Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year Teasers

Here are nine New Year Rules teasers to get you thinking (answers below);

1. May a player test the condition of a bunker by raking it during play of a hole
2. Four players playing in the same group/flight in a singles stroke play competition are a foursome. True or False?
3. Two players could not decide whose turn it was to putt, so player A laid his club directly along his straight line of putt and then along his fellow competitor’s straight line of putt to determine which ball was the farthest from the hole. Did he incur a penalty? 
4. A hole made by a magpie digging for beetle bugs is an abnormal condition. True or False?
5. Which two of the following words do not appear in the Rules of Golf Definitions? a) Fairway, b) Trap, c) Dung, d) Observer, e) Sea.
6. Which of the following is not included in the term ‘through the green’?  a) The teeing ground of the hole being played, b) Fairways, c) Rough, d) Paths cut through rough, e) Wrong putting greens.
7. In match play, A’s ball last crosses the margin of a water hazard 200 yards from the hole, but splashes into water just 50 yards from the hole. B’s ball lies on the fairway 100 yards from the hole. Whose turn is it to play first? 
8. Explain in what circumstances a player who has played a provisional ball may choose to play that ball or play another one, without incurring a penalty. 
9. A player’s ball lies under a prickly bush. Which of the following methods to protect themself is not permitted by the Rules? a) They may put on their rainproof trousers. b) They may wrap their rainproof trousers around their legs. c) They may lay their rainproof trousers over the bush.

1. Yes, providing their ball does not lie in the same, or any similar bunker. Rule 13-4. 
2. False. In the Rules of Golf a foursome is a competition in which two competitors play as partners and play one ball. Definition of Forms of Stroke Play.
3. No. The act of measuring is an exception to the Rule that the line of putt must not be touched. Rule 16-1a(iii).
4. True, Part of the Definition of Abnormal Ground Condition includes a hole made by a bird.
5. a) Fairway and b) Trap. ‘Fairway’ does appear once in the 34 Rules of Golf (Rule 25-2). ‘Trap’ is a vernacular for a bunker and is not used in either the Rules or the Decisions.
6. a) The teeing ground of the hole being played. ‘Through the green’ is the whole area of the course except, the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.
7. It is B’s turn to play. When a ball may be played from a spot other than where the previous stroke was made, the order of play is determined by the position where the original ball came to rest. Note to Rule 10-1b.
8. If the original ball is known to be lost in an abnormal ground condition or GUR, the player may choose to continue play with their provisional ball or, without penalty, drop a ball within one club-length of where the original ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition or GUR. Exception to Rule 27-2b.
9. c) They may lay their rainproof trousers over the bush, is the answer that is not permitted by the Rules. Decision 1-2/10.

If you enjoy testing yourself on the Rules of Golf I recommend that you purchase my eBook, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’ (assuming that you have not already done so). Explanations and accurate references to Rule and Decision numbers are provided to all 999 questions and answers on the Rules. Click here for more information. 

Comment on the New Rule Change
Many readers may be aware that a working group led by the R&A and the USGA has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf. No doubt this is due to the regular adverse comments in the media that criticise ‘armchair officials’ for ruining the game’. They have also recommended the introduction of a Local Rule (see my last blog dated 19th December) modifying the penalty for a score card returned without the inclusion of a penalty unknowingly incurred. For those that are interested, I am copying in full an article by senior writer at Sports Illustrated, Michael Bamberger. My apologies for the length of this blog to those that do not find this subject of interest.

Article heading: 
The two new rules changes take the onus off the player. The game will be lesser for it.

“We're talking about elite golf here. We're talking about golf on TV, played by the best players in the world, typically for money, but sometimes not. (The Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and top amateur events get a lot of TV time, too.) 

The starting point for this play has to be that the players turn in honest, accurate scorecards, strictly adhering to every aspect of the rule book. If there's any wiggle room, any fudge factor, any gray area, the whole thing falls apart. The player has two main incentives to do the right thing. One, he or she has integrity and understands that is at the core of the game. Two, those scores the players post are being widely, widely vetted. If you cheat, or even if you do something wrong inadvertently, you're going to be found out. (Trust, but verify.) No biggie. Since you want to turn in the most accurate scorecard possible, you welcome the attention.

Um, scratch that. That is so 2017.  

The two rules changes announced Monday by the USGA and the R&A do nothing to serve the goal of having the player turn in the most accurate scorecard he or she possibly can. They do nothing to make sure that the 72-hole scores are as accurate as they possibly can be. Golf just became more like society in general. It's not cheating if you don't get caught!

You can read about the details of the changes here
and here 

To summarize them:
1. Rules officials will no longer accept calls from TV viewers alerting them to possible rules violations;  
2. If a rules violation is discovered after a player signs his or her scorecard, the player will no longer receive an additional penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Before this year, that penalty had been disqualification. This year it became two shots. Now it is just an assessment of the original penalty and nothing more.

Here are the significant advantages of the changes. In the first instance, it is just much more convenient not to deal with the public. It's always more convenient not to deal with the public. That's why if you visit the website of your phone service provider, seeking to register some sort of complaint, you might spend a half-hour trying to find a phone number to call.  

Also, and this relates to No.1 and No.2, the governing bodies are so worried about the game's image in the sporting culture at large. TV call-ins sounded weird. And they were weird, unless you really understood the underlying principle of why they were allowed in the first place. See first paragraph above, though it is now obsolete. You know how Tiger Woods and scores of other highly sophisticated and accomplished golf people would say, "Can't do that in any other sport?" No one will ever say that again. Does that make golf better? No. It makes it more ordinary. Those callers were an annoyance for rules officials, and they made the players feel like they were being spied upon, but they served a purpose: They helped ensure that scorecards were as accurate as possible.

The USGA and the R&A are sending out a charming, reassuring message as they announce the ban on call-ins: Do not fret, viewers out there in TV Land. We got this. Well, we know that hasn't always been true and couldn't always be true. Things get missed. By the way, it's not like the caller imposes a penalty. The caller simply alerts an official to the possibility of a rule being broken. That's different.

The other change, our No. 2, is another example of the world going soft. One of the reasons the players were neurotically worried about getting their scorecard 100 percent correct before signing it was because they would get the golf version of the death penalty if it was later discovered that they did not: disqualification. Then last year, post-Lexi Thompson, the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard got reduced, from DQ to two shots. Now it is no extra shots, as long as the player violated the rule unknowingly.

This rule-change is so soft. How about the responsibility to know the rules and to play by them? How about doing it correctly the first time? The whole ball-dropping issue with Tiger Woods at 15 in the Saturday round of the 2013 Masters was that he dropped incorrectly. The whole ball-marking issue with Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was that she marked incorrectly. Neither player ever stood up and said, "I take responsibility for this whole mess."

Golf, by tradition, is severe, austere, Calvinistic. Every aspect of it. That's why the spectators are quiet. That's why one player does nothing to interfere with another. That's why Joe Dey, the first PGA Tour commissioner, late of the USGA, carried a bible in one pocket and a rule book in the other when he officiated.  

The ultimate respect a player shows for another player is to adhere completely to the rules in every last detail. You could easily make a long, long list of admirable players for whom that was a starting point, including Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Davis Love. What these people understood as a starting point was this: Own your scorecard, own your mistakes. You want to blame somebody for something going wrong? Here's a mirror.  

These two rules changes take the onus off the player. The game will be lesser for it." 

Michael Bamberger may be reached at

In general, I agree with Michael’s comments on these changes, which incidentally are not changes to the Rules of Golf; one is a new set of protocols for the Ruling Bodies’ and the other is a recommended Local Rule. 

Wishing you a very happy New Year and good golfing throughout 2018,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas Miscellany

Bad Shot Excuses
It has been my tradition to lighten up my blog content for the Christmas holiday season. In a December 2014 blog, I listed 9 excuses for playing bad golf, which are all too familiar to some of us. Here are two dozen more that you might have heard;

 “I’m not used to my new clubs yet”, or conversely,

“I need some new clubs”

“I’ve just had a lesson”

“I’m having a problem with my back/neck/shoulder/knee/hip/wrist/etc.”

“An insect buzzed me just as I was about to hit my ball”

“I was thinking about the last stroke/hole/round”

“I can’t play when I have to wait before every shot.”

“I can never play well in wet weather.”

“The greens I played on yesterday were much faster/truer and I cannot get used to these.”

“My hands were too cold/wet to grip my clubs properly.”

“I switched from brand-X to brand-Y golf balls and it takes some getting used to.”

“Oh darn! I took out my 9-iron instead of my 6."

“I shouldn’t play on Saturday morning after partying on Friday night.”

“I would have shot __ if only I had not blown up on holes __, __ and __.”

“I lost concentration when I triple bogeyed the 1st hole.”

“I knew that I shouldn’t have left out my 5-iron to put another wedge in the bag.”

“My drives and irons were good, but the greens were impossible to read.”

“The wind took it.”

“I spent too long at the range last night.”

“I could hear players chattering/bird calls/cars/fire engines on my backswing.”

“I need new grips.” 

“I think this must be a lake ball.”

“I was hitting the ball well, I just couldn’t keep it straight.”

“I think that I have been playing too much.”

2018 Local Rule: Modification of Score Card Penalty
The R&A and USGA have recommended that all Committees introduce the following Local Rule commencing 1st January 2018.
The Exception to Rule 6-6d is modified as follows:
Exception: 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, but there is no additional penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.
So when this Local Rule is introduced, a player will only be penalised one or two strokes (depending on the penalty for the breach incurred), for not including a penalty on their score card, providing they were not aware that they had incurred one. This Local Rule overrides the change to the Exception to Rule 6-6d introduced on 1st January 2016, which penalised a player an additional two strokes for a penalty that was not recorded on their returned score card.

Old But Good Golf Joke
Delighted to have reached his retirement age, a man booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.
He soon found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.
After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore.
In disbelief, he asks, "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"
She replies, "I rowed over from the other side of the island where I landed when my cruise ship sank."
"Amazing," he notes. "You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you."
"Oh, this thing?" explains the woman. "I made the boat out of some raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm tree branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree."
"But, where did you get the tools?"
"Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman. "On the south side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into ductile iron and I used that to make tools and used the tools to make the hardware."
The guy is stunned.
"Let's row over to my place," she says "and I'll give you a tour." So, after a short time of rowing, she soon docks the boat at a small wharf. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat.
Before him is a long stone walk leading to a cabin and tree house.
While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, "It's not much, but I call it home. Please sit down."
"Would you like a drink?" "No! No thank you," the man blurts out, still dazed. "I can't take another drop of coconut juice."
"Oh it's not coconut juice," winks the woman. "I have a still. How would you like a Tropical Spritz?"
Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they exchange their individual survival stories, the woman announces, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There's a razor in the bathroom cabinet upstairs."
No longer questioning anything, the man goes upstairs into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet is a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.
"This woman is amazing," he muses. "What's next?"
When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but some small flowers on tiny vines, each strategically positioned, she smelled faintly of gardenias. She then beckons for him to sit down next to her.
"Tell me," she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, "We've both been out here for many months. You must have been lonely. When was the last time you played around? She stares into his eyes.
He can't believe what he's hearing. "You mean..." he swallows excitedly as tears start to form in his eyes, "You've built a Golf Course?"

Christmas Greetings 
2017 was not a good golfing year for me. I have been playing so badly I had to get my ball retriever regripped!

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

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Penalising a Fellow Competitor

A large majority of readers who follow my blogs, either by receiving the fortnightly emails, or by regularly checking, will have a better than average knowledge of the Rules of Golf, so I am confident that many of you will relate to this email that I received;
As I am getting more proficient in the rules (and already before), I kindly point out a number of Rules matters during play and obviously after the round when situations are described by participants. Take as examples: a ball stuck in a tree, or a ball covered by leaves in a bunker moved during the search etc… Now a minority of fellow club members are less enthusiastic when they are assigned in my flight and here is their argument:
“Although we accept your Rules clarifications, seriously [name deleted], how many people on the course do you think would be aware that this is how the rules expect us to behave? So we’re getting assigned some penalties (or consequences) that no other player will inflict in their flight; therefore, when playing with you, we are getting an unfair disadvantage towards the rest of the field”. 
Quite original no? Obviously I take it in good spirit and in a sporty manner, however if you could suggest some great response (other than “the Rules are the Rules”) that would be highly welcome!
Obviously, this is a situation that I and most Rules experts are regularly faced with. In fact, I often excuse my high handicap by saying (jokingly) that it is because I know the Rules so well and constantly have to penalise myself. I had no totally satisfactory response to offer the above correspondent. A similar argument is advanced by those who believe that tournament officials should pay no heed to the 'TV armchair officials', who phone in when they observe a breach of Rule by a player; because that means that the top players, who naturally are featured more on television than their 'journeymen' counterparts, are therefore disadvantaged. My response to this argument is that if they consider it carefully most players would prefer to be properly penalised for an observed breach than to bear the stigma of repeatedly seeing it highlighted on social media if they 'got away with it', especially if they subsequently featured in the prize money. The English, European Tour Pro, Matthew Southgate, endorsed this point of view recently, after being hit with a penalty of four strokes, following a Rules incident where a leaf blown across the putting green diverted his ball in motion away from the hole and he did not take the putt again, as is required by Rule 19-1b;
“If I’d known the ruling, I’d have been the talk of the town for the right reason. I’d have replaced it, hit it in for a four and everybody would have said, ‘what a great Pro, what great knowledge of the Rules’. I would have had credit, instead of sympathy. And people also say I was unlucky because I had the cameras on me at the time. But if they weren’t, I’d have a PGA Tour card and I would have it by breaking the Rules. And imagine 10 years down the line when a leaf hits someone else’s ball and I’d see it and think, ‘that’s what happened to me and I shouldn’t be here’. How bad would that feel?”
So, returning to Club and Society competitions, it is my experience that most serious golfers, no matter what their handicap, prefer to constantly improve their understanding of the Rules, anticipating that this will also help them to reduce their handicap. There is no doubt that one of the easiest ways to remember a ruling is to have incurred a penalty for breaching it; another is when a fellow competitor interrupts you to prevent you from breaching a Rule, which is permitted, as information on the Rules of Golf is not advice.

This is a quote of mine from a related blog back in 2010;

    ".... I want every breach of the Rules to be fairly penalised, either by the player calling it upon themselves, which I am pleased to say regularly happens, or by a fellow competitor or observer bringing it to the player/officials attention. Put it this way, I have never got close to winning the Captain’s prize at my Club, but if by some miracle I was to come second and then find out that the winner had breached a Rule and had not been penalised, I would probably be apoplectic. Now this may seem an extreme example, but in my mind, exactly the same principle applies whether the avoidance of a penalty incurred affects the winning of the PGA Championship, as it might have done with Dustin Johnson [at Whistling Straits in 2010], or as the result of a $2 dollar wager between two hackers. The only way to fairly compete in any sport or game is for the players to be playing to the same Rules. There has to be a level playing field." 

Another blog of mine, ‘Every Golfer Is a Referee’, is also relevant to this subject.

Rules of Golf Books for Christmas
Recognising that my eBooks and eDocuments do not make ideal Christmas presents, here are three more suitable suggestions for stocking fillers;

'999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf' – my own paperback book
Click on this link and then click on the relevant image to redirect to Amazon (top left for UK and other countries, middle left for USA)

'Golf Rules Quick Reference' - Expert Golf 
Click on this link and then click on the image to redirect to Amazon (top right image)

'First Aid - The Rules of Golf' – Oswald Academy
Not available from Amazon – click here and then scroll down for details

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Questions on Winter Rules

At this time of year I receive many questions from Northern Hemisphere subscribers relating to Local Rules for ‘Preferred Lies’, sometimes referred to as ‘Winter Rules’. Unfortunately, I am unable to give meaningful responses to many of these questions, due to the fact that the Committees have not bothered to provide their members with a notice outlining how their temporary Local Rule operates. Every Committee should adopt the wording provided by the two Ruling bodies in Appendix l, Part A, 3.b. at the back of the Rules book. There may be minor changes required, due to local, abnormal conditions, but this specimen wording should be the template for all Clubs and Societies, so as not to miss anything that is required to avoid player confusion. 

It is important to note that the specimen Local Rule for Preferred Lies in Appendix l only applies to balls that are at rest on closely mown areas, which are fairways and paths cut through the rough to fairway height. If Committees want to extend their Winter Rules to permit lift, clean and place relief through the green, the Local Rule must be amended accordingly. I am not an expert in handicapping systems, but it is my understanding that in UK and Ireland (CONGU system) such competitions are not counting for handicap purposes and this is probably the situation under most systems.

The following Q&As assume that the specimen wording for Preferred Lies has been used, with a permitted placing area of 6” not nearer the hole from where it originally lay. Also, there is no other relevant Local Rule in operation and the situations all apply to stroke play competitions. You can test your knowledge by answering the following 9 questions with the penalty that you think is incurred, i.e. no penalty, one stroke penalty, two strokes penalty. Make a note of your answers and then check them below.

1. A player walks up to their ball on the fairway, addresses it and plays their stroke without placing it first under the Local Rule. What is the penalty, if any, and why? 
2. A player’s ball lies on the fairway. They mark and lift it and then place it within 6” on a tuft of grass in the rough. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
3. Under the Local Rule, a player has placed their ball immediately next to where it was at rest when they notice that there is still some mud on it. So they mark it again, clean the mud off and replace it at the ball-marker. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
4. A player marks, lifts and cleans their ball and then drops it within 6” of where it lay on the fairway. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
5. A player’s ball is embedded in mud in the rough, just off the fairway. They mark, clean and drop the ball close to where it was embedded and it rolls onto the fairway, from where they make their stroke at it. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
6. A player marks their ball on the fairway with the toe of their club, lifts it and is cleaning it when they are startled by a loud bang, causing them to react by lifting their clubhead off the ground in their surprise. They estimate where their ball was at rest and place it there before making their stroke. What is the penalty, if any, and why? 
7. A player, deems that their ball lying against the roots of a fairway tree is unplayable and announces that they are taking relief under penalty of one stroke. They lift, clean and place the ball within two club-lengths and make their stroke. What is the (additional) penalty, if any, and why? (Question edited 23Nov17.)
8. Having marked, lifted and cleaned their ball, a player placed it within 6” of where it lay onto a tuft of grass to the side of a repaired divot. As the player stood up, having released their fingers from the ball, which had appeared to be at rest, it toppled off the tuft onto the sandy lie. They bent down and placed it back onto the tuft of grass. What is the penalty, if any, and why?
9. On a dry day, a player’s ball is at rest on the fairway. As they can see no mud, sand or grass cuttings on their ball they just use the toe of their club to roll the ball into a grassy lie within the permitted 6”. What is the penalty, if any, and why?

1. No penalty. The Local Rule states that a ball may be marked, lifted, cleaned and placed, not must
2. No penalty. The ball may be placed anywhere that is within the 6”, provided it is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
3. One stroke penalty. The Local Rule states that the ball must only be placed once and is in play when it has been placed, so the player is penalised for touching their ball in play, Rule 18-2.
4. Two strokes penalty. The Local Rule requires that the ball is placed and not dropped, Decision 20-6/1. However, if the player realises that they should have placed the ball before making a stroke at it, they may still lift the dropped ball and place it within the permitted area without penalty, Rule 20-6.
5. Two strokes penalty. Rule 25-2 only provides relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area and so there is no relief for the embedded ball under this Rule or the Local Rule. The ball should not have been lifted and dropped and was therefore played from a wrong place, Rules 18-2 and 20-7.
6. Two strokes penalty. The accidental movement of their clubhead, which was being used as their ball-marker, was not in the specific act of marking the position of the ball. Rule 20-1. As the player did not know the exact spot where their ball was marked they should have dropped the ball where they estimated it was at rest, Rule 20-3c. Because they placed the ball instead of dropping it the penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 was increased to two strokes. This illustrates one good reason why players should never use this method of marking their ball anywhere on the course. (Answer edited 22Nov17).
7. Two strokes penalty (in addition to the penalty for taking relief for an unplayable ball). Players must always drop their ball according to the Rules (e.g. ball deemed unplayable, relief from a path, relief from casual water) before placing it under this Local Rule. The logical reason is that the player does not know where to place their ball before the drop is made. For example, in this question the ball may have been dropped within two club-lengths of where it was deemed unplayable and could then have rolled back close to where it originally lay, which would then be the reference point for placing within the permitted area. Having dropped the ball under penalty of one stroke, the player may then mark, lift, clean and place their ball under the Local Rule.
8. Two strokes penalty. After being placed the first time the ball was at rest and therefore back in play as soon as the player took their hand away from it. Because they did not cause the ball to move it should have been played from where it came to rest after falling off the tuft. The Local Rule states that the ball must only be placed once and is in play when it has been placed.
9. One penalty stroke. The Local Rule specifies that the ball must be placed, not rolled with a club.

[Edit, 8th December 2017: A reader has reminded me that there is another useful specimen Local Rule, Appendix l, Part A, 3c, that may be introduced when conditions, such as extreme wetness, cause significant amounts of mud to adhere to the ball. In these circumstances, this permission may be given to players for them to lift, clean and replace the ball;
(Specify area, e.g., at the 6th hole, on a closely-mown area, anywhere through the green, etc.) a ball may be lifted and cleaned without penalty. The ball must be replaced.
Note: The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted under this Local Rule - see Rule 20-1.
Note also that the ball must be replaced and not placed within a certain distance, or dropped.]

I hope that this blog saves some readers a few strokes over the winter season.

Good golfing,

A favour please! If you are purchasing anything from or this Christmas (or any time!) it helps me if you do so by clicking on this link and then clicking on one of the book images. You don’t have to buy one of these books, but by clicking on one you will enter the Amazon web site from where you can search and purchase whatever you are looking for. Because you accessed these products from my link, as an Amazon Associate I will then be paid a small commission on everything you order during that session, which helps to defray my email service and web site costs. Thank you.

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

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Player Accidentally Moves Their Ball

Most golfers know that causing their ball to move incurs a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2, and that the ball must then be replaced. However, there are some circumstances where a player does not incur a penalty for accidentally moving their ball, which I am listing here.

A ball that that has been placed in the teeing ground at the start of a hole is not in play until a stroke has been made at it, so no penalty is incurred if it is accidentally moved before any stroke is made, Rule 11-3.
From 1st January 2017 USGA and R&A have recommended that Committees introduce a Local Rule to the effect that when a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball (or ball-marker) is accidentally moved by the player, their partner, their opponent or any of their caddies, or their equipment. (Note: If your Committee has not yet introduced this Local Rule they should do so immediately).
There is no penalty if a player causes their ball to move while moving a movable obstruction (i.e. anything artificial), providing the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction, Rule 24-1.
A penalty is usually incurred if a ball is accidentally moved while searching for it under Rule 18-2, but there are three exceptions, which are detailed in Rule 12-1. Briefly they are; a) searching for or identifying ball covered by sand, c) searching for ball in water in water hazard, and d) searching for ball within obstruction or abnormal ground condition. [Note: b) was removed on 8th November 2018, as a player does incur a penalty while searching for a ball in loose impediments in a hazard, but not if they cause their ball to move when replacing those loose impediments].
If a player accidentally touches their ball with their club causing it to rock off its spot, but it returns to its original position, it has not moved according to the Definition of Moved and no penalty is incurred, Decision 18/2.
There is no penalty if a player accidentally moves their ball while measuring, e.g. to determine whether a dropped ball has rolled outside the permitted area, Rule 18-2.
If a player accidentally moves their ball in the directly attributable act of its lifting, marking, placing or replacing under a Rule, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced, Rules 20-1 and 20-3.

Regarding searching for a ball, it is worth noting that if a player who is searching for their ball, say on the bank of a water hazard or in a bush, and they cause it to move, they incur the penalty of one stroke immediately and cannot avoid it by then choosing to take relief under penalty from the hazard or deeming it unplayable in the bush.

'Rhodes Rules School' Emails Not Received
I am receiving a number of emails from subscribers saying that they have started receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails again, having not received any since April of this year. I can offer no explanation for this, but can assure you that the AWeber email service company records show that my emails were apparently sent each week, but have not been opened by the various recipients. In order to prevent this happening again I recommend that you send me an email (to barry at barry rhodes dot com) with just “TEST” in the subject line and I will respond with a test reply. This should ensure that my email address is added to your email address book and should avoid anything sent from me being filtered as junk or spam mail. If you are one of those that did not receive all my weekly emails, please let me know and I will revert your subscription to the most recent one that you did open.

Good golfing,

If you would like to start receiving my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ emails, which start with Rules questions based on accompanying photos or diagrams, just click on this linkA description of this 'Photo Series' can be found at this link.

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

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Using another Ball as a Backstop

So here is the situation; during the final round of the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort, California, on the on the par-4 12th hole, Tony Finau (USA), played a difficult shot from a buried lie in a greenside bunker. His ball raced across the putting green and collided with the stationary ball of Jason Kokrak (USA), who had previously pitched up close to the hole from over 30 yards away. Finau’s ball was stopped just two feet from the hole, whereas it definitely would have travelled several feet past, perhaps as much as 30 feet, if Kokrak had previously marked and lifted his ball. The incident can be viewed at this link. Was this favourable deflection off a fellow competitor’s ball a fortunate ‘rub of the green’, or as many are claiming, was it equivalent to cheating by either or both of the players?

The first and perhaps the most important point that I wish to emphasise is that no Rule of Golf was broken in this incident, as there is no suggestion that Finau and Kokrak agreed that Kokrak’s ball should be left close to the hole, so that it might act as a backstop to Finau’s ball. In stroke play, it is Rule 19-5b that is relevant to this situation;

If a player's ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.

In stroke play, if one player, B, indicates to another player, A, that they would like them to leave their ball where it lies on the putting green, as it could provide an advantage for them, and A complies; or if A gives any indication to B that he will leave his ball where it is, so as to assist B, both players incur the penalty of disqualification. Decision 22-6 states;

Q. In stroke play, B's ball lies just off the putting green. A's ball lies near the hole in a position to serve as a backstop for B's ball. B requests A not to lift his ball. Is such a request proper?

A. No. If A and B agree not to lift a ball that might assist B, both players are disqualified under Rule 22-1.

There has been a lot of comment in the golfing media about the Finau incident, with many reasoning that a player should be penalised if they purposely leave their ball on the putting green while another player is making their stroke from off the putting green, and/or the player making the stroke should always wait until any ball in the vicinity of the hole has been marked and lifted.

My strongly held opinion is that there is absolutely no reason for any tinkering to the Rules of Golf in this regard. The number of times in a year that another ball provides an involuntary backstop to a player’s advantage is minimal and any attempt to account for these rare occurrences would probably worsen the major problem facing golfers today, which is slow play. This year, the R&A introduced ‘Ready Golf’ at its amateur championships and this is a practice followed by an increasing number of Committees in Club competitions, in an attempt to get players to finish their 18 holes in under 4 hours, as used to be the norm. Also, the European Tour has just announced that shot clocks will be used on every hole at the 2018 Shot Clock Masters, in Austria. Several of the proposed, modernised Rules for January 2019 are an attempt to speed up play, such as the option of leaving the flagstick in the hole when putting. It would be detrimental to introduce a Rule requiring players making strokes from off the putting green to wait while balls in the vicinity of the hole are being marked and lifted. If such a Rule were to be introduced in an attempt to prevent ‘backstops’ on the putting green when would it apply? For strokes made from the apron; 10 yards away, 30 yards, 50 yards? How close to the hole must the ball at rest be; within 1 yard, 2 yards, 5 yards? Who is going to measure and with what? It is totally unnecessary and practically unworkable!

Some pundits are suggesting that because of the above difficulties in effectively implementing such a Rule any change in respect of backstops should only apply to professionals, where the prize money won or lost by such rubs of the green may be substantial. I do not agree, in fact I am opposed to any bifurcation of the Rules. Golf is almost unique in that the R&A / USGA Rules of Golf, which were unified in 1952, are the same for everyone who plays the game in competition, with the minor exception of Local Rules introduced to deal with local, abnormal conditions. Long may amateurs and professional golfers face the same consequences and challenges when they play, because it is one game with one set of rules for everybody, with player’s earned handicaps allowing them to play competitively with others who may have more or less ability at the game.

Note: I answered some other questions on using a ball as a backstop, e.g. in match play, in this earlier blog.

Korean LPGA Void Round
Another instance of Rules being wrongly blamed occurred last week at the KB Financial Star Championship at Black Stone Golf Club, in Incheon South Korea. Two players were penalised when it was realised that they had marked and lifted their balls, thinking that they were on the putting green, when in fact they were on the apron of the green. One of them, Hye-Jin Choi, was a co-leader of the tournament before the penalty was assessed. Then it was discovered that four other players had done that same thing, but had already signed and returned their score cards. The situation escalated when some competitors threatened to withdraw if the penalties were removed, while others said they would do the same if the penalties were enforced. There is no doubting that this was a bizarre shambles, but it had nothing to do with inadequacies, or unnecessary complications, in the Rules of Golf. Perhaps the competition Committee were to blame, or the on-course officials, or the greenkeepers, or the Korean LPGA, or the players, or their caddies, but definitely not the Rules! The KPLGA resolved the impasse by deciding to void the first round, wiping out all players’ scores.

Good golfing,

If you have any questions on the Rules of Golf, try entering a simple search term in the 'Search This Blog' box on the right side of any of my blog pages.

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

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

When the Rules of Golf Can Help You

I have regularly drawn attention to incidents in which a professional golfer’s lack of knowledge of the Rules of Golf has resulted in them incurring a penalty. There were two more of these in the past couple of weeks;
1. Matthew Southgate was penalised for not replaying his putt when his ball in motion was diverted from the hole by a leaf that was blown against it by the wind. If only he had read my blog on the subject at this link
2. During The Presidents Cup, Jordan Spieth was penalised loss of hole when he purposely stopped his opponent, Louis Oosthuisen’s, ball in motion after it had passed the hole, reasoning that it would not count in the outcome of the hole, as Jason Day, had already made a birdie. There is a full video of the ruling and the animated discussion that followed at this Sky Sports link (after the ad!). (Edit: the original Golf Channel link was taken down)

I would like to redress the balance of these apparently inequitable rulings by highlighting some of the many ways where a player’s knowledge of a Rule can be a distinct advantage;

When taking relief from a lateral water hazard, always check out the option of dropping within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than a point on the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole to the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (see the diagram above).
When taking relief under the Rules a player may choose to drop a ball on the fairway even if it was lifted from the rough, providing it is dropped within the permitted area.
It is worth understanding what animals are indigenous to the course you are playing, so that you can take advantage of the relief permitted from the abnormal ground condition of a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird (yes, some birds do nest in an underground burrow!).
When a ball being dropped under the Rules rolls twice into places requiring a re-drop you must place the ball on the spot where it hit the ground on the second drop. Consider carefully before choosing the best place to land the dropped ball, so that it is likely to roll to a more advantageous position.
You may draw a ring around the circumference of your golf ball to assist you in lining up putts and your intended line of play on the teeing ground.
You may test the condition of any bunker before a round, or during your round, providing your ball does not lie in or touch that or a similar bunker.
In match play, you may leave any ball on the putting green as a backstop, as there is no penalty if your ball strikes it wherever it is played from. But your opponents may require that the ball that could be of assistance to you is lifted before the stroke is made.
Also in match play, you may choose to cancel your stroke and play again if your ball is accidentally deflected by an opponent his caddie or his equipment.
You may clean a ball that has been lifted under the Rules with these three exceptions; a) to determine if it is unfit for play, b) for identification, c) because it is assisting or interfering with play.
You may have any other ball lifted if it interferes either physically or mentally with your play.
You may remove any easily movable obstruction (i.e. any artificial object) from anywhere on the course, including from bunkers and water hazards.
You may move any player’s equipment, or a removed flagstick, if you think that it might influence the movement of a ball that is in motion.
You may take relief from a wooden stake supporting a young tree, which is an immovable obstruction, even if there is no Local Rule providing relief from staked trees.
You may drop another ball under the Rules, without penalty, if it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition (e.g. GUR).
You may play on your own for all or any part of a four-ball match, or four-ball best-ball competition, if your partner is absent.
You may lean against a tree, or an immovable obstruction, to steady yourself whilst playing a stroke.
You may ask anyone the distance from any point A to any point B, as information on distance is not advice.
You may remove loose impediments in the area where you are going to drop a ball before dropping it.

Good golfing,

My two for one offer: Receive a bonus, complimentary copy of my eDocument, ‘99 Tips on Using the Rules of Golf to Your Advantage’, when you purchase either of my ‘999 Questions’ eBooks. Click here for details of how to purchase these eBooks.

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

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

When a Rule is Breached in Stroke Play

There are four main situations that apply when a Rule of Golf is breached in a stroke play competition;

1. A player breaches a Rule and includes the appropriate penalty on the score card that they sign and return.
2. A player unknowingly breaches a Rule and signs and returns their score card. The breach is brought to the Committee’s attention before the competition has closed.
3. As in 2, but the breach is brought to the Committee’s attention after the competition has closed.
4. A player knowingly breaches a Rule, but does not include the penalty incurred on their score card

So what are the considerations in each of these four scenarios?
1. This does not require any further explanation. It is what should happen every time a Rule is breached.
2. If the breach is brought to the attention of the Committee before the competition has closed, the player incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes, Exception to Rule 6-6d. 
3. If the breach is brought to the attention of the Committee after the competition has closed, a penalty must not be imposed by them unless the breach warranted disqualification under one of these four exceptions that are outlined in Rule 34-1b;
Exceptions: A penalty of disqualification must be imposed after the competition has closed if a competitor:
(i) was in breach of Rule 1-3 (Agreement to Waive Rules); or
(ii) returned a score card on which he had recorded a handicap that, before the competition closed, he knew was higher than that to which he was entitled, and this affected the number of strokes received (Rule 6-2b); or
(iii) returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d) for any reason other than failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before the competition closed, he did not know he had incurred; or
(iv) knew, before the competition closed, that he had been in breach of any other Rule for which the penalty is disqualification.
4. Call it what you like, but this is cheating. The player must be disqualified and the Committee should consider sanctioning them, e.g. by suspending them from all competitions for a period of time.

Of course, there are sometimes on-course situations where a player may be unsure as to how to proceed without breaching a Rule unnecessarily, e.g. whether they may take relief from equipment damage to the course, or when a fellow competitor tells them that they should be taking relief from a different place from where they think they are permitted to drop a ball. When a competitor is doubtful of their rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, they may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls. If the player chooses to do so they must strictly follow the procedure set out in Rule 3-3;

The competitor should announce to his marker or a fellow-competitor:
• that he intends to play two balls; and
• which ball he wishes to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.
Before returning his score card, the competitor must report the facts of the situation to the Committee. If he fails to do so, he is disqualified.

If the competitor has taken further action before deciding to play two balls, he has not proceeded under Rule 3-3 and the score with the original ball counts. The competitor incurs no penalty for playing the second ball.

There is a more detailed explanation of Rule 3-3 in this blog of mine. 

Two Rules Situations from this week’s tournaments
For Rules enthusiasts, there were two fairly complicated Pro tournament rulings in the past week. I am providing two links to these incidents, rather than giving you my own detailed explanation;

Sergia Garcia getting relief from a really bad lie in a water hazard.

Ben Crane receiving two four-stroke penalties and then disqualification, because of the clubs he was carrying.

Good golfing,

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

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Taking Relief from a Path - Jordan Spieth

I am currently on vacation in the USA, where in the past 10 days I have been lucky enough to enjoy personal, guided tours of both Congressional CC and TPC Scottsdale. Long-term readers may remember that, with his permission, I have occasionally copied content from the newsletters of Paul Kruger, PGA Professional at The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, and am doing so again in this blog. Here is his overview of a recent interesting Rules incident involving Jordan Spieth that includes some useful reminders on taking relief from an artificial path.

“During the second round of the 99th PGA Championship held at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jordan Spieth hit a wayward drive on the par-5 10th hole, and his ball ended up on an artificially-surfaced cart path.  Even though Jordan has probably taken relief from cart paths thousands of times, he still sought the assistance of a Rules Official to ensure that he was proceeding correctly.  Here are the Rules that applied to his situation.

When taking relief from an artificially-surfaced cart path, Rule 24-2 [Immovable Obstruction] instructs the player to determine the nearest point of relief, and then drop the ball within one club-length of, and no nearer the hole than, the nearest point of relief.  By Definition, the nearest point of relief is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies on the cart path (i) that is not nearer the hole and (ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the cart path would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the cart path were not there.  In other words, at the nearest point of relief there will be no interference from the cart path to the lie of the ball, the player’s stance, or the area of the player’s intended swing.

After Jordan correctly determined that the nearest point of relief from the cart path was just left of the cart path, he immediately took note of the fact that the area in the vicinity of the nearest point of relief, i.e., where he would be dropping his ball, was covered with pine straw.  At that point, he called over the Rules Official to find out how he might be able to avoid having to play from the pine straw.

The Rules Official advised Jordan that he could remove the pine straw which are loose impediments.  According to Rule 23-1 [Loose Impediments: Relief], “Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.” 

However, the Rules Official cautioned Jordan to be careful not to remove any of the soil underlying the pine straw when removing the pine straw.  That is because Rule 13-2 [Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play] states, in part, “A player must not improve or allow to be improved … the area of his intended stance or swing [or] the area in which he is to drop or place a ball … by any of the following actions … • creating or eliminating irregularities of surface [or] • removing or pressing down sand, loose soil ….”

Jordan cleared the area in which he intended to drop his ball by carefully picking up clumps of pine straw with his hand, and tossing the pine straw onto the cart path.  When he dropped his ball in the required area, the ball rolled down the slope and ended up back on the cart path.  Per Rule 20-2c [Dropping and Re-Dropping: When to Re-Drop], he was required to re-drop the ball because the ball rolled and came to rest “in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule 24-2b ….”  As you might expect, when Jordan re-dropped his ball, it once again ended up on the cart path.  In accordance with Rule 20-2c, Jordan was then permitted to place his ball “as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped.” 

In the third photograph, you will see that, after placing his ball, Jordan ended up with a near-perfect lie on the bare dirt.  However, the resulting shot was not to his liking.  Perhaps this was due to the fact that Jordan neglected to remove the pine straw in the area of his intended stance?”

My thanks again to Paul Kruger for his permission to occasionally reproduce content of his newsletters in my blogs.

Good golfing,

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Obstruction in a Water Hazard

This question, with its accompanying photo, is typical of several that I receive on the subject of course signage and the Rules. In this circumstance, there is an additional dimension in that the sign is located within the margin of a hazard.

Question: A ball came to rest inside a lateral water hazard close to a warning sign located inside the hazard. So, for a right hander player the ball is playable, but …
a)    May they take relief from the sign, without penalty?
b)    May they rotate the sign to face in a different direction?
c)    May the sign be completely removed before the stroke is made, as it mentally interferes with the player’s swing?

a)    No. There is no line of play or mental relief from an obstruction.
b)    Yes, But it is not necessary, because …..
c)    Yes. … Movable obstructions may be removed anywhere on the course.

The sign is an obstruction, because it is an artificial object, Definition of Obstruction. It is obvious that the sign is intended to be easily movable and is therefore a movable obstruction, unless a Local Rule states otherwise. If the sign can be easily moved (and subsequently replaced!) the player may move it, as movable obstructions can be moved from anywhere on the course at any time (Rule 24-1). If it is not easily movable, it is an immovable obstruction, from which there is never relief if both the player's ball and the immovable obstruction lie inside the margin of the water hazard, Rule 24-2.

How to Love the Rules of Golf

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1.    How to Embrace the Rules of Golf
2.    How to Get to Know the Rules
3.    How to Resolve Your Differences
4.    A Significant Rules Proposal for 2019
5.    How to Use the Rules for Your Own Selfish Purposes
6.    How to Get More Involved with the Rules
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Good golfing,


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