Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Year Rules Teaser

Four years ago, my New Year Rules Teaser posed the question as to how a player in a match could be 7 holes down without having struck a ball. Here is a link to the blog, which links to my answer. Well, thanks to Kathryn Belanger, Assistant Manager, Rules Communications at USGA, we now have an ‘official’ answer to the often asked question, “What is the earliest hole that a match can be won?”

Obviously, this is of academic interest only; it will never happen - but it could!

A player carries a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1). He changes the weight of his driver after teeing off, but he does not make a stroke with the club after the adjustment (Rule 4-2). He starts his round with 15 clubs (Rule 4-4a). He has two caddies (Rule 6-4). He violates the one-ball condition on the opening two holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 1c). He has a parent as a caddie when they are not allowed (Appendix I, Part C, Item 2). He takes an unauthorized ride in a cart on both holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 8).

If all of these violations are discovered on the second hole, each would carry a two-hole adjustment to the state of the match. That's 14 holes. Assuming the player also loses the first two holes, he now is 16 down with 16 to play.

His opponent could win the 18-hole match on the 3rd hole by a score of 17 and 15.

And now for something much easier!

10 Questions on the 10 Golden Rules of Golf
George Peper estimated that if golfers learned the ‘10 Golden Rules’ (see this blog of mine), they would be able to resolve 90% of the situations routinely encountered on the course. So, for this year’s New Year Teaser I am posing 10 questions on these ‘10 Golden Rules’ in the hope that they might also highlight some common misconceptions.

1. Play the ball as it lies.
A player’s ball is at rest in a bunker. As they walk into the bunker a twig is blown from a tree and comes to rest over their ball. They may remove the twig without penalty. True or False?

2. Improving a lie or stance by bending or breaking anything growing or fixed.
Prior to chipping to the hole a player may repair damage made by a ball to the fringe of the putting green that is two club-lengths in front of where their ball lies and on their line of play. True or False?

3. Loose Impediments
Before dropping a ball under the Rules a player may sweep away twigs, leaves and loose soil with their hand to clear the area of drop. True or False?

4. Movable and immovable obstructions.
If a player is not able to move an obstruction on their own it is an immovable obstruction. True or False?

5. Abnormal ground conditions
A player may take relief from footprints made by a burrowing animal in a bunker. True or False?

6. Touching the ground in hazards
A player may not touch the sand on the back slope of a bunker during their backswing. True or False?

7. Relief from (lateral) water hazards
If you cannot find a ball that is known to have come to rest in a lateral water hazard there are options to drop a ball under penalty of one stroke on either side of the hazard. True or False?

8. Ball lost or out of bounds
A player finds their ball lying 6 inches beyond an out of bounds margin. If they have not played a provisional ball they may drop the ball within two club-lengths of where it crossed the boundary for a penalty of two strokes, so as not to delay play.

9. Deeming a ball unplayable
A player may deem their ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except when it is in a water hazard, even if it is quite obviously playable, e.g. at rest on a putting green. True or False?

10. Repairing damage on the putting green
Players may repair spike damage to a hole providing it is not on their line of putt. True or False?

1.    False. Decision 13-4/18 The principle that a player is entitled to the lie that they had when their ball came to rest, only applies in cases where the lie of a ball has been altered as a result of an act by another player, caddie, spectator or other animate outside agency, not when the lie was altered through natural causes.
2.    False. Decision 13-2/0.5. A player must not improve their line of play by eliminating an irregularity of surface, except that damage on a putting green made by a ball, or an old hole mark on a putting green, may be repaired.
3.    False. Definition of Loose Impediments. Twigs and leaves may be carefully removed, but not loose soil, which is not a loose impediment unless it is on a putting green.
4.    False. Definition of Obstruction. Providing the obstruction can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage the player may obtain the assistance of others to move it.
5.    False. Decision 25/19.5. A footprint is an irregularity of surface from which there is no relief without penalty.
6.    True. Rule 13-4b and Decision 13-4/31.
7.    True. Rule 26-1c(ii).
8.    False. The player must return to where they last played from under penalty of stroke and distance.
9.    True. Rule 28.
10.    False. Decision 16-1c/4. A player may not repair any spike mark anywhere in the vicinity of the hole, as it might assist them in their subsequent play of the hole.

How did you do?

Good golfing,


I have completed the update of all my eDocuments and will send new files to all those that purchased from me after 1st April 2015, as promised. However, I am still waiting for the updated .mobi version of my eBook, ‘999 Questions’, so bear with me, as these will take a little longer to deliver.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Special - Geoff Hassings
For my Christmas blog I am once again borrowing material from the regular tweets of a very funny Twitter account, @golfclubwankers, which I can recommend to all of you that can see a humorous side to golf and are not get easily offended by bad language, or non-politically correct comments. I think that you will recognise many of the following actions; if not in yourself, then in those that you play with.
  • Thinning your first chip on the practice green, ending up stone dead at the wrong hole, then chipping the rest of your balls to that hole.
  • Rushing to get something out of your golf bag and getting a tee right under the fingernail!
  • Checking the hole in desperation when you can't find your ball in the rough around the green. 
  • Chasing after an electric trolley that wasn’t quite turned off. 
  • When you are looking for a fellow competitor’s ball saying unhelpful things like; “What ball are you playing?”, “Did you get a line on it?”, “I didn't see it come down”, “You’re probably better off not finding it”, “That’s very strange, it shouldn’t be lost here”. 
  • Calling a fellow competitor by the wrong name for most of the round.Telling yourself to play safe before the round…. then hitting driver off every tee and lob wedge around every green. 
  • Smashing the ball into the dividing partition at the driving range and looking round to see if anyone notice. 
  • Cleaning your clubs in the kitchen sink on the night before you are due to go on a golfing vacation.Hearing golf balls rolling around your car boot when you go around a corner. 
  • Before going to sleep on Saturday or Sunday, reliving three missed putts, two knock downs and one duffed chip and thinking about what you should have shot this weekend. 
  • Practicing your swing in front of a mirror using a TV remote control for the grip. 
  • Realising that you are addicted to golf, as you start looking for golf courses through the aircraft window as you take off and land.
  • After good round: “I love golf, it’s my passion in life”. After bad round: “golf is sh1t, don't know why I bother”.
I have to admit that there is only one of the above that I haven’t committed!

Pros Playing Bad Shots
If you are interested in seeing Pro Tour golfers playing poor shots just like you (well most of us!), then you might be interested in watching this 11 minutes YouTube video compilation of 51 bad golf shots from Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and several others from the 2015 PGA Championship events. It might make you feel a little better the next time you thin a stroke, or hit it fat. Click here for the video. 

Happy Holidays to all my readers, wherever you may play your golf.

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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Winter Rules (Again)

I am pleased to be able to report that the ‘Search This Blog’ feature has been restored on every page of my blog site. If you have any query on the Rules of Golf Just enter a short search term in the box (at the top right corner) and then click on the title of the blog that seems to be most relevant to your query.

For example, if you search “Winter Rules / Preferred Lies” you will receive 10 links to previous blogs of mine that contain relevant information on this subject, the first of which, at this link, contains this important paragraph (particularly for Golf Club Committee members);

It is definitely not good enough to post a notice that says ‘Winter Rules’, Preferred Lies’ or ‘Lift, Clean and Place Everywhere’. Wherever possible, it is recommended to reproduce one or more of the specimen Local Rules that are provided in Appendix l, Part B, section 4 of the Rules book.
So, whilst it is OK to draw players’ attention to the fact that a temporary Local Rule has been introduced to protect the course, or to promote fair and pleasant play, this must be backed up with a detailed Local Rule, preferably worded exactly the same as the specimen(s) in the Appendix l, Part B. Otherwise, there could be confusion amongst players on many matters, including the following;

•    Whether the temporary Local Rule permits placing a ball that lies through the green or just on a closely mown area.
•    How far the player is allowed to place their ball from where they picked it up (e.g. 6 inches, the width of a score card, or a club-length).
•    Whether a ball that is lying in the rough can be placed within the permitted distance on the fairway and vice versa.
•    Whether a ball must be marked before it is lifted, cleaned and placed within the permitted distance.
•    Whether a ball that has been placed is in play, so that it may not be replaced if it subsequently moves off its spot, or if it has not been cleaned or aligned to the player’s satisfaction (this should always be the case).

Players should be able to play in competitions, even those that are not counting for handicaps, in the knowledge that all competitors are playing to the same Rules.

Good golfing,


This is the last chance to help a friend, relative, or even yourself, to get a better understanding of the Rules of Golf over the Christmas Holiday with a Rhodes Rules School eDocumant gift: : '999 Questions' eBook', '99 Tips on the Rules', 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play!', 'Photo Series' or 'How Many Strokes?'

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

December Miscellany

Ball Embedded in Lip of Hole
I have received these two photos so many times now that I thought I should offer this ruling on them. Neither ball is holed, as part of each ball remains above the level of the lip of the hole. Definition of Hole;
A ball is "holed" when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.
The player must mark and lift their ball and, in the unlikely event that a member of the Committee is on hand, request that the hole (and in the right hand photo, the hole liner) is repaired. Otherwise, the player may repair the damage as best they can, without penalty. The ball must then be replaced on the lip and putted out. Decision 16-1a/6 clarifies the procedure for a player when a hole is damaged.
Q. Prior to putting, a player discovers that the hole has been damaged. What is the proper procedure?

A. If the damage is not clearly identifiable as a ball mark, then:

(a) If the damage is such that the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed materially, the player should continue play without repairing the hole. If he touches the hole in such circumstances, a breach of Rule 16-1a occurs.

(b) If the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, the player should request the Committee to have the hole repaired. If a member of the Committee is not readily available, the player may repair the damage, without penalty.

If a player repairs a materially damaged hole when a member of the Committee is readily available, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a.
Incidentally, the speed at which the ball must have been travelling to make the damage shown in the right-hand photo, leads me to the conclusion that there is no way that it would have finished at rest in the hole. This assumes that the photo is genuine; it has been doing the rounds and I suspect that the situation may have been manufactured to give us Rules experts something to talk about!

Zach Johnson

My attention was drawn to an incident concerning Zach Johnson at the Hero World Challenge in in Nassau, Bahamas last Thursday. His approach at the 18th hole missed the green, leaving him with an up-slope chip shot. As he considered how to play the chip he rubbed the grass near his ball, to get a sense of the grain in the grass. He was certainly testing the surface, but this action does not incur a penalty anywhere other than on putting greens (Rule 16-1d), or hazards (Rule 13-4). Part of Rule 16-1d states;

During the stipulated round, a player must not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.
Exception: Between the play of two holes, a player may test the surface of any practice putting green and the putting green of the hole last played, unless the Committee has prohibited such action (see Note 2 to Rule 7-2).
Johnson’s comments after the round were interesting;
“I get called on that at least two or three times a year from television. The problem is the camera, the angle where it is, I can't go in front of my ball and test the surface in my line, but I was about a yard, yard and a half to the left and behind.”
He is correct, a player may do nothing in front of their ball that may be construed as changing their line of play for the better, potentially giving them an advantage, Rule 13-2 and Decision 13-2/0.5.

2016 Updates to my eBook and eDocuments
I have almost finished updating my eBook and eDocuments with the amendments to the Rules and Decisions that are effective from 1st January, 2016. Anyone who has purchased from me since 1st April will automatically get the updated files sent to them, free of charge. The .mobi file for the '999 Questions' eBook (for eReaders, smart phones and tablets) may take a little longer, as I am dependent on an outside service for this. As soon as I do have it, I will update the file at Amazon for those of you that prefer a paperback version. Please watch my blog site for details.

I am also close to releasing my follow-up eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. This is a collection of all 111 issues of ‘9 Questions About …’, my current weekly email ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. For those of you that are not familiar with these series they are;
1st series of 99 issues: 'Photo series' (click here to purchase)
2nd series of 99 issues: 'How Many Strokes?' (click here to purchase)
3rd series of 111 issues: '9 Questions About …' (watch this space!)

Good golfing,


Unfortunately, my 'Search This Blog' widget (top right corner) has not been working for the past few days. However, if you use Google and enter a Rules search term followed by Barry Rhodes you can achieve similar resul (e.g. "Embedded ball Barry Rhodes").

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

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Penalty of Stroke and Distance

Ball out of bounds: penalty of stroke and distance
I am keeping this week’s blog short and simple, but it is important. If your ball is lost anywhere outside of a water hazard, or is out of bounds, and you have not played a provisional ball…..

You must proceed 
under penalty of stroke and distance

This means that the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (Rule 20-5). Despite what some golfers may tell you, there is no other option. In particular, it is not permitted to drop a ball close to where the ball went out of bounds, or where it was thought to be lost for a penalty of two strokes. Anyone who does so, will incur the penalty of disqualification, from the competition in a strokes competition, or from the hole in Stableford, bogey or par competitions.

Note also, that at anytime, anywhere on the course, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played, i.e. proceed under penalty of stroke and distance. The consequence of this is that if you do not fancy your next stroke (e.g. in deep undergrowth, under the lip of a bunker, or behind a large immovable obstruction on the line of play) and the other two options under Rule 28, Ball Unplayable, do not provide you with a favorable dropping location, then you may choose this option of taking the penalty of stroke and distance.

Interesting Podcast from

Rules enthusiasts may want to check out the podcast, in which Alan Bastable chats with USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf & Amateur Status Thomas Pagel. At 40 minutes (including ads), it is a long listen, but it does contain interesting detail on Pagel’s job, how the Rules of Golf evolve, the decision making behind the four significant changes that are effective from 1st January 2016 and, for the final 5 minutes, Pagel’s thoughts on the simplification of the Rules. Here is the link to this podcast.

Good golfing,


I have almost finished upgrading my eBook and other eDocuments with the changes required following the amendments to the Rules and Decisions, effective January 1st 2016. So, don't hold back on ordering a useful Christmas present for golfers of all ages and handicaps. All my eDocuments can be accessed at

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

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Re-creating the Lie and Re-covering the Ball

Ball covered by loose impediments in a bunker
Rule 20-3b(iii) states that if the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced in a bunker has been altered the original lie must be re-created as nearly as possible and the ball must be placed in that lie. This includes any irregularity that the ball lay in when it came to rest, not just a change that was caused afterwards.

There are two similar situations in Rule 12-1;
a)    If a player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand they may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify it (Rule 12-1a).
b)    If a player’s ball is believed to lie in a hazard, but is covered by loose impediments to the extent that they cannot find or identify it they may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify it (Rule 12-b).

So, in the above situations how does the player continue if they find and identify their ball? 
a)    The player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.
b)    If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments (e.g. leaves, as in the photo above), the player must re-cover the ball but is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

One further situation where the lie of a ball must be re-created can be found in Decision 18-2a/21 in which a player plays a wrong ball from a bunker and changes the lie of their own ball lying nearby. The player incurs the general penalty for making a stroke at the wrong ball, but is not penalised for moving their own ball in this circumstance. They must replace the ball in play and re-create the lie.

Farewell Ivor Robson.
If you do not know who Ivor Robson is, the Golf Channel video clip link that follows will probably not be of interest you; but if you are a follower of the European Tour you will almost certainly want to click on this link, to hear some very famous professional golfers pay their humorous tribute to the legendary and highly popular starter with 41 years’ service to the game of golf.

Good golfing,


A reminder that I will be emailing updated files to everyone that purchased one after 1st April 2015, as soon as I have finished working through the amendments. 

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

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Bunker Liners and Missed Start Times

Branden Grace and the Bunker Liner
Several readers have brought to my attention a Rules incident concerning South African, Branden Grace, at the recent 2015 WGC HSBC Champions in China. Apparently, the TV commentators were confused as to why he was permitted to take a free drop when his natural stance for a stroke meant that he had to place one foot inside a bunker to play his ball lying just outside of the bunker. The explanation is that one foot of his stance would have been on, or touching, an exposed bunker liner (which is an immovable obstruction). As his ball was lying outside of the bunker, he was correctly permitted to take relief without penalty from the interference, under Rule 24-2. So he dropped his ball outside of the bunker within one club-length of the nearest point of relief that avoided the interference from the bunker liner, not nearer the hole and not in the bunker. Of course, if his ball had been in the bunker, he would still have been entitled to take relief, but would have had to drop his ball in the bunker. There may be readers that have not come across artificial bunker liners, so I have included the photo of one being installed. Of course, the question that one might ask, is why a course hosting an important international golf tournament has a bunker with an exposed liner?

LPGA Players Miss Their Start Time

Four LPGA stars missed their tee time last Saturday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City. Carlota Ciganda, Suzann Pettersen, Angela Stanford and Minjee Lee all left their Mexico City hotel on their short journey to Club de Golf Mexico, for the third round of the 36-player event, in a shuttle bus provided by the tournament organisers. However, due to heavy Mexico City traffic and road works, the shuttle driver, chose to take a detour. Unfortunately, that decision turned what should have been a 20-minute ride into a two-hour ordeal, resulting in the four players missing their tee times and other groups due to start behind them being delayed.

Quite rightly, the LPGA decided that the situation was wholly out of the control of the players, and did not disqualify them under Rule 6-3a, which states;

The player must start at the time established by the Committee.
In stroke play, the penalty for a breach of Rule 6-3 is as follows;
If the player arrives at her starting point, ready to play, within five minutes after her starting time, the penalty for failure to start on time is loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Otherwise, the penalty for breach of this Rule is disqualification.
However, the Committee was able to justify the waiving of any penalty by resorting to the Exception to Rule 6-3;
Where the Committee determines that exceptional circumstances have prevented a player from starting on time, there is no penalty.
Interestingly, Decision 6-3a/1.5 suggests that heavy traffic resulting in the journey to the course taking longer than expected is not a sufficiently exceptional circumstance to avoid disqualification. In this case the fact that the transport was being organised by tournament organisers meant that it was outside the control of the players and they were permitted to tee-off late.

Of the four players only Ciganda seemed to put the episode behind her once out on the course, shooting 69, compared to Stanford’s 76, Pettersen’s 75 and Lee’s 73.

Good golfing,


This is the link to purchase the Decisons on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017.

This is the link to print out the notice board document of the main amendments to the Rules of Golf, effective 2016. 

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

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

November Miscellany

Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017
The R&A’s, spiral bound, Decisions book for 2016/2017 can now be purchased from Amazon for £12.91 (although I have just been advised that deliveries will not commence until 20th November) (Edit 12/11/15: I see that the Amazon price has been increased to £15.90, the £12.91 price was what they call a 'pre-order price'). I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have easy access to this really useful book, which I can promise you is much easier to read than the Rules book. You may not want it for yourself, but you should definitely consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. Any previous publications of the Decisions should be thrown in the bin, as there are a surprising number of amendments in the new publication. There are;

29 New Decisions
81 Revised Decisions
4 Re-numbered Decisions
17 Withdrawn Decisions
If you are going to purchase the Decisions book, or anything else from Amazon, I would be grateful if you could use this link to do so, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which helps me to meet my costs.

Strangely, the USGA hard copy publication does not seem to be available from either Amazon or the USGA, but Amazon do have a Kindle (eBook) version at $15.99, which can also be purchased at my link above. The only difference between the R&A and USGA versions is the spellings of some words, as the Rules and Decisions have been unified for many years.

“Take Your Time!”
I am sure that most golfers have experienced a situation where a player misses a putt and moves quickly to their ball to tap it in when a fellow competitor says, “Take your time”. This can often lead to a situation where someone in the group, or later in the bar, suggests that this is a breach of Rule 8-1a, as it amounts to giving advice. I am pleased to pass on a statement that I have received, which in my opinion summarises the situation accurately;

Generally, a statement such as this would not be considered ‘advice’, as is defined in the Rules of Golf.  Such statements are usually made as a courtesy, when someone decides to putt out of turn in stroke play, rather than to council or influence the player in his play.

However, the ruling very much depends on the context of the conversation and circumstances. If it is simply a courtesy to tell the player they don’t have to rush on your behalf, then fine. But if it is stated in a way to counsel the player to slow them down, then this may result in a different ruling.
When is a Ball Replaced on a Putting Green Back in Play?
I have been asked to clarify exactly when a ball is back in play when being replaced at a ball-marker on a putting green. We know from Decision 20-4/1 that a ball is back in play when it has been replaced, even if the ball-marker has not been lifted;

Q. A player replaces his ball on the putting green but does not remove his ball-marker. Subsequently the wind moves his ball to a new position. What is the ruling?
A. Under Rule 20-4, a ball is in play when it is replaced, whether or not the object used to mark its position has been removed. Consequently the ball must be played from the new position.
There is no restriction in Rule 16 as to how many times a player may mark and lift their ball on the putting green, providing they do not unduly delay play. It is not uncommon to see a player replace their ball at the ball-marker, step back to check the alignment of their intended line of putt, move the ball again, and repeat this process until they are satisfied that the ball is correctly aligned, before removing their ball-marker. In this scenario, the ball is in play whenever the player has released it at rest, and is out of play whenever they touch it. The same applies no matter how many times they touch, move or lift the ball. However, if any part of their equipment causes their replaced ball to move, they are penalised one stroke under Rule 18-2a, even if the ball-marker is still in place.

A Document for Club/Society Notice Boards
I have edited my blog from two weeks ago, which summarised the main amendments to the Rules of Golf, effective 1st January 2016, into a single A4 page that can be printed out for posting on Club and Society notice boards, or included in a newsletter to members. Click on this link, then click on the box labelled, ‘DOWNLOAD PDF’ and print out from there. Please leave my accreditation on this single page document.

Good golfing,


This is the link to purchase the Decisons on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017.

This is the link to print out the notice board document of the main amendments to the Rules of Golf, effective 2016.

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

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Anchoring the Club

Permitted putting strokes, from the R&A and USGA infographic
Following the announcement of the revisions to the 2016 Rules of Golf, on which I commented in my blog last week, I have received a few questions concerning the new Rule 14-1b - Anchoring the Club. Before I answer them here is what the Rule states;
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” 

Note 1:  The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

Note 2:  An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.
The Ruling Bodies have provided this explanation as to why the change is being made;
“A stroke is a fundamental element that defines the game of golf and is meant to involve the player freely swinging the entire club at the ball. Anchoring the club relieves the player from making a free swing by restricting the movement of the club as if it were physically attached to the player’s body and thereby providing extra support and stability for the stroke.”
Now let me clarify some of the salient points that have been raised.
•    Rule 14-1b is not an equipment Rule. There is nothing in the revised Rules for 2016 to stop a player using any conforming mid-length or long-handled putter, providing they do not anchor the club while making a stroke.
•    The prohibition on anchoring applies to all types of stroke (i.e. putts, chip shots, pitch shots, full-length shots, etc.), regardless of where those strokes are made (i.e., putting green, fringe, fairway, rough, tee, and everywhere else on the course.)
•    Rule 14-1b applies to all amateur and professional golfers playing in any competition that is being played in accordance with the Rules of Golf, as laid down by the R&A and USGA.
•    If a player does carry a long-handled putter amongst the 14 clubs that they are permitted, they may use it for measuring club-lengths.
•    The penalty for anchoring a club while making a stroke is two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play, on each occasion that the Rule is breached.
•    American Pro golfer, Matt Kuchar, has been using a method of putting with a long-handled putter that is still permitted. He holds the club grip against his forearm (i.e. below his elbow) when making a stroke. If you are interested in seeing his method in a short YouTube video, click here.
•    A Committee may not introduce a Local Rule, or Condition of Competition, to permit anchoring by any competitor. Anchoring during a stroke is not a local, abnormal condition and to permit it would waive a fundamental Rule of Golf. There are no exceptions for seniors, or golfers with a medical condition.

For most of us the new Rule 14-1b will be of little consequence, as we have never resorted to using longer than standard putters. However, for those of you that believe that a long-handled putter may assist your golf, or may keep you playing the game for longer, you should fully understand the nuances of the prohibition of anchoring. I strongly recommend that you visit the excellent, on-line resources provided by R&A and USGA at these links;

Good golfing,


The new Rules of Golf books should soon be available through your Golf Club or Society, courtesy of the sponsor, Rolex. I hope to be providing a link to the new ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017’ book on my web site, by the end of this week.

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

Monday, 26 October 2015

Revisions in the 2016 Rules of Golf

On Monday 26th October, the R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced the publication of the 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf that takes effect on January 1, 2016. There are four significant changes, including the ban on anchoring, which we have known about for some time. Interestingly, the cover on the new Rules book has departed from the practice of listing 'from' and 'to' dates, covering the four-yearly Rules review period. On the 2016 edition (see photo on left above) they have reverted to saying “Effective January 2016”. I am guessing that this means that the much talked about major simplification of the Rules that is being worked on by the two Ruling Bodies, may happen well before 2020.

For speed and simplicity, I have copied most of the summary of the main changes to the Rules effective 1st January 2016 from the official press release, and I will probably go into more detail in future weeks, as the implications become clearer.

Withdrawal of Rule on Ball Moving After Address - Rule 18-2b
This means that if a ball at rest moves after the player addresses it, the player is no longer automatically deemed to have caused the ball to move. A one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 will be applied only when the facts show that the player has caused the ball to move.

Comment: This removes one of the most common retrospective penalties applied following armchair viewers phoning in to report a suspected breach. Effectively, the removal of the Rule means that there no longer will be any presumption that a player has moved their ball after grounding their club in preparation for a stroke. The same overall test in Rule 18-2 will apply to all actions by the player, whether they have addressed their ball, or not; they only incur the one stroke penalty if the facts show that any of their actions caused their ball to move. If they have incurred the penalty the ball must be replaced.
Limited Exception to Disqualification Penalty for Submission of Incorrect Score Card
A new exception has been introduced to Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole) to provide that a player is not disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred before returning the score card. Instead, the player incurs the penalty under the Rule that was breached and must then add an additional penalty of two strokes for the score card error. In all other cases in which a player returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, the penalty will continue to be disqualification.

Comment: So, for example, a player signs their score card with a score of 4 on a hole. Subsequently, they are advised that they forgot to replace their ball on the putting green on that hole, having moved it one putter-head to the side on the request of a fellow competitor. Under the current Rule the player is disqualified for this breach, but the revised Rule means that their score for the hole will be 4, plus two strokes penalty for the breach and a further two strokes for the score card error, making 8 for the hole. Note that this exception does not apply to arithmetical breaches on the score card.
Modification of Penalty for a Single Impermissible Use of Artificial Devices or Equipment
The penalty for a player’s first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during the round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 will continue to be disqualification.

Comment: There are two changes to this Rule. The first is purely a reduction in the penalty for using a device or equipment that is not permitted. For example, if a player uses a swing aid while waiting on a teeing ground they incur a penalty of two strokes, instead of being disqualified. However, if they are silly enough to do the same thing later in the round the disqualification penalty does apply. The second change confirms that a multi-functional device, such as smart phone or PDA, may be used as a distance-measuring device (if a Local Rule permits), but must not be used to gauge or measure other conditions, where doing so would be a breach of Rule 14-3. This removes the restriction on using a smart device for distance measuring because it is capable of other functions that are not permitted, even if they are not used during the round. The player will only be penalised if they access or use such information.
Prohibition on Anchoring the Club While Making a Stroke
As announced back in May 2013, the new Rule 14-1b (Anchoring the Club) prohibits anchoring a club either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point’ in making a stroke. The penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

Comment: The most important point to understand about this new Rule is that it is not an equipment Rule; players may continue to use long-handled putters. The ban is to prohibit players from using an anchoring technique to make their stroke either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point.’ There is an excellent, explanatory infographic, at this link, which in my opinion, provides the easiest way to understand the new Rule 14-1b.
The above are the main amendments to the Rules for 2016, but there are other clarifications, or changes to the wording, designed to make some Rules easier for the player to interpret and understand. No doubt I will have more comments to make, once I receive information on these and any new, revised or withdrawn Decisions on the Rules of Golf effective from January 1st, 2016.

Good golfing,


As previously announced, I will update my ‘999 Questions’ book and various eDocuments with the revisions to the Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf, over the next few weeks. I will then send the relevant updated files to those that have purchased eDocuments from me since 1st April 2015. You don’t receive that service from Amazon!
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Opposite Side of the Margin

Diagram from R&A’s and USGA’s ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015’
If asked to imagine a lateral water hazard, I expect that most golfers would immediately think of a ditch, with or without water, running down the side of a hole, defined by a series of red stakes on either side. In most cases, when a ball comes to rest within such a hazard, we know that the player can drop a ball within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole, for a penalty of one stroke. However, there are instances when, due to the shape of the putting green and the margin of the lateral water hazard there may be no spot to drop that is not nearer the hole, or when the nature of the permitted dropping area is not favourable. In these uncommon circumstances, Rule 26-1 provides four other options. Leaving aside; a) playing the ball from within the hazard, b) playing again under penalty of stroke and distance, and c) dropping a ball back along a line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, we are left with d) the option in Rule 26-1c(ii);
…drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than ….. (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.
In the case of the lateral ditch described in the first sentence above, the reference point on the opposite margin is obvious, it is across the ditch, at the point on an equidistant radius from the hole from that where the ball last crossed the margin. However, as can be seen in the diagram above, which is taken from Decision 26-1/14 in ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’, it is not always that simple to determine where the opposite margin is. This is the wording from that Decision, which refers to the diagram above;
Q. Please clarify the words "opposite margin" in Rule 26-1c. With regard to the diagram, "X1" indicates where a ball in the hazard last crossed the hazard margin. May the player drop a ball within two club-lengths of "Y1"? And, may a player whose ball last crossed the hazard margin at "X2" drop a ball within two club-lengths of "Y2," and so on?

A. With respect to "X1," "Y1" is "a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole." Accordingly, the player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of "Y1."

The same applies in the cases of "X3"-"Y3" and "X4"-"Y4," but not in the case of "X2"-"Y2." A "point on the opposite margin" is a point across the hazard from "the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard." "Y2" is not across the hazard from "X2" because an imaginary straight line from "X2" to "Y2" crosses land outside the hazard.
Note especially these words that I bolded; A ‘point on the opposite margin’ is a point across the hazard from the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. An imaginary straight line drawn from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard must not cross over land outside of the  hazard margin when determining the ‘opposite margin’ that is equidistant from the hole. This is not an easy concept to understand, but studying the four examples in the diagram should help clarify. Only X2 to Y2 (the red dashed line on the left of the diagram) does not meet the requirement. So the option of dropping a ball at a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole is not available for a ball that crosses the margin at point X2.

Good golfing,


There are 5 Rules issues that cause many golfers confusion; Water Hazards, Lateral Water Hazards, Ball Unplayable, Nearest Point of Relief and Provisional Ball. If you have trouble remembering the various options for taking relief I recommend that you view my short videos on these subjects at this link.

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

Monday, 12 October 2015

Match Play: Losing Two Holes in One

Photo of Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson by USA Today Sports
I was not intending to add to the widespread commentary relating to Phil Mickelson’s breach of the ‘One Ball’ Condition during The Presidents Cup in South Korea on Friday, as it is not a Rules situation that will ever be relevant to the game of most golfers and there are certainly enough Rules to understand that are. I changed my mind when I realised that there is still much confusion over the various issues of the incident. For variety, I am going to summarise the main issues using a bullet point format;
  • Under the Rules of Golf a player may use any conforming ball to start a hole and may change the brand and model of ball they are using between holes, or whenever the Rules permit them to substitute a ball during a hole (e.g. when taking penalty relief from a water hazard).
  • Committees may introduce a Condition of Competition that requires players to use balls of the same brand and model throughout their stipulated round. Whilst this Condition is used in most pro tour events, it is rarely introduced in any amateur competition. It is my understanding that this Condition is not used in the PGA of America Championship and Ryder Cups played on US courses, though it is used in PGA Tour, European Tour and most of the other major golf tournaments. It did apply to last week’s Presidents Cup singles and four-balls, but not to the foursomes (alternate shot) played on Thursday, where the member of the side that was teeing off at each hole was permitted to play the ball of their choice. This can present a problem for team Captains when selecting their foursome pairings, as there is considerable difference between the types of balls that professional golfers play.
  • Phil Mickelson recognises that he made a mistake in not checking whether the ‘One Ball’ Condition was in effect in the four-ball matches before playing the ball that he had changed to, so as to get more distance and less spin from his drive on the par-5 7th hole.
  • The relevant part of the specimen Condition in Appendix l, Part B (which I am assuming was the same or similar for The President’s Cup) states; 
    During a stipulated round, the balls a player plays must be of the same brand and model as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls.
  • The penalty for a breach of the Rule is as follows; 
Match play - At the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round - Two holes.
  • Note that the penalty is not applied until the end of the hole being played, so Phil could/should have continued play of the hole, with the type of ball that he had previously been playing with, to try and achieve a win over the opponents.
  • Unfortunately, when Phil realised that he may have breached the ‘One Ball’ Condition, and had this confirmed by US team Captain, Jay Haas, he was wrongly informed by an official that this meant that he was disqualified from the hole and so he did not play out the hole. When Zach Johnson failed to match the birdie of Jason Day the Americans effectively lost two holes over the play of one hole.
  • It is important to understand that it was Phil that brought his breach into the open. It is almost certain that no-one would have noticed the difference in the two Callaway balls he uses, had he not sought confirmation as to whether the ‘One Ball’ Condition was in effect for the President Cup four-balls.
Arguably, the penalty cost Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson their halved match against Adam Scott and Jason Day, but the American team did go on to win this year’s Presidents Cup by 15 ½ to 14 ½.

On a lighter note, but slightly related to the above, I will draw your attention to this highly unlikely scenario that I described in my New Year Rules riddle from 29th December 2011;

After celebrating much too enthusiastically on New Year’s Eve, George arrives at the first tee for his New Year’s Day match against his arch rival, Bill. Things don’t go well for him and unbelievably (!) he is 7 holes down without having struck a ball, when he concedes the match. George has not conceded any stroke or hole and has not breached a Local Rule or Condition of Competition. Explain how this could possibly have occurred under the Rules of Golf.
When you have given this some thought you can check out the solution/explanation at this link.

Good golfing,


I now have nearly 7 years of weekly articles on my blog site, covering most areas of the Rules of Golf. You can often find the answers to your Rules questions by entering a short search term in the 'Search This Blog' box at the top right corner of my blog pages.

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

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Where to Stand on the Putting Green

Golfers sometimes fall out with their fellow competitors, or opponents, over where they should stand on the putting green while putts are being made. In my opinion, regardless of where they stand it is more important that they should remain absolutely silent and motionless while anyone is making their stroke.

You may be surprised to find out that there is only one Rule of Golf that restricts where a player may stand when putts are being made and this only concerns a player’s partner, their caddie and their partner’s caddie, not a fellow competitor, an opponent or their caddies. Rule 14-2b states;

A player must not make a stroke with his caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie positioned on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.

Exception: There is no penalty if the player's caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie is inadvertently located on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball. 
The effect of this is that a player may stand anywhere else on the putting green without incurring a penalty, including behind the hole (i.e. with the hole immediately between them and where the ball is being putted from).

However, the section on etiquette at the front of the Rules book makes two other recommendations relevant to this subject;

•    Players should not stand close to or directly behind the ball, or directly behind the hole, when a player is about to play.
•    Players should not stand on another player's line of putt or, when they are making a stroke, cast a shadow over their line of putt.
There is one other ruling that is relevant to this subject and it is found in Decision 14-2/3;
Q. May a player's caddie purposely stand between the player and the setting sun so that the sun's glare is not in the player's face while he is playing a stroke?
A. No. Such procedure is a breach of Rule 14-2A.
Naturally, the above restriction also applies to a player’s partner, their partner’s caddie and a fellow competitor. Similarly, a player may not request an outside agency to put their ball in the shade with their shadow, though they may ask them to stand aside in order to ensure that their shadow does not move and distract them as they make their stroke.

My recommendation is that if you feel that someone is standing on the putting green in a position that may disturb or distract you, delay making your stroke and courteously ask them to move to a less intrusive position.

Good golfing,


A new season of golf is starting in the Southern Hemisphere. If you or your Club are participating in inter-club match play, why not familiarise yourself with the differences in match play Rules from stroke play Rules. Knowing them could be the difference between winning or losing! Check out this link.

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

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Immovable Obstruction or Integral to the Course?

Nick Faldo playing from the road on 17th hole, St. Andrews
I received a question last week similar to this;
I have noticed that on some score cards Club Committees identify immovable obstructions from which free relief can be taken under Rule 24-2, e.g. cart paths, maintenance shed, sprinkler heads and manhole covers. But other immovable obstructions on the course are not listed, e.g. ball washers, fixed furniture and permanent course signage. Does this mean that anything artificial and not easily movable is integral to the course if not included in the list?
I have often wondered why some Committees feel the need to condense a Rule of Golf (in this case Rule 24-2) into a few words and incorrectly include it as a Local Rule on their score cards. Appendix l, Part A, Local Rules, includes this sentence;
As provided in Rule 33-8a, the Committee may make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy established in this Appendix.
Here is the Definition of Obstructions;
An "obstruction" is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:
a.    Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;
b.    Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and
c.    Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise, it is an immovable obstruction.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.
It is evident from this definition that most obstructions are definitely not local abnormal conditions, though the note at the foot of the Definition provides an exception. An example of a movable obstruction that may be defined as an immovable obstruction is a water hazard stake, Decision 33-8/16. However, this Local Rule is not recommended, as it may result in players who are not aware of this unusual practice being penalised under Rule 13-2 for moving such a stake.

Another reason for not listing immovable obstructions in a Local Rule is that it is almost certain that there will be omissions, as in the question above, where ball washers, fixed furniture and permanent course signage were not included in the list, though free relief from them is available under Rule 24-2. Even if a totally comprehensive list is provided, other unforeseen instances can arise, e.g. a golf course mower that has broken down on a fairway.

Ideally, to avoid unnecessary confusion, the only reference to obstructions in Local Rules should be where an immovable obstruction is defined as being integral to the course. So, for example, a Local Rule for the Old Course, St. Andrews Links, states;

Roads and Paths (Rule 28):
All roads and paths are integral parts of the course. The ball must be played as it lies or declared unplayable.
As a pedant (!), I recommend that St. Andrews Links Trust should remove the word ‘declared’ and replaced it with ‘deemed’, which is more accurate, according to the wording of Rule 28.

In summary, my recommendation to Golf Club Committees is that they check their Local Rules and remove anything that is already covered by the Rules of Golf, especially anything contained therein that does not deal with local abnormal conditions.

Video Example of a Rule 18-5 Incident:
Click here and scroll down to view a short video of Rickie Fowler’s bouncing ball hitting Jordan Spieth’s stationary ball on the putting green at last week’s Tour Championship by Coca-Cola. The action provides an excellent reminder of Rule 18-5;

If a ball in play and at rest is moved by another ball in motion after a stroke, the moved ball must be replaced.
Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Conceding the Next Stroke

In the Solheim Cup spotlight – Dan Maselli, LPGA Rules Official

I am sure that the title of this week’s blog will not have come as a surprise to most regular readers. It was unfortunate that another wonderful match play tournament between teams representing the USA and Europe will be remembered for a single Rules incident, rather than for the truly magnificent golf and the nail-biting final day’s singles matches that was on show at the Solheim Cup at St. Leon-Rot, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany.

Many readers will have had their fill of the detail of the incident that occurred between Alison Lee and Suzann Pettersen, on the 17th putting green on Sunday, with a variety of opinions that are heavily weighted against the two European players and their captain, so I will restrict my own opinion to the bare minimum.
•    The referee’s ruling was absolutely correct (click here to hear LPGA Referee, Dan Maselli, explain his ruling in detail).
•    The putt was not conceded under the Rules as nothing was said by either player on the opponent’s side.
•    At worst, the Europeans should have recognised the misunderstanding and requested that the ball be replaced and putted out, without penalty, although this is not strictly provided for in the Rules in the circumstance that prevailed.
Now for a summary of the Rule 2-4 issues relating to the concession of the next stroke, usually made on the putting green; I am not covering the additional points relating to the concession of a hole or a match in this blog.
•    A player may concede their opponent's next stroke at any time, provided the opponent's ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with their next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.
•    A concession may not be declined or withdrawn under any circumstances.
•    In a four-ball or foursome, either partner may make the concession.
•    No-one else has the authority to make a concession (e.g. a caddie, team captain or spectator).
•    If a player makes a statement (note, not an action) that could reasonably have led their opponent to think their next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), the opponent should replace their ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty. Decision 2-4/3 is relevant;
Q. In a match between A and B, B made a statement which A interpreted to mean that his (A's) next stroke was conceded. Accordingly, A lifted his ball. B then said that he had not conceded A's next stroke. What is the ruling?

A. If B's statement could reasonably have led A to think his next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), A should replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty.
Otherwise, A would incur a penalty stroke for lifting his ball without marking its position - Rule 20-1 - and he must replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay.
•    Whilst the action of going over to an opponent and shaking hands with them is sufficient implication that a concession has been made, there is nothing in the Rules or Decisions that suggests that a concession is implied by the player turning away from the hole or walking off the putting green.
Returning to the Solheim Cup incident; in my opinion, the European team captain, Carin Koch could have stepped in during play of the 18th hole and asked her players to concede the 18th hole, resulting in a drawn match. If this had happened, the 2015 Solheim Cup would have forever been remembered as a match where good sportsmanship trumped the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,

Footnote: I was very pleased to see that Suzann Pettersen has now made a contrite apology on her Instagram account and hope that this will help to build the bridges for future Solheim Cup tournaments.

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