Tuesday, 26 May 2015

9-Hole Golf Competitions

I am detecting a significant increase of interest among golfers who want their Clubs and Societies to arrange more 9-hole, qualifying competitions. This interest is not restricted to senior golfers (like me) who may tire towards the end of 18 holes, but from players of all ages, who do not want to spend the best part of a day travelling to the course, playing 18 holes, post-round socialising with their fellow competitors and then travelling again. I was interested to read that The United States Golf Association, in partnership with American Express, has announced plans for the second annual PLAY9™ Day, scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, 2015. I have bolded an important fact that emerges from a paragraph taken from the USGA announcement of this welcome initiative (see this link).
The 2014 program helped to educate golfers that nine-hole scores are eligible for handicap purposes. In 2014, the USGA’s Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN®) recorded a 13 percent increase from 2013 in nine-hole rounds posted in the two months after the program’s launch. Golfers can visit www.usga.org/play9 to find more information on posting a nine-hole score.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, there are at least six different handicapping systems in use worldwide and Committees should ensure that they are fully compliant with their national requirements before running 9-hole competitions that count for handicaps. I can confirm that the CONGU system (used in UK, Ireland and a few other countries) made some significant changes regarding 9-hole qualifying competitions in January 2014. This is from the current CONGU Unified Handicapping Manual;
Nine-hole qualifying competitions have proved to be very attractive to many clubs and players. The original restriction of a maximum of ten such competitions that could be played in any year has already been removed. It has now been agreed that such scores can be recorded from all clubs of which a player is a member rather than just his or her own home club. Further, the system will now allow the allotment of handicaps based on any combination of nine or eighteen hole scores subject to the cards representing 54 holes as is currently required with three eighteen hole cards.
Unsurprisingly, the Rules of Golf are exactly the same for 9-hole competitions as for 18-hole competitions, but I will draw your attention to one important fact, which may catch some players out. Decision 6-2b/0.5, Meaning of "Handicap" When Full Handicap Not Used, states;
Q. It is the condition of a stroke-play competition (e.g., four-ball) that players will not receive their full handicap allowances. Under Rule 6-2b, what is the player responsible for recording on his score card?

A. He must record his full handicap. It is the Committee's responsibility to apply the condition of competition to adjust his handicap.
So, assuming that each 9 holes has the same standard scratch, if a player’s full handicap is 12, that is what they must enter on their score card for a 9-hole stroke play competition and the Committee must make the 50% adjustment to calculate the net score/points total. If the player enters a handicap of 6 on their score card the Committee must calculate the net score/points using 3 as the player’s handicap for 9 holes. (Edited 28th May to make the point about standard scratch. Note that different handicapping systems may have different ways of dealing with this.)

Abnormal Course Conditions (1) Stipulated Round
Two weeks ago, a US Open local qualifier at Bethpage State Park's Red Course in Farmingdale, New York, was shortened to 17 holes because of ‘agronomic issues’. The reason was that the putting green on the par-3 4th hole was deemed unfit for use following prolonged severe weather in the off-season. Part of the Definition of Stipulated Round states;
The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorised by the Committee.
Abnormal Ground Conditions (2) Preferred Lies through the Green
On Sunday, at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club, Texas, The PGA Tour took the highly unusual decision to implement lift, clean and place through the green, allowing players to take their ball in hand even in the rough. Hmmm! Whilst I understand the argument for implementing a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green when there are adverse course conditions, I sincerely hope that tour organisers do not use this instance as a precedent for similarly extending preferred lies when bad weather prevails.

Good golfing,

I was delighted at the response to my announcement that my '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' is now available from Amazon as a paperback. Click here for paperback or here for my eReader/tablet/smartphone version.

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

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

May Miscellany

This week I am covering a few miscellaneous items that I hope may be of interest to readers.

R&A Rules Courses
I know that many subscribers and readers, as well as having a more than usual interest in the Rules of Golf, are also active or aspiring Rules officials. I have never been involved as an official, on-course referee, though I have often been called on to assist with rulings at Club and Inter-Club competitions. I was therefore surprised and delighted to be invited by the R&A to attend their Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School (TARS), which was being held in Ireland for the very first time, in Athlone, 75 miles (120 km) from Dublin. The R&A’s formal Rules Education programme consists of a three-tiered approach;

  • Level 1 Introductory Rules School
  • Level 2 Rules School
  • Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School
More details of these courses can be found on the R&A web site at this link. Please note that Level 1 can now be completed by anyone on-line, at the R&A Rules Academy web site. I am delighted to report that following my participation in this Level 3 course, I have just received my certificate confirming that I passed the 2 ½ hours Level 3 exam with distinction, the highest grade possible. Now I can relax!

Handicapping Systems
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary considerably from country to country. I am aware that there are at least six different handicapping systems in use in the following areas; USA, GB and Ireland, Continental Europe, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. Personally, I have trouble keeping up with the CONGU system that applies to golfers resident in UK and Ireland, which apparently is significantly simpler to understand than some of the other systems. However, this week I learned that the USGA is leading an effort to get the various international handicapping authorities to agree on a unified system, using the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating as the basis for a proposed World Handicap System, and incorporating the best elements from the other systems. I certainly welcome and support this excellent initiative.

Most readers of my weekly blog on the Rules receive it by email (if you don’t, just enter your email address at the top-right of this page). You may be interested to know that these emails are sent to over 7,000 subscribers (through the Google/feedburner service). At this time of year, I have an average of 50 new subscriptions every week (against an average of 7 unsubscribes). Similarly, over 9,000 Rules enthusiasts have subscribed to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly series. Of course, many of you are subscribed to both of these lists.  After almost 7 years of weekly blogs I now feature in the first few results for any ‘Googled’ questions on the Rules, even though I do not pay anything to them for this premium ranking, which results in approximately 8,000 hits to my blog site every week. My five short, instructional videos on my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site, have combined views of around 500 a week and my eDocuments have been sold into over 60 different countries.

Paperback Version of ‘999Q’
Thanks to the wonderful service from an Amazon Group company, CreateSpace, my Book ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ is now available as a paperback. Click on this link for details and to purchase. Please note that, as with all eDocuments purchased from my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site before the end of this year, I will provide an errata sheet to cover any of the changes to Rules and Decisions that are announced by USGA / R&A for January 2016.

Failure to Hole Out (Rule 3-2)

I was present at an Inter-Club, stroke play qualifier on Saturday when it was brought to my attention that a player, whose chip had resulted in his ball resting against the flagstick, had picked-up his ball and walked to the next teeing ground. He was obviously not aware that a ball resting against the flagstick in this way is not holed. All of the ball has to be at rest below the level of the lip of the hole. The player should carefully move the flagstick and if the ball falls into the hole they are deemed to have holed out with their last stroke.

I also heard about Irish Professional Golfer, Damien McGrane, disqualifying himself from the Open de Espana tournament, held near Barcelona, by picking-up his ball on his 17th hole after missing a relatively easy putt. “I just had enough” he said. He knew that he was on course to miss his fifth European Tour cut in a row. Although he did not hole out he continued to walk with his two fellow competitors, who were also going to miss the cut, until they had completed their rounds. I presume that a European Tour fine will be forthcoming for this unusual and untoward behaviour.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Baddeley's Bad Drop

The famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has not been kind to American Australian golfer, Aaron Baddeley (he has joint US and Australian citizenship). Even before his second round at The Players Championship on Friday, he had put more balls in the water on the island green 17th in previous events than any other player in the field. He then put two more in the water on Friday, bringing his career total to 10. However, this was not the end of it, as when dropping a ball in the drop zone for the second time he was far too casual and did not meet the requirements for a valid drop. From Rule 20-2;
A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped by the player himself. He must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm's length and drop it. If a ball is dropped by any other person or in any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.
From the photo above, you can see why the officials called Baddeley on this Rules infraction. Once again, the post-round comments by a professional golfer, following a Rules infraction, are revealing;
“It was a little bit bent instead of straight, which was like 4 or 5 inches difference. I wasn’t stressed. I knew I was missing the cut. I didn’t know that Rule. I didn’t know your arm had to be perfectly straight. I made sure it was shoulder height when I dropped it. That’s what I was thinking.”
If only Aaron Baddeley was a regular reader of my weekly blogs he would have known better! This is a link to a similar breach by Sun Young Yoo that I wrote about in 2012.

Sergio Garcia Didn’t Hole Out.

Some of you who watched to the end of The Players Championship may have wondered whether Sergio Garcia should have been disqualified for not holing out, after missing his birdie putt on the 18th, the final hole of the 3-hole aggregate playoff, when he realised that he could not match the -1 totals of Ricky Fowler and Kevin Kisner. Decision 3/1 provides the answer;

Q. A competitor in a stroke-play play-off incurs a penalty of disqualification. Does the disqualification apply to the play-off only or to the entire competition?

A. The disqualification applies only to the play-off.
So, Sergio did not forfeit his $880,000 prize money, for equal second place, the same as Kevin Kisner, who subsequently lost out to Rickie Fowler’s birdie on the fourth play-off hole.

Good golfing,


Good news! My book '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015' is available as a hard copy again. More information in next week's blog.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lydia Ko's Ball 'Lost' in Tree

There are several circumstances in Golf where a ball is ‘lost’ even if the player is pretty sure that they know whereabouts it is. Here are four examples;
  • A player has searched for their ball for 5 minutes without success and walks back to where they last played from. Before they reach this spot, a spectator finds their original ball, but under the Definition of Lost Ball they may not continue play with it and must play again from where they last played, under penalty of stroke and distance. 
  • A player pulls their tee shot into deep rough. Although they are fairly certain that they will be able to find their ball they don’t want to, because they know that it might be difficult to get it back from where it lies onto the fairway, so they put another ball into play from the teeing ground, under penalty of stroke and distance, without announcing it as a provisional ball.
  • Two players hit their tee shots into the same area and both balls are easily found, but the balls are of the same brand and number and neither player has put an identification mark on their ball. Because neither player can positively identify their ball both are deemed lost, Decision 27/10. 
  • A player is certain that their ball is lodged high in a tree and can clearly see a ball in the tree, but cannot positively identify it as their ball. The player’s ball is lost. This is confirmed by Decision 27/15.
Q. A player is certain that his ball is lodged high in a tree. He can see a ball in the tree, but he cannot identify it as his ball. Is the player's ball lost, in which case he must proceed under Rule 27-1?

A. Yes.
So, in view of that last point, how did Lydia Ko escape a stroke and distance penalty on the 14th hole at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout last Thursday, when she hit her ball high into the branches of a tree in front of the green, with hundreds of spectators watching.  There is an LPGA video of the whole episode, showing Ko’s caddie climbing the tree and still failing to retrieve or identify the ball at this link, following the ad. I warn you that it is nearly 9 minutes long and there is very little action, but some of the commentary is interesting.

The LPGA's issued this official explanation of the ruling that saved Lydia from having to return to where she last played from:
The officials involved in the ruling with Lydia Ko today on the 14th hole referenced Decision 27/12 to support their ruling.  Due to the fact that it was roughly a 30-yard shot, the spectators were able to see Lydia’s ball from start to finish and therefore provided indisputable evidence that the ball in the tree was indeed Lydia’s ball. Therefore the ball did not need to be identified as it was never lost. The USGA confirmed that in a situation where observers indisputably saw the player’s ball in motion come to rest in a specific location at which the ball remains visible, the ball has been identified as the player’s ball. Thus, since the ball in the tree was deemed as Lydia's ball, she was then able to proceed under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
And this is the wording of Decision 27/12;
Q. A's ball and B's ball came to rest close together. Neither A nor B could identify one of the balls as his ball because they were using balls with identical markings.
A spectator who saw both shots land was able to state which ball belonged to A and which one belonged to B. May his testimony be accepted, or should both balls be deemed lost because they could not be identified by A and B?
A. If the Committee determined that, based on information given by the spectator, A and B were able to identify their balls, the balls should not be deemed lost. Otherwise, they would have to proceed under Rule 27-1.
Note that Ko was penalised one stroke for deeming her ball in the tree unplayable, but was able to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point immediately underneath where her ball was at rest in the tree, one of the options afforded by Rule 28. If her ball had not been positively identified by the testimony of the spectators she would have had to return to where she last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance, and would have been faced with the same difficult shot over the tall tree.

One last point to remember in similar circumstances is that the player should deem their ball unplayable before shaking the tree to try to recover it. Until the player deems it unplayable the ball is in play and if they, or their caddie, cause it to move they incur a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2a, and would then have to replace the ball where it was in the tree, or deem it unplayable for an additional penalty stroke.

Good golfing,

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