Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Wrong Putting Green - Noh!

Seung-Yul Noh plays from the middle of a wrong putting green
In 30 years of playing amateur golf as a high handicapper I have never seen anyone try and play a stroke from a wrong putting green (i.e. a  putting green other than the one that they are playing). I would have bet good money to say that it could not possibly happen on a Tour event, but I would have been wrong!  23 year-old, South Korean, Seung-Yul Noh, who turned professional 6 years ago, and is currently ranked 107th in the world, was penalised two strokes for doing just that. It happened last Friday, during the 2nd round of the Barclays at Ridgewood CC, Paramus, New Jersey, when following his drive on the 11th, his ball came to rest on the 3rd putting green. Believe it or not, nobody stopped him during the time it took for him to walk onto the green, assess the distance and line of play for his next shot and address his ball with an iron, before taking his second stroke to the hole; not his caddie, David Brooker, who has been a full-time tour caddie for more than two decades; not the Rules official, who was apparently standing 20 – 30 yards away; not the spectators (presumably there were some); not the three players who were putting out on the 3rd green when Noh’s ball landed amongst them and not Noh's fellow competitors, Graeme McDowell and George McNeill, who to be fair to them, were probably walking to their balls on the 11th fairway and might not have been fully aware of the situation. It is unacceptable to me that Noh and his caddie did not know the Rule. It was not an aberration, such as Tiger suffered when dropping his ball outside the permitted limit at last year’s Masters, because after the penalty was imposed they both admitted that they were unaware of the Rule, which is Rule 25-3, Wrong Putting Green;
a. Interference
Interference by a wrong putting green occurs when a ball is on the wrong putting green.

Interference to a player’s stance or the area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

b. Relief
If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief, without penalty, as follows:

The player must lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the wrong putting green and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green. The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.
You can view this embarrassing episode at this PGA Tour link, which to make matters worse, shows Noh casually stamping down the large divot hole that he had made, his caddie then retrieving the divot and replacing it and subsequently, the greens staff officials arriving to properly repair the damaged area where Noh had hit from. The ensuing conversation between the Rules Official and the clueless TV commentator is almost as embarrassing as the incident itself; “Is that a Local Rule, or is it a Rule of Golf?", asks the commentator. Where do they get these guys from?

Some readers might remember a blog of mine from March 2010 (click here) where I reported on a European Tour initiative, outlined by Senior European Rules Officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee, to educate Tour players on simple rulings. They announced that if any player called on a referee to make what was considered to be a frivolous ruling, they would be given a specially produced DVD to study and also be required to attend a Rules seminar. If they failed to attend this seminar within the next three tournament weeks they could be barred from entering another event until they did. Coincidently, I emailed the European Tour only a few weeks ago asking whether this sanction had ever been effected and if so how many times? I did receive a reply, confirming that the policy was introduced some four years ago and that until recently it has acted as a deterrent with few of these rulings requests, but that they were quite willing to firstly remind the players that this policy is in force and that the Tour is ready to enforce it where necessary. Perhaps I am being too skeptical, but my interpretation of this response is that no players have ever been sanctioned under this initiative. It is a shame that Seung-Yul Noh isn’t a European Tour player, or their resolve could have been tested!

Yet Another Bizarre Rules Incident
The Chella Choi infraction, at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, reported at this Golf Channel link (with video clip) merits a blog of its own, but I have already said enough for this week. To whet your appetite, Choi refused to accept the penalty imposed and chose to withdraw instead. It’s worth watching!

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Three Rules Breaches on Tour

Morten Madsen dropping his putter on his ball
This week there are three interesting Rules incidents to report on. The first concerns Dane, Morten Madsen, who accidentally dropped his club on his ball during the ‘Made in Denmark’ European Tour event on Friday. No mystery about this ruling, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a(ii), for his equipment causing his ball to move, and he has to replace his ball where it was. If you would like to view Madsen’s embarrassing bloomer click on this link.

The second incident involved French golfer, Julien Quesne, who was disqualified mid-round from the same event as above, on the same day. Apparently, he was seen to be using a ‘swing stick’ on a teeing ground, while waiting to play. This is a breach of Rule 14-3, which states that during their round players must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment that might assist them in making a stroke or in their play. Obviously, Quesne does not read my blog, or he would have known about this Rule, following similar, widely reported breaches by Judi Inkster (Aug. 2010) and more recently DA Points (Feb.2014).

The third incident was a little different, involving Californian, Cameron Tringale, who was disqualified from the previous week’s PGA Championship, several days after the competition was over (well done Rory!). Tringale made contact with officials to admit that he had probably returned a score for a hole lower than was actually taken, due to his failure to include a penalty that he thought he had probably incurred. His reported explanation was;

"While approaching the hole to tap in my 3-inch bogey putt, the putter swung over the ball prior to tapping in. Realizing that there could be the slightest doubt that the swing over the ball should have been recorded as a stroke, I spoke with the PGA of America and shared with them my conclusion that the stroke should have been recorded. I regret any inconvenience this has caused the PGA of America and my fellow competitors in what was a wonderful championship."
Although the competition had closed several days before this admirable admission, one of the exceptions to Rule 34-1b (iii) meant that the only possible ruling was the penalty of disqualification, as he had not included the stroke he made that missed his ball.
Exceptions: A penalty of disqualification must be imposed after the competition has closed if a competitor:

… (iii) returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d) for any reason other than failure to include a penalty that, before the competition closed, he did not know he had incurred …
Tringale finished the PGA Championship tied for 33rd place in this final major of the year and had to forfeit his $53,000 prize money. The places and earnings of those players who finished below him will have been adjusted accordingly. (Edit 25th August 2014: In his very next tournament Cameron Tringale tied for 2nd place in the Barclays, earning prize money of $597,333.33!)

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Butch Harmon Errs on the Rules

Butch Harmon is rightly recognised as one of the best golf instructors in the game and I regularly enjoy his incisive contributions on the UK’s Sky Sports Channel, but it does seem that he needs to brush up his knowledge on the Rules of Golf. Many readers will have seen the extraordinary incident on the 2nd hole, during the 3rd round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla, when Jason Day’s drive hooked across Floyd’s Fork, a lateral water hazard with an infinite boundary to the left side, coming to rest in deep vegetation. Instead of taking the option of a penalty drop within two club-lengths of the place where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, which was not far from where he had teed-up, Day’s caddie, Colin Swatton, took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers and waded across the creek in a seemingly impossible task of finding the ball amongst the calf-high weeds. Amazingly, the ball was found within the permitted five minutes search time in a lie that Swatton thought could be playable. So Day then removed his shoes and socks and crossed the creek to play his tricky, second shot on the hole in bare feet. As he addressed his ball, I had flashbacks of Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie and was predicting a similar outcome.

It was during this episode that I think I heard the TV analysts make four incorrect statements regarding the Rules, but unfortunately the commentary has not been made available, so I cannot check their exact words. The four statements, two of which were from Butch Harmon and two from ex-Tour Golfer, Howard Clarke, who was the on course reporter, can be summarised as follows;

  1. You cannot push aside long grasses surrounding a ball to identify it. – Howard Clarke
  2. You cannot make practice swings in a hazard if it means touching the long grasses while you do so. – Howard Clarke
  3. You cannot play a ‘wrong ball’ from a hazard. – Butch Harmon
  4. You cannot take clubs into a hazard. He also intimated that when a wedge was thrown across the creek by Swatton to be deftly caught by Day, a penalty would have been incurred if it had been dropped inside the margin of the hazard. – Butch Harmon
Let me address these erroneous comments in turn.
  1. In searching for a ball anywhere on the course, the player may touch or bend long grass, rushes, bushes, etc., but only to the extent necessary to find or identify the ball. Rule 12-1.
  2. When making a practice swing, a player may touch, with their club or otherwise, any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing, providing they do not improve the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing, or the line of play. Rule 13-2 and Note to Rule 13-4.
  3. Since January 2008, when Rule 15-3 was amended, a player is penalised for playing a wrong ball from a hazard. At the same time a related change was made to Rule 12-2, permitting a player to lift a ball in a hazard in order to identify it, providing they follow the correct procedure.
  4. Players are permitted to take clubs into a hazard and lay them down. Exception 1b to Rule 13-4.
Against all the odds, not only did Jason Day extricate his ball from the 'jungle grass' bordering the creek, he then hit a magnificent third shot onto the green and sank the putt to make a very unlikely par and provide more evidence that my predictions are often wrong.

Be Fore-warned!
This link is to a report in the Irish Times of an award of almost €275,000 ($370,000) to a lady who was hit by a golf ball whilst standing on the terrace of her own Clubhouse, located South of Dublin, by a ball struck by a player who happened to be playing in the same group as her husband. This substantial award took into account the fact that no-one had shouted the customary warning of “FORE”.

Good golfing,


P.S. Congratulations to Rory McIlroy (and Rickie Fowler). The future of golf is in very good hands!

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

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Miscellaneous Q&As on the Rules of Golf

Here are a few interesting questions that I have received over the past few weeks, slightly edited for clarity;

•    I notice that my fellow competitor is about to play their tee shot from in front of the tee markers. Should I tell them, or would that incur a penalty for giving advice?
You should tell them. Information on the Rules is not advice, Definition of Advice.

•    May I remove a weed or strand of long grass from behind my ball before playing my first stroke on a hole ball from the teeing ground?

Yes, under Rule 13-2, it is permissible to eliminate irregularities of surface on the teeing ground, which includes removing something growing. However, this only applies to irregularities on the surface of the teeing ground and not to anything overhanging the teeing ground which is rooted outside of it, such as an overhanging branch of a tree.

•    The group playing ahead of us mistakenly left the flagstick lying on the green a few feet from the hole. Would it have been a penalty if one of our group’s balls hit the removed flagstick as they played onto the green?
No, the penalty for a ball hitting a removed flagstick only applies when the flagstick has been removed with the player's authority or prior knowledge by someone in the player's match or group, Rule 17-3a.

•    In stroke play, is there penalty if a player’s ball hits the foot of a fellow competitor attending the flagstick?
Yes, the person making the putt incurs a penalty of two strokes for a breach of Rule 17-3.

•    A player lifted their ball from a newly seeded area in the rough. Were they then entitled to drop a ball on the fairway if it was within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole?
Yes, the Rules do not distinguish between fairway and rough (except in Rule 25-2, Embedded Ball), they are both ‘through the green’.

•    Playing a mixed foursome, the two men drove, the two ladies played from the fairway, the two men played, one man chipped on to the green ... and now one man realised that they must have both played the wrong ball from the fairway for their second shots. What is the ruling?
In match play, the opponents should work out who played the wrong ball first and that side lost the hole, Rule 15-3a. It did not matter that the other side also played a wrong ball as they had already won the hole. In stroke play, both sides incurred a penalty of two strokes and must return to the point where their fellow competitor played their ball from, drop a ball and play out the hole from there, Rule 15-3b.

•    On one or two of our fairways we have the odd mushy area and a ball can be hit there. The players are virtually certain that the ball is lost in the boggy area.  Can we make a Local Rule for this so there is no penalty…?
First, I should confirm that there is no relief for ‘mushy areas’ whether on the fairway or in the rough, Decision 25/1. If a Committee decides that these areas are local abnormal conditions that interfere with the proper playing of the game they can define them as ground under repair, with either a permanent or temporary Local Rule. See Rule 25-1c for the procedure to follow when a ball is known or virtually certain to be lost in GUR.

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Good golfing,


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