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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7 comments:

Barry Rhodes said...

I received this comment by email;

Do you agree with Ryan Farb that Committees have no authority under the Rules of Golf to make a Local Rule allowing preferred lies anywhere through the green? (FarbTalk February 14, 2017). He says this is an illegal Local Rule. For relief from muddy balls in the rough he says we should be using lift, clean and replace. Appendix 1, page 144. I am inclined to agree with him.
Kind regards
David.
__________

David,
Yes, I do agree with Ryan. The relevant part of the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part A, states;

A ball lying on a closely-mown area through the green (or specify a more restricted area, e.g., at the 6th hole) ....

Logically, this means that relief may not be given by a Local Rule for any area that is not closely-mown, as it would not then be consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I, Rule 33-8a.

However, I am aware that in UK and Ireland (and probably elsewhere) some Committees do introduce such an extended Local Rule for internal Club competitions that do not count for handicapping purposes, during adverse course conditions.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

I realised that my comment above does not fully address the point made by Ryan Farb. He is quite right in saying that a Local Rule may be introduced (though probably not for handicap competitions in most systems) where permission to lift, clean and replace the ball would be appropriate in conditions where mud is likely to adhere to ball. In these circumstances, the following Local Rule is recommended:

"(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.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
For case 5 of your scenarios the players actions are equivalent to taking relief for an unplayable ball and so a 1 stroke penalty should be appropriate.
Russell

Barry Rhodes said...

Russell,

No! Decision 18-2/27 confirms that in order to avoid a penalty under Rule 18-2 the player must announce that they intend to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule, or it must be reasonable to assume from their actions that they intend to do so.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barry,
In the context of your series of scenarios about preferred lie we may assume that the player is mistakenly proceeding under that rule. However, as an isolated scenario the actions could also reasonably be interpreted as taking relief for an unplayable ball. In particular:
1. The ball was embedded and thus difficult to play as it lies
2. The ball was lifted from the rough. Since preferred lies are not applicable in the rough this action suggests they are not taking a preferred lie.
3. The player dropped the ball. Another action that suggests they are not taking a preferred lie.
It seems to come down to an opinion on how well informed the player was about the rules and thus how they were intending to proceed. This could best be answered by directly asking the player to remove confusion. Of course, if they had announced their intent to proceed with an unplayable ball there would be no issue.
I appreciate your interpretation, but I don't think this one is black and white.
P.S. If you allow me the possibility of being half right on this question I still only get three and a half for your quiz.
Russell

Barry Rhodes said...

Russell,

I am confident that you are wrong! This from Decision 18-2/27;

...to avoid a penalty under Rule 18-2, before any movement of the ball occurs, the player must announce that he intends to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule or it must be reasonable to assume from his actions that he intends to do so.

In Q.5 the player did not announce that they were deeming their ball unplayable and their action of removing their ball from an embedded lie and dropping it close to where it had been embedded is evidence of them wrongly assuming that they were permitted relief for an embedded ball and were not taking relief for an unplayable lie, in which case they would most likely have dropped the ball straight onto the fairway within two club-lengths of where it was at rest.

So, you only had three right, not three and a half!

Barry

Anonymous said...

OK Barry I accept that I was wrong. I got caught up in the "preferred lie" aspect (as per the introduction to your post) and found good reason to interpret the player's actions as NOT taking preferred lie.
What I failed to do is interpret the player's actions as incorrectly taking relief for an embedded ball. The scenario fits that interpretation better than preferred lies.