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.