Monday, 21 March 2016

Playing from Outside (or Wrong) Teeing Ground

A Rule of Golf that is commonly broken in Club competitions is putting a ball into play when starting a hole from somewhere other than from within the correct teeing ground. The Definition of teeing ground is;
The "teeing ground" is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
Rule 11-4 deals with situations where a player puts a ball into play from outside this defined area, and Rule 11-5 extends this to when a player plays from a wrong teeing ground, stating that the provisions of Rule 11-4 apply.

The main situations that are covered by this Rule are;
•    A player tees their ball in front of an imaginary line drawn between the fronts of the tee markers (as in the photo).
•    A player tees their ball on the wrong side of the tee markers, e.g. to the left of the left tee marker.
•    A player tees off from behind the wrong tee markers, e.g. from white tee markers when blue tee markers are the ones in play.
•    A player tees off from within the teeing ground of the wrong hole, e.g. after finishing the 6th hole they play from the tee markers of the 11th hole instead of the 7th hole.

An example of how careful players have to be concerning playing from the correct teeing ground occurred two years ago in the Missouri Women's Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship. Two ladies were disqualified when it was discovered that they had both played from the wrong tees earlier in the tournament. Before commencing their rounds all competitors were instructed to play from the gold championship tees. However, during the first round, on one of the holes there were white tees incorrectly placed further back on the teeing area than the gold championship tees. The two players discussed the situation between themselves and surmised that the obvious intention was that they should have been playing from the tees that were furthest back and so they both played from the whites. When they completed their rounds they reported the matter to the Committee who had no option other than to disqualify them under this part of Rule 11-4b;

If the competitor makes a stroke from the next teeing ground without first correcting his mistake or, in the case of the last hole of the round, leaves the putting green without first declaring his intention to correct his mistake, he is disqualified.
The Head Rules Official correctly pointed out that the competition's notice clearly indicated that players were to play from the gold tees; it did not say, “Unless they are placed incorrectly”. It was the players’ responsibility to conform to that Rule.

Edit 22nd March 2016: I should have clarified that in match play, if a player plays a ball from outside the teeing ground, there is no penalty, but their opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke and play a ball from within the teeing ground, Rule 11-4a.
An Example of How the New Exception to Rule 6-6d Works
South Korean, Hyun-woo Ryu, was one of the first professional golfers to benefit from a Rule change that came into effect on 1st January this year. Earlier this month, during the New Zealand Open at The Hills, he played from the wrong spot after taking a drop at the first hole of his third round and went on to sign for an incorrect score because the situation did not come to light until the following day.

Under the old Rules, signing for an incorrect score resulted in disqualification. However, the new Exception to Rule 6-6d states;

If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning his score card, he did not know he had incurred, he is not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes for each hole at which the competitor has committed a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.
So, Ryu received a penalty of two strokes for playing his ball from a wrong place and, under the new Rule, an additional penalty of two strokes for signing for an incorrect score card. Without this additional penalty he would have finished tied for sixth, but instead the 34-year-old had to settle for a share of 16th place. However, I am sure that he would agree that this was better than being disqualified!

Good golfing,


It is inter-Club match play time again for many golfers in the Northern Hemisphere. A good time to check out my 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play' eDocument (click here) and my 'Match Play Quiz' eDocument (click here).

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

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Spieth Spit Spat

It wasn’t really a spat, but I couldn’t resist that headline! Jordan Spieth, currently ranked the best golfer in the world, has raised an interesting Rules question, which apparently is still under discussion by the Ruling Bodies.

Earlier this year Spieth began asking an unusual Rules question. He admitted that when the putting greens get “shiny” his putter has a tendency to slip on the ground. In practice, he wets the bottom of his putter for added traction, either with a damp towel, or by licking his thumb and rubbing it on the bottom of the putter. When he enquired as to whether this action breached any Rule of Golf in competitive golf, no-one could give him a definitive answer. During last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, at Doral, Florida, he said;

“I’ve spoken to commentators, players and nobody knew the answer if you can do it. I didn’t know if it was legal so I’ve never done it on the golf course [during a tournament round], so I asked an official once I knew the course was like that [on Saturday]. He asked me what my intentions were and I told him to make it easier to set the putter down.”
The official was not prepared to make an on-the-spot ruling and went away to confer with others officials, returning a few holes later. It would seem that the tournament officials were split and so they called the USGA, who also declined to give a definitive ruling, but, until they had discussed it further, they were ruling that he (Spieth) should not lick his fingers and then apply it to the sole of his putter, though he was permitted to use a wet towel to clean his club.

Slugger White, Tour Vice President of Rules and Competitions, later said;

“They [the USGA] are going to talk about it, we’ve all kind of said, ‘no’. The intent was there. His intent was to keep the putter from moving around.”
The relevant Rule is 4-2a;
During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means.
Decision 4-2/4 even refers specifically to saliva;
Q. A player spat on the face of his club and did not wipe the saliva off before playing his next stroke. Is this permissible?

A. If the purpose of doing this was to influence the movement of the ball, the player was in breach of Rule 4-2b as saliva is "foreign material."
So, one can appreciate the difficulty faced by the Ruling Bodies; by applying saliva to the bottom of his putter Spieth was arguably not changing the putter’s playing characteristics in any way that could influence the movement of his ball, but his intention was to control the movement of his club to benefit his stroke in the playing of the hole. Presuming that this ruling will be ratified, the question remains as to whether using a dampened towel to ‘clean’ the sole of the putter, so as to achieve the same result, is allowable under the Rules, because it is using equipment in a traditionally accepted manner, as permitted by Exception 2 to Rule 14-3.

J.B. Holmes Plays from a Wrong Place
In another incident at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, J.B. Holmes was penalised two strokes for playing from a wrong place. He had taken relief from a lateral water hazard (red stakes/lines) by dropping on the opposite side of the reference point where his ball had crossed the margin, equidistant from the hole. But instead of dropping within two club-lengths of that point, he went back nearly 25 yards to play his next shot, a fairway wood over a line of trees. Fortunately, he was advised of the error before completing the hole and teeing off at the next hole, or he would have been disqualified for a serious breach of Rule 20-7. Presumably, he did not follow the Solheim Cup in 2013, where several players, caddies, team
captains and officials all failed to get this Rule right, making the same mistake as J.B. Holmes. If you have any doubt about this you should read Rule 26-1, or view my video on taking relief from a lateral water hazard at this link.

Good golfing,


Thanks to those of you who have purchased my new book and written to me with such positive comments about the new format (with photos and diagrams). Please email me at barry at barry rhodes dot com if you would also like to purchase this new publication, '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016'.

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

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Touching Growing Grass in a Hazard

I have been called upon to settle more than one argument regarding what golfers may touch with their club in a hazard. Remember that there are two types of hazard on a golf course, bunkers and water hazards (which include lateral water hazards) and that strokes (where there must be intent to strike at and move the ball) are different from practice swings.

Most golfers know that if their ball lies in a hazard they must not touch the ground in that hazard, or the water if it is a water hazard, with their hand or club. Most golfers also realise that they must not touch or move any loose impediment (e.g. stones, branches and dead leaves) lying in or touching the same hazard, unless it is with the forward movement of their club as they make their stroke. However, in my experience, many players do not realise that there is no penalty for touching anything that is growing with a practice swing, their backswing, or the forward movement of their club before it strikes the ball, even when their ball is lying in a hazard.

The Note to Rule 13-4 clarifies;

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.
Of course, the player must not do anything to improve their lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, because this would be a breach of Rule 13-2. So take care during those practice swings!

A memorable instance of a breach of Rule 13-4, by moving a loose impediment in a water hazard, occurred in 2010 on the first playoff hole at the Verizon Heritage. On the backswing of his stroke, Brian Davis slightly moved a single loose palm frond, lying amongst several growing palm fronds (see photo). Davis had to call the two strokes penalty on himself resulting in him losing the title to Jim Furyk, who was not even aware of the infraction.

Now test your understanding of the principles above by answering this 8-part question;

A player is making a shot to the putting green. In which of the following 8 situations do they incur a penalty, if while making a stroke they …

1.… touch water in a bunker on their backswing?
2.… touch sand in a bunker on their backswing?
3.… touch growing grass in a bunker on their backswing?
4.… touch loose grass in a bunker on their backswing?
5.… touch water in a water hazard on their backswing?
6.… touch sand in a water hazard on their backswing?
7.… touch growing grass in a water hazard on their backswing?
8.… touch loose grass in a water hazard on their backswing?
Answer: A penalty is incurred in 2. 4. 5. 6. 8., but not in 1, 3 and 7. The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.
Exactly the same rulings apply if the word “backswing” was replaced with “practice swing”

My New eBook ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf - 2016'
I am pleased to say that I have now published my follow-up book as an eBook. It is not yet available from my Rhodes Rules School web site, but if you email me direct (at rules at barry rhodes dot com) I will send you the .pdf file by return and, after payment has been received, a link to collect the .mobi file, which, because of the many photos and diagrams is too large to send by email. The .pdf file can be printed out from any computer and the .mobi file can be used with the free Kindle app to transfer the book to any eReader, smart phone or tablet. The charge, depending on which currency is the easiest for you to pay by PayPal, is US$10.99, Eu€9.99, or St£7.99.

‘999 More Questions’ is very different from my first book in that the questions, answers and references are grouped in sections of 9, covering every conceivable situation that golfers may encounter on the golf course (e.g. Dropping a Ball, Loose Impediments, Bad Weather, Rakes and Bunkers, Clothing and Footwear, Club-lengths, Handicaps, etc.). This format has proved to be the most popular of the three, free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series that I email weekly to over 10,000 subscribers. I can promise that as you read through this book, taking one section of 9 questions at a time, you will obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf, which you can then take onto the course to improve not just your score, but also your enjoyment of the unique game of golf, where players are expected to respect and abide by the Rules more than in any other sport.

Note: My original eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf – 2016’ has just become available as a paperback on Amazon. Please take care to click on the latest (2016) version, as I cannot get them to remove the out of date editions.

Good golfing,

Note: If you are already receiving my ‘9 Questions About …’ series of free, weekly emails and you purchase ‘999 More Questions’, I will advance you to the current series of ‘Pros Getting it Wrong’.

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