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,


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