Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Year Rules Teaser

Four years ago, my New Year Rules Teaser posed the question as to how a player in a match could be 7 holes down without having struck a ball. Here is a link to the blog, which links to my answer. Well, thanks to Kathryn Belanger, Assistant Manager, Rules Communications at USGA, we now have an ‘official’ answer to the often asked question, “What is the earliest hole that a match can be won?”

Obviously, this is of academic interest only; it will never happen - but it could!

A player carries a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1). He changes the weight of his driver after teeing off, but he does not make a stroke with the club after the adjustment (Rule 4-2). He starts his round with 15 clubs (Rule 4-4a). He has two caddies (Rule 6-4). He violates the one-ball condition on the opening two holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 1c). He has a parent as a caddie when they are not allowed (Appendix I, Part C, Item 2). He takes an unauthorized ride in a cart on both holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 8).

If all of these violations are discovered on the second hole, each would carry a two-hole adjustment to the state of the match. That's 14 holes. Assuming the player also loses the first two holes, he now is 16 down with 16 to play.

His opponent could win the 18-hole match on the 3rd hole by a score of 17 and 15.

And now for something much easier!

10 Questions on the 10 Golden Rules of Golf
George Peper estimated that if golfers learned the ‘10 Golden Rules’ (see this blog of mine), they would be able to resolve 90% of the situations routinely encountered on the course. So, for this year’s New Year Teaser I am posing 10 questions on these ‘10 Golden Rules’ in the hope that they might also highlight some common misconceptions.

1. Play the ball as it lies.
A player’s ball is at rest in a bunker. As they walk into the bunker a twig is blown from a tree and comes to rest over their ball. They may remove the twig without penalty. True or False?

2. Improving a lie or stance by bending or breaking anything growing or fixed.
Prior to chipping to the hole a player may repair damage made by a ball to the fringe of the putting green that is two club-lengths in front of where their ball lies and on their line of play. True or False?

3. Loose Impediments
Before dropping a ball under the Rules a player may sweep away twigs, leaves and loose soil with their hand to clear the area of drop. True or False?

4. Movable and immovable obstructions.
If a player is not able to move an obstruction on their own it is an immovable obstruction. True or False?

5. Abnormal ground conditions
A player may take relief from footprints made by a burrowing animal in a bunker. True or False?

6. Touching the ground in hazards
A player may not touch the sand on the back slope of a bunker during their backswing. True or False?

7. Relief from (lateral) water hazards
If you cannot find a ball that is known to have come to rest in a lateral water hazard there are options to drop a ball under penalty of one stroke on either side of the hazard. True or False?

8. Ball lost or out of bounds
A player finds their ball lying 6 inches beyond an out of bounds margin. If they have not played a provisional ball they may drop the ball within two club-lengths of where it crossed the boundary for a penalty of two strokes, so as not to delay play.

9. Deeming a ball unplayable
A player may deem their ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except when it is in a water hazard, even if it is quite obviously playable, e.g. at rest on a putting green. True or False?

10. Repairing damage on the putting green
Players may repair spike damage to a hole providing it is not on their line of putt. True or False?

1.    False. Decision 13-4/18 The principle that a player is entitled to the lie that they had when their ball came to rest, only applies in cases where the lie of a ball has been altered as a result of an act by another player, caddie, spectator or other animate outside agency, not when the lie was altered through natural causes.
2.    False. Decision 13-2/0.5. A player must not improve their line of play by eliminating an irregularity of surface, except that damage on a putting green made by a ball, or an old hole mark on a putting green, may be repaired.
3.    False. Definition of Loose Impediments. Twigs and leaves may be carefully removed, but not loose soil, which is not a loose impediment unless it is on a putting green.
4.    False. Definition of Obstruction. Providing the obstruction can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage the player may obtain the assistance of others to move it.
5.    False. Decision 25/19.5. A footprint is an irregularity of surface from which there is no relief without penalty.
6.    True. Rule 13-4b and Decision 13-4/31.
7.    True. Rule 26-1c(ii).
8.    False. The player must return to where they last played from under penalty of stroke and distance.
9.    True. Rule 28.
10.    False. Decision 16-1c/4. A player may not repair any spike mark anywhere in the vicinity of the hole, as it might assist them in their subsequent play of the hole.

How did you do?

Good golfing,


I have completed the update of all my eDocuments and will send new files to all those that purchased from me after 1st April 2015, as promised. However, I am still waiting for the updated .mobi version of my eBook, ‘999 Questions’, so bear with me, as these will take a little longer to deliver.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Special - Geoff Hassings
For my Christmas blog I am once again borrowing material from the regular tweets of a very funny Twitter account, @golfclubwankers, which I can recommend to all of you that can see a humorous side to golf and are not get easily offended by bad language, or non-politically correct comments. I think that you will recognise many of the following actions; if not in yourself, then in those that you play with.
  • Thinning your first chip on the practice green, ending up stone dead at the wrong hole, then chipping the rest of your balls to that hole.
  • Rushing to get something out of your golf bag and getting a tee right under the fingernail!
  • Checking the hole in desperation when you can't find your ball in the rough around the green. 
  • Chasing after an electric trolley that wasn’t quite turned off. 
  • When you are looking for a fellow competitor’s ball saying unhelpful things like; “What ball are you playing?”, “Did you get a line on it?”, “I didn't see it come down”, “You’re probably better off not finding it”, “That’s very strange, it shouldn’t be lost here”. 
  • Calling a fellow competitor by the wrong name for most of the round.Telling yourself to play safe before the round…. then hitting driver off every tee and lob wedge around every green. 
  • Smashing the ball into the dividing partition at the driving range and looking round to see if anyone notice. 
  • Cleaning your clubs in the kitchen sink on the night before you are due to go on a golfing vacation.Hearing golf balls rolling around your car boot when you go around a corner. 
  • Before going to sleep on Saturday or Sunday, reliving three missed putts, two knock downs and one duffed chip and thinking about what you should have shot this weekend. 
  • Practicing your swing in front of a mirror using a TV remote control for the grip. 
  • Realising that you are addicted to golf, as you start looking for golf courses through the aircraft window as you take off and land.
  • After good round: “I love golf, it’s my passion in life”. After bad round: “golf is sh1t, don't know why I bother”.
I have to admit that there is only one of the above that I haven’t committed!

Pros Playing Bad Shots
If you are interested in seeing Pro Tour golfers playing poor shots just like you (well most of us!), then you might be interested in watching this 11 minutes YouTube video compilation of 51 bad golf shots from Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and several others from the 2015 PGA Championship events. It might make you feel a little better the next time you thin a stroke, or hit it fat. Click here for the video. 

Happy Holidays to all my readers, wherever you may play your golf.

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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Winter Rules (Again)

I am pleased to be able to report that the ‘Search This Blog’ feature has been restored on every page of my blog site. If you have any query on the Rules of Golf Just enter a short search term in the box (at the top right corner) and then click on the title of the blog that seems to be most relevant to your query.

For example, if you search “Winter Rules / Preferred Lies” you will receive 10 links to previous blogs of mine that contain relevant information on this subject, the first of which, at this link, contains this important paragraph (particularly for Golf Club Committee members);

It is definitely not good enough to post a notice that says ‘Winter Rules’, Preferred Lies’ or ‘Lift, Clean and Place Everywhere’. Wherever possible, it is recommended to reproduce one or more of the specimen Local Rules that are provided in Appendix l, Part B, section 4 of the Rules book.
So, whilst it is OK to draw players’ attention to the fact that a temporary Local Rule has been introduced to protect the course, or to promote fair and pleasant play, this must be backed up with a detailed Local Rule, preferably worded exactly the same as the specimen(s) in the Appendix l, Part B. Otherwise, there could be confusion amongst players on many matters, including the following;

•    Whether the temporary Local Rule permits placing a ball that lies through the green or just on a closely mown area.
•    How far the player is allowed to place their ball from where they picked it up (e.g. 6 inches, the width of a score card, or a club-length).
•    Whether a ball that is lying in the rough can be placed within the permitted distance on the fairway and vice versa.
•    Whether a ball must be marked before it is lifted, cleaned and placed within the permitted distance.
•    Whether a ball that has been placed is in play, so that it may not be replaced if it subsequently moves off its spot, or if it has not been cleaned or aligned to the player’s satisfaction (this should always be the case).

Players should be able to play in competitions, even those that are not counting for handicaps, in the knowledge that all competitors are playing to the same Rules.

Good golfing,


This is the last chance to help a friend, relative, or even yourself, to get a better understanding of the Rules of Golf over the Christmas Holiday with a Rhodes Rules School eDocumant gift: : '999 Questions' eBook', '99 Tips on the Rules', 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play!', 'Photo Series' or 'How Many Strokes?'

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

December Miscellany

Ball Embedded in Lip of Hole
I have received these two photos so many times now that I thought I should offer this ruling on them. Neither ball is holed, as part of each ball remains above the level of the lip of the hole. Definition of Hole;
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 player must mark and lift their ball and, in the unlikely event that a member of the Committee is on hand, request that the hole (and in the right hand photo, the hole liner) is repaired. Otherwise, the player may repair the damage as best they can, without penalty. The ball must then be replaced on the lip and putted out. Decision 16-1a/6 clarifies the procedure for a player when a hole is damaged.
Q. Prior to putting, a player discovers that the hole has been damaged. What is the proper procedure?

A. If the damage is not clearly identifiable as a ball mark, then:

(a) If the damage is such that the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed materially, the player should continue play without repairing the hole. If he touches the hole in such circumstances, a breach of Rule 16-1a occurs.

(b) If the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, the player should request the Committee to have the hole repaired. If a member of the Committee is not readily available, the player may repair the damage, without penalty.

If a player repairs a materially damaged hole when a member of the Committee is readily available, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a.
Incidentally, the speed at which the ball must have been travelling to make the damage shown in the right-hand photo, leads me to the conclusion that there is no way that it would have finished at rest in the hole. This assumes that the photo is genuine; it has been doing the rounds and I suspect that the situation may have been manufactured to give us Rules experts something to talk about!

Zach Johnson

My attention was drawn to an incident concerning Zach Johnson at the Hero World Challenge in in Nassau, Bahamas last Thursday. His approach at the 18th hole missed the green, leaving him with an up-slope chip shot. As he considered how to play the chip he rubbed the grass near his ball, to get a sense of the grain in the grass. He was certainly testing the surface, but this action does not incur a penalty anywhere other than on putting greens (Rule 16-1d), or hazards (Rule 13-4). Part of Rule 16-1d states;

During the stipulated round, a player must not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.
Exception: Between the play of two holes, a player may test the surface of any practice putting green and the putting green of the hole last played, unless the Committee has prohibited such action (see Note 2 to Rule 7-2).
Johnson’s comments after the round were interesting;
“I get called on that at least two or three times a year from television. The problem is the camera, the angle where it is, I can't go in front of my ball and test the surface in my line, but I was about a yard, yard and a half to the left and behind.”
He is correct, a player may do nothing in front of their ball that may be construed as changing their line of play for the better, potentially giving them an advantage, Rule 13-2 and Decision 13-2/0.5.

2016 Updates to my eBook and eDocuments
I have almost finished updating my eBook and eDocuments with the amendments to the Rules and Decisions that are effective from 1st January, 2016. Anyone who has purchased from me since 1st April will automatically get the updated files sent to them, free of charge. The .mobi file for the '999 Questions' eBook (for eReaders, smart phones and tablets) may take a little longer, as I am dependent on an outside service for this. As soon as I do have it, I will update the file at Amazon for those of you that prefer a paperback version. Please watch my blog site for details.

I am also close to releasing my follow-up eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. This is a collection of all 111 issues of ‘9 Questions About …’, my current weekly email ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. For those of you that are not familiar with these series they are;
1st series of 99 issues: 'Photo series' (click here to purchase)
2nd series of 99 issues: 'How Many Strokes?' (click here to purchase)
3rd series of 111 issues: '9 Questions About …' (watch this space!)

Good golfing,


Unfortunately, my 'Search This Blog' widget (top right corner) has not been working for the past few days. However, if you use Google and enter a Rules search term followed by Barry Rhodes you can achieve similar resul (e.g. "Embedded ball Barry Rhodes").

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

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Penalty of Stroke and Distance

Ball out of bounds: penalty of stroke and distance
I am keeping this week’s blog short and simple, but it is important. If your ball is lost anywhere outside of a water hazard, or is out of bounds, and you have not played a provisional ball…..

You must proceed 
under penalty of stroke and distance

This means that the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (Rule 20-5). Despite what some golfers may tell you, there is no other option. In particular, it is not permitted to drop a ball close to where the ball went out of bounds, or where it was thought to be lost for a penalty of two strokes. Anyone who does so, will incur the penalty of disqualification, from the competition in a strokes competition, or from the hole in Stableford, bogey or par competitions.

Note also, that at anytime, anywhere on the course, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played, i.e. proceed under penalty of stroke and distance. The consequence of this is that if you do not fancy your next stroke (e.g. in deep undergrowth, under the lip of a bunker, or behind a large immovable obstruction on the line of play) and the other two options under Rule 28, Ball Unplayable, do not provide you with a favorable dropping location, then you may choose this option of taking the penalty of stroke and distance.

Interesting Podcast from

Rules enthusiasts may want to check out the podcast, in which Alan Bastable chats with USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf & Amateur Status Thomas Pagel. At 40 minutes (including ads), it is a long listen, but it does contain interesting detail on Pagel’s job, how the Rules of Golf evolve, the decision making behind the four significant changes that are effective from 1st January 2016 and, for the final 5 minutes, Pagel’s thoughts on the simplification of the Rules. Here is the link to this podcast.

Good golfing,


I have almost finished upgrading my eBook and other eDocuments with the changes required following the amendments to the Rules and Decisions, effective January 1st 2016. So, don't hold back on ordering a useful Christmas present for golfers of all ages and handicaps. All my eDocuments can be accessed at

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