Tuesday, 27 January 2015

John Paramor's Memo on Provisional Balls

John Paramor (Photo: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie)
I want to begin this week’s blog by emphasising that I have taken the information from an article in last Sunday’s Scotsman newspaper, penned by the respected golf media reporter, John Huggan. I have not been able to verify the core detail, despite searching my usual sources. However, I do know that John Huggan was present in Abu Dhabi for the HSBC Golf Championship and on a guest podcast, he claims to have spoken to about 40 of the competitors there, so I have absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of his article's content;
Last week in Abu Dhabi, the European Tour’s chief referee, John Paramor, distributed a memo to every player. The first two sentences of Paramor’s missive read as follows: “In recent weeks, there have been a number of occasions where players have not played a provisional ball when their original ball has not been found. Some of those players when asked for the reason why they had not played a provisional ball stated they were unsure that they were entitled to do so.”

This beggars belief. These players are the sporting equivalent of lollipop ladies who have neglected to read even the first page of the Green Cross Code. That’s bad enough, but their lack of knowledge of Rule 27-2 surely adds – at a conservative estimate – as much as 20 minutes to tournament rounds.

And there’s more. Further down the page, Paramor cites another example of the sort of things he and his overworked team have to deal with. During last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, an unnamed individual pushed his approach to the 15th green way right of the putting surface. Only after walking forward did he ascertain that the ball was out of bounds.

Having done so, Player X trudged all the way back to where he hit his original shot. He then hit his next ball right of the green into a similar area. Here’s where it gets really bad though. Without either hitting a provisional ball, or walking forward as he had done previously, X simply stood and waited for news. That’s waited. And waited. And waited. What a dope. Eventually, he was penalised two shots for “undue delay of play”. All because he clearly had no idea what he was doing.

So what’s going on here?

“The current generation of young players is the first who don’t seem to have learned the game on the golf course,” points out Ogilvy, who is 37
(Geoff Ogilvy, Australian Pro golfer). “These days, they seem to learn golf on the range, with the Trackman machines and their coaches beside them. But that’s not golf, of course, it’s just hitting.

“All I ever did growing up was play golf. And when you do that you learn the rules as you go. Every few days, a rule comes up. Things happen. But when all you do is hit balls on the range, you never learn rules. And there’s too much of that in the modern game, certainly compared with what has gone before.”

“I’m not saying guys shouldn’t hit balls in an effort to improve,” says Ogilvy. “But there is a knock-on effect when a guy spends more time on the range than on the course. It would be interesting if part of gaining a tour card were passing a basic rules test. Maybe the only thing I can say in defence of players is that the rules on tour often vary from those everyone else plays by. Then again, we’re not really talking about such things here. It’s not asking much for us to understand and deal with situations that come up during nearly every round.

“There are what might be called ‘core’ rules, those we all have to know if the game is to be played properly. Just a working knowledge of those is going to make you safe 99.9 per cent of the time. And if something really extraordinary does happen, by all means call for a referee. Bottom line: we just need to know a few of the rules.”
  - John Huggan, Scotland on Sunday, 25th January, 2015.
Some readers may remember that back in March 2010, I wrote a blog titled, ‘Tour Players to Go ‘Back to School’ over Rules’. At that time, the European Tour had announced plans to educate players on simple rulings, so as to reduce the number of times that they delay play by waiting for a referee to make what usually turn out to be a straightforward ruling. Click here to read the blog. Unfortunately, when I queried the R&A, last June, on how many times they had imposed a sanction on a tour player following the introduction of this plan, they would not share any details. But their spokesperson did comment, “Until recently, this has acted as a deterrent and we have had few of these rulings requests, but we are quite willing to firstly remind the players that this policy is in force and that we are ready to enforce it where necessary.”

Hmmmm. Perhaps the time has come to re-visit this plan and either enforce it, or come up with some other solution. One suggestion is that players who ask for a referee, when it is obvious as to how they should proceed under the Rules, should be penalised under Rule 6-7 if they cause in excess of a two minutes delay, by having to wait for an unnecessary ruling. My guess is that it would only take a few instances of penalties being imposed for delaying play by waiting for a ruling on a trivial Rules issue, before players would realise that it was in their financial interest to take time to learn the basics for themselves. You may remember from another earlier blog of mine, George Peper estimated that by learning what he called the ‘10 Golden Rules of Golf’, players would be able to resolve 90% of the Rules situations that are routinely encountered on the course (check this link).

One of the many ways to help resolve the slow play problem is to learn the ‘10 Golden Rules of Golf’.

(Edit January 27th, 2015: A reader has pointed out that rather than causing a delay, by waiting for a ruling from a referee who may take some time to arrive, the player should play a second ball, strictly following the procedure in Rule 3-3. See this blog for details.)

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Non-Conforming Club - Matt Every

Getty Images; D.J. Piehowski/PGA TOUR
There was an unusual disqualification at the Sony Open in Hawaii last Friday and to the credit of the player involved, it was he who drew attention to his transgression. Matt Every, last year’s winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA Tour event, was disqualified for a breach of Rule 4-1, because he used a club that he had damaged other than in the normal course of play, which made it non-conforming. The circumstance was that Every had substantially bent his 4-iron, “out of frustration”, on the 18th hole of his opening round on Thursday. The following report of Every’s explanation, as to how the club remained in his bag on the second day of the event, is taken from Stephanie Wei’s excellent ‘Wei Under Par’ blog;
“There’s no good a bent club can do in my bag, obviously, so I was planning to throw it away (after the first round),” said Every. “Then on the range this morning, I was using it as an alignment stick because it’s only bent on the bottom and you can’t really tell.”

Once again, Every wanted to throw it away, but instead, he ended up putting it upside-down in his bag, so you could only see the butt of the grip.

“At some point between then and my 9th hole (18) today, it got turned back to normal,” he said. “I was looking down and just grabbed the 4-iron out of the bag. It wasn’t bent bad, just at the bottom there was a curve. If you were setting it up to hit a shot, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

“I was giving the club back to (my caddie) Derek (Mason) and my hands went to the middle of the club and I could tell it was bent. I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I knew a new 4-iron didn’t get put in the bag overnight.”
Every admitted that he was familiar with the Rule and knew right away that it was a breach. He then called over an official who confirmed that he was indeed disqualified. What surprises me about this conversation is that another report on the incident quotes PGA Rules official, John Mutch as saying;
“He asked for a second opinion on the bend. The bend in this club was about 10 inches up from the neck. It was substantial.”
So, Every was familiar with the Rule, knew that he had breached it, asked an official to confirm the penalty, but he still sought a second opinion!

Had Every taken the club out of his bag after finishing his round on Thursday he would not have incurred any penalty. However, as it was a stroke play competition, as soon as he started his round the following day with the non-conforming (bent) club he was subject to a penalty of two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes; but because he used the club in its damaged state on his 9th hole the penalty incurred increased to disqualification.

To summarise;
  • It is Rule 4 that deals with clubs.
  • A club that has a significant bend in its shaft is non-conforming.
  • If the club is damaged during the normal course of play it may be used, repaired or replaced during the round, but not otherwise. (Note that Decision 4-3/1 * clarifies what is meant by normal course of play.)
  • A player incurs a penalty for starting a round with a non-conforming club.
  • A player is disqualified for using a non-conforming club during a round.
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 © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Through the Green

I received a simple question this week,
“How does ‘through the green’ affect the Rules, could you provide an example?”
It made me realise that whilst many of my blogs have included references to ‘through the green’, I have not discussed the meaning of this golf term in detail.

The area ‘through the green’ is often misunderstood by golfers. Common misconceptions are that it is; when a ball goes over the back of the green; another way of describing the fairway; another way of describing the rough; or another way of describing the fairway plus the rough.

Here is the Definition from the front of the Rules book;
“Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except:
a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and
b. All hazards on the course.
Here is an example of how understanding the meaning of ‘through the green’ may affect your play. If your ball lies in the rough, just off the closely mown fairway, and you are taking relief from an immovable obstruction, or an abnormal ground condition (e.g. GUR or casual water), the relief procedures outlined in Rules 24-2b(i) and 25-1b(i), Relief - Through the Green, require that you must drop the ball within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief, which must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. So, if the permitted one club-length relief takes you from the rough to the fairway you are entitled to drop the ball onto the fairway (Decision 24-2b/8). Similarly, if your ball lies on the fairway and a Local Rule for Preferred Lies is in effect, you may place the ball onto the first cut of rough, providing that spot in the rough is within the distance you are entitled to prefer your lie (e.g. within 6 inches, or the width of the score card).

It is worth noting that Rule 25-2 only permits players to take relief for a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in a closely mown area (see this blog for more detail). However, many Committees extend this relief to ‘through the green’. It is my understanding that USGA invokes a Local Rule permitting relief without penalty for embedded balls 'through the green' in all their championships and that most US Clubs follow suit.

Although they are uncommon in Ireland, where I play most of my golf, there are many courses around the world that have ‘waste bunkers’, or ‘waste areas’. These are typically sandy areas, often very large, that might also contain rocks, pebbles, shells and various types of vegetation. Unless otherwise covered by a Local Rule, a waste bunker is not a hazard under the Rules of Golf and is therefore ‘through the green’, meaning that players may ground their club in these areas. (Edit 14th November, 2015: However, note that the specimen local rule in Appendix l, Part B, 4a., which extends Rule 25-2 to areas through the green, excludes a ball that is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.)

I have a little test to finish, to see how closely you have been paying attention! What areas of the course are included in the term ‘through the green’, other than what are commonly referred to as fairways and rough? The answer is below my copyright statement.

Good golfing,

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

Answer: Teeing area (boxes) other than the teeing ground of the hole being played; and putting greens other than the one that is being played. However, note that Rule 25-3 deals separately with a ball that comes to rest on a putting green other than the one being played.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

More Myths about the Rules of Golf

I have previously blogged on the subject of the many myths and misunderstandings that pervade the Rules of Golf. Here are 9 more;

You may not place your hand behind your ball on the putting green to test for wetness.
False. Decision 16-1d/4. The Rule only prohibits rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the putting surface for testing purposes.

You may not draw an unbroken line around the circumference of your golf balls.
False. There is no restriction as to how you personally identify your golf balls.

You may not use a tee pushed into the putting green to mark your ball.
False. Decision 20-1/16. However, whilst this method is permissible, it is not recommended.

You have to place a marker at the two club-lengths limit before taking a penalty drop for an unplayable ball under Rule 28c.
False. The permitted limit does not have to be marked, providing the ball is dropped within the permitted area.

When dropping a ball under the Rules you must face the hole.
False. There is no restriction as to the direction that a player may stand when dropping a ball.

You must use the back of your hand when removing loose impediments from your line of putt.
False. Loose impediments may be removed by any means, providing you do not press down on the line of putt. Decision 23-1/1.

It is against the Rules to have a wager on a game of golf during a stroke play competition.
False. This myth may arise from the fact that the Rules do not permit the play of a match, on which bets are commonly placed, at the same time as the players are participating in a stroke play competition.

In Stableford competitions you may not continue play of a hole if you cannot score any points.
False. Rule 7-2. Strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes.

A ball is not holed unless it is resting at the bottom of the hole, e.g. if it is at rest on another ball in the hole.
False. 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. Definition of Holed.

Good golfing,


P.S. I received several emails questioning the accuracy of Q4 and Q9 in last week’s Rules teasers. I am standing by my answers, but others are trying to get an official response from the Ruling Bodies.

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