Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Before Dropping a Ball

I guess that most readers know how to drop a ball under the Rules. If you are not sure then this blog of mine will remind you. However, there may be some questions that you should think about before you drop a ball; 
  • Should you mark the outside extent of where you are permitted to drop your ball?
Whilst the Rules do not require you to mark the permitted area (e.g. within two club-lengths, not nearer the hole, for one of the options for taking relief under penalty of one stroke for a ball that is deemed unplayable; or within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, when taking relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction), it is wise to do so if you want to take advantage of the full area of relief. If you do not and your ball first strikes the course outside of the permitted area, you will be playing from a wrong place if you then make a stroke at your ball. Rule 20-2b.
  • May you remove loose impediments from the area before dropping a ball? 
You are permitted to move any loose impediments, such as leaves, twigs, stones, droppings etc., but remember that loose soil and sand are not loose impediments, except on the putting green. It would be wrong to use a brushing motion to clear away leaves from the dropping area, as that would inevitably mean moving loose soil at the same time. So, the loose impediments should be picked off in this situation. Rule 23-1.
  • May you improve the area of intended drop in any other way? 
Apart from moving loose impediments you may not improve, or allow to be improved, the area in which a ball is to be dropped. This includes; pressing a club on the ground; moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed; 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. Rule 13-2. 
  • May you clean the ball before dropping it? 
Yes, the ball may be cleaned. Rule 21.
  • May you ask a fellow competitor, opponent or outside agency what options you have before making your drop? 
Yes, information on the Rules is not advice. Definition of Advice.

Remember that when you drop a ball in the correct way and at the right place it may still roll to a place where it has to be re-dropped under the Rules. I will cover this in a separate blog in the near future.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Matt Jones Chips from the Putting Green

The flagstick was on the right-hand side, above the ridge, last Sunday.
I was advised of an incident that occurred during the fourth and final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. Matt Jones was playing the Par-5, 2nd hole with Jim Furyk and had played his second stroke onto the putting green, some 24 yards from the hole. Unfortunately, although his ball was on the putting green, it seems that there was a ridge of rough between his ball and the hole, which must have been on the top right side of the green in the photo above. Apparently, from the angle he was playing, there was no way that Jones could putt his ball close to the hole, so he opened up his sand wedge and chipped it. This is unusual, but is certainly not prohibited by the Rules. A player may use any club they carry to make any stroke from anywhere on the course, providing it is within the Rules. This obviously excludes any putting green other than the one being played, as a player may not make a stroke from a wrong putting green (see Rule 25-3 and this earlier blog of mine). What was even more unusual regarding this incident, is that Matt Jones left the flagstick in the hole while he played his chip from on the putting green. In itself this does not incur a penalty, but if his ball had hit the flagstick, he would have been penalised two strokes under Rule 17-3c;
The player’s ball must not strike: …
… c. The flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green.
So, Matt Jones ran the risk of incurring a penalty and his caddie did not step in to advise him (surprise, surprise!). Should a walking referee, if there was one, have stepped in to prevent the possible breach? This is from the R&A’s ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
"This raises the question of the referee’s ethical position when he sees a player about to break the Rules. The referee is not responsible for a player’s wilful breach of the Rules, but he certainly does have an obligation to advise players about the Rules. It would be contrary to the spirit of fair play if a referee failed to inform a player of his rights and obligations under the Rules and then penalised him for a breach that he could have prevented. The referee who tries to help players to avoid breaches of the Rules cannot be accused of favouring one player against the other, since he would act in the same manner towards any player and is, therefore, performing his duties impartially."
So, if there was a referee watching Jones and Furyk, who as the overnight leaders were the last pairing on the course, he should have intervened before Jones made his chip from on the putting green. As it happens, Jones’s ball missed the flagstick, took a big hop off the down slope and came to rest 12 feet from the hole. He missed his birdie putt and went on to finish one over par for the round and tied for 7th place.

Good golfing,

It’s that time of year again for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. The season is soon to start (with the Masters at Augusta?) and Clubs and Societies are wondering how that can get their members to, a) speed up play, and b) have a better understanding of the Rules of Golf. I cannot help with a), but many clubs have found that running a social evening, based around one of my Rules Quizzes, is a great way to make a significant contribution to b). Click here for details.

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

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Playing a Wrong Ball

Bill Kimpton's print reproduced from www.golfun.com
I am taking a rest this week, as I received a weekly newsletter by Paul Kruger, PGA, The Landings Club, Savannah, GA, on a subject that I have not previously covered in detail. Rather than write a similar blog from scratch I have obtained Paul’s permission to copy his article about playing a wrong ball, in full and without change.

Per Rule 15-3 -Wrong Ball, the penalty for playing a wrong ball is loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play. One of the most demoralizing penalties one can incur is that of playing a wrong ball. Why? Because Rule 12-2, Lifting Ball for Identification, gives you the authority to identify your ball anywhere on the course. Thanks to this Rule, you can be absolutely sure you are playing your own ball, thereby avoiding the ignominy of playing a stray ball or someone else’s ball in play by mistake. To assist you in identifying your ball, Rule 12-2 recommends that you should put an identification mark on your ball.

As long as you are sure that you are about to play your own ball, what could possibly go wrong? Believe it or not, under certain circumstances, you can be penalized for playing a wrong ball despite the fact that you have played your own ball! Strange as that may seem, consider the following:

  • In match play, if you are doubtful of your rights or the correct procedure to follow when taking relief, you must resist any temptation to play a second ball. Playing a second ball under Rule 3-3, Doubt As To Procedure, is restricted to stroke play only! According to Decision 3-3/9, Second Ball Played in Match Play, if you play a second ball in match play, you will be incur a loss of hole penalty for playing a wrong ball. 
  • If you mark and lift your ball on a putting green and then set it aside, you must remember to replace your ball before playing your next stroke with that ball. Per Decision 15/4, Player Lifts Ball, Sets It Aside and Plays It from Where Set Aside, when you lift the ball pursuant to Rule 20-1, Lifting and Marking, that ball is out of play. The Definition of Ball in Play advises that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is lifted. If you then make a stroke with your ball while it is out of play, you will have played a wrong ball. The Definition of Wrong Ball states, in part, “A ‘wrong ball’ … includes … the player’s original ball when it is no longer in play.”
  • If, after a brief search for your original ball, you put another ball into play under Rule 27-1, Stroke and Distance; Ball Out of Bounds; Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes, you must continue play with the substituted ball, even though you then find your original ball within the five minute search period. Per Decision 15/5, Original Ball Found and Played After Another Ball Put into Play, your original ball became lost when you put the substituted ball into play under Rule 27-1. If you then abandon the substituted ball and play a stroke with the original ball, you will have played a wrong ball. See also Decision 27-1/2.3, Original Ball Found Within Five-Minute Search Period After Another Ball Dropped; Original Ball Played.
  • If you play a stroke at your ball which is lying out of bounds, you will be playing a wrong ball. See Decision 15/6, Stroke Played with Ball Lying Out of Bounds, and Decision 18-2b/9, Ball Moves After Address and Comes to Rest Out of Bounds; Player Plays Ball. The Definition of Ball in Play indicates that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is out of bounds.
  • Decision 15/9, Ball Thrown Into Bounds by Outside Agency and Played; Caddie Aware of Action of Outside Agency, describes an unusual set of circumstances wherein a caddie withholds vital information from his player. Choose your caddie wisely so that you do not unwittingly play your original ball after it has been tossed back in bounds!
  • If you find your original ball after a search exceeding five minutes, that ball is lost (see Definition of Lost Ball). Should you then play that ball, you will be playing a wrong ball. The Definition of Ball in Play indicates that a ball in play is no longer in play when it is lost. See Decision 27/8, Ball Found After Search Exceeding Five Minutes Is Then Played.
  • If you play a provisional ball pursuant to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball, for your original ball that may be lost or out of bounds, be careful not to continue play with your original ball after playing your provisional ball from a point nearer the hole than where your original ball was likely to be. See Decision 27-2b/5, Original Ball Played After Provisional Ball Played from Point Nearer Hole Than Original Ball Is Likely to Be, and Rule 27-2b, When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play.
A good, comprehensive coverage of playing a wrong ball. Thanks Paul!

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Ball Played Provisionally Under Rule 26-1

Occasionally, I use my weekly blog to try and interpret demanding subject areas of the Rules of Golf that many players find confusing. This blog concerns one of those areas and if you are a casual golfer you might want to skip straight to my next heading (re Patrick Reed), as this somewhat complicated issue is unlikely to be of interest to you. Conversely, if you are a Committee member, Rules official, or just a Rules enthusiast like me, keep reading.

Some Committees may assume that they have the authority to make any Local Rule that will assist their Club or Society members to enjoy their golf, particularly if it helps to speed up play. This is incorrect; Rule 33-1 states;

The Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf.
So, for example, a Committee may not assist players who cannot drive their ball over a water hazard, by adopting a Local Rule that allows them to drop a ball, for a penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone located across the hazard (Decision 33-8/2). This is by way of an introduction to my main point, which concerns the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 1. This permits a ball to be played provisionally, under Rule 26-1, when the original may be in a water hazard of such character that, if it cannot be found it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard, and it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play. I want to emphasise that Committees must understand that there are two important restrictions before they may implement this Local Rule (which I will reproduce in full later on) and they are;
The water hazard (including a lateral water hazard) must be of such size and shape and/or located in such a position that:

(i) it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play, and

(ii) if the original ball is not found, it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard
These restrictions mean that the Local Rule may only be introduced where it is virtually impossible that a ball could be lost outside the water hazard. This rules out most of the water hazards that I have ever encountered, because there are usually trees, bushes, reeds, fescue, deep rough or marshy areas in the vicinity of the hazard, where a ball could be lost. In the relatively rare cases where this Local Rule may be applicable this is the specimen wording from Appendix l, Part B, 1;
“If there is doubt whether a ball is in or is lost in the water hazard (specify location), the player may play another ball provisionally under any of the applicable options in Rule 26-1.
If the original ball is found outside the water hazard, the player must continue play with it.

If the original ball is found in the water hazard, the player may either play the original ball as it lies or continue with the ball played provisionally under Rule 26-1.

If the original ball is not found or identified within the five-minute search period, the player must continue with the ball played provisionally.
There are three points here that I would like to draw your attention to. Firstly, note the different wording in this specimen Local Rule compared to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. It is the use of the phrase "ball played provisionally" (3 times), as opposed to "provisional ball", highlighting that the ball is being played under Rule 26-1, Water Hazards, and not Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. Secondly, this is a very rare instance in the Rules of Golf (unique?) where the player may have a choice of which ball he wishes to continue to play with; the ball found inside the water hazard or the ball played provisionally. Thirdly, note that if a player is uncertain as to whether their ball has crossed over the water hazard, or has landed in it, they may proceed to where their ball last crossed the margin and drop and play a ball provisionally, under option 26-1b, dropping it outside the hazard, on a line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin. In short, the ball played provisionally does not have to be played as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played, though that is still an option.

I hope that I have sufficiently emphasised that this Local Rule is not relevant to most courses and certainly cannot be applied to all holes with water hazards, as seems to be the case in the photo above. I strongly recommend that even if a water hazard does meet the two important qualifying conditions for its introduction, Committees should consider very carefully before implementing it, as it is bound to lead to confusion amongst players, especially visitors to the course. For example, a player may think that they can play a ball provisionally when it is obvious that their ball has come to rest in a water hazard. In that situation, the Local Rule is not applicable and if another ball is played that is the ball in play, even if the original is subsequently found to be playable in the hazard.

I started by warning you that this is an obscure and difficult area of the Rules! My principal reason for covering it is to warn Committees against its introduction, unless they are absolutely certain that a water hazard on their course fully meets the restrictive conditions. If those requirements are ignored it is possible that its introduction could invalidate the course rating for handicapping purposes.

I promise to return to a less esoteric subject next week!

The Villain - Patrick Reed

Love him or hate him you have to admit that Patrick Reed, currently ranked No.16 on the Official World Golf Rankings, is an interesting character. Whichever side you are on this article by Shane Ryan is definitely worth reading.

Good golfing,


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