Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year Rules Teasers

It has been my custom to set a few Rules teasers for readers to think about over the New Year holiday. This year I have 9 questions that may require a little more thought/knowledge than those in my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’. Don’t be tempted to check my answers below until you have arrived at an answer of your own.

1.    How can a player win a hole in match play when their opponent has not made a stroke, no concession was made and they did not incur any penalty?

2.    What are the two occasions (edit 4th January 2015: make that three) when a player is not penalised for making a stroke at a ball that is moving?

3.    After a putt for birdie on a par-4, the player’s ball balances on the edge of hole, the player walks up and makes a one-handed stroke at their ball but misses it. The ball falls into the hole anyway. a) Was the ball holed, or does it have to be replaced on the edge of the hole and tapped in? b) What is the player’s score for the hole?

4.    A Local Rule permits taking relief for a ball that is embedded through the green. A player’s ball lands in soft ground entering just inside the out of bounds line, but comes to rest out of bounds. May the player take relief?

5.    Rule 21 details three situations where a ball may not be cleaned when lifted under a Rule. What is a fourth situation?

6.    In a stroke play competition a player did not record any gross score on their score card for their 14th hole, but they were not disqualified and won the competition over the stipulated 18 holes. Explain.

7.    Which Rule is regularly breached at Club level but is rarely penalised because the players, their markers and probably the Committee, do not realise that they have breached a Rule of Golf?

8.    In stroke play, which Rule can be breached without incurring a penalty?

9.    Which of the following statements is incorrect?
a)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their golf balls before their round.
b)    Players may keep their golf balls warm during their round.
c)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their golf balls during their round.
d)    Players may use an artificial device to warm their hands during their round.
 .......or do you think that a), b), c) and d) are all incorrect?

1.    The player had a hole-in-one with a handicap stroke and their opponent did not have a handicap stroke on that hole.
2.    When a player is making their first stroke at a ball on teeing ground (Rule 11-3) and when the ball is moving in water (Rule 14-6). (Edit 4th January 2015: A reader has provided a third occasion; when wind moves a ball after the player has commenced their backswing and it is still moving as they make their stroke at it.)
3.    a) The ball was holed. b) 4 strokes.
4.    The player may take relief. Decision 13/4 clarifies that an embedded ball is considered to be lying in the part of the course where it entered the ground. 
5.    A player may not clean their ball when they lift it to determine whether they are entitled to relief under a Rule, e.g. to determine whether the ball is in a hole made by a burrowing animal, or is embedded (Decision 20-1/0.7).
6.    It was a Stableford or Par/Bogey competition, in which it is not required to mark a score for a hole where no points are scored, or the hole is lost (Decision 32-1/2).
7.    When they start before their scheduled starting time (Decision 6-3a/5).
8.    Rule 10-2c. Competitors may play out of turn, providing they have not agreed to play out of turn to give one of them a competitive advantage.
9.    c) is incorrect. An artificial device may be used to warm golf balls before the round and they may be kept warm during a round, but an artificial device must not be used to warm them during a round. Decision 14-3/13.5. Players may use an artificial device to warm their hands at any time.

How did you do?

Good golfing,


P.S. Apologies that my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site was compromised over the Christmas/New Year holiday period. I am hoping to have it working again very soon.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Excuses for Bad Golf That We Have Probably Used

It is Christmas week, so I am going to skip the Rules for once and hope that you enjoy something much lighter. I am a fan and follower of the very humorous Twitter account, @golfclubwankers (apologies for their name, but I didn’t choose it)! The following excuses made by golfers have been shamelessly copied from their tweets over the past few months. I wonder how many of them you have heard, or used.

“I’m usually better than this”
This excuse is usually a desperate attempt to save face with playing partners, especially if you’re playing with people for the first time. It can also be accompanied by, “I never do that at the range”.

“The wind changed on my back swing”
The perfect excuse to use during even the calmest of days. The change of wind is usually your club whooshing past your ear which is coincidentally the reason you hit the bad shot.

“I just didn’t know how it was going to come out”
Usually reserved for thick lies in the rough, this classic excuse usually comes after you hit a perfect Phil Mickelson escape flop shot, the only problem is you were hitting a 4 iron.

“I haven’t been playing much recently”
A classic excuse that plays on the empathy of all those we play with. Having a baby will definitely ruin your golf game, but it will give you a plethora of additional good excuses.

“That putt would have been in two weeks ago, bloody rain”
There’s no excuse for leaving a putt short, but we seem to invented plenty, blaming the speed of grass seems to be the easiest. A poor excuse but we have all done it.

“I just can’t swing it properly in waterproofs”
Another wet weather excuse, this line is frowned up on at all times, especially if the person saying it has recently spent big money on new Galvin Greens.

“There’s too much / not enough sand in the bunkers”
If you haven’t said this you don’t play enough golf. People will go into a bunker hit one yard behind the ball then complain… Classic!

“These greens are sh*t”

A popular blanket excuse that covers all aspects of putting. Also available in this category are: “The holes are crowned” and “It’s too bobbly.” Just be sure nobody else makes a putt on the same green if you intend to use this excuse.

"I've got the ability to be a good golfer, just not the time".
The higher the handicap the more likely you are to hear this one.

Yes it is an impossible game - but we love it!

Happy Holidays to all my readers,


If you find my weekly blogs useful and/or interesting, then it is likely that you know someone else that will. You can do me a favour be recommending that they sign-up for the free, weekly emails (at the top right hand corner of my web site pages), or give me their name and email address and I will do the rest.

Note that the above material was copied from the @golfclubwankers Twitter account.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bird Flies off with Golf Ball

I guess that there are many readers that have had their golf ball in play moved by a bird or an animal, e.g. crow, gull, dog, fox, or even a kangaroo. It has happened to me twice and it happened to Queensland professional golfer Sam Eaves last Thursday, at the Australian PGA Championship.

You can watch the crow (or was it a raven?) pick the ball off the fairway at this link. So, what is the ruling in this situation? The first point is that the ball does not have to be recovered. If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball at rest has been moved by an outside agency, no penalty is incurred and either the original ball or another ball must be replaced at the spot that the ball was moved from, Rule 18-1. I have used the word ’replaced’, as does the Rule, but this often causes confusion with players. A ball can only be replaced if the exact spot and lie are known. Obviously, when an outside agency has moved a ball it is highly unlikely that the player will know the exact spot or lie, as they could have been some distance away when it was moved. In a majority of cases, the exact spot and/or lie will not be determinable, which means that a ball has to be dropped as near as possible to the estimated place where it lay, Rule 20-3c, except on a putting green where the ball must be placed as near as possible to where it lay.

(This paragraph was edited on December 17th 2014) It is different if the ball is still in motion when it is deflected or moved by an outside agency. Rule 19-1 states that if a player makes a stroke from off the putting green and their ball 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. However, if the outside agency (e.g. a dog) picks-up a moving ball and runs off with it, the player should drop a ball (or place it if it was from the putting green), without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was when the dog picked it up. The ruling is different if a ball is putted from on the putting green and is accidentally deflected or stopped by any moving or animate outside agency. In this case the stroke is cancelled, the ball must be replaced where the putt was taken from and replayed.

So, going back to the Sam Eaves video clip, he was permitted to drop another ball as near as possible to the place on the fairway where the crow had picked it up, without penalty.

Fox Sports (US)
In 2013, Fox Sports signed a 12-year, $1 billion deal for televising USGA events, replacing NBC Sports, which has broadcast every US Open since 1995. In securing this contract, Fox promised to bring fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. In my opinion, they have made a great start with the announcement that their broadcasting team includes a full-time rules expert, David Fay, who was executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) for 21 years until he retired in 2010. Fay is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Rules of Golf and has previously made occasional guest appearances on US TV with informed commentary and analysis on Rules situations. This has to be a welcome move; there have been too many instances when TV commentators have confused the viewing public with misleading and sometimes incorrect interpretations of the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mental Interference in Golf

Most players are aware that they can only take relief from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2) or abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) when their ball lies in or touches the obstruction or condition, or when it physically interferes with their stance or their area of intended swing. There is no relief for mental interference under either of these Rules. This is confirmed by Decision 24-2a/1;
Q. A player's ball lies several inches to the side of a sprinkler head. The sprinkler head does not physically interfere with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing. However, the sprinkler head bothers the player mentally. Is the player entitled to relief under Rule 24-2b?

A. No. See Rule 24-2a.
However, there is one Rule where mental interference is relevant. The start of Rule 22-2 states;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.
Note that there is no mention as to how far away the other ball must be. In fact, Decision 22/1 states;
Q. In order for A to be entitled to have B's ball lifted because of interference, does B's ball have to be on or near A's line of play and thus in a position to interfere physically with A's ball? Or may A also have B's ball lifted if it is off his line of play but catches his eye and thus constitutes mental interference?

A. A player may, under Rule 22-2, have another ball lifted if the ball interferes either physically or mentally with his play.
Not quite the same as mental interference, but along the same lines, are mental distractions that occur while a player is making a stroke. Decision 1-4/1, in the section on points not covered by the Rules, states;
Q. As A was making his backswing, B accidentally dropped a ball, which rolled within six inches of A's ball. The appearance of the dropped ball startled A, causing him to top his shot. In equity, should A be permitted to replay his stroke?

A. No. Distractions are a common occurrence which players must accept.
A related point to clarify on this subject is that, in equity, a player does not have to play their ball that has come to rest in a situation that is dangerous to them, e.g. near a live rattlesnake or a bees' nest, Decision 1-4/10, but they may not take relief from a situation which they dislike; unpleasant lies are a common occurrence which players must accept, Decision 1-4/11.

I have one last point, which is not backed-up by any Decision on the Rules. In my opinion, a player should not be penalised under Rule 6-8 for discontinuing play due to fog. Having played in foggy conditions on more than one occasion, there is definitely mental interference for the players, as well as the obvious possible danger for anyone on the course while play continues. Whilst Rule 6-8a states that bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play, there is an exception which could be used when there is limited visibility due to fog; “the player must not discontinue play unless: … there is some other good reason such as sudden illness”, which I think any Committee would be wise to apply.

Good golfing,


Why not send a Rhodes Rules School eDocument for a Christmas present? All my eDocuments on the Rules can be found under the different tabs at this link. If you are purchasing for someone else, I will waive my copyright and give you permission to forward the files to those that you have purchased for.

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

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Accidentally Moving a Ball in Play

I am sure that it has happened to most of us, probably more than once. We are addressing our ball in play somewhere on the course and we accidentally touch it with our club, causing it to move, or not. How do we proceed?

If the ball does not move from its spot when we touch it with our club, it has not moved. Even if it rocks from its spot but returns to the same place it has not moved, according to the Definition of Moved;

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
If the ball does not move there is no penalty, even if it is lying in a hazard when we accidentally touch it with our club, which is a point that is frequent misunderstood (Decision 13-4/12).

However, if a ball in play does move from its spot and comes to rest a dimple or more from where it was, then a penalty of one stroke is incurred and the ball has to be replaced, Rule 18-2a. Note that part of this Rule states;

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player’s ball is in play, if
(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:
• lifts or moves the ball,
• touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or
• causes the ball to move, or
(ii) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move,
the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.     
The implication is that if a player purposely touches their ball with their club other than in the act of addressing their ball (why would they?) a penalty is incurred. Probably one of the most common breaches of this Rule is when a player purposely touches their ball in play with their fingers, usually in order to identify it. Of course, you may identify your ball before playing it from anywhere on the course, but you must follow the correct procedure to avoid a penalty. See this earlier blog for the correct procedure.

You may have noticed that the above relates to a ball in play. Before you make your first stroke on a hole from the teeing ground, the ball is not in play and so there is no penalty for accidentally causing it to move in this circumstance, e.g. with a practice swing. A ball may then be replaced anywhere within the teeing ground to continue play.

If you are interested in seeing an example of a player accidentally moving their ball in play on the putting green, I recommend that you click on this link to view a European Tour video from 2013 of Danish Professional golfer, Thorbjørn Olesen, who unfortunately seemed to get the yips as he addressed his ball while trying to avoid taking his stance on his fellow competitor’s the line of putt. (Edit December 4th: It is not clear from the bizarre commentary, but Olesen was penalised one stroke for accidentally causing his ball to move, under Rule 18-2a).

Good golfing,


My eDocuments on the Rules of Golf may not be for everyone, but if you know someone that is eager to obtain a better understanding of the Rules, then check them out at this link. Whilst all my documents carry a copyright notice they may be purchased for someone else as a gift and forwarded to them.

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