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 www.barryrhodes.com, 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.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this article.

My suggestion to the person who emailed the question to you is:

"While you may on occasion accept an extra stroke penalty or less pleasant drop since you have me readily at hand to confer, your reward is knowing you truly did succeed on the occasions when you win.”


Anonymous said...

Can you advise on following situation please?
During a stableford comp. A player picked up my ball (being out of points) which had landed a yard away from the pin. They stated my ball was well away on back edge of greenv having hit from over the brow of hill I accepted this. No markings were visible on their ball so I played on taking 3 puts where I could have possibly taken one with my ball. Opponent who had picked my ball up went to next tee then realised they had picked up my ball. After hitting off with my ball they swopped it for one of their own???

Barry Rhodes said...


First, there are no "opponents" in Stableford competitions, that term only applies to match play.

You were disqualified from the hole (i.e. no points), as you did not complete the hole with your original ball. In any case, as soon as you played a wrong ball you incurred a penalty of two strokes. You must always positively identify that the ball that you are about to make a stroke at is your ball in play.

The other player incurred a penalty of two strokes when they wrongly substituted their ball on the next hole; they should have continued play with your ball having started the hole with it.