision 2-1/1.5;
Q. In a match, a player and his opponent play their second shots on a par 5 hole. Unexpectedly, neither ball can be found. Rather than proceeding under Rule 27-1, both players agree to a half. Is this permitted?

A. Yes. An agreement to halve a hole being played is permissible.

However, if the players agree to consider a hole halved without either player making a stroke, they should be disqualified under Rule 1-3 for agreeing to exclude the operation of Rule 2-1 by failing to play the stipulated round, provided the players knew that this was a breach of the Rules. (Revised)
I applaud the sporting gesture made by Sergio Garcia, which could have been the catalyst that caused him to lose his match with Rickie Fowler by one hole. However, I caution players in match play to ensure that they know exactly what they are doing before making some types of generous gestures concerning the Rules to their opponents. For example, if you inform your opponent that you saw them touch their ball in play without marking it, but you are not going to call the penalty, because it was obvious that they gained no advantage, you are guilty of agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf and should be disqualified. Whereas, if you observe the infraction, but say nothing, there can be no penalty. Choosing to ignore a breach of Rule by an opponent is one of many differences between match play Rules and stroke play Rules. I have written a comprehensive eDocument on this subject, which all golfers that expect to play in match play competitions could benefit by reading before taking on their opponents. Click here for details.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Why No Relief from Divot Holes?

One of the most commonly asked questions by recreational golfers is, “Why is there is no relief from a divot hole on the fairway?”. Their case is that it is unfair that a player should be disadvantaged because their ball comes to rest in a divot hole left by another player. The easy answer to this is that a fundamental principle of golf is that you play your ball as it lies. This has been the case since golf was first played, over 250 years ago, on natural, untended land, long before closely mown fairways and manicured putting surfaces became the norm. Many of these early courses were links, where the undulations of the dunes meant that even a perfectly struck shot could be roll from the centre of the fairway into deep rough. Golf is not a game where a perfectly struck shot is guaranteed a perfect result and that is part of its fascination, as a participant or spectator sport.

However, let us say that the Ruling Bodies decided that players should get relief from divot holes (it’s not going to happen!); what would have to be taken into account? A major difficulty would be defining what constitutes a divot hole. Here are some questions that would have to be considered and resolved by players during their round;

  • Is there relief from all divot holes or should the depth of the hole be taken into account? 
  • Is there relief from old divot holes? E.g. should there be relief for a 2-weeks old divot hole that has not fully recovered?
  • Is there relief for a ball that sits on a badly repaired divot hole, where only part of the divot had been replaced, or it had not been properly flattened?
  • Is there relief from divot holes that have been filled with sand?
  • Is there relief from areas where then the surface grass has been scraped away by the club, but there is little or no damage to the earth below?
  • Is there relief for a ball that sits just in front, just behind, or just to the side of a divot hole, if it could possibly affect the player’s stroke?
  • Is there relief for other imperfections in the playing surface, such as cracks in hard, dry earth, or tyre ruts made by course maintenance vehicles?
  • Is there relief from divot holes in the rough, as well as those on the fairway?
  • If relief is to be permitted, must the player place or drop their ball and within what distance from where it came to rest? 
  • Who decides whether relief is available, the player, the marker, or a majority of those playing in the group?
  • Edit 20th February 2014: Several readers have suggested another valid reason why relief should not be permitted for divot holes on the fairway. If there was such a relief, it would probably act as a disincentive for players to follow the proper etiquette of replacing or repairing their own, or other players', divot holes during their rounds.
Now, what do the Rules have to say about divot holes? Not only is there no relief from them, but Decision 33-8/34 makes it clear that Committees must not make a Local Rule permitting relief, without penalty;
Q. May a Committee make a Local Rule providing relief without penalty from divot holes or repaired divot holes (e.g., holes that have been filled with sand and/or seed mix)?

A. No. Such a Local Rule would modify Rule 13-1 and is not authorised.

I’ll leave the final word to David Rickman, Director Of Rules at R&A, who when asked  this question,
“And just what is a divot? There'd be a big debate - it would go on and on.”
responded with this telling comment;
“Exactly. The good shot that ends up in a bad lie - that frustrates people, we understand that. But the bad shot that ends up in a good lie is accepted more readily. It's all part of golf's challenge, and I think very good players can deal with it. I'd be astonished if there were any movement here as there's no sympathy within the Rules of Golf Committee for changing that fundamental principle.”
Good golfing,
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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Why Learn the Rules of Golf?

I am indebted to one of my regular subscribers, Bob Leftwich (Rules official at CSGA, MGA and Westchester GA), and to Peter Pulaski, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at The Course at Yale, for sharing with me the content for this week’s blog. The prestigious Golf Course at Yale, at New Haven, Connecticut, has been voted #1 College Golf Course in America and is ranked #35 of the Top 100 Classical Golf Courses in America (2013). Bob and Peter recently organised a series of four lectures on the Rules of Golf for the members. At the end of the course Bob asked the attendees to paraphrase their reasons for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend these Rules sessions. I found their collected comments interesting and hope that you will too;
  • To avoid conflict. (Many people have seen conflict on the course; it is unpleasant.)
  • To save time. (If you know the Rule, move on!) 
  • (To avoid) signing for an incorrect score.
  • The afterthought (sometimes for days it may linger): “Did I/we handle the situation correctly?” 
  • Integrity: "I must protect the field in stroke play." 
  • Being invited to other clubs. They may be shocked/upset if you violate a Rule. You may not be invited back.
  • Protecting yourself in match play. (Pull out the Rules book and show your opponent the correct answer.)
  • Being a member of an organization like the CWGA and playing in CSGA events requires good knowledge of the Rules; there have been cases of officials making mistakes in major events!) 
  • Being fair to others. (The Rules book decides what is fair. Fairness is not sympathy. This is a game with Rules!)
  • Knowing the Rules and using them can make the game more fun!
Hallelujah to that last point!

Again I want to express my thanks to Bob and Peter for permitting me to reproduce these illuminating comments.

Why Learn the Rules of Golf? – DA Points Disqualified
I had already completed the above blog when I became aware of yet another disqualification of a PGA Tour player. On Friday,
American, DA Points, was disqualified for a basic breach of the Rules. While passing the time, due to a 15 minutes wait to tee off on the iconic, par-5 finishing hole at Pebble Beach, Points pulled from his bag a spongy green ball that he had been given by his swing coach a few weeks previously. He placed the ball under his right arm to practice a few swings. Points told Golf Channel he had no idea he'd broken a rule. Mark Russell, Vice President of Rules and Competitions for the PGA Tour, phoned Points more than 3 hours after his round was completed, to inform the 2011 champion that he had been disqualified from the tournament for using the sponge Ball. Points reported that the conversation started along these lines;
“I said, ‘Is that an issue?’ He said, ‘Yeah, it’s an issue’”. Points added, “I accept what I did was wrong, but it wasn’t intentional.”
He later explained;,
"We were standing on the tee; it's cold, it's raining. I pull out the ball and make some dry practice swings, just trying to loosen up. I come to find out it's an unusual training device, something you wouldn't have in your bag. It's my fault for not knowing the Rule and I own up to that. But I don't want people thinking I was using some sort of contraption or device. It's just a green spongy ball. That's it. It's not something they sell on-line or anything."
What always surprises me is that professional golfers (and their caddies) do not seem to learn from previous mistakes made by their fellow professionals; in this case Jeff Overton’s disqualification (see this link) and Juli Inkster’s disqualification (see the stop press at this link) for breaching the same Rule 14-3, part of which states;
...the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment ...a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play,"
Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Kevin Stadler Deems Ball in Cholla Unplayable

Here is an interesting question that Kevin Stadler faced on the 11th hole of his final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona last Sunday. Can you substitute another ball for a ball that you have deemed unplayable, once you have identified it?

I have never seen a cholla bush, but I understand that is a variety of cactus that has spines that can easily attach to clothing, skin, even shoes, with their needle like sharpness. This interesting video, courtesy of PGATOUR, shows that Stadler’s ball was suspended on two of these spines.

Kevin Stadler was within the Rules when he decided to deem his ball unplayable, leave it in the cholla, and drop another ball (not shown in the video clip) for a penalty of one stroke. He took this penalty relief under the Rule 28c option, which reads;
c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
Note that the wording is “a ball”, which means that the player may continue play by substituting another conforming ball, rather than “the ball”, which means that the original ball must be played.

I take issue with the words used by TV broadcaster and ex Pro golfer, David Feherty, after he had spoken to Slugger White, the PGA TOUR VP of Rules and Competition. Towards the end of the clip Feherty says;
“He (Slugger) allowed him to replace (sic, he means ‘substitute’) the ball merely because he didn’t want him to reach in and get something stuck in his hand”
This does not ring true, as I am certain that Slugger White would have known that substitution of a different ball is permitted whenever a player deems their identified ball unplayable. In my opinion, it is far more likely that Feherty misunderstood what was said in his hurry to report back to the viewers.

An interesting footnote to this Rules incident is that Kevin Stadler went on to win his first PGA Tour victory, overtaking the 3rd round leader, Bubba Watson on the 18th green.

Good golfing,

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