Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dustin Johnson (again) and Line of Play

The camera tower on Dustin'Johnson's line of play
No, I am not revisiting the circumstance of the main Rules issue at last week’s US Open, which I covered in blog last week, but Dustin Johnson (DJ) was involved in a second incident, which caused confusion amongst many viewers during his final round.

Having hooked his ball into deep rough on his 10th hole, DJ summoned a Rules Official to help him determine the relief that he was entitled to from a television tower that he said was on his line of play to the hole. Before continuing, I want to emphasise that the relief that DJ was seeking was under a Local Rule for temporary immovable obstructions, which does not apply in the rounds of golf that most of us play. A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or not readily movable. Examples of TIOs include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories.

Typically, a Local Rule relating to TIOs only applies in tournaments that have the above listed immovable obstructions and I am not going to attempt to explain how this relief is determined, as it is complicated and most likely would confuse readers. Regarding the DJ ruling, I am confident that the point from which he could drop his ball, was correctly determined. I know for a fact that prior to any tournament the officials go out onto the course to discuss any possible Rules issues that may arise, especially regarding TIOs, hazard margins, dropping zones, etc. One point that I want to clarify is that having received relief without penalty from a TIO on the line of play, the player does not then have to attempt to play their ball along that line of play, even if they are good enough to do so! So, having properly been given relief, which permitted him to drop a ball and eventually place it outside of the deep rough, because it had twice rolled outside of the permitted area, DJ then chose to play his ball directly over the television tower and not around it. He was quite within his rights to do so, gaining the advantage because of his awareness of the applicable Local Rule. Readers who would like to read a specimen of a Local Rule for TIOs can click on this link to Appendix l Part A, and scroll down to 4b Temporary Immovable Obstructions, but please note that this does not necessarily contain the same wording that was on the hard card for last week’s US Open.

Line of Play
The above Rules incident provides a good opportunity for me to remind golfers that there is no line of play relief from immovable obstructions that are off the putting green. Relief under Rule 24-2 is only available when an immovable obstruction interferes with the player's lie, stance or the area of their intended swing. These are the limited circumstances when a player may take line of play relief, other than from TIOs, as above;
•    If a player’s ball lies on the putting green, they may take line of play relief from an immovable obstruction on the same putting green (e.g. an artificial hole plug or wire netting protecting a damaged area). Rule 24-2b(iii).
•    If a player’s ball lies on the putting green they may take line of play relief from an abnormal ground condition on the same putting green (e.g. casual water or ground under repair). Rule 25-1b(iii).
•    Many courses have immovable obstructions, such as sprinkler heads, just off the putting green. In such circumstances, it is fairly common for Committees to introduce a Local Rule that permits line of play relief, without penalty, for players’ balls that lie within two club-lengths of an immovable obstruction that is located within two club-lengths of the putting green. (See this blog of mine for more detail).

Note that there is one more exceptional instance where a Committee may make a Local Rule providing line of play relief from an immovable obstruction. Decision 33-8/18 states;

If a wire fence is erected to protect players on the tee of one hole from errant shots played at another hole, and it is relatively close to the line of play of the other hole, it would be permissible to make a Local Rule allowing a player whose ball is in such a position that the fence intervenes on his line of play to drop the ball, without penalty, not nearer the hole in a specified dropping zone.
Good golfing,


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Anonymous said...

I think that you have misconstrued interference by a TIO. Interference doesn't exist merely because the TIO is on his line of play. Interference does exist if the TIO intervenes on a direct line to the flagstick AND is on the line of play.

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, that is correct.