Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ian Poulter’s Rules Blunder in China

Getty Images AsiaPac
Ian Poulter was penalised two strokes when he dropped at the wrong place in taking relief from a path, during his second round at the Volvo China Open in Schenzhen. It was yet another case of an experienced Tour professional making an elementary mistake when taking relief from an immovable obstruction, a procedure that most of the 60 million golfers around the world regularly face, so you would think that it should be second nature to professional golfers. But once again, the player’s caddie, his fellow competitors, their caddies, any Rules official that may have been present and a large group of spectators, all watched the drop being made at the wrong place without one of them stepping in to prevent the breach of Rule. The circumstances were that after hitting his drive into dense foliage on the par-5, 13th hole, Poulter deemed his ball unplayable and dropped a ball within two club-lengths of where it was at rest, for a penalty of one stroke (Rule 28). This meant dropping onto a path, an immovable obstruction, from where he was then entitled to take free relief (Rule 24-2a). But, instead of determining the nearest point of relief and dropping within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole, he took almost two club-lengths relief before dropping. Had anyone intervened at this point Poulter could still have picked up his ball and dropped it within the permitted area without incurring the penalty, Rule 20-6;
A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.
Unfortunately, no-one said a word before Poulter played his next stroke and because he had played from a wrong place he incurred a penalty of two strokes (Rule 20-7), making three penalty strokes and a triple bogey score of 8 for the hole. He went on to survive the weekend cut by just one stroke and finished the event in a tie for 5th place; Two strokes better would have put him in a tie for 3rd place.

Ian Poulter was pragmatic about the incident immediately following his round. He said;
“(It was a) schoolboy error. I have just made a mistake. We make them and I guess that was a fun one. I took two club lengths as opposed to one and it’s a two shot penalty which turned a bad six into a really bad eight, so not the best of holes. I guess I need to get the Rules book back out and start chewing it. Sometimes we are a bit thick and that was one of those times.”
Quite! There is no need for any further comment from me!

Good Golfing,

For those of you that have only recently started following my blogs you may not be aware of my free, weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series, which has now been running for well over four years. Click here to subscribe; it’s free, you can unsubscribe at any time and I do not share your contact details with anyone.

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

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dropping and Placing under the Rules

It is important that golfers know when to place and when to drop their ball under the Rules, because if a ball is dropped when it should have been placed, or placed when it should have been dropped, and a stroke is made, there is a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play (Decision 20-6/1). However, there is no penalty if the player corrects their mistake before making a stroke.

When a Rule permits the lifting of a ball at rest and requires that it must subsequently be replaced at the same spot, it must be marked before it is lifted, so as to ensure the accuracy of its replacement (Rule 20-1). Examples are, lifting a ball from the putting green to clean or align it, lifting a ball to identify it and lifting a ball because it assists or interferes with another player’s play. A Local Rule for ‘Preferred Lies’ may require that a ball has to be marked before lifting, even though it is not going to be replaced at the same spot, so as to provide an accurate reference point for the permitted area in which the ball must be placed (e.g. within the width of a score card, or 6”). In other circumstances, the ball has to be placed where it was before it was moved, e.g. when it was accidentally moved during search for it, or as a result of a practice swing, both of which incur a penalty stroke; or if it was moved whilst moving a movable obstruction, or in the act of measuring, which do not incur any penalty. Note that if it is impossible to determine the spot where a ball should be placed or replaced, such as when another competitor plays the ball thinking that it was theirs, the ball must be dropped (or on the putting green placed) as near as possible to where it was estimated the ball was at rest (Rule 20-3c).

If a player has deemed their ball unplayable, or is taking relief from a water hazard, they must drop their ball back into play under penalty of one stroke, unless they are playing under penalty of stroke and distance from the teeing ground, when they may tee their ball. A player must also drop a ball when taking relief, without penalty, from an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition or in taking relief when their ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely mown area. In any of the examples in this paragraph it is not mandatory for players to mark the position of their ball before lifting it, although I recommended that they do so, especially if they intend taking full advantage of the area of relief, so as to clearly demonstrate to their fellow competitors or opponents that they have dropped within the permitted area.

In most cases a ball must be placed on a putting green, not dropped, but there are rare exceptions where this is not the case and the ball has to be dropped. I am not going into detail on these, but for those of you that take an interest in such matters, here are the references; R26-1b, R26-1c, R28b, R28c, R24-2b(ii)(b), R24-3b(ii), R25-1b(ii)b, R25-1(c)(ii).

Good golfing,


The best way to obtain a better understanding of the Rules? Try testing yourself with a few questions each day; '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf' (updated with the latest amendments to Rules and Decisions). Price: $9.99, £7.79, €8.99 at this link.

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

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Luke Donald’s Penalty at 2014 Masters

I am pleased to report that, unlike last year, the 2014 Masters passed without any controversial Rules incidents. One Rules infraction that was not widely reported, probably because it had no significant impact on the leaderboard, was incurred by Luke Donald, resulting in his first round score of 79, instead of the 77 that he thought he had scored. The facts of the penalty were that in making a stroke from a bunker, Donald hit his ball fat and it failed to clear the bunker lip rolling back into the sand. His instinctive reaction was to smack his club into the sand in disgust. I expect there are many of us that can relate to this instinctive act of frustration. However, in doing so, he breached  Rule 13-4b, which states that a player may not touch the ground in a hazard with his hand or a club. Of course, there is nothing to stop a player venting their frustration in this way if they have succeeded in extricating their ball from the bunker first.

Although Luke Donald failed to call the penalty on himself, he was suitably contrite when his penalty was explained to him by a Rules Official, before he signed his card. This is what he said about the incident on his Twitter account;

There was another interesting Rules incident at Augusta, but it had nothing to do with the Rules of Golf. Having worn the obligatory tennis shoes during a practice round, the caddie of English amateur, Matthew Fitzpatrick, realised that, due to a long-term foot condition, he would not be able to continue to caddie for his player if he had to wear tennis shoes again. He politely requested that the Augusta National authorities excuse him and allow him to wear his special sandals. His legitimate, and most would think reasonable, request was swiftly turned down, leaving him less than impressed with Augusta officialdom. Here are the reported comments of Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Masters Competition Committee;

"Duncan was told he had to wear tennis shoes like all caddies. We are not treating him any different. I am sure whatever reasons he raised were considered."

Oh dear!

Good golfing,

I am delighted that the Masters has brought a flood of new subscribers to my two free, weekly email lists. If you are already a ‘Rhodes Rules School’ subscriber don’t forget that you can move from the original photo series of 99 issues to the ‘How Many Strokes?’ series of 99 issues by purchasing the complete set at this link. Similarly, you can advance from the ‘How Many Strokes?’ series to the current ‘9 Questions About’ series, by purchasing that complete set at this link.

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

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Rakes in Bunkers

My preferred solution for placing bunker rakes
This week’s blog concerns a question that has little to do with the Rules of Golf, but can be a controversial subject amongst those that play the game.

Where should you place the rake after raking a bunker?

I have studiously avoided this subject during my four years of blogging, but have been persuaded to write about it now, following a false assertion that was communicated to me that the R&A recently ruled that bunker rakes must be left within the margin of bunkers. There is no truth to this, but you may be surprised to read that there is a Decision on the subject, right at the end of the book, Decision misc./2.
Q. Should rakes be placed in or outside bunkers?

A. There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes, but on balance it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player if rakes are placed outside bunkers.

It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker.

However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is most prevalent at a course where the bunkers are small. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 24-1, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole – see Decision 20-3d/2.

If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes damage to the surface. Also, if a rake is in the middle of a large bunker it is either not used or the player is obliged to rake a large area of the bunker resulting in unnecessary delay.

Therefore, after considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

Ultimately, it is a matter for the Committee to decide where it wishes rakes to be placed.
(My bolding.)
Personally, I disagree with the Ruling Bodies on this question. My main argument is that a player is more likely to suffer a detrimental rub of the green when rakes are left alongside the bunker, in that a ball may then be deflected into the bunker by a rake. Of course, it is almost as likely that a ball may be deflected from coming to rest in a bunker by a rake that is lying in the bunker; however, I guess that most amateur players would prefer this consequence! My preference is for the rakes to be left inside a flat part of the bunker with their handles resting against the side, to make it easy to pick-up the rake. I think that the use of the type of rake in the photo above, with a curved handle, is a particularly good solution. I do not like to see rakes left in the middle of the sand, as this necessitates players having to walk into the bunker to retrieve them, which a consequent delay in play, as they smooth over the footsteps that they have made by doing so; or worse, leaving their footprints in the sand to the annoyance and possible inconvenience of those following.

Here are some related Rules points to understand;

  • Rakes are movable obstructions, so if a ball comes to rest against a rake the player may remove the rake without penalty, even if they move their ball while doing so. If the ball is moved it must be replaced and if it will not come to rest on the spot where it originally lay, it must be placed at the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, where it can be placed at rest (Rule 20-3d(ii).
  • There is no penalty if a player touches the sand with their club while moving a rake, e.g. in hooking the handle of the rake with the clubhead (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4).
  • After retrieving a rake from inside a bunker a player may smooth the sand as they exit the bunker, provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to improve the position or lie of their ball, stance, area of intended swing, or line of play (Exception 2 to Rule 13-4).
  • A player may carry a rake into the bunker and place it, or throw it, into the sand before making their stroke (Decision 13-4/21).
Whilst I have given my opinion on the subject of placing rakes in bunkers, I do accept that there are many who disagree. I have found it to be a contentious issue and so I will not be entering into any communication on the matter, as there is no definitive answer and it would lead nowhere.

Good golfing,


I was at my first match practice yesterday and I guess many players in the Norther Heisphere are also preparing for Club or inter-Club match play. Here is a link to my eDocument, 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play'.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Did Matt Every’s Caddie Breach Rule 14-3?

Last Sunday week, 30-year old Matt Every was a first-time PGA Tour winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Orlando, Florida, less than an hour’s drive from his home town of Daytona Beach. His caddie, Derek Mason, had golf’s armchair referees on the edge of their seats, during the final round, as they spotted him looking intently at a handheld device. There is no Local Rule permitting distance measuring devices on PGA Tour events. It transpired that he was consulting a compass, which would have been a breach of the Rules, incurring disqualification, just 3 months ago, but is now permitted. Decision 14-3/4 was revised from 1st January this year;
Q. A player uses a compass during a stipulated round to help determine the direction of the wind or the direction of the grain in the greens. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?

A. No. A compass only provides directional information and does not gauge or measure variable conditions or assist the player in his play. (Revised).
This seemingly minor amendment to the Decisions has more widespread implications than is at first apparent. Those of you that have been following my blogs for some time may remember that because iPhones have an inbuilt compass that cannot be uninstalled, they could not be used during a competitive round, even if there was a Local Rule operating that permitted the use of distance measuring devices (DMDs). If there is such a Local Rule, the amendment now means that, like Android smart phones, iPhones with a distance measuring application installed may now be used during competitions, providing the application is not capable of measuring conditions, or supplying information about conditions (e.g. wind speed, temperature, or gradient). I recommend that anyone who may be confused about which measuring devices are permitted and which are not, check out the R&A’s recently updated and comprehensive Q&As on DMDs, with an accompanying flowchart, at this link.

Good golfing,

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