Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Rules Are Rules in Golf, or Are They?

In my blog last week, which related to Rory McIlroy turning down an autograph request from a young fan while making his way to the scoring area, I said that in my opinion Ian Poulter was wrong to use the misleading hashtag, #RulesAreRules, in his tweet in defense of Rory. My point was that this implied that a Rule of Golf was involved. This reminded me that I have received several queries over the years indicating confusion over the various roles of Rules, Decisions, Conditions of Competition, Byelaws and Handicapping Systems in arriving at rulings for various circumstances. In this blog I will try and clarify the differences

First, the term ‘Rules’ includes;

a) The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’.
b) Any Condition of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I.
c) Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I. d) The specifications on;
(i) clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in ‘A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls’; and
(ii) devices and other equipment in Appendix lV.
Rules of Golf: There are 34 Rules of Golf, jointly written and administered by R&A Rules (spun off from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and USGA.

Decisions on the Rules of Golf: This book contains over 1,200 Decisions clarifying matters that may not be entirely clear from the Rules of Golf, in a well-indexed format that is easy to read and understand. (I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have access to the R&A’s 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015'. If you do not want it for yourself you should consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. If you are going to purchase this book, or anything else from Amazon, please use this link, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which will help me to meet my costs. Note that I think that I am right in saying that the USGA publication is only available from USGA Publications, but the content of both publications are the same, only some spellings are different.)

This reminds me to stress that there is only one ‘Rules of Golf’. Do not believe those that tell you that there are differences between R&A and USGA Rules, amateur and professional Rules, or Club and Society Rules, because there are not. Anyone playing the game of golf must abide by the same 34 Rules; conversely, anyone that chooses to ignore any of these Rules is playing a different game to golf.

Local Rules:
The Committee may make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I to the Rules. Some Local Rules operate on a permanent basis, e.g. allowing the removal of stones from bunkers by declaring them to be movable obstructions. Other Local Rules are temporary, e.g. those introduced to deal with adverse conditions in winter for the protection of the course, or to promote fair and pleasant play.

Rhodes Rules Tip: No golfer should commence a round of golf without knowing what the Local Rules are for the course, both permanent and temporary.

Conditions of Competition:
Rule 33-1 provides that the Committee must establish the conditions under which a competition is to be played. The conditions should include matters such as method of entry, eligibility, number of rounds to be played, etc. Tour events often have conditions of competition that do not usually apply to amateur competitions, such as the ‘one ball’ Rule and line of play relief from temporary immovable obstructions. I wrote a blog on this subject at this link. http://www.barryrhodes.com/2011/07/conditions-of-competition.html

There are four Appendices at the back of the Rules book covering these subjects;

Appendix I - Local Rules; Conditions of the Competition (see above)
Appendix II = Design of Clubs
Appendix III - The Ball
Appendix IV - Devices and Other Equipment, Rules of Amateur Status, Policy on Gambling
Some Clubs have byelaws and/or sanctions that can affect the play. For example there may be areas of the course where players are not permitted to enter, e.g. environmentally protected areas, neighbouring gardens, water courses that have steeply sloping banks.

Whilst Committees have no power to waive or modify a Rule of Golf without permission from the R&A or USGA, they may introduce ‘club regulations’ that require competitors to follow certain procedures in order to assist in the administration of the competition. Failure to follow these procedures may result in the application disciplinary sanctions, e.g., ineligibility to play in the next club competition(s). An example of this is a requirement for players to enter their score in a computer after their round. Committees may not penalise a player under the Rules of Golf if they fail to do so (Decision 6-6b/8), but they may impose a disciplinary sanction to take effect in the future, e.g. not being permitted to enter any competition for the next four weeks.

Handicapping Systems:
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary greatly. When playing competitive golf outside their own country golfers should ensure that their handicap is recognised for the purpose of the competition.

Good golfing,

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

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Glory Rory! The Open Champion 2014

From the photo above, it seems that I am not the only one that was delighted that Rory McIlroy banished his (imaginary!) Friday demons and went on to win The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Please don’t join those who make the mistake of miscalling The Open, ‘The British Open’! He is obviously a popular winner all over the world and is now a very positive icon for the future of golf, because as well as being an exciting golfer, he is young, photogenic, articulate, plays pretty quickly and is knowledgeable about golf.

My understanding is that there were very few Rules issues of any note over the four days play, although the R&A’s unprecedented decision on Friday evening, to send players out at 9.00 am in three-balls, from both the 1st and 10th teeing grounds, caused apoplexy amongst some traditionalists. However, even they had to admit that it was an inspired decision, when unusually heavy rains quickly flooded the putting greens immediately after play had finished for the day, around mid-afternoon.

There has been a lot of misinformation about a minor incident that occurred as Rory walked from the 18th putting green to the scoring hut, having just secured his two strokes win. An enthusiastic young fan pushed his way past the officials walking with Rory and asked him to sign an autograph. Rory shrugged and the youngster was quickly guided away by a tour official and two suited security personnel. Apparently, Twittersphere went crazy, with some saying that Rory was wrong to blank the young fan and others saying that the entourage should have protected him better from an over-enthusiastic public. Some even claimed that Rory could have incurred a penalty if he had stopped to sign an autograph, which they presumably think would have led to a play-off. Ian Poulter probably fuelled the speculation about whether this would have been a breach of Rules when he tweeted;

In my opinion Poulter was wrong to use the misleading hashtag, #RulesAreRules, as this implies that a Rule of Golf was involved. There is nothing in the Rules that penalises a player from signing an autograph after their round has finished. Rule 6-6b is the only relevant one;
Signing and Returning Score Card
After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.
Now, I am not doubting that tournament players are asked not to sign autographs until their score cards have been returned, but I suspect that this is advice from the authorities to assist players and is not a Condition of Competition that could result in a penalty. It is certainly not a Rule of Golf. I would be interested to hear if any subscriber to this blog knows of any competition hard card that contains anything relevant to the signing of autographs, either during or immediately after a round.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Most Interesting Man in Golf and the Rat

Photo: Getty Images – Jiminez examining the rodent
Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is increasingly known as ‘The Most Interesting Man in Golf’, was photographed closely examining a ‘lifeless’ rodent in a bunker at the Scottish Open in Royal Aberdeen last Thursday. Having scoured the available reports and photos, I still have not been able to confirm whether, a) Jiminez’s ball was in the same bunker as the rodent, and b) if the rodent was alive or dead. What I have determined, is that most of the reports of the incident are confused about any ruling that may or may not have applied. For example, two of them quoted the fact that Rule 23-6 applied; not only has there never been a Rule 23-6; but Decision 23/6, which dealt with the subject of a dead land crab in a bunker, was withdrawn from the Decisions book In January 2012.

So, what would the ruling have been if Miguel’s ball had been lying against a dead rodent in the bunker? He would have had four options; play the ball as it lay, deem the ball unplayable and drop a ball in the bunker within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole, drop a ball in the bunker behind the point where the ball lay keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or return to where he played his last stroke from under penalty of stroke and distance. If the rodent was alive it would have been an outside agency. The player may not remove an outside agency, as it is not an obstruction, which by definition is an artificial object, but they may ‘encourage’ it to move, e.g. by waving a club over it or by gentle prodding. If it will not move, either play the ball as it lies or take one of the penalty options already described. (Edit 17th July: Following interesting correspondence with a small number of subscribers, I now believe that there is nothing in the Rules that prevents a player from removing an outside agent from a hazard. However, note that this does not apply to an insect, which is a loose impediment, as well as an outside agent, and may not be touched or physically removed from a bunker when the player's ball lies in the same bunker, Decision 23-1/5.5)

Building a Stance in a Bunker
South Korean Ahn Sun-ju finished equal 9th at the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale, Southport, last week. She may have finished higher had she not incurred a penalty of two strokes on her 18th hole on Saturday, for the unusual breach of building a stance. Her ball lay in a greenside bunker and she dug her left foot into the soft sand while taking her stance. Rule 13-3 states;
A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance.
There does not seem to be any video evidence of Ahn’s breach but Decision 13-3/3 may be relevant;

Q.A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level. Is this permissible?

A.No. Such action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.
A player can also incur a penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4a if they dig in with their feet in excess of what would be normally be done for making a stance for a stroke or a practice swing, as this would constitute testing the condition of the hazard.

After she was advised of the penalty that she had incurred Ahn said that she was unaware of the rule.

"I didn't know about the rule. All I was trying to do was make a stance," she told ESPN, speaking through an interpreter.

"It's my mistake. If that's the rule, I have to abide by it."
Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Ball Falling off Tee: Rule 11-3

Rule 11-3, Ball Falling off Tee, is short and seems simple enough, but I guess that some readers may find it useful for me to compare the rulings of various similar scenarios that can occur on the teeing ground. First, the wording of Rule 11-3;
If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in these circumstances, whether the ball is moving or not, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty.
Here are six teeing ground scenarios with differing rulings;
  • A player makes a practice swing close to his teed ball and accidentally hits it, moving it 100 yards down the fairway.
Ruling: The ball was not in play and there was no stroke made at it. No penalty has been incurred and the player must re-tee a ball anywhere within the teeing ground. Decision 18-2a/19.
  • A player makes a stroke at his teed ball and completely misses it (a ‘whiff’, or ‘fresh air’) but the ball topples off the tee.
Ruling: The stroke counts and the ball is in play. The player must play the ball as it lies. Definition of Stroke.
  • A player makes a stroke at his teed ball and his clubhead just touches it knocking it off the tee. The player picks-up the ball and re-tees it.
Ruling: The stroke counted and the ball was in play when it was picked-up, so the player should have played the ball where it lay. When he lifted the ball, he incurred a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a and was required to replace it. However, when the player made a stroke at the re-teed ball, he effectively played a ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1a) overriding the penalty under Rule 18-2a.
  • A player addresses his teed ball and accidentally knocks it off the tee as he grounds his club behind it.
Ruling: The ball was not in play, so there was no penalty. The player must re-tee a ball anywhere within the teeing ground to make their first stroke on that hole. Rule 11-3.
  • A player addresses his teed ball and completes his backswing for a stroke, but as he begins the forward movement the ball falls off the tee; he is able to abort his stroke, swinging over the ball without touching it.
Ruling: No stroke has been made and no penalty incurred. The ball has not been put in play, so the player must put a ball in play from anywhere on the teeing ground. Definition of Stroke.
Note: See this earlier blog of mine for more on this scenario.
  • A player addresses his teed ball, completes his backswing and as he begins the forward movement of his swing the ball falls off the tee; he tries to abort his stroke, but tops it forward a few yards.
Ruling: The stroke counts, because the player started his stroke with the forward movement and was not then able to check his downswing before his clubhead reached the ball. The player must play his second stroke from where the ball comes to rest. Definition of Stroke.
Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Pressing Down on a Line of Putt

Sometimes we think that we know a Rule of Golf and then find that there are exceptions, which we also have to take into account. An example of this is touching the line of putt. The beginning of Rule 16-1a states;
The line of putt must not be touched
And then we see the important word, “except”, followed by these seven situations where a player is permitted to touch their intended line of putt;
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring – Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball – Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green – Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions – Rule 24-1.
Note that in two of these situations, removing loose impediments and addressing the ball, the player will still incur a penalty if they press down on their line of putt while doing so. Does it follow that when a player is repairing ball mark damage on their line of putt they must not finish the repair by tapping it down with their putter head, or their foot? The answer is no. There is no restriction in Rule 16-1c as to how a player repairs damage that has definitely been made by a ball. For many of us that may include pressing down the area, to ensure that the surface is flat following the repair and so will not subsequently divert the roll of our ball.

Rule 8-2b is also relevant to this subject;

When the player’s ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
So, the player, their partner, or either of their caddies must be careful that they do not touch anywhere on the intended line of putt, whether it is with a hand, a foot, a club, or a flagstick. But once again there is an exception; Decision 16-1a/12 clarifies that if a player walks on their line of putt, there is no penalty if they did so accidentally and their line was not improved.

I covered the definition of Line of Putt in this earlier blog; it is not always a straight line between the ball and the hole.

Concession in Stroke Play Play-off
The commentators at the fifth play-off hole of the BMW International Open in Cologne, Germany, between Henrik Stenson and Fabrizio Zanotti, last Sunday, were confused when Stenson conceded the tournament win to Zanotti. Concessions usually only apply in match play, but the relevant part of Decision 33-6/3 states;

If there is a stroke-play play-off between two competitors and one of them is disqualified or concedes defeat, it is not necessary for the other to complete the play-off hole or holes to be declared the winner.
Good golfing.


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