Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PLAY9™Day – Wednesday, July 29th

For the second time, I would like to draw readers’ attention to Wednesday’s ‘PLAY9™Day’, jointly promoted by USGA and American Express, which I first mentioned in this blog two months ago.
Many readers will be aware that I usually avoid anything to do with handicapping systems as, unlike the Rules of Golf, there are many different systems in use around the golf playing world and I have no expertise in this area. However, following my May blog I realise that many readers were unaware that 9-hole competitions can count for handicapping purposes. It is my belief that this is one important way, in those countries where golf club membership is in decline, to attract a new breed of players and encourage existing members to play more often. More of that later. Here are the references that I have found for the five main golf-playing regions, showing that player’s handicaps can be adjusted when they play in 9-hole qualifying competitions;

Section 5 Scores
c. Posting Nine-Hole Scores

Part 4 Handicapping
Nine-Hole Qualifying Competitions

Adjusted 9-score for handicapping - clause 3.10.3

From 23 January 2014, changed 9-hole and Incomplete Score Regulations. GOLF Link will store a player’s 9-hole score for automatic combination with their next 9-hole score.

5.1 All scores
Scores must be entered on the SAGA Handicapping System for all 18-hole and 9-hole rounds …
This is taken from the USGA promotional material;
“As you know, PLAY9 Day was introduced by the USGA at the 2014 U.S. Open Championships to rally golfers of all skill and interest levels around the 9-hole round as a popular way to inspire more play. There’s a lot to love about golf. The PLAY9 movement represents a new and exciting approach to encouraging golf participation that is gaining traction. In a recent study conducted by Sports & Leisure Group, 60% of golfers perceive the 9-hole round as a great way to introduce non-golfers to the game, while the year over year number of 9-hole rounds posted in June and July increased by 13% from 2013 to 2014.”
And here are nine good reasons, courtesy of USGA, why Clubs should embrace 9-hole qualifying competitions;
1. Nine-hole golf has an impeccable pedigree. The First U.S. Open in 1895 was played on a nine-hole course: Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. Arnold Palmer and Pete Dye, among other golf luminaries, learned the game on nine-hole courses.
2. The majority can’t be wrong. According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), 90 percent of U.S. golf facilities offer nine-hole rates – and 4,200 nine-hole courses dot the U.S. golf landscape. From coast to coast, playing nine is an easy way to enjoy the game.
3. It’s an excellent way to start the day. Early risers can make the first footprints on a dewy fairway. You can get a round in and still make it to work or school on time.
4. It’s a great way to end the day with others. Grab friends and co-workers for a post-work round to shake off the stress.
5. Because it’s what you have time for. Would you rather play nine frequently or wait until the moon and stars align to play 18? Keep your game fresh by playing nine.
6. It’s a wonderful way to learn the game. An NGF study shows 86 percent of beginners start with nine-hole rounds. You can more comfortably develop your game and learn Rules and etiquette without the stress and time commitment of 18 holes.
7. It’s the best way to support someone who is learning how to play. You already love the game. A study by Sports & Leisure Research Group revealed that 60 percent of golfers believe a nine-hole round is an outstanding way to introduce a non-golfer to the game. Give back to the game and get a friend or family member hooked.
8. You can do it forever. Golf is a game for a lifetime. Playing nine holes is the perfect way to keep players of all ages and abilities engaged in friendly competition.
9. Your nine-hole round is legit! The USGA’s Golf Handicap Information Network® (GHIN) showed a 13 percent year-over-year increase in nine-hole scores posted in the two months following the program’s launch last July. You can post a nine-hole score to maintain your Handicap Index.
Please help me to spread the word by supporting this initiative to promote more 9-hole qualifying competitions, for the good of golf. I will leave you with this observation from Jerry Tarde, Chairman of Golf Digest;
"Every other recreation, it seems, takes two hours: movies, dinner, cocktail parties, tennis, bowling, going to the gym. If golf were invented today, it would be a nine-hole game. By no means are we questioning 18 holes, but our culture dictates shorter blocks of free time. I'd rather squeeze in nine holes than none."
Good golfing,

Let me remind you that any of my eDocuments purchased now from this web site, will be updated free of charge with any amendments to the Rules of Golf that will be effected from 1st January 2016.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Open Championship Rules Round-up

Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Zach Johnson – Tapping down on line of putt
Several people have queried two similar incidents concerning Open Championship winner, Zach Johnson, on the putting greens of the 15th hole and then on the final hole of his play-off with Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman. There is no doubting that on both occasions he did appear to tap down something on his line of putt, close to the hole. I did not see the earlier incident but was watching the second. You may have seen that after receiving permission to repair damage to the putting green on his line of putt, which the commentators speculated was an old hole plug, he subsequently tapped down something that was closer to the hole. It is my recollection that Johnson had already repaired a pitch mark prior to the lengthy discussion with two Rules officials relating to the other damage on his line. So, it is my belief that he returned to this original damage and tapped it down again, which is permissible. There is no restriction in the Rules as to how many times damage on a putting green caused by a ball or an old hole plug may be repaired. I suspect that he was also re-repairing damage made by a ball on the 15th hole, as professional golfers are acutely aware that they may not tap down spike marks, especially since the Simon Dyson’s disqualification, suspension and fine, which I covered in this blog.

I also noticed that Zach Johnson has a habit of hovering his putter over his line of putt, as he is assessing the break, which is slightly disconcerting when watching on TV, because you cannot judge whether his club has touched the putting surface, or not.

JB Holmes – Second Opinion
There was an interesting exchange on Friday regarding a situation with JB Holmes on the 15th hole.  He was asking for relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) from a very difficult lie in a gorse bush. The walking referee did not think that relief was warranted and called for a second opinion from the roving official, European Tour official, John Paramor, who confirmed the ruling that there was no relief, much to Holmes annoyance.

Unfortunately, once again, the commentary and discussion from the ESPN TV pundits was confusing. Initially the commentators asserted that a player may call for a second opinion if they do not agree with a referee’s ruling. JR Jones, Deputy Chairman of the Championship Committee from the R&A put them right by correctly stating that a player is not entitled to a second opinion, although a wise Rules Official will always offer to obtain a second opinion in doubtful situations.  Paul Azinger chose to argue this point by saying that in the States, a player is entitled to a second opinion. Rule 34-2 is clear and shows that Azinger is wrong;

If a referee has been appointed by the Committee, his decision is final.
There is already a problem with players calling for on-course rulings whenever they are faced with a Rules issue; imagine how the game would be slowed down even more if they were entitled to wait for a second opinion every time the initial ruling did not suit them! Talking of slow play, this incident took 30 minutes to resolve!

Another TV commentator error was brought to my attention, relating to amateur, Paul Dunne’s ball that had come to rest on a practice putting green. The comment was that he may take relief. No, he must drop off the wrong putting green under Rule 25-3, it is not an option. You may consider that this is not important, but golfers learn from watching televised golf and I suggest that the producers have a duty to ensure that the information supplied is correct.

Jordan Spieth - Line of Play Relief from Sprinkler
I covered the subject of Local Rules providing relief from sprinklers (immovable obstructions) just off the putting green in this blog. There was an interesting ruling concerning Jordan Spieth on the Old Course’s 5th hole. His ball came to rest on the putting green in such a position that a sprinkler head that was off the green intervened on his line putt, part of which was through the fringe. The Local Rule in Appendix I, Part B, 6, providing relief from immovable obstructions close to the putting green was in effect. Part of this Local Rule states;

If the player's ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction within two club-lengths of the putting green intervenes on his line of putt, the player may take relief as follows:
The ball must be lifted and placed at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard.
Of course, wind was the main subject of contention on the Saturday of the Open. Should the R&A have sent players out at 7.00 am in the prevailing conditions? Had the conditions changed at all between play starting and then being stopped? Should they have suspended play on every hole at the same time? Had the putting greens been cut too low, so as to achieve an ‘acceptable’ stimpmeter reading for one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments?

Wind was the cause of an amusing incident, which almost led to a two strokes penalty, when strong gusts moved Dustin Johnson’s ball off the putting green. Jordan Spieth saw that the ball in motion was heading for his ball and moved quickly towards it, presumably to try and mark and lift it before it was struck. Fortunately, he did not, because the relevant part of Rule 1-2 states;

A player must not (i) take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball…
The incident can be viewed at this link. (Edit 22nd July 2015: When a ball is on the putting green it is Rule 16-1b that applies ruling that when another ball is in motion, a ball that might influence the movement of the ball in motion must not be lifted.)
Remember that wind is not an outside agency. If you cause your ball to move you incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced; if wind is definitely the cause of your ball moving, there is no penalty and the ball must be played from where it comes to rest, whether this is farther from, or nearer to, the hole.

All in all, I am sure that you will agree that this was another fantastic Open Championship at the ‘Home of Golf’. Many congratulations to Zach Johnson, a worthy winner.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

July Miscellany

Photo by Harry How, Getty Images
Jason Day’s Vertigo
Many readers will have been concerned when they saw Jason Day collapse while playing his final hole of the 3rd round at the 2015 US Open, at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, Washington. It later transpired that Jason suffers from a condition known as benign positional vertigo. Fortunately, he received immediate medical assistance and was able to complete his round after a short delay. 

So, what are the Rules issues when a player requires medical attention during a round? Part of Rule 6-8 states;

The player must not discontinue play unless: ….
…. (iv) there is some other good reason such as sudden illness.
Decision 6-8a/3 is also relevant;
Q. During a round, a player is incapacitated by heat exhaustion, a bee sting or because he has been struck by a golf ball. The player reports his problem to the Committee and requests the Committee to allow him some time to recuperate. Should the Committee comply with the request?

A. The matter is up to the Committee. Rule 6-8a(iv) permits a player to discontinue play because of sudden illness and the player incurs no penalty if he reports to the Committee as soon as practicable and the Committee considers his reason satisfactory. It would seem reasonable for a Committee to allow a player 10 or 15 minutes to recuperate from such a physical problem but ordinarily allowing more time than that would be inadvisable.
A final point is that if the player discontinues play without specific permission from the Committee, he must report to the Committee as soon as practicable. If they do so and the Committee considers their reason satisfactory, there is no penalty. Otherwise, the player is disqualified. 

Walking on the Line of Putt
I was pleased to hear that David Fay, of Fox Sports golf broadcasting team, drew viewers’ attention to the possibility that tour pros, who use the AimPoint green reading system, could be penalised for walking on their line of putt.

Hanging Moss or Creepers
I have been asked if a player may remove moss that is hanging from a tree if it interferes with their intended swing or line of play, as it is not actually live or growing but is merely ‘resting’ on a tree branch. Decision 13-2/37 clarifies that this is not permitted;

Q. May moss, or a creeper, in a tree be removed if its removal would improve the line of play?

A. No. Trees are the natural habitat of some mosses and creepers. Accordingly, such plants growing in a tree may not be moved - see Rule 13-2.

Moss or a creeper which has fallen to the ground, and is not growing there, is a loose impediment and may be removed, without penalty - see Rule 23-1.
An Open Championship Taster
Click here to see Europe’s favourite golfer play a different type of stroke to get out of a difficult lie on the famous ‘Road Hole’ at St. Andrews Old Course, during the last Open Championship that was played there, 5 years ago. I understand that Jordan Spieth tried to replicate this four times during his practice round on Tuesday, without the same success.

Good golfing,


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

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Pointing to the Line of Putt

Photo and text edited 09/07/15 to read "line for putting" and not "line of putt"
A few weeks ago, when I blogged about the Aimpoint green reading system, I commented on players walking on and close to their line of putt. This week, I want to highlight the fact that purposely touching the line of putt and pointing to the line of putt can both incur a penalty.

Most golfers are aware that they may not purposely touch their line of putt, but there are a number of exceptions in Rule 16-1a, which are listed below. Note that part of the Definition of Line of Putt states this includes a ‘reasonable distance on either side of the intended line’. However, fewer golfers seem aware that they must not touch anywhere on the surface of the putting green while pointing out a suggested line for putting, even if that point is way off the intended line, or is behind the hole. In the above photo, the player’s partner, or caddie has touched the end of the flagstick behind the hole in pointing out their suggested line for putting, so the player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play under Rule 8-2b;

When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
So, it follows that in pointing out a line for putting, a player may not touch the putting surface with their finger, the toe of their shoe, their putter, the flagstick, or anything else. They may point to the suggested line, but they must not touch the surface of the putting green while doing so.

These are the exceptions listed in Rule 16-1a to the general principle that players may not touch their line of putt;

The line of putt must not be touched except:
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring - Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball - Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green - Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.
(Indicating line for putting on putting green - see Rule 8-2b)
Good golfing,


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