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?

Answers:
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,



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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,



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