Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wind Is Not an Outside Agency

It has been a few years since I blogged about what players must do when the wind moves their ball in play (see 6th April 2009). When I saw this short video of Dudley Hart’s misfortune in his first round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio last week, I knew that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to cover the subject again.
(If you are receiving this blog by email you can view the incident on my blog page.)
The most important thing for players to remember when their ball is moved by wind, casual water of some other element (earthquake!) is that there is no penalty and they must play the ball from where it comes to rest. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency. An easy, but irreverent way to remember this, is that if a player moves their ball it has to be replaced and they incur a penalty of one stroke; whereas if ‘God’ moves their ball it has to be played from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. If the player mistakenly replaces their ball where it was before it was moved by wind they incur a penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place (penalty statement under Rule 18).

There are some other relevant points for me to mention on this subject;

  • If a player had replaced their ball at their ball-marker when the wind moved it, they must still play their ball from where it rolls to, even though the ball-marker is still in place (Decision 20-4/1). 
  • 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. However, when a ball-marker marking the position of a lifted ball is moved by the wind, the ball-marker must be replaced without penalty (Decision 20-1/10.5).
  • If an object being moved by the wind moves a ball at rest (e.g. a paper bag), the object is an outside agency. So, Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty (Decision 18-1/6).
David Frost Penalised for Dropping His Ball
Despite incurring a one stroke penalty for dropping his ball on his penultimate hole, 55-year-old South African, David Frost, went on to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic by one stroke on Sunday. Frost was penalised after the coin marking his ball on the 17th green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Ian Poulter incurred the same penalty in November 2010 (click here to read that blog).

Here are some of Frost’s post round comments regarding the incident;

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, and it fell on my coin and it just moved the coin by…., it just moved the coin. I knew exactly where it was so I just had to scoot it back and I didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was. There is some kind of Rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin, something like that, but they told me that I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and I had to incur a one-stroke penalty, which I’m like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year I get disqualified, this year I get a one-shot penalty.' It’s kind of frustrating, because, you know, you play by the Rules and you know when something, you know an act of nature like that happens, unfortunately the Rule prevails and well, luckily for me in the end it didn't make any difference and I'm happy Lehman didn't meet me in a playoff."
The “some kind of Rule” Frost referred to is Decision 20-1/15, which I copied in the aforementioned blog. Oh, by the way, the ruling has nothing to do with an "act of nature", Frost was penalised because he dropped his ball on his ball-marker and moved it!

Good golfing,


I am pleased to report that my blog site www.barryrhodes.com has now been made mobile friendly. So, wherever you are, if you have any query on the Rules of Golf, you can search more than 6 years of weekly blogs direct from your smart phone. 

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

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Did Ernie Els Ground His Club in a Hazard?

There was a Rules incident at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, last Saturday. Four-times major winner, Ernie Els, was reported to have grounded his club in a water hazard on the par-5, 6th hole. However, when PGA Tour Tournament Official, Steve Rintoul, reviewed the video tape of the incident he could not determine that Els had grounded his club, though it was obviously touching the growing grass before he made his stroke from the hazard. You can decide whether you would have agreed with this ruling by clicking on this video.

As no penalty was assessed, I will concentrate on the applicable Rules affecting the ruling. Most of us know that we cannot ground a club in a hazard, as per this part of Rule 13-4;

… before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) … the player must not:
… b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club
But what constitutes grounding? This part of Decision 18-2b/5 clarifies;
If the grass had been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered grounded.
But shouldn’t the player hover their club above the grass before making a stroke from within the water hazard? No, this is a common misunderstanding. Here is what the Note to Rule 13-4 states;
Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
After Ernie Els had been cleared of any Rules violation, Tournament Official, Rintoul, told a Reuters journalist;
"The tape didn't show that the club was grounded, even though the clubhead was in the grass".
Nevertheless, there must have been some doubt remaining, because the Head Rules Official for the event, Mark Russell, subsequently spoke to Els after his round, who claimed that “he had not soled his club”, so no penalty was assessed.

Some viewers of the video clip may be wondering why Els played his 6th stroke from back on the centre of the fairway. He had taken advantage of Rule 26-2a(i)b, which was the subject of this earlier blog of mine.

Keegan Bradley Was Penalised
The following day, at the same event, a penalty of two strokes was imposed on Keegan Bradley for the most basic of Rules errors. With his ball at rest some yards off the putting green, he brushed sand from the apron of the green that was on his line of play. Check out the (poor quality) short Vine video clip at this link.  Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere, Definition of Loose Impediments. It is worth noting that sand that is on the putting green may be removed by any means (e.g. putter head, back of hand, towel, brush!), providing the player does not press down on the line of putt, Decision 23-1/1. (Edit 30th March 2015: It should be noted that any sand 
deposited on the player's ball or line of play, resulting from another player's stroke after the ball had come to rest, may be removed without penalty, Decision 13-2/8.5).

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Hole on the Putting Green

As a Rules ‘enthusiast’ I am repeatedly asked similar questions by players, whatever their golfing ability. Here are five of them relating to the hole on the putting green.
  • “Player 1 chips his ball from off the green and leaves his ball in the cup. Player 2 then chips and his ball goes in the hole. Is there a penalty and if so what is it?”
There is no penalty. 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 fact that it may be at rest on another ball, or balls, (as in the photo) is not relevant. Definition of Holed.
  • “After holing out, a player smoothes the ragged edge of the hole with his hand. Do they incur a penalty if a fellow-competitor or partner has not yet holed out?”
The player is only penalised if their smoothing of the ragged edge was done with the intention of influencing the movement of a fellow-competitor's or partner's ball, not if it was solely for the purpose of caring for the course. However, it is recommended that a player should only smooth the ragged edge of a hole after all players in the group have completed play of the hole. Decision 1-2/3.5.
  • “If there is an old plug hole on my line of putt on the putting green, which has an artificial cover (e.g. plastic or synthetic grass), may I take relief without penalty?”
Yes, players may take line of putt relief from the artificial hole plug, which is an immovable obstruction. Rule 24-2b(iii) states;
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green. 
  • “Must the hole be positioned at least four paces from any edge of the putting green?”
There is no Rule regarding hole locations, so there is no such thing as an illegal hole location. However, both the R&A and USGA have listed the many factors that they recommend should be considered to select good hole positions and they include the statement that generally the hole be located at least four paces from any edge of the green.
  • “A friend hit his ball onto the green and it landed just outside some GUR marked on the green. He wanted to putt the ball but his line of putt was going through the GUR so he asked for relief, which I would not give him because I said he could chip his ball over the GUR, was I right or wrong?”
You were wrong, the player may take relief in this circumstance! Rule 25-1b(iii) deals with taking relief from an abnormal ground condition (which includes GUR) on a putting green;
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or, if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.
However, there is no line of play relief from an abnormal ground condition on the putting green if the player's ball lies off the putting green.

Good golfing,

If you have any questions on the Rules of Golf, please search my blog site before emailing me. There are over six years of weekly blogs covering most common questions on the Rules and the 'Search This Blog' facility works well.

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

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

McIlroy’s 3-Iron and Poulter’s Pine Needles

Rory McIlroy - Club Throwing
A scuba diver retrieves Rory's 3-iron for Donald Trump
It was disappointing to see world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, uncharacteristically losing his cool last Friday during the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Trump National Doral. Having pulled his second shot from the fairway on the par-5, 8th hole, into the lake, he then launched his Nike 3-iron after it. Players gain nothing from a display of petulance like this and there can be a downside, as such acts encourage publicity, which can prove to be an unwelcome distraction. McIlroy has earned his good reputation with the media and with those of us that love the game of golf, but this may evaporate if he cannot control his emotions on the course. Like it or not, he should remember that he is a role model for many thousands of young golfers.

As far as the Rules are concerned, throwing a club into the water does not incur any penalty. If the player is carrying the maximum number of 14 clubs in their bag they may not replace a club that they have thrown away. If the club can be retrieved during the round they may use it again, providing it has not been damaged to the extent that it is non-conforming. We now know that McIlroy’s 3-iron was recovered by an enterprising scuba diver, but not until the following day, when it was handed back to him on the practice range by the perpetual publicity seeker, Donald Trump. What you may have missed is that the following day, Marcel Siem also threw his club into the water on the same hole, but his action did not receive the same blanket coverage from the media. I understand that the scuba diver was not summoned to search for Siem’s club!

Ian Poulter – Pine Needles
The previous week, during the final round (played on Monday) of the Honda Classic at PGA National, Florida, Ian Poulter caused some raised eyebrows when he meticulously removed pine needles from the area that he had selected to drop his ball in. He was taking relief under penalty of one stroke from the water hazard on the par-5, 14th hole. Poulter was right to carefully remove the pine needles one by one, because if he had swept them away with his hand or club he would probably have also moved loose soil, which would have incurred a penalty of two strokes, as loose soil is not a loose impediment, except when it is on the putting green. Of course, players should ensure that they do not spend too long in clearing the area in which they are permitted to drop a ball, as they could then incur a penalty for undue delay (Rule 6-7), though unfortunately this does not happen very often, either on tour, or in most amateur competitions. It seems that the close  attention that Poulter took in clearing his drop area did not help, as he then hit his ball off a palm tree back into the water, eventually finishing the hole by making a good putt for a triple bogey.

Good golfing,

Click here to check out my range of eDocuments that will assist you to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf.

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Octopus - Rule 20

Diagram from www.randa.org Quick Guide to the Rules
A reader has drawn my attention to the fact that one of the modules on the R&A Level 2 Rules School is titled, ‘The Octopus – Rule 20’. I had not heard this expression used in connection with Rule 20 before, but the reason is fairly obvious; an octopus has 8 tentacles and Rule 20 cover the 8 circumstances under which a ball that has been dropped must be re-dropped, because it did not come to rest in a place permitted by the Rules. But, I hear some of you say, there are only seven circumstances listed (numbered (i) to (vii)) as to why a dropped ball must be re-dropped. I have not attended this particular Rules course, but from the R&A Rules diagram above it seems that they are counting the (vii)(a) and (vii)(b) as two separate reasons. But, see my comment relating to this at the end of the blog.

Here are the seven (eight?) instances when a dropped ball must be re-dropped under Rule 20-2c;

A dropped ball must be re-dropped, without penalty, if it:
(i) rolls into and comes to rest in a hazard;
(ii) rolls out of and comes to rest outside a hazard;
(iii) rolls onto and comes to rest on a putting green;
(iv) rolls and comes to rest out of bounds;
(v) rolls to and comes to rest in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule 24-2b (immovable obstruction), Rule 25-1 (abnormal ground conditions), Rule 25-3 (wrong putting green) or a Local Rule (Rule 33-8a), or rolls back into the pitch-mark from which it was lifted under Rule 25-2 (embedded ball);
(vi) rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course; or
(vii) rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole than:
(a) its original position or estimated position (see Rule 20-2b) unless otherwise permitted by the Rules; or
(b) the nearest point of relief or maximum available relief (Rule 24-2, 25-1 or 25-3); or
(c) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1).
So, the R&A Rules diagram seems to imply that the above are the eight reasons when a dropped ball must be re-dropped. However, this means that there are actually nine situations in total, as Rule 20-2a states;
If the ball, when dropped, touches any person or the equipment of any player before or after it strikes a part of the course and before it comes to rest, the ball must be re-dropped, without penalty.
In which case this ‘Octopus’ has nine tentacles! 

(Edit 4th March 2015: Several readers have suggested that there are 10, or even 11 reasons why a ball must be dropped under Rule 20. However, I now think that my guess as to why it is called the 'Octopus' Rule is off track. Here is another explanation; 
"I think the reference applies more to the various Rules on which Rule 20 impinges rather than the occasions on which a ball may be re-dropped. Rule 20 tentacles stretches out to affect many of the other Rules and that is my understanding of the reference to the 'Octopus' "
In any case, I hope that you will agree that it was an interesting subject for a blog.)

Good golfing,


Thinking about singles or team match play competitions? Make sure that you and/or your team know what the differences are in the Rules for match play golf. Click on this link for details: 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play'.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.