Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Golf Ball at Rest on or Near Bunker Steps

Wooden steps leading into a bunker, like those in the photo, are artificial and are therefore immovable obstructions. So how does a player proceed if their ball comes to rest on one of the steps, or lies in a position where there is interference by the steps to their stance or area of intended swing?

If a ball is at rest on bunker steps within the margin of a bunker it is in the bunker (Decision 13/5). The player may play the ball as it lies or take one of the options for relief, as in Rule 24-2b(ii) below. In the photo, a ball lying on the bottom two steps would be within the margin of the bunker, whereas a ball lying on either of the top two steps would not
and so the player could take relief by dropping within one club-length of the nearest point of relief outside the bunker, not nearer the hole. If the ball is at rest in the sand of the bunker and there is interference to the player's stance or area of intended swing by the steps, then the player may also choose to take one of the options under Rule 24-2b(ii);
If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:
(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above (i.e. within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole), except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker
… or (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
Note that choosing the first option for relief (a) does not incur a penalty, whereas the option of dropping outside of the bunker, on the line from the hole through where the ball lay (b), incurs a penalty of one stroke.

I always recommend that before players lift their ball to take relief under the Rules, they should work out exactly where they are permitted to drop their ball. In many cases this might be in an unfavourable place, resulting in a more difficult shot than they were originally faced with. In the circumstances above, it is possible that a player may lift their ball from the sand close to the bunker steps before realising that the only point that they could then drop it within the permitted area meant that their backswing would be impeded by the wall of the bunker. Decision 24-2b/5 clarifies that if a player lifts the ball to take relief without penalty under the first option above, but changes their mind, they may then elect to proceed under the second option and drop their ball outside of the bunker for a penalty of one stroke.

Good golfing,




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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Attached Divot Causes Canizares a Problem

Canizares bad lie. Top image by Stuart Franklin – Getty Images

It is just as well that Alejandro Canizares of Spain had a lead of 7 strokes when he played his second shot to the 18th hole on his final round, at the Trophee Hassan II in Agadir, Morocco, on Sunday. It obviously minimised the frustration that he must have felt on realising that he had a really unlucky lie, after his ball had rolled back down a steeply sloping green and settled immediately behind an attached divot that almost covered his ball. I cannot imagine why the divot was left in this shameful condition at the end of a four day event, during which the only players on the course had professional caddies with them and there were also marshals present. Being charitable, let us hope that a bird may have lifted the divot in seeking some juicy grubs for dinner!

I am sure that many golfers who were watching this final hole of this competition were wondering why Canizares was not permitted to remove the divot, by the Rules Official that he called on to give him make a ruling. The answer lies in this part of Rule 13, Ball Played as it Lies;
A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
    the position or lie of his ball,

    the area of his intended stance or swing,
    his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or
    the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
by any of the following actions:
    pressing a club on the ground,
    moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds),
    creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,
    removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position, or
    removing dew, frost or water.
When a divot is still partly attached to the ground it is ‘something fixed’ and cannot be moved, if by doing so the circumstances of a player’s next stroke might be improved (Decision 13-2/5). But when a divot is completely detached, it is a loose impediment and can be moved anywhere on the course, except from a hazard, when the player’s ball lies in that hazard.

Finally, Rule 13-2 clarifies that a divot that has been replaced may not be removed or pressed down, if by doing so the player gains a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing, or their line of play.

Good golfing,



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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

When You Don’t Know from Where a Ball Was Moved

The spectator points to where she thinks Luke Donald’s ball was at rest
An amusing incident at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last Friday prompted me to write this blog on what players should do when their ball has been moved and they cannot be sure where it was at rest. Luke Donald’s wayward tee shot came to rest close to a path. A girl walking by thought that she had found a stray ball picked it up and carried on walking. Fortunately, a photographer saw what had happened and chased after her. The question then was; ‘Where was the ball at rest when it was lifted?’ The poor girl was obviously embarrassed with the situation and at first threw down the ball nowhere near the correct spot. With a little help she then pointed with her foot to the approximate position where it was when she picked it up. The question that Luke then faced is one that many golfers face when they have to replace a ball when its position has not been marked. Should their ball be dropped or placed?

Before I answer this question, take a look at Golf Channels’ short video of the Luke Donald incident, by clicking here and then on the play button.


It is Rule 20-3 that deals with placing and replacing a ball. Replacing indicates that the ball must be placed on the exact spot from which it was lifted or moved. In many cases, as with the Luke Donald incident, this spot is not easy to accurately determine as the player may have been nowhere near their ball when it was moved. This is where Rule 20-3c comes into play;

If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be placed or replaced:

(i) through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard or on a putting green;

(ii) in a hazard, the ball must be dropped in the hazard as near as possible to the place where it lay;

(iii) on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard.

Exception: When resuming play (Rule 6-8d), if the spot where the ball is to be placed is impossible to determine, it must be estimated and the ball placed on the estimated spot.
It is not wholly clear whether the walking official permitted Luke Donald to place his ball last Friday; in my view it should probably have been dropped. How do you make this decision during a round? In my opinion, if there is general agreement as to the position of the ball before it was moved between those that witnessed it at rest, which could include the player, fellow competitors, other players, officials, caddies and spectators, then the ball may be placed at that spot. However, if there is no consensus as to the spot then the ball should be dropped at an agreed, estimated point that is definitely not nearer the hole than where the ball was likely to have been when it was moved. If there was agreement and the ball was placed, it would be a very harsh Committee to subsequently rule that the ball should have been dropped and impose a retrospective penalty of two strokes. The above assumes that the incident arises in stroke play; in match play the player would have to make a valid claim under Rule 2-5 if their opponent would not agree to the spot where the ball was to be placed.

Fore! warned

At least three wayward balls hit spectators during the final day’s play in Doral, Florida. It began with Tiger Wood’s first stroke of the day, which drew blood from a German tourist when the ball hit him squarely on the head. An apology, a signed glove and two holes later Tiger repeated the performance, costing him a second signed glove and apology. Bubba Watson waited until the end of his round before sending his approach shot into the 18th green amongst the spectators seated in the grandstand. My point for raising this matter is that apparently no-one shouted “Fore” on any of these three occasions; not Tiger, not Bubba, not their caddies, not the marshals and not even other spectators. And yet shouting “Fore” is a traditional warning (and courtesy) used by amateur golfers all over the world. I strongly recommend that all golfers continue to observe the etiquette of shouting this warning when they hit an errant shot, as there have been several legal cases around the world, where this has been a deciding factor in the resolution of liability.

Good golfing,




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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Wet Weather Rules Questions

This week I am answering four questions that have arisen during the abnormally wet and stormy weather that many of us have experienced over the past few months.

Q1. Due to sand erosion and/or flooding a Committee has defined an entire bunker as ground under repair. What is the reference point for taking relief?

A1. First, it should be noted that Committees should not take a bunker out of play just because it is expected that there will be casual water lying in it throughout the competition. The Rules of Golf anticipate casual water in bunkers and offer three relief options (see this earlier blog of mine, Casual Water in Bunkers). However, when a bunker has been declared ground under repair, it loses its status as a hazard and is automatically classified as ‘through the green’. The relief is then the same as taking relief from any other abnormal ground condition under Rule 25–1b(i), and so, providing the ball is found, the reference point is the nearest point from where the ball lies in the bunker. If the ball is not found, but is known or virtually certain to be in the bunker, the reference point is the nearest point from where the ball crossed the margin of the bunker, as in Rule 25-1c.



Q2. Following weeks of above average rainfall there were occasions when a pond on the course overflowed outside of the hazard stakes defining its margin. Is the overflow casual water?

A2. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water. Decision 25/2.


Q3. In order to protect the weather ravaged putting greens, a Committee was forced to use temporary greens cut on the fairway approaches. They introduced a Local Rule permitting players whose balls were on the temporary putting green of the hole in play, to pick-up their ball and add two strokes to their score. Is this permitted?

A3. No, Decision 33-8/1 confirms that any Local Rule under which a player in a stroke play competition would not be required to hole out waives Rule 1-1 and is not permitted.


Q4. Whilst preparing to drive their ball on a links course running along by the sea, a player notices that his teed ball is oscillating in the gale force cross-wind that is blowing. He asks his two fellow competitors to stand to the side of him and his ball as protection from the gusts of wind. Is this permitted?


A4. No. Accepting protection from the wind from the fellow competitors would be a breach of Rule 14-2a, which states that a player must not make a stroke while accepting physical assistance or protection from the elements.


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Good golfing,



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