Wednesday, 27 April 2016


A simple subject for this blog, but one that seems to cause some confusion amongst golfers is the status of stakes of different colors in the Rules of Golf. Most of us are familiar with the three most common coloured stakes mentioned in the 34 Rules of Golf;
  • Boundary (out of bounds) – white stakes 
  • Water hazard – yellow stakes 
  • Lateral water hazard – red stakes
However, players might also encounter stakes of different colours on the course and these will be defined under a Local Rule, usually on the back of the score card, which should always be carefully checked before commencing a round on a new course. Examples of these less commonly coloured stakes are;
  • Ground under repair – blue or black stakes (although GUR is usually denoted by a white line painted around the area) 
  • Environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) defined as a water hazard – yellow stakes with green tops (Decision 33-8/41)  
  • ESA defined as a lateral water hazard– red stakes with green tops  
  • ESA defined as ground under repair– blue stakes with green tops 
  • Shrub / flower beds – e.g. red and white stakes
It is important to know that stakes defining out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. There is no relief available from them, even if they interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing. But most other stakes are movable obstructions providing they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Occasionally, Committees will cement in stakes, so that they are immovable, which can introduce problems for maintenance staff when maintaining the areas immediately around them. Also, Committees sometimes introduce a Local Rule designating stakes as immovable obstructions, even if they do not properly meet the definition, because they are easily movable. In my opinion this should definitely be avoided, as it introduces unnecessary confusion for players, especially visitors to a course. This relevant comment is from the excellent R&A publication, ‘Guide on Running a Competition’* – Section 4 Marking the Course, 3 Water Hazards;
By Definition, stakes or lines defining hazards are in the hazards. Stakes are obstructions. Therefore, if they are movable, players are entitled to relief without penalty from them under Rule 24-1. If they are immovable, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2 when the ball lies outside the hazard. However, if the ball is in the hazard, the player is not entitled to immovable obstruction relief. Accordingly, it is recommended that stakes marking hazards are movable.
And now to my most important ‘rule’ relating to stakes. If you do move them away from your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, please remember to replace them after you have made your stroke, and also remind others that you are playing with to do so. Not correctly replacing stakes is obviously discourteous to other players and can lead to frustration and anger on the course.

Good golfing,


* This is a link to the R&A publication, ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’ published by R&A.

I am expecting to have my new book, cleverly titled, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’, available from my Rhodes Rules School web site very soon. It will also be available as a paperback, though this version is considerably more expensive than the eBook, due to the full colour print required for the photos and diagrams. In the meantime, you can email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will advise you how you can obtain the .pdf and .mobi files directly from me.

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

Monday, 11 April 2016

Masters Round-up

A few notes on some of the Rules incidents at the 2016 Masters Championship.

Wind Blows Billy Horschel’s Ball into Water in Hazard
Regular readers of my blogs and ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly emails will not have been surprised that when the wind blew Billy Horschel’s stationary ball off the putting green into the hazard, he had to take a penalty drop. For example, see this blog from March last year. However, I guess that there are quite a few golfers who did not understand why he then dropped his ball close to the putting green, some way away from the water hazard. Remember, that one of the options to take relief from a water hazard under penalty of one stroke is to drop a ball where the last stroke was played from, Rule 26-1a. This was obviously a better option than dropping a ball on the opposite side of the water hazard on the ‘flagline’, an imaginary line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

DeChambeau’s Relief Ruling on 18th Hole, Friday
There has been some discussion as to whether the referee made the correct ruling when giving Bryson DeChambeau relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) and path on his final hole on Friday. Whether the ruling was correct or not had no effect on Dechambeau’s score because he was acting under the guidance of the referee and cannot therefore be penalised for dropping and playing from the wrong place. If you are interested in the detail of the ruling I recommend the explanation from Ryan Farb, Californian Tournament Director and Rules Official, at this link.

Johnson Touches Water in Hazard on His Backswing
After completing his second round on Friday, Augusta National officials alerted Zach Johnson to a potential violation of the Rules of Golf on the 13th hole. Johnson's third shot to the par 5 wound up in the water hazard in front of the green, and the reigning Open champion chose to play his ball out of the hazard. However, on his backswing, he grazed the water, which is considered grounding the club in a hazard in breach of Rule 13-4. Johnson was subject to a two-stroke penalty, which meant that he missed the cut. I am often asked which Rule of Golf I would change if given the opportunity. There are a few, but I would remove the penalty for touching ground in a hazard and water in a water hazard, as I cannot see that this gives a player any real advantage before playing their next stroke.

Bernhard Langer’s Long Handled Putter
I love this succinct Tweet by Michael McEwan, Assistant Editor of Scotland’s ‘Bunkered’  golf magazine;

The people suggesting that Bernhard Langer is anchoring are, a) entirely predictable, b) entirely wrong.
Agreed! If you are not clear on this subject check out this blog of mine.

Touching the Putting Green in Front of Your Ball
I found it a little disturbing to watch Lee Westwood address his ball on putting greens. His routine is that he lightly grounds his putter in front of his ball on the line of putt, lifts the putter head over the ball and lightly grounds it again behind the ball before starting his stroke. This does not incur a penalty, as Rule 16-1(ii) states;

… (ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
Although permitted, this action looks awkward to me and there must be an increased chance that the player will accidentally cause their ball to move. If they do press down on their putter while it is in front of the ball (e.g. due to losing their balance in a strong gust of wind), the penalty is incurred.

Louis Oosthuizen’s Extraordinary Hole-in-One
Holes-in-one are fairly uncommon, even in Pro Tournament play, but Shane Lowry, Davis Love lll and Louis Oosthuizen all achieved this feat on Augusta National’s 16th hole on Sunday. Louis’ was even more uncommon, as his ball deflected off the ball of JB Holmes into the hole for his hole-in-one. Of course, JB Holmes had to replace his ball where it was at rest before being moved by Oosthuizen’s ball. If you missed this rare incident check this link.

Last Place Marker
A tradition at the Masters is that if there is an odd number of competitors that make the cut they do not permit the player in the last qualifying place to play by himself on the weekend. Augusta National bring in member and course record holder (61 from the members’ tees), Jeff Knox, as a non-competing marker, to play with the solo player to try and maintain a reasonable pace for the first tee time. In 2014 Knox was marker for Rory McIlroy and reportedly took money off him. On Saturday he played with Bubba Watson; there is no record of who had the better score and of course Knox is not obliged to hole out at every hole, though one suspects that he would want to.

Good golfing,


Email me at 'rules at barry rhodes dot com' if you are interested in purchasing my new eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’. 999 different questions in a new (and better!) format ($10.99, €9.99 or £7.99).

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


Monday, 4 April 2016

Sand Off the Putting Green

I am pleased to see that an increasing number of Golf Committees and golf course owners now request players to carry a bag or bottle of sand/seed mix during their round, for use in repairing divot damage that has been made by them or other players. There is no doubt that in most cases the immediate repair of divot holes by with a sand/seed mix promotes the fastest recovery possible. Note that I am not getting into correspondence as to whether this is necessary on courses with Bermuda or other grasses, as it is not my area of expertise. Nor am I going to address the hoary old issue as to why there is no relief from divot holes (and never will be!), as I have already covered that subject in this blog.

One of the problems in requesting players to repair divot holes is that they do not always carry out the task properly. More than once, I have encountered mounds of sand on the fairway, similar to that in the photo, presumably due to someone carelessly pouring too much into a divot hole. So, what are the Rules implications in this situation? The mound of sand in the photo has the same status as if it was lying flat to the surface. It is a natural part of the course and, importantly, is not a loose impediment, unless it lies on the putting green. From the Definition of Loose Impediments;

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

The effect of this is that none of the sand may be removed before playing a stroke, or during a practice swing if it results in any improvement to the lie of the ball, the player’s stance or their area of intended swing. A player may not even press down on the sand behind their ball while addressing their ball, although they may lightly ground their club on the sand. However, no penalty is incurred if some of the sand is removed on the backswing of a stroke that is completed, as clarified in Decision 13-2/9;

Q. A player's ball lies in a sandy area through the green and there is a mound of sand a few inches behind his ball. The player makes his stroke and in the process he removes the mound of sand with the clubhead on his backswing, improving his lie. Is the player subject to penalty?

A. No, provided that he did not ground his club other than lightly and that he took a normal backswing.

Of course, once the stroke has been made the player should then flatten the remaining mound of sand for the benefit of those players who follow.

Good golfing,


I am pleased to recommend a great new resource for all golfers. The R&A has made the ‘Official Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016/2017’ available as a free app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows 7. The developer, Aimer Media Ltd., has done a great job on this easy to use app, which everyone with an interest in the Rules should download. (Edit 5th Apl 2016: It has been brought to my attention that the Android version will not be available for a few more weeks). For those of you who prefer a hard copy, please use this link to purchase, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which helps me to meet my costs.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.