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.


Ian Pirie said...

Barry. You may want to clarify the comment on cleaning the ball. Those are the situations when it is permitted, not the exceptions

Barry Rhodes said...


No, they are the exceptions, see Rule 21! On any other occasion when a ball is lifted it may be cleaned.


Marty said...

The original statement by Mr. Rhodes said a ball could not be cleaned for identification. If the exception is not stated in that comment, then it is misleading.
Rule 12-2 states: "The ball must not be cleaned (so far, so good) beyond the extent necessary for identification....."
Therefore, another way to say that is "a ball may be cleaned when lifter for ID, but not beyond what is necessary for ID."

Barry Rhodes said...


You are correct, of course. However, as I have never experienced seeing a lifted ball that could not be identified without it being necessary to clean any part of it, I decided not to further complicate the point..


Chris Melluish said...

I disagree that 'You may test the condition of any bunker ... during your round, providing your ball does not lie in or touch that bunker.'

Rules of golf state that if the player's ball is in a hazard then the player must not test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard, unless the player makes a stroke from a hazard and the ball comes to rest in another hazard, when the rule does not apply to any subsequent actions taken in the hazard from which the stroke was made.

Not quite the same thing.

Anonymous said...


could you explain or expound on the match play rule which permits a player to ignore a breach of the rules by his opponent? It seems like that might have come into play when Spieth stopped that putt and also when Lahiri played a practice stroke out of the bunker in his match. Or was that negated by the presence of a rules official/referee who appeared to assess a penalty in both cases without the affected parties making a claim?

Barry Rhodes said...


Correct. I have now edited the text to read, "....that or a similar bunker". However, the main point that I was trying to make with this point stands.


Barry Rhodes said...


Se my blog, 'Ignoring a Breach of Rule in Match Play', dated 26th April 2013 regarding the first part of your question. Note that the player may not discuss the fact that they have ignored a breach of Rule by an opponent until after a stroke has been made on the following day.

Part of the Definition of Referee states;

A "referee" is one who is appointed by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. He must act on any breach of a Rule that he observes or is reported to him.


Anonymous said...

Barry, thanks for the info regarding match play/referees; very helpful.

Barry Rhodes said...

Please note that my comment above should have read, "......until after a stroke has been made on the following hole", and not the following day!


Dominic J.Leon said...

Thank you for the article, very helpful, there is a lot of information that I have not known.