Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Whose Ball Is Used in Ryder Cup Foursomes?

Please excuse me while I proudly point out the significant role that the Irish played in Europe’s comprehensive Ryder Cup victory. Despite having only ~½% of Europe’s population, Ireland provided the Captain, two Vice-Captains and two of the outstanding players for the European team. My congratulations to Paul McGinley, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Des Smyth, not forgetting the rest of this magnificent team.

Thankfully, there were no Rules incidents of any note over the three days of competition, although this link shows that an over-enthusiastic forecaddie may possibly have improved the lie of Garcia’s ball in the rough by parting the grass around it. However, I was asked a Rules related question about the foursomes, which I think will be of interest to readers.

Generally, tour events operate the ‘One Ball’ Condition of Competition, which restricts players to using conforming golf balls of the same brand and model throughout their stipulated round. However, back in 2006, this was relaxed for the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup and similar events, so that in foursomes players were permitted to switch types of golf balls between holes. Of course, once the hole is started, the same ball (or type of ball) must be used to complete the hole. (Edit October 1st 2014: I have just been advised by a Ryder Cup referee that as the 'One Ball' Rule does not apply in this competition, the side can change from one brand to another, if they for example hit their tee shot into a water hazard or declare their ball unplayable.) This raises the question as to whose type of ball will be used by tour professionals in foursomes (alternate shots), as they use a wide variety of balls. I understand that on the US team, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler both use a Titleist Pro V1x, Jimmy Walker uses a Pro V1. Keegan Bradley plays a Srixon Z-Star and Phil Mickelson plays a Callaway Speed Regime 3. The interesting answer to this question is that the players usually agree to tee off using the ball favoured by the player who will be hitting the shot into the putting green. Apparently, the performance of premium balls does not differ as much when being driven from the teeing ground, as it does when being played with an iron to the green.

Here are some other Rules relating to golf balls;
  • Unless there is a ‘One Ball’ condition, or a condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls issued by the R&A/USGA, a player may use any ball that conforms to the requirements specified in Appendix lll, Rule 5-1. 
  • It is a myth that players may not compete with X-out balls, refurbished balls, range balls or lake balls, providing these balls conform, as above, Decision 5-1/4.
  • There is nothing in the Rules that prohibits a player from borrowing golf balls from another player during their round, Decision 5-1/5.
  • A player must not apply any foreign material to their ball for the purpose of changing its playing characteristics, Rule 5-2.
  • A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape, it is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it, its surface is scratched or scraped, or its paint is damaged or discoloured, Rule 5-3.
Good golfing,


Did you know that you can purchase all 99 weekly issues of my 'Rhodes Rules School' photo series, as a single eDocument? Click here for details.

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

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ryder Cup – Rules Situations to Observe

I guess that like me, many of you who receive my weekly blogs by email will be glued to your televisions from Friday to Sunday, watching The Ryder Cup unfold. This biennual competition is eagerly anticipated by most US and European golfers and usually provides enthralling competition, leading to compulsive viewing. Golf can be a very self-centred game, in which each player competes on their own against the rest of the field, week after week. But in match play, the players are often competing as a team and are just as involved in the performance of their playing partners and team members, as they are with their own. I am taking this opportunity to point out a few of the Rules situations that differ in match play from the stroke play format that we are more used to following.

First, I want to explain a situation concerning players practicing putts after they have completed a hole, which we do not see occurring in tour events, but will probably observe during the Ryder Cup. This is not a difference between the Rules for match play and stroke play, but is due to a Condition of Competition that applies to most PGA and European Tour events (and probably other tours), but not in major match play competitions, or usually, in the amateur game. I presume that this Condition of Competition is implemented to keep play moving, which is to be applauded. Exception to Rule 7-2 states;

Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practice putting or chipping on or near:
a. the putting green of the hole last played,
b. any practice putting green, or
c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7). 
And now for a few bullet points on the major differences in match play Rules to look out for;
  • In match play, players competing against each other are opponents, in stroke play other players in the same group are fellow competitors. 
  • In match play, the general penalty for a breach of the Rules is loss of hole; in stroke play it is two strokes. Breaches of Rules incurring a penalty of one stroke are also one stroke penalties in match play, with two minor exceptions, Note 2 to Rule 6-7 and …
  • … In match play, there is a penalty of one stroke for touching, or causing an opponent’s ball to move, other than during search for it, whereas in stroke play there is no penalty for touching a fellow competitor’s ball.
  • In match play, putts are often conceded and sometimes players will agree that a hole is halved when neither player has holed out, usually because their putts are at roughly equal distance from the hole. In stroke play the player must hole out on every hole.
  • In match play, it is important that the player (or side) whose ball is farthest from the hole plays first. A ball that is played out of turn may be recalled by the other side and then has to be played again in the correct order of play (e.g. Google "Annika Sorenstam reduced to tears at Solheim Cup"). In stroke play, there is no penalty for playing out of turn, unless players have agreed to do so to give one of them an advantage.
  • Finally, an unusual one. In match play, if a putt from the putting green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it belongs to your side or your opponents', there is no penalty, whereas there is a two stokes penalty for the same occurrence in stroke play, Rule 19-5. However, you are unlikely to see this during Ryder Cup matches, as the players are likely to require that a ball that is in a position to assist an opponent is lifted, as is their right under this part of Rule 22-1b;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may:
    a. Lift the ball if it is his ball; or
    b. Have any other ball lifted.

Good golfing,

This is a good time for me to promote my eDocument, “So You Are Going to Play Match Play!”, which details of all the differences in the Rules for this format. It provides an essential guide for match players to avoid loss of hole penalties, or worse, the unnecessary loss of a match. Click here for more details.

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

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Rory McIlroy’s Ball Lands in a Trouser Pocket

I am only too aware that the majority of golfer’s think that today’s game has too many Rules and that they are unnecessarily complicated. 270 years ago (1744) the very first Rules of Golf, consisted of just 13 Rules written in 349 words. However, as instances occurred on the golf course the Rules have constantly evolved to deal with the ever-changing circumstances of a sport that is now played by over 60 million players in almost every country in the world.

This week, another unusual Rules incident occurred during the Tour Championship by Coca Cola, in Atlanta, Georgia. Rory McIlroy hit a wayward drive from the 14th teeing ground and his ball bounced off a tree and literally dropped into a spectator’s pocket. Click here for a YouTube video of the incident.

In fact, the ruling did not even require reference to a Decision, as the circumstances are covered by Rule 19-1. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Outside Agency (a spectator is an outside agency);

If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, except:
a. If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole
So, the Rules official checked that the spectator had not moved from where he was standing and enquired which of his pockets the ball had fallen into. He then asked Rory to mark the spot on the ground immediately beneath that place. Someone suggested that Rory should give the ball to the spectator, but the official clarified that he must continue play with the same ball, as it was obviously easily recoverable.

Some readers may be wondering what the ruling would be if the spectator had run up the fairway towards the hole, taken the ball out of his pocket and dropped it onto the green. A note to Rule 19-1 confirms that if Rory’s ball had been deliberately deflected or stopped by the spectator, the spot where the ball would have come to rest must be estimated and the ball dropped as near as possible to that spot.

Good golfing,


My eBook, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' is available for all eReaders, tablets, smart phones and computers. You can buy from Amazon, but if you purchase direct from this web page I will send you two files, a .pdf for computers and .mobi for other smart devices.

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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Golfers and the "Should" Word

This paragraph is copied from a section at the front of the Rules book. Note that I have highlighted that "should = recommendation" and "‘must is an instruction, with a penalty if not carried out." So, as in life, there is an important difference between what a golfer ‘should’ do and what they ‘must’ do. However, whilst a penalty is not directly incurred for ignoring the ‘should’ recommendations, players are encouraged and advised to do so, to avoid other consequences, which may be costly in terms of their scores.

The following are the most relevant references to where ‘should’ is used in the Rules book;

Definition - Nearest Point of Relief

In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.
Note: if a player does not use the club with which they would have made their next stroke to determine the nearest point of relief and as a result drops and plays a ball from outside the permitted area they incur a general penalty for playing from the wrong place.
Definition – Out of Bounds
Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.
Definition – Referee
A referee should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.
Rule 1-4, Points Not Covered by Rules
If any point in dispute is not covered by the Rules, the decision should be made in accordance with equity.
Note: Equity only applies in golf rulings when circumstances are not already covered by the Rules of Golf. It is nothing to do with achieving a result which a player thinks is ‘fair’.
Rule 4, Clubs, Rule 5, The Ball and Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices
A player in doubt as to the conformity of a club / ball / artificial device should consult the USGA or R&A.
Rule 6-2, Handicap
Before starting a match in a handicap competition, the players should determine from one another their respective handicaps.
Rule 6-5, Ball and Rule 12-2, Lifting Ball for Identification
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
Rule 6-6, Scoring in Stroke Play
a)    Recording Scores. After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it.
b)    Signing and Recording Score. After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee.
Rule 9-3, Stroke Play
A competitor who has incurred a penalty should inform his marker as soon as practicable.
Rule 20-1, Lifting and Marking
The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball. If the ball-marker interferes with the play, stance or stroke of another player, it should be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to one side.
Good golfing,


Many of the questions that I receive can be answered by reference to the ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015’. The R&A version can be purchased via this link. The price is the same as purchasing elsewhere, but if you do use the link provided I make a few cents affiliate commission from Amazon. If you do not want your personal copy you should consider of purchasing one for your Club or Society, as it will definitely resolve many arguments.

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

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Removing Loose Impediments

I have been asked to clarify how loose impediments may be removed, a subject that I am aware can cause many arguments between fellow golfers. As a great believer in the use of questions and answers to test one’s knowledge of the Rules I am posing these 10 quick questions on the subject. Answer either Yes or No.
  1. May a player use a towel to remove loose impediments on the putting green?
  2. May a player use the back of their hand to remove loose impediments through the green?
  3. May a player remove sand lying on the putting green?
  4. Does a player incur a penalty for removing loose soil around their ball through the green?
  5. May a player use the head of their putter to remove loose impediments from their line of putt?
  6. If a player moves their ball while removing a leaf lying by their ball on the putting green may they replace the ball without penalty?
  7. May a player use a brush to remove loose impediments on the putting green?
  8. Is a player is penalised for removing a loose impediment from a hazard if their ball lies in the same hazard?
  9. Does a player incur a penalty for moving a loose impediment that might influence the movement of a ball that is in motion?
  10. Is a player penalised for pressing down on their line of putt while removing loose impediments?
Did you correctly answer, “Yes”, to all 10 questions? It is Rule 23 that deals with loose impediments and any breaches incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play. Note that there is no penalty for causing your ball to move while removing a loose impediment on the putting green, but there is anywhere else (Rule 18-2a).

Please do not deduce from the above that I recommend that golfers should carry a brush in their bag to remove loose impediments. In fact, using a brush for this purpose other than on the putting green would almost certainly incur a penalty, as sand and loose soil are only loose impediments on the putting green and must not be moved at the same time that loose impediments are being removed elsewhere. I use the brush illustration to reinforce the principle that loose impediments may be removed by any means, except that, in removing loose impediments on the line of putt, the player must not press anything down. Decision 23-1/1 is the reference;
Q. Worm casts are loose impediments. By what means may such casts be removed?

A. Loose impediments may be removed by any means, except that, in removing loose impediments on the line of putt, the player must not press anything down (Rule 16-1a).
Good golfing,

If you enjoy testing yourself on the many Rules scenarios that may occur during your 18 holes of golf, you will like my Rhodes Rules School ‘How Many Strokes?’  format. All 99 issues are available as a single, .pdf downloadable and printable, eDocument at this link.

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