Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Questions Relating to ‘Winter Rules’

At this time of year, I receive several questions on the Rules from subscribers in the Northern Hemisphere, for which there are no definitive answers. The reason being, they concern situations that may or may not be covered by Local Rules, which form part of the Rules of Golf. Although I have covered this subject in more than one previous blog, it is obviously an important one and bears repeating, because it is obvious to me that some players do not realise that Local Rules, established by Club or Society Committees under Rule 33-8, can vary considerably.

Here are some examples of what I am referring to;

  • May I tee my ball off a winter mat if it is still within the permitted two club-lengths behind the tee-markers? (As illustrated in the photo above.)
It depends on the precise wording of the Local Rule.
  • May a player take relief from a ball that is embedded in the rough?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that extends such relief from closely mown areas only, as in Rule 25-2.
  • If winter Rules are in operation, may a player remove mud from their ball at rest in the rough?
(Edited 28th November 2014) It depends whether there is a Local Rule that permits a ball lying through the green to be marked, lifted, cleaned and replaced without penalty. Note that some Committees incorporate this into a Local Rule on preferred lies through the green (i.e. not just from closely mown areas), where a ball may be lifted, cleaned and then placed (or dropped) within a specified area (e.g. 6 inches or a score card width). The latter is not recommended and is not approved by the R&A.
  • If my ball comes to rest on an aeration hole on the putting green, do I have to replace it on that hole?
Yes, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.
  • May I use a distance measuring device during my round?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits their use.
  • May I take relief from damage made by course maintenance equipment that is not marked as GUR?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take line of play from sprinkler heads at the side of the putting green?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that permits such relief.
  • May I take relief from crushed stone cart paths?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule in operation that declares crushed stone cart paths as integral to the course.
  • How do I proceed if my ball in flight hits an overhead power line?
It depends whether there is a Local Rule covering this situation.
  • Do I have to take relief if my ball lies in an area marked as ground under repair?
Only if there is a Local Rule in operation that makes it mandatory to take relief.

I hope that you will now recognise that one of the most important tips in my eDocument, ’99  Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’* is;

“Before commencing a round of golf familiarise yourself with the Local Rules that are in operation.“
* Click here for details.

Good golfing,


P.S. I strongly recommend that, where relevant, Committees follow the specimen wording in Appendix l to the Rules of Golf when making Local Rules for local abnormal conditions.

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

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Aguilar Penalised Four Strokes in Turkey

There was an unusual breach of Rules at the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek, Turkey last week. Chilean, Felipe Aguilar, who has won over 30 events in Chile and who celebrated his 40th birthday last week, has been playing on the European Tour since 2006. So, it was surprising that he was unaware that players are not permitted to switch one club for another during a round of golf if they start with a full complement of 14 clubs. To be fair to him there was a mitigating factor, in that his round started on Friday and was suspended because of bad weather, resuming on Saturday morning.

Reports suggest that it was Aguilar’s fellow competitor, Magnus Carlsson, who noticed the different club in Aguilar’s bag and asked him if he had made a switch. So, before signing his card Aguilar asked a Rules official if he had committed a breach (duh!). It was this part of Rule 4-4a that Aguilar breached;

The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
Note that he did not have more than 14 clubs in his bag at any one time, but the effect of switching one club for another while play was suspended, was that he had carried 15 different clubs during his stipulated round.

So, why was the penalty 4 strokes? This paragraph from the penalty statement under Rule 4-4a explains;

Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round – Four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred).
The maximum penalty of four strokes applied because Aguilar had carried the switched club for all of the six holes he played on Saturday morning to complete his round. Because he was not aware that he was carrying a club in breach of a Rule the penalty of disqualification did not apply, even though he may have used the switched club. If he had realised that he was carrying a club that he should not have, before finishing his round, he would have had to declare it out of play, as Rule 4-4c prohibits the player from using the club for the remainder of their stipulated round;
Any club or clubs carried or used in breach of Rule 4-3a(iii) or Rule 4-4 must be declared out of play by the player to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred. The player must not use the club or clubs for the remainder of the stipulated round.
Ironically, when Aguilar was informed of his breach, he was also told that he was disqualified. It was not until 10 minutes later that this mistaken ruling was corrected and that the penalty incurred was not disqualification, but was a four-shot penalty. The penalty eventually cost Felipe Aguilar 16 places on the final leaderboard, from 48th= to 64th=.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Margins in the Rules of Golf

I don’t like these weekly blogs to be too complicated, as my objective is to make the Rules easier to understand for the majority of golfers and not to confuse them. However, I have been asked a question about the vertical limits of margins, which can trouble the best of us. I hope that I can some shed light on their significance by describing some scenarios that you may encounter on the course.

First, let me summarise what the Definitions say about margins;
  • The margin of ground under repair (GUR) extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.
  • The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards. 
  • The margin of a (lateral) water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.
  • The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.
And now for some scenarios to help explain the differences;

Ground Under Repair (GUR) Margin:

A ball lies against the root of a tree that is growing inside GUR, but the root is outside the white line margin.
Ruling: There is no relief available, without penalty, because the margin only extends downwards.
Although a player is standing well outside an area of GUR there is still interference to their swing from on overhanging branch of a tree that is rooted in GUR.
Ruling: As the tree is growing in GUR it is part of GUR and because the margin does not extend upwards the player may take relief without penalty.
Bunker Margin:
A ball enters a burrowing animal hole in a bunker and rolls underneath and past the margin of the bunker.
Ruling: The ball is not in the bunker because the margin only extends downwards. The player may take relief, without penalty, from the abnormal ground condition outside the bunker.
A ball lies on the edge of the bunker overhanging, but not touching the sand.
Ruling: The ball is not in the bunker, because the margin does not extend vertically upwards.
(Lateral) Water Hazard Margin:
A ball lies in the branches of a tree inside the margin of a (lateral) water hazard.
Ruling: The ball is in the water hazard, even if the tree is rooted outside it, because the margin extends upwards.
A ball enters a burrowing animal hole and comes to rest underground, but within the margin of a (lateral) water hazard.
Ruling: The ball is in the hazard, because the margin extends downwards.
Line of play Margin:
A player’s ball lies a few yards away from a tree which has mosses hanging from its branches that are directly in the line of play.
Ruling: The player may not move the mosses, which are considered to be part of the tree (Decision 13-2/37), as this would improve their line of play, which extends vertically upwards.
Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Leaf in Motion Blows Putted Ball off Course

A comment made recently, during a televised US golf tournament, has stimulated a discussion on the Rules that I think readers may find interesting. The commentator suggested that if a leaf that is blown by the wind across a putting green, deflects a ball in motion that was putted from the putting green, the stroke must be cancelled and taken again. Many viewers thought that this cannot be correct; that the deflection of the ball was a ‘rub of the green’ and the ball must be played from where it came to rest.

For once (!) the TV commentator was right. The relevant Rule is 19-1b;

If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by, or comes to rest in or on, any moving or animate outside agency, except a worm, insect or the like, the stroke is cancelled. The ball must be replaced and replayed.
On being pointed to this Rule, readers may think that it does not apply, because a leaf is a loose impediment and not an outside agency. However, there are many situations where an item or person may have more than one status under the Rules. A leaf blown by the wind it is obviously still a loose impediment but it can also be a moving outside agency. Decision 18-1/6 is relevant, but note that in this case it deals with a ball at rest that is moved;
Q. A tumbleweed blowing across the course strikes a ball at rest and knocks it into the hole. What is the procedure?
A. In the circumstances, a tumbleweed is an outside agency. Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty.
I hope that the above is clear. The stroke may only be cancelled in the unlikely event that a ball in motion from a stroke on the putting green is deflected, i.e. moved from the direction that it was rolling, by a leaf that is also in motion. It does not give licence to players who miss putts in autumnal conditions to claim that their ball was diverted by a leaf, or anything else at rest on the putting green.

Good golfing,


I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have easy 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 helps me to meet my costs.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.