Friday, 23 February 2018

Ruling Please - Ball Overhanging Hole

After posting a blog on the incident shown in this photo, the R&A issued their official ruling, which contradicted mine! Apologies to those of you that had already received my blog by email. This is what The R&A have now posted on their Facebook account;

"It's got golfers talking around the globe. Here's our Ruling:

It's a very rare situation, but the R&A received a similar question 30 years ago. The answer given, which we would still apply, was as follows:

On the putting green, if the player's removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move, the ball is replaced without penalty. As replacement of the ball would be impossible in this case, in equity (Rule 1-4), the ball is considered to be holed with the previous stroke."


New World Handicapping System
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, there are currently a range of different handicapping systems used by national golfing bodies and I do not have any expertise in this area. I therefore welcome the news that the way golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by the USGA and The R&A, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability. The new World Handicap System will be implemented in 2020, one year after the modernised Rules of Golf are scheduled to come into operation, following an extensive review of systems administered by six of the existing handicapping authorities.    

You can find out more about the main features of the new system at this USGA link.

Good golfing,



Don't forget that you can subscribe to my free 'Rhodes Rules School' weekly emails at this link.


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

When the Rules of Golf Require the Spoken Word

Some golfers talk so much during a round that it annoys their fellow competitors. I well remember a popular, but verbose member at my own Club who had a reputation of constantly chattering throughout his round. One particularly chilly winter’s day, as he reached the warm sanctuary of the locker room, he announced that it was so cold outside that he could hardly speak. A fellow competitor walking close behind him remarked, “Thank goodness for that, I thought I must be going deaf!” Other golfers are so focused on their round that they go out of their way to remain silent, purposely avoiding any small talk with their fellow competitors or opponents.

However, there are a few Rules of Golf that do require the spoken word. Examples of when a player must announce their intention to a fellow competitor in stroke play, or an opponent in match play are;
  • Rule 12-2. If a player believes that a ball at rest might be theirs, but cannot identify it, they may lift the ball for identification. Before doing so, they must announce their intention, mark its position and provide and provide the fellow competitor or opponent an opportunity to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement.
  • Rule 27-2. If a player chooses to play a provisional ball they must then announce the fact that they are going to play a provisional ball before making a stroke at it.
  • Rule 3-3. In stroke play, when a player is unsure as to how to proceed in play of the hole, they may play a second ball. They must announce their intention to play two balls and which of the balls they wish to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball. (Edit 13th Feb. 2018) The Rule states "should" not "must", but it is strongly recommended that the player does communicate these two points, to avoid possible confusion leading to an unnecessary penalty.)
  • Rule 4-4c. If a player discovers that they are carrying an excess club or clubs, they must immediately declare which club(s) they are taking out of play before making another stroke.
  • Rule 2-5. In match play, if a doubt or dispute arises between the players, a player may make a claim by notifying their opponent that they are making a claim, or are seeking an official ruling, and agree the facts of the situation before commencing play of the next hole.
  • Rule 5-3. If a player has reason to believe their ball has become unfit for play during play of a hole they must announce their intention, mark the position of the ball, lift and examine it, giving another player the opportunity to observe the lifting, examine the ball and witness its replacement.
  • Decision 20-1/0.7: If a player has reason to believe they are entitled to relief from a condition, for example to check whether their ball is embedded, they may announce their intention to check, mark its position and provide the opportunity for a fellow competitor, or opponent, to observe the lifting and subsequently its replacement (Rule 25-2).
There are other occasions where a player has to indicate their intent, but not necessarily using the spoken word, e.g. they would like a ball that they consider may assist a player to be lifted, (Rule 22-1), or require that a ball that has been played out of turn by an opponent be replayed, in turn (Rule 10-1), or making a concession in match play. In these cases a gesture, or an action, is sufficient, providing it cannot be misunderstood, e.g. picking-up an opponent’s ball in play usually signifies concession of their next stroke. (Edit 14th Feb. 2018: But see Decisions 2-4/4 and 2-4/5).

Of course there is an occasion where every golfer, whether amateur or professional, should use their voice ensuring that it is heard; that is when they hit an errant shot in the direction of any person, when “FORE” should be shouted, as quickly and as loudly as possible.

Good golfing,



Thanks for the great response to my call-out for my ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ eDocument, which now includes a single hand-out page for all match play team members, with 12 essential Rules tips to avoid the opposition taking advantage. If you meant to order, but did not get round to it (!), you can now do so at this link.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Miscellaneous on Match Play

At this time of year golf clubs and societies in Northern Hemisphere countries are appointing captains and team squads for inter-club match play competitions. I have previously blogged on the differences between the Rules of Golf for stroke play and match play (24th February and 10th March 2012), but am now listing some miscellaneous points on match play Rules that may be new to some readers;

Once a stroke has been conceded it may not be declined or withdrawn. There is no penalty if a player continues to hole out after the concession, unless their stroke could be of assistance to their partner in a four-ball match, Decision 2-4/6. However, I would discourage anyone from doing so, as it may unnecessarily delay play. Obviously, if the player misses the putt it is of no consequence, because it had already been conceded.

A player loses the hole if they give their opponent wrong information. Under Rule 9-2b a player is deemed to have given wrong information if;

(i) He fails to inform his opponent as soon as practicable that he has incurred a penalty, unless (a) he was obviously proceeding under a Rule involving a penalty and this was observed by his opponent, or (b) he corrects the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(ii) He gives incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of strokes taken and does not correct the mistake before his opponent makes his next stroke; or
(iii) He gives incorrect information regarding the number of strokes taken to complete a hole and this affects the opponent's understanding of the result of the hole, unless he corrects the mistake before any player makes a stroke from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players leave the putting green.

If you make a stroke and your ball hits your opponent, or their equipment, you may choose to play the stroke again, Rule 19-3. This may seem unfair if you shank your ball sideways and it hits your opponent in their groin, or hits their trolley situated several distance away, but that is the Rule! Once you have made your apologies, you can either play the ball as it lies, or drop the ball where the previous stroke was made from, without penalty.

A four-ball partner may leave their ball on the putting green, e.g. in a position where it may usefully act as a backstop, while the other partner makes their putt. Unlike stroke play, there is no penalty if the ball in motion is deflected or stopped by a ball at rest on the putting green, Rule 19-5. Note that if an opponent considers a ball might assist the player making the putt they can demand that it is lifted, Rule 22-1. 
(Edit January 31st: I have removed the words, "Providing there is no agreement between them" at the start of this bullet point, as I have been correctly notified that as there is no penalty in match play for a ball played from the putting green striking another ball on the putting green, an agreement between partners to leave it there does not breach any Rule.)

If a match involving handicaps is all square after the stipulated round, the players  should continue at the hole where the match began and the same handicap strokes should be allowed as in the stipulated round.

In a four-ball match involving handicaps, where a missing party is the person who the strokes allowance was calculated from, i.e. the lowest handicap player, the handicap strokes should still be allocated based on the missing person being present.

If a doubt or dispute arises between players in match play that cannot be resolved during play of the hole, a claim must be made before teeing-off at the next hole, strictly following the procedures set down in Rule 2-5. The player making the claim must notify their opponent that they are making a claim, agree the facts of the situation and make it clear that the Committee is being asked for a ruling. In many cases it will not be possible to obtain an official ruling in a timely manner. The match should be continued without further delay and played to a conclusion whereby there is a definitive result that takes into account an eventual ruling for the disputed hole, whether it be a win for either side, or a half.

I recommend that every golf club or society obtains a copy of my 10-page eDocument, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ I have recently added a single page, summary check list of 12 important points that all team members should be aware of before commencing their match. Purchasers have my permission to distribute this eDocument  to any member of their Club or Society, providing it is without charge and my accreditation remains in place. Click here for details. 

Good golfing,



I have received many testimonials for ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play!’ including these; 
“It is excellent and should be of great assistance to golfers of all categories. I like the way you’ve set it out, explaining all the relevant rules in sequence.” Ms. H.S. “Excellent document Barry. Your simple explanations mean that I learn more from your content that I do from the rule book!” Mr. G.C. “This is a must read for anyone that plays match play golf.” Mr. S.R.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Course Maintenance during a Competition

Here is a question that is representative of others that I have received;
“After a medal round has commenced, can course maintenance work be carried out (e.g. mowing greens, sanding fairways and clearing leaves from bunkers) without the competition being voided?”

The first point to make is that Committees and/or course owners should make every effort to ensure that competition rounds take place with minimum interruption from greenkeepers and course maintenance staff. It is especially important that Committees make advance plans around their major competitions, so that the course is presented in optimum condition and that no competitors are unnecessarily disadvantaged by ongoing work during their rounds. However, there is nothing in the Rules of Golf that makes any allowance for maintenance work being carried out on the course during any competition, even if this means that players will be playing the course under different conditions. This can be compared with morning competitors playing on a dry, windless course and afternoon competitors playing in the same competition in wet and windy conditions, perhaps faced with casual water interference on areas of some putting greens.

An obvious exception to the above is if the Committee, or its authorised representative, considers that after a competition commences, course conditions change to the point that they consider that it is no longer in a playable condition, or that circumstances have arisen that render the proper playing of the game impossible. In such circumstances, the Committee may in both match play and stroke play, order a temporary suspension of play or, in stroke play, declare the competition null and void, cancelling all scores for the round in question, Rule 33-2.  When a round is cancelled, all penalties incurred in that round are cancelled.

Another instance of when a stroke play round should be declared null and void is if one or more holes were relocated and/or tee-markers moved after some competitors had played the hole. However, when it is impossible for a hole damaged during a round to be repaired, so that it conforms to the Definition, the Committee may, in exceptional circumstances, make a new hole in a nearby similar position, Exception to Rule 33-2b. Also, in exceptional circumstances, where there is casual water covering a teeing ground and it is impossible to satisfactorily remove it, a Committee may relocate it, providing this can be done without giving any competitor an undue advantage, or disadvantage, Decision 25-1b/4.

On a related matter, I am aware that many Clubs run a single round competition on more than one day and there is sometimes confusion as to whether the holes and teeing grounds have to be retained in the same position, for the competition to be played within the Rules of Golf. A Note to Rule 33-2b states;

Where a single round is to be played on more than one day, the Committee may provide, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), that the holes and teeing grounds may be differently situated on each day of the competition, provided that, on any one day, all competitors play with each hole and each teeing ground in the same position. 

Finally, many of us have experienced a situation where our ball in motion was deflected off a maintenance vehicle, or other course equipment, whether stationary or moving. The ruling is the same as when a ball is deflected by any other outside agency, it is a ‘rub of the green’ and the ball has to be played as it lies. If it is deflected out of bounds the player must play proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.


My New eBook: Pros Getting it Wrong
Those of you that were early subscribers to my free ‘Rhodes Rules School’ email series (click here if you have not yet subscribed and would like to) will know that the 4th series is titled ‘Pros Getting it Wrong’. I have now completed all 99 issues of this series and have combined them into a full set that can be purchased as an eDocument (.pdf format for easy reference and printing, or transferring onto a smart device). 

In my experience, reading about how golfers have fallen foul of the Rules of Golf, or have used them to their advantage, is an excellent way to obtain a better understanding and remember them. This is especially true when the names of those involved are familiar to us. However, you do not have to be an aspiring Rules of Golf expert to enjoy reading this series of short articles that average about 700 words. Some of the incidents may be familiar, such as Tiger’s 2.000lb loose impediment, Simon Dyson tapping down a spike mark and Carlota Ciganda’s drop at a wrong place during a Solheim Cup match; others will be totally new to you. Where the relevant Rule has changed since the incident I have fully explained what the ruling would now be.

Click here for more information and for the PayPal ‘Buy Now’ buttons. 

Good golfing,




The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.