Tuesday, 27 December 2016

New Year Rules Teasers

It has been a regular habit of mine to offer readers of this blog teasers relating to the Rules of Golf for them to contemplate over their New Year holiday. This year, I am describing a ruling and your task is to explain the circumstance that led to it. The nine scenarios are not intended to be easy and this exercise will not appeal to every reader. My aim is to get the rest of you thinking, perhaps over a period of days, so I recommend that you don’t check the answers below until you have had a good attempt at reaching an explanation that fits. Please note that I am providing just one circumstance that matches the answer, but there could be other circumstances that are equally valid. (Edit: 29th December: No Local Rule was involved in any of the situations.)

1.    Martha’s putt from on the putting green was well wide of her intended line when it hit an opponent’s club, deflecting it against her own partner’s ball, from where it rolled into the hole. The stroke counts and no penalty is incurred. Explain!

2.    On a par-3, Stuart makes 8 strokes at his original ball before putting out with that same ball for a score of 5. Explain!

3.    In match play, Sofia plays her ball from the teeing ground on a par-3. Anna, who had the same handicap as Sofia, then plays her first stroke from the teeing ground and her ball comes to rest on the lip of the hole, so Sofia concedes the putt. Sofia makes another stroke and wins the hole. Explain!

4.    Early in her round Lynn mislaid her sand iron. After completing the 9th hole she ran into the Pro Shop to borrow a replacement, but there were no sand irons available, so she took a lob wedge with a similar loft. On the 10th hole, she topped her ball when playing from a bunker with the borrowed lob wedge, so she was pleased when a course marshall drove up to her in a buggy with her mislaid sand iron, which she then continued to use during the rest of her round. No penalty was incurred. Explain!

5.    Joerg is not happy with his tee shot to a Par 3 hole, 180 yards away. He walks forward 100 yards, but in a direction that is diagonal from a direct line from the teeing ground to the location of the hole and he drops another ball there. Explain!

6.    Having driven to the right of the fairway on the 1st hole, Tamara carries a club into the fairway bunker, shuffles her feet around, pushes her fingers deep into the sand, makes two practice strokes, brushing the sand on each occasion, and then returns to her bag. She changes the club, walks to her ball and plays it in the direction of the putting green. Tamara did not incur any penalty. Explain!

7.    Having correctly dropped a ball from a sprinkler head on a fairway, an immovable obstruction, Michael lifted that ball, took a different ball from his pocket, and dropped it at the same place. He then played that ball towards the hole, without incurring a penalty. Explain!

8.    Fellow competitors, Alan and Bob, walked to where their ball had landed and found that they were so close together they were touching. Bob lifted his ball without marking it and carefully cleaned it while Alan was clearing loose impediments from around his ball, taking care not to accidentally move it while doing so. When Alan had made his stroke towards the hole, Bob dropped his ball about 6 feet away from where it was originally at rest and played it towards the hole. No penalties were incurred. Explain!

9.    At the start of the 10th hole Mary was playing a Titleist 1 with her shamrock mark and Maria was playing a Titleist 1 with her thistle mark. When they putted out they realised that Maria had putted out with Mary's ball and Mary had putted out with Maria's ball. No penalties were incurred. Explain!

Last Golf Joke of 2016 😄
Player arrives at the first tee. Shortly before tee time, he realizes that he does not have a ball marker in his pocket. He dashes into the pro-shop and asks.....
Q: “Do you sell ball markers?”
A: “Yes we do”, says the Pro, “They are $1.00”.
Player hands the Pro a $1.00 bill.
Pro hands the player a dime ($0.10 cents)
Player says, "I thought you said the ball marker was $1.00?"
Pro replies...."I did,… that dime is your ball marker."

Answers to Teasers:
1.    Martha was competing in a four-ball match. When her ball hit an opponent’s club she had the option of choosing to let her putt stand, or to cancel it and play it again, Rule 19-3. In match play, there is no penalty for hitting another ball after a stroke made from on a putting green, Rule 19-5a.
2.    Stuart player played from outside the teeing ground and played 2 more strokes at his ball before being made aware of his error. He returned to the correct teeing ground and from there took 3 strokes to hole out (3 counting strokes, 2 penalty strokes and 3 strokes that did not count in his score, because they were played from wrong teeing ground), Rule 11-4b.
3.    Sofia had played out of turn, so Anna required her stroke to be cancelled, as it was a good shot coming to rest close to the hole, Rule 10-1c. After Sofia had conceded Anna’s putt for a birdie she then made a hole-in-one to win the hole. (See this link for several other ways that a player may score a hole-in-one with their second ball played from the teeing ground).
4.    Lynn started her round with 13 clubs, so she was entitled to add another club of any type, Rule 4-4a. There is no Rule preventing her to enter the Pro Shop providing she did not unduly delay play while doing so. When her original sand iron was returned to her she was entitled to use it, as it was one of her original 13 clubs selected for play.
5.    Joerg’s ball landed in a pond in front of the putting green. The hole was located on the left side of the green and his ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard to the right side, meaning that the permitted line of drop, under Rule 26-1b, on an extension of a line from the hole through the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, was to the far right of the pond, nowhere near the line of flight of his ball played from the teeing ground.
6.    Tamara’s ball was at rest close to the bunker, but was not in it, so Rule 13-4 did not apply. A player may test the sand in a bunker when their ball does not lie in a bunker.
7.    After taking the drop from the immovable obstruction under Rule 24-2, Michael realised that he had dropped a different ball from the one that he lifted. However, under Rule 20-6, he was permitted to correct his mistake without penalty, as he had not made a stroke at the wrongly substituted ball.
8.    Both balls were lying in snow. Alan chose to treat the snow as casual water, dropping away from it under Rule 25-1, whereas Bob chose to treat the snow as a loose impediment, clearing some of it away before playing his ball from where it had come to rest, Definition of Loose Impediment.
9.    Mary and Maria played their balls into a water hazard at approximately the same spot. During their retrieval the balls were inadvertently exchanged. When taking relief under penalty the player may drop any ball, so they were not playing wrong balls to the putting green, Decision 15/14.

I hope that these nine scenarios tested you and that you did not find them too frustrating!

Link to New Local Rule Print Out
Good Golf Committees around the world will have already made plans to introduce the new Local Rule for the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green. If yours has not, I strongly recommend that you click on this link, print out the .pdf notice that is ready for pinning on a notice board, and bring it swiftly to their attention. Both the R&A and USGA have recommended that Committees introduce this Local Rule immediately.

Happy New Year with lots of good golfing,

Why not start the year with a New Year resolution to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf and do it the easy way? Carry ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’ with you at all times on your smart phone, Kindle, laptop or tablet and then test yourself whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Click here.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 / © 2017 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Special 2016

You know that you are probably playing too much golf when…

On a big night out, while searching for the cloakroom ticket, you find two tees, some scruffy receipts and the 10 cent coin you have been using as a ball marker.

You know your home course post code and at least three different sites/apps to check the weather forecast.

You check the first weather site, then hoping for something better, venture into a second and even a third to get their opinions on precipitation, wind direction and velocity!

European golfers have coins of at least three different currencies in their golf bag.

You keep score cards from all the different courses that you have played as a badge of honour.

There are some rounds that you cannot remember what you scored, as the card is illegible and has turned into that weird cardboard mush you only get in golf bags.

You have to pick up and wiggle any driver that is different to yours while you are waiting in the queue of the pro shop.

You can hear balls rolling around your car boot (trunk) when you drive around corners.

The pocket of your golf bag contains several dirty Pinnacles/Top Flights and one of them is always yellow.

You spend more time/money dressing for golf that going out for a meal with your partner.

You give directions like, 'there is a dogleg to the right' or ‘it is only a 5-iron from the gas station.

You have lied exaggerated to someone about your golfing abilities even though they have no idea what an ‘eagle’ is.

You cannot stop mentioning golf when chatting one-on-one with a member of the opposite sex.

If you are ‘guilty’ of five or more of the above you are probably playing too much golf!

10 Awkward Open moments

An amusing video from GolfShake.co that includes;
•    Tiger being accosted by a lap-dancer in her underwear
•    Ian Baker-Finch's hat blowing off as he drives his ball out of bounds to the left of the 18th on the Old Course, St. Andrews; he was playing the 1st!
•    Nick Faldo singing (he’s even worse than me!)

Click here for the compilation video, which may help some of us to realise that even Pro golfers have their embarrassing moments.

Christmas Greetings 

Wishing all my readers, wherever you play your golf, all that you wish for this Christmas season. May you balls always lie in green pastures and not in still waters!

Good golfing,


Check out my 'Rhodes Rules School' web site, an indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Accidentally Moving a Ball on the Putting Green

By now most readers will be aware of last week’s joint announcement by R&A and USGA about the introduction of a new Local Rule that eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green. Full details of the announcement, the recommended wording for the Local Rule, the above infographic and explanations, can be viewed at these links;

R&A: http://www.randa.org/News/2016/12/New-Local-Rule-for-Golf

USGA: http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/new-local-rule.html

I want to highlight a few points that may be missed by some golfers and golf Committee personnel;

•    This is not a new, or amended Rule of Golf.
•    It is the recommended wording for a Local Rule that may (should!) be introduced on or after 1st January 2017.
•    Committees will have to introduce the Local Rule for it to take effect on 1st Janaury 2017 and they are encouraged to do so.
•    It only applies to a ball, or ball marker, at rest on the putting green being played, not anywhere else on the course.
•    It does not matter how the ball or ball-marker was accidentally moved, e.g. with the head of a putter, kicked, or as a result of a glove being dropped on it.
•    It only applies when a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved; it does not apply to a ball that is purposely touched or moved, e.g. a ball that is lifted without being marked.
•    It applies to the player, their partner, their opponent(s), or any of their caddies or equipment.
•    The ball or ball-marker that was accidentally moved must be replaced, as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
•    If a player does not think that they caused their ball to move in any way they must play it from where it came to rest, e.g. if it was moved by wind, water or gravity.

I have previousl blogged on at least three high profile incidents that would not now be penalised if this Local Rule had been in effect at the time;

•    The ruling that Dustin Johnson had caused his ball to move at the 2016 US Open. Click here for details.
•    Ian Poulter dropping his ball on his ball-marker at the Dubai Championship in 2010. Click here for details.
•    Mike Clayton accidentally knocking his putter into his ball as he tried to catch it after throwing it in the air. Click here for details.

It seems that Decision 20-1/5.5 will have to be withdrawn from the next publication of the Decisions book. It rules that a player who found his ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe and concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt, would be penalised one stroke, which will not be the case when this Local Rule is implemented. (Edit: 13the December 2016: a reader has pointed out that Decision 20-1/14 will also have to withdrawn next time round and Decision 20-1/13 amended to clarify that the ball is not on the putting green. There are probably others!)

I certainly welcome this move by the Ruling Bodies, as the first step in their 'Rules Modernisation', which apparently is well under way and about which we will hear much more during 2017. There have been numerous instances where players have incurred penalties when their ball has moved, sometimes imperceptibly, on the much faster, undulating surfaces of putting greens. The only question that now has to be asked when this occurs is whether some person accidentally caused the ball to move, in which case it must be replaced, or whether something else caused it to move, e.g. wind or gravity, in which case it must be played from where it came to rest.

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

When a Player May Substitute a Ball

If a player substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play, for a breach of Rule 15-2, part of which states;

If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules (including an unintentional substitution when a wrong ball is dropped or placed by the player), that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule and, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball. 

Of course, players may change balls at will between the play of two holes (unless there is a One Ball Condition of Competition), as they do not have a ball in play at that time.

Two examples of when a player unintentionally substitutes a ball are;
  • When a ball is marked and lifted from the putting green, put in a pocket and then a different ball is replaced at the marker and played. This precludes a player from having a favourite ball for putting only.
  • When a ball is lifted from a putting green and is accidentally dropped or thrown somewhere from where it cannot be retrieved, e.g. in deep water of a water hazard.
An example of when a player intentionally substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so is;
  • When a player notices that they are playing the same brand and number of ball as another player in their group and they change their ball, so as to easily distinguish between them, Decision 15/6.5.
However, there are several instances where a player is not penalised for substituting a ball, as Rule 15-2 also states;

A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a Rule that permits the player to play, drop or place another ball in completing the play of a hole. The substituted ball becomes the ball in play.

Examples of where the Rules permit substituting a ball are;

  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1. 
  • When playing under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1, even if the original ball is not lost or out of bounds. 
  • When the player deems their ball unplayable under Rule 28, whether or not the original ball has been retrieved. 
  • When a ball has come to rest in a place that is dangerous to the player (e.g near a poisonous snake or a bees' nest) and they are permitted to drop a ball away from the danger, Decision 1-4/10.
  • When it has been determined that a ball has become unfit for play, Rule 5-3. 
  • When a ball has been lifted under the Rules, due to suspension of play, the player may replace the original ball, or a substituted ball, Rule 6-8. 
  • When a ball to be dropped or placed is not immediately recoverable by a player after they have caused it to move; e.g. if it was accidentally kicked into water; because it is in or on a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1, or an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2; because it is in an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1.
Note that there is no penalty is a player lifts a ball that has been incorrectly substituted and replaces it with the original ball, provided they have not made a stroke at it. Rule 20-6 states.

A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Shout "Fore!"

Phil Mickelson shouting ‘Fore!’
Whilst not strictly about any Rule of Golf, this article is about an important golf-related subject that should concern all of us who play the game. When viewing competitive golf at any level, I am regularly surprised at how often players who hit errant shots fail to shout the customary “fore”, to warn anyone in the vicinity that they should take cover and/or protect themselves from being hit by a golf ball.

The Rules of Golf do not require a player to shout "fore" to warn other players, but good etiquette certainly does. This is from the front of the Rules Book, Section 1, Etiquette; Behaviour on the Course;

If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is a danger of hitting someone, he should immediately shout a warning. The traditional word of warning in such situations is "fore."

So, I was pleasantly surprised that at least the European Tour is beginning to take this matter more seriously. Prior to the Turkish Airlines Open, earlier this month, they circulated a memo informing players that incidents of spectator injury are on the rise and that players are expected to increase their use of "fore", as a verbal warning whenever a shot goes awry. This is the full text of the European Tour memo:

An increase in complaints from marshals and spectators over the lack of use of the above warning by players, combined with an increase in resultant injuries to spectators, claims for compensation and indeed a recent injury to a member are of serious concern to the Tour.

Members are reminded that the use of the word "fore" remains the traditional and expected warning/etiquette when there is a danger of hitting someone (see page 26 of Rules of Golf) and that regulation D 1 (b) 2 (page 48 of your handbook) requires you to ‘comply with normally accepted standards of golf etiquette’

All members are therefore strongly recommended that the use of such warnings is expected at all times when there is risk of injury and failure to do so will result in a player being disciplined under the above regulation.

The following short extract is taken from an article on the subject a year ago in GolfLink.com, by Sky Sports pundit and PGA Master Professional, Denis Pugh;

On the European Tour, I'd say it's about half-and-half between players that do and don't shout "fore". The problem is more widespread in the USA, and I’d say only 10 per cent of PGA Tour players consistently shout “fore” when they should. It's no coincidence that the galleries on the PGA Tour are bigger, meaning there is a better chance of getting a lucky deflection off an unsuspecting spectator. It happens every week. The bigger the name, the bigger the galleries, and the less likely there will be a shout from the player or his caddie.

Readers may be interested to know that there are three differing explanations regarding the origin of the use of “fore!” as a warning cry to people positioned in front of a golf stroke. The use of this shout can be traced back at least as far back as a reference in The Oxford English Dictionary in 1878:

  1. A shortened version of ‘forecaddie’, a person employed to stand where the ball might land, so as to reduce the number of lost balls, which were handmade and substantially more expensive in the early days of the sport than they are now. (This is the explanation that I favour). 
  2. From the military battle craft of musket days, when rank after rank would fire fusillades over the heads of those in front. In other words, the term ‘Fore” might have been used to warn those in front to drop to their knees. 
  3. Similar to 2. above, it is claimed that “Fore!” was derived from an artillery term warning gunners to stand clear with the term “Ware Before!” (Beware Before!) being foreshortened to “Fore!” (rather than “Ware!”).
More information on the origin of this traditional warning in golf can be found at the excellent Scottish Golf History web site at this link.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

November Miscellany

Ball Deflects off Flagstick into Water Hazard

Patrick Reed wasn’t having the best of tournaments at the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week. He was already 7 over playing the 8th hole of his second round when his ball struck the flagstick and rebounded back into the water hazard in front of the green. Click on this link to view a video of the incident. As the commentator said about Patrick Reed, “Not his day; not his week”

Reed’s ball rolled down the steep bank of the hazard and came to rest in an unplayable position, so what were his options under the Rules? He only had two options left: return to where he last played from to drop a ball under penalty of stroke and distance; or drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.

It is this second option that seems to cause many golfers a problem. There are three points to remember;
•    The line of flight of the ball from where the stroke was made is not relevant.
•    The reference point for the drop is where the ball last crossed the hazard, which in this incident was the putting green side of the water hazard.
•    The ball may be dropped anywhere on the course on an extension of the line from the flagstick through where the ball last crossed the margin. This will always be on the far side of the hazard from the hole and the ball may be dropped in a bunker or another water hazard.

Dropping Zone for Short Hitters
I have been asked what the situation is if a player who thinks that they cannot reach the fairway on the far side of a water hazard from the teeing ground takes their ball straight to a dropping zone. The player would be disqualified under Rule 11-4b, for playing a ball from outside the teeing ground and not subsequently correcting their mistake before teeing off at the next teeing ground.

Decision 33-8/2 confirms that a Committee may not introduce a Local Rule in this respect;

Q. The design of a hole is such that a player must hit the ball about 100 yards in order to carry a water hazard. A Local Rule has been adopted to assist players who cannot drive over the hazard by allowing them to drop a ball, under penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone that is located across the hazard. Is such a Local Rule authorized?

A. No. Such a Local Rule substantially alters Rule 26-1b as it allows the player to drop a ball on a part of the course (i.e., on the green side of the water hazard) that the Rule would not have permitted him to reach. Furthermore, the penalty for taking relief under the water hazard Rule (Rule 26) is one stroke, and may not be increased to two strokes by a Committee through a Local Rule - see Rule 33-8b.

Borrowing a Club During a Round
I have heard several myths about what a player may borrow from a fellow competitor during their round.

A player may borrow;

  • Balls (but if a One Ball Condition is in effect, the player would need to borrow the same brand and type of ball that they had been using).
  • Equipment (e.g. tee, towel, ball marker, pitch repairer, trolley and umbrella).
  • Clothing (e.g. rain gear, sweater and glove).
A player may not borrow;
  • Any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course, Rule 4-4a.
However, a player may borrow a club for measuring purposes, providing they do not borrow and measure with a club that is longer than one that they carry in their own bag. They may also borrow a club to practice putts or chips between holes, as permitted by Rule 7-2, providing the club is not used to make a stroke that counts in the player's score.

The penalty for a breach of Rule 4-4a in stroke play is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty of four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred). The penalty in match play, at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, is that the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred, with a maximum deduction of two holes.

Good golfing,


Please remember that you can choose to receive my two-weekly blogs by email by subscribing at the top right corner of any of my blog pages. You can also start receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series emails at this link. When you subscribe you will also receive a complimentary quiz on the Rules containing 27 questions, with answers and references. There is no charge for either of these services and you may unsubscribe at any time.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Autumn (Fall) Leaves

I am grateful to Paul Kruger, PGA Professional at The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for giving me permission to use his content for this week’s blog, which is very relevant to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who are currently experiencing the annual problem of falling leaves on our golf courses.

Here are some important points to remember when you encounter leaves on the golf course:

First and foremost, keep in mind that detached leaves are loose impediments, unless they are clinging to your ball, see Definition of Loose Impediments. Therefore, with leaves in the vicinity of your golf ball, you might want to leave (leaf!) well enough alone, unless you are familiar with such Rules as Rule 23 - Loose Impediments, Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard, and Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

On the putting green, you may remove leaves on your line of putt provided you do not press anything down, Rule 16-1a - Touching Line of Putt. Also on the putting green, per Rule 23-1, if you accidentally move your ball in the process of removing leaves, there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the leaves. Just remember to replace your ball to where it was before you caused it to move, otherwise you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 18-2 - Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

However, when the ball does not lie on the putting green, or in a hazard, you may remove leaves in the vicinity of your ball, provided you do not cause your ball to move. If you do cause your ball to move, you incur a one-stroke penalty and you must replace your ball, Rule 18-2.

Leaves that have been piled for removal are ground under repair, Definition of Ground Under Repair. Those are the kinds of piles of leaves that you don’t have to worry about encountering outside of a water hazard, because relief without penalty is available to you via Rule 25 - Abnormal Ground Conditions, etc. In fact, if it is known or virtually certain that your ball is lost within such a pile, relief is provided by Rule 25-1c - Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found. In taking relief, you must determine the nearest point of relief to where the ball crossed the outermost limit of the pile of leaves and drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole.

If there is a pile of leaves immediately behind your ball in a hazard, be careful not to touch the leaves with your club prior to, or during, your backswing. Otherwise, you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

If you believe that your ball is covered by leaves in a hazard to the extent that you cannot find or identify it, you may, without penalty, touch or move the leaves in order to find or identify the ball. However, you must be extremely careful not to cause your ball to move in the process. See Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard. If you cause your ball to move during the search, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and you must replace your ball. If your ball was completely covered by leaves prior to the search, you must re-cover it with the leaves; but it is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

Thanks again to Paul Kruger, PGA, The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA for his permission to use his content in my blogs.

Good golfing,


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Monday, 3 October 2016

Jordan Spieth Ruling: Ryder Cup 2016

Photo: Rydercup.com - Jordan Spieth
My congratulations to the excellent USA team who were the deserving winners of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. The overall match result was almost assured by the time that Jordan Spieth hooked his ball into the water hazard on the par-5 16th hole. His ball came to rest at the water’s edge, but presumably in a position where he thought that he could make a stroke at it. The fact that he was 2-down to his opponent, Henrik Stenson, obviously played a part in his decision to remove his shoes and socks to prepare for an unlikely stroke from the water onto the putting green. But as he took up his stance with one foot in the water, he saw his ball move deeper into the murky water. He wasn’t sure about the ruling, so he called over European Tour Rules official, Jose Zamaro. Surprisingly, he was not confident enough to give a definitive ruling, even after consulting his Rules book, and had to call in the details of the situation to the senior Rules Official for the competition. He then passed on the ruling to Jordan that he had incurred a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2, for causing his ball to move while taking his stance. Even with this penalty it was still possible, if highly unlikely, that he could have holed out with his next stroke for 4, but perhaps wisely, he said, "It’s done now, it’s over" and conceded the hole to Henrik, thus losing the match 3 and 2.

Obviously, I cannot know what was confusing to Jordan Spieth and the official, Jose Zamaro, about the Rules situation, but I am guessing that they may have been unsure about whether Rule 13-4 or Rule 14-6 could have been applicable in the circumstances. Here is my assessment of the situation;

•    Decision 13-4/13: If a player accidentally moves a loose impediment in a hazard (e.g. a stone) there is no penalty, provided the loose impediment was not moved in making the backswing and the lie of the ball or area of the intended stance or swing was not improved. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.
•    Rule 14-6: If a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make a stroke at the moving ball. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.
•    Rule 18-2: If a player causes their ball to move they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. This applies whether the ball lies in a water hazard, or not. Note that there seven exceptions to this Rule, but none that was relevant to the Spieth incident. Of course, it is possible that a ball could be moved by the natural flow of water, but in this circumstance it was clear that it was the placing of Jordan’s foot at the water’s edge that caused his ball to move.

Footnote 1: On 31st August this year Associated Press reported that Jordan Spieth recalled getting a Rules of Golf book at a junior tournament with instructions to keep it in his bag for quick reference. "I never opened it", he said.

Footnote 2: Jordan Spieth is reported to have earned $147.5 million since 2012 (reference: Money Nation), so he may not think that it is necessary for him to spend time studying the Rules book, but perhaps he should employ a caddie that does!

Good golfing,


I understand that some subscribers to my fortnightly blogs may not have received the usual email with my previous blog, dated 20th September 2016, titled, ‘What a Golfer May Move without Penalty’. You can either catch-up on this blog at this link, or email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will email it to you.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

What a Golfer May Move Without Penalty

I know that some regular readers of this blog like to have lists to assist them in understanding the Rules, so I am going to address what a player may move when their ball in play is stationary and when it is in motion.

Player’s Ball in Play is Stationary;

•    Artificial objects that can easily be moved are movable obstructions, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, or out of bounds, Rule 24-1. Examples are course signage, distance markers, water hazard stakes, cans, abandoned balls and other rubbish.
•    Natural objects that are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball, are loose impediments, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard. Rule 23-1. Examples are grass clippings, leaves and pine cones.
•    A player is not penalised for moving, bending or even breaking anything growing or fixed, providing this happens while they are fairly taking their stance, which means using the least intrusive course of action that is reasonably necessary for the selected stroke, Decision 13-2/1.
•    A player is entitled to move a natural object for the specific purpose of determining whether the object is loose; if it is not it must be returned to its original position before making the next stroke, Decision 13-2/26.
•    If a player considers that another ball might interfere with their play, they may have it lifted, Rule 22-2.
•    Sand and loose soil may be moved from the putting green, but not from anywhere else, Definition of Loose Impediments.

Player’s Ball is in Motion after a Stroke;

•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any movable obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, except the equipment of any player and the flagstick that has been removed from the hole, Rule 24-1. Examples of player’s equipment are their clubs, clothing and golf bag. 
•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball, Rule 23-1. Examples are divots, a detached branch and insect-like creatures, Definition 23-5/5.
•    Obviously, a player must not purposely stop any ball that is in motion, Rule 1-2.

Dustin Johnson Has Gotten Spit-Roasted
The first line of this article in this week’s Golf Digest reads;

"Dustin Johnson has gotten spit-roasted in the wake of his victory in the BMW Championship on Sunday for his incessant spitting on the golf course."

I am not going to expand on Johnson’s bad habit, other than to register my abhorrence that a professional golfer would consider that this is acceptable behaviour on a golf course, knowing that they are being watched by millions, especially juniors. Following a similar occurrence in 2011, the European Tour fined Tiger Woods for a breach of their tour Code of Conduct. To his credit, Tiger immediately apologised, admitting that it was inconsiderate to spit like that and he should have known better. To his credit, I am not aware of any subsequent indiscretion by him in this respect. It appears that Dustin Johnson will not be fined by the USA PGA, as they seem to take a less critical attitude to spitting than the European Tour, so it is left to concerned individuals to voice our opinions on how distasteful we regard this disgusting practice, particularly on the golf course.

Good golfing,


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.