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.


Rocko said...


There are those who welcome and favor the USGA announcements on the Rule Changes regarding "Armchair Officials" no longer being able to phone/tweet/text perceived violations during competitions. I have long argued against the practice as (a) unfair given the different level of video scrutiny the leaders face compared to the rest of the field (b) inconsistent with the true spirit of the game -- play fairly by the rules, hold yourself accountable and your fellow competitors to the same standard. Allowing someone who is not directly associated with the competition to influence its outcome was grossly inappropriate, and to use advanced video technology to detect and adjudicate rulings just ignores the reality that golf is a game played by humans at human speed. Cheaters will always cheat, ethical players will continue to play ethically, video doesn't change that. In my opinion, however, Golf is much better off for allowing those on the field to determine the results and eliminating the uncertainty and unfairness the use of video-evidence has brought to the game.

Rocko Graziano
Readfield, Maine

Barry Rhodes said...


You say, "Cheaters will always cheat". That is one of the points that concerns me. The more 'eyes' there are on the players the less likely they are to 'cheat', or more relevantly, not be penalised for a Rule that they did not know they had broken, perhaps because they had not bothered to learn the Rules sufficiently!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the Bamberger article. I couldn’t agree more and hope others with a voice with still be heard as these changes are adopted (??).

James said...

Well Barry, given the fact that you have been a proponent of these phony "video reviews", I find it only fitting that you have addressed the issue by substituting someone else's opinion for your own. However, neither you nor anyone else has ever addressed the key issue that Rocko expressed, and one I have raised on your site numerous times: of the many hours of video that is shot during a televised tournament only a fraction ever airs and that fraction is inevitably only the leaders. You have never been able to make a credible case why it is fair for tournament leaders to be more highly scrutinized than players farther down the leaderboard. So, good riddance to this idiot practice of letting armchair umpires call a game that they have no stake in.

tonyzed said...

Lets go the whole hog! No DQ for signing for a wrong score as long as the player did it honestly (e.g. they added up the wrong amount at a hole, honestly because their maths was poor, or were distracted)

Barry Rhodes said...


I assume that your suggestion is made ironically. But just in case anyone does support it, I must point out that it would be unfair to require Committees to make decisions as to whether a player (and their marker) "honestly" entered a lower score for a hole. I note that in my experience rarely is a higher score entered due to bad maths.


Barry Rhodes said...


I challenge you to find any instance where I have been a proponent of the use of video reviews (I do not understand what you mean by “phony video reviews”). Perhaps you are referring to the various occasions where I have advocated that in making a ruling Rules Officials must take into account all the evidence that is available to them. Once something is seen in this respect it cannot be unseen. In other words, if an obvious breach of a Rule of Golf is brought to the attention of a Committee, whether by players themselves, fellow competitors, walking officials, spectators, TV commentators, or viewers, it must be acted upon and the relevant penalty applied.

I have also given my opinion several times on the hoary chestnut that you raise about the tournament leaders being subjected to closer scrutiny than players down the field. But let me answer by re-quoting Matthew Southgate, from my previous blog, dated 5th December; “...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?”

One last point, which it seems that you may have missed. Although the Ruling Bodies have agreed to discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the Rules decision process there will be a substantial increase in video reviews, as they have also agreed to assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve Rules issues as they arise.