Monday, 24 September 2018

Barry Rhodes RIP

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It is with great sadness that we let you know that Barry Rhodes passed away on Friday, 21st September 2018. While he was a man of many interests, golf was one of his great passions both for the game itself and the friendships it led to. Sharing the rules of golf through his books and online brought Barry great joy. We thank all of you who engaged with him. May he rest in peace.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Jon Rahm Treads on His Ball

I always find it interesting to find videos of Rules incidents that occur on one of the Pro Tours, as I believe that it is easier for golfers to understand and remember rulings when they see someone they recognise breaching a Rule and being penalised for it. I was pleased to find a video of an incident concerning Spanish Pro, Jon Rahm (Rodriguez), during the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive.

Sometimes a single incident can lead to several different nuances of the Rules of Golf and the subject of this blog provides an excellent example. There is a video of the whole incident at this YouTube link. The circumstance was that on the par-5 8th hole, Rahm’s 17th, he was looking for his ball in deep rough just a couple of paces off the fairway, when he felt his foot touch a ball, which he then identified as his. Whether he trod on it, or touched it with the toe or side of his shoe is not certain, as even he was not sure, if we can believe him. What is pretty certain is that when a player of Rahm’s size ‘touches’ their ball in long grass, the odds are that the ball will not have returned to the exact spot where it was at rest. If a player moves their own ball it is a breach of Rule 18-2 and they get a penalty of one stroke, even if it occurred while they were searching for their ball. 

Knowing that he had touched/moved his ball in play Rahm called over a Rules official. He was clearly unhappy with the marshals on the hole, because he started by saying;
“Nobody was marking where the ball was. I didn’t know .There’s nobody telling me where the ball is.”
Perhaps he thought that this was a factor that might help him get a favourable ruling. If only we all had marshals spotting our balls for us! 
Rahm continued; “I definitely felt I touched it with the top of my foot. I know I touched it. I don’t believe I moved it all,” 
As he was saying this he lifted his leg and pointed to the underside of the sole of his shoe, which indicates to me that it was most likely that he had trodden on it. The official ruled that given the circumstances it was most likely that the ball had moved and Rahm had to accept the penalty of one stroke. 
Rahm said; “Even if I know I didn’t move it.”
But his caddie, Adam Haye, interjected: “You gotta take the penalty.”
Rahm then asked the official; “Can I clean it?”
Surprisingly and disappointingly, the Rules official replied, “No.” 
I will be generous and suggest that he probably knew the Rule, but was caught up in the pressure of the situation; many Rules officials claim that their duties are 95% boredom and 5% panic! Of course, any ball that is lifted under the Rules may be cleaned, except when it has been lifted to determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3), for identification (Rule 12-2), or because it is assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22).

Because Rahm was not sure whether he had moved his ball or not, and the ruling was that he had, he obviously could not then say where it had been at rest before he touched it, so that it could be replaced there. This meant that he had to drop a ball at the estimated spot (Rule 20-3c), which was pointed out to him by the official. 
Rahm then asked, “If it goes forward I replace it?” 

If you haven’t yet viewed the video, I urge you to do so now. (Click here.) Did Rahm decide that he was going to do everything possible to make sure that his ball rolled forward when it was dropped, allowing him to place the ball after the second invalid drop? Rule 20-2 requires that the player must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height [not above!] and arm's length and drop it [i.e. straight down!]. A player is penalised if they take any action to influence the position or movement of a ball, Rule 1-2. This includes flicking the fingers, or spinning the ball, to ensure that it bounces forward when it hits the ground. I should emphasise that Rahm was not penalised for any of the above actions, but I know that if I had been the official I would have asked him to drop again.

After two drops that resulted in his ball rolling forward, Rahm was allowed to place his ball where it had first hit the course on the re-drop and he played it from there. Despite the one stroke penalty for accidentally touching his ball in play he managed to par the par-5 hole.

Jon Rahm may find some consolation in the fact that in the New Rules of Golf – 2019, Rule 7.4 states that there is no penalty if the player’s ball is accidentally moved by the player, opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it.

Good golfing,

'666 Questions on the NEW Rules of Golf - 2019' can now be purchased at this link.

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

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

August Miscellany

‘666 Questions on the NEW Rules of Golf – 2019’
Thanks to the 550+ subscribers that have already purchased my new eBook in the first 4 days since I made it available. The reception has been fantastic. For others there is more information and ‘Buy’ buttons at this link.

Limit to Green Reading Materials
The R&A and USGA have recently announced proposed regulations regarding the use of green-reading materials, which are designed to reaffirm the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgement, skill and ability. These regulations are unlikely to affect the vast majority of amateur golfers, but in my opinion are a welcome move to further encourage a quicker pace of play in elite player competitions. Unsurprisingly, an immediate criticism of this announcement has come from StrackaLine, a company that creates custom topography maps of putting greens, who in a telephone conversation with a journalist from Golfweek magazine were reported to have said;

“Putting stats haven’t changed in 25 years, PGA Tour pros are still making about 50 percent of their putts from inside of 8 feet. … There is no exactness in putting.”

I enjoyed this tweeted response from US golf blogger, Geoff Shackelford;

“Which begs the question: if they haven't impacted putting numbers, then what is being sold other than a tool that slows down play, appears to cut down on the importance of local knowledge and experience, while enriching a few?”

Well said!

Disqualified for Using a Damaged Club
In a fit of frustration, South African Pro golfer Lee-Anne Pace, hit her sand wedge against a stake following a poor shot during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She did not realise that her action had caused damage to the wedge until she used it to make another stroke later in the round. After explaining the circumstances to a Rules official she was disqualified for a breach of this Rule 4-3b;

If, during a stipulated round, a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 4-3b: Disqualification.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this incident is that following the change to the new Rules of Golf in January 2019, playing with a damaged club will no longer get a penalty, New Rule 4.1a confirms that, providing a club is conforming when the player commences their round, they may continue to use it, or have it repaired, no matter what the nature or cause of the damage.

This is a sensible and welcome change, because there is certainly no advantage for a player using a damaged club, so in any circumstance similar to that of Lee-Anne Pace it seems obviously unfair that the player should be so harshly penalised (disqualified) for using one. This is a good example of how one of the new Rules will eliminate unnecessary complications and will make perfect sense to most golfers, who for the most part are just looking for Rules that apply in a logical, equitable and easy to remember way.

The Official Guide
The R&A’s Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, effective January 2019, is available to preorder from with a release date of 1st November.

The Official Guide includes The Rules of Golf with Interpretations (previously known as Decisions), Committee Procedures, Model Local Rules and Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities. 

However, at the time of writing, on the web site it appears that the USGA version of the Official Guide will not be released until January 1st, 2019! Of course, I expect that both the R&A and USGA are making plans for the Guide to be available to Club Committees earlier than either of these dates, but neither of the Ruling Bodies have any pre-order facility for any of the New Rules publications on their on-line shops, which seems remiss.

The Oswald Academy
Have you signed up for the free Rules of Golf newsletter from my associate, Brian Oswald of The Oswald Academy? Here is the link. Brian and I are working closely together to ensure that we present our subscribers with the latest information on Rules information and incidents and will be introducing a range of resources over coming weeks to make it easier for golfers to understand, assimilate and learn the new Rules in preparation for January 2019.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Accidentally Moving Ball (-Marker) on the Putting Green

An absorbing 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland, was relatively Rules incident free, but there was one ruling that may be of interest to readers, not because it played any part in the ups and downs of the player concerned, but because of the changes in the relevant Rule over a 4-year period.

As he was sizing up his putt on the 18th hole of his second round at the 147th Open, Erik van Rooyen dropped his putter on his ball-marker, but he did not know whether it had moved off its spot, or not. I am going to assume that the ball-marker was moved, albeit marginally, to explain the various rulings relating to this simple incident over a short period.

Pre – 2017:  
The penalty for a player causing their ball or ball-marker to move on the putting green, whether accidentally or purposely, was the same as for anywhere else on the course; a penalty of one stroke and the ball had to be replaced under Rule 18-2. An exception to this was if the movement occurred as a result of the specific act of marking the position of or lifting the ball (Rule 20-1).

From 1st January 2017, provided the recommended Local Rule had been introduced:
The R&A and the USGA introduced a new Local Rule to the Rules of Golf that eliminated any penalty when a ball or ball-marker was accidentally moved on the putting green. This Local Rule was adopted by the R&A and the USGA in all of their championships, qualifying competitions and international matches and they recommended that all Committees adopt the Local Rule, although it was not compulsory to do so, as it was not a Rule of Golf.

From 1st January 2017, if the recommended Local Rule had not been introduced:
The ruling would be the same as pre-2017, with a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2.

From 1st January 2019:
Under the new, modernised Rules of Golf the action incurs no penalty and no Local Rule is necessary;

Rule 13.1d. When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green
There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-marker that moves on the putting green.
(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.
The player must:
• Replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), or
• Place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

Erik van Rooyen led the 2108 Open Championship at one stage, but finished tied in 17th place on 2 under par. The circumstance of the incident can be viewed at this Golf Channel link. (Edit 25th July 2018: Unfortunately this video was removed today. You can hear EvR talking about the incident at this link.)

Probably the most (in)famous incident of a Pro golfer getting a penalty for accidentally moving his ball on the putting green was during the 1997 Australian PGA Championship at New South Wales Golf Club, when former Australian Pro golfer, Mike Clayton, twirled his putter in the air in frustration at missing a putt. You can view his golfing embarrassment by clicking on this YouTube link

Good golfing,

Nearly There! I hope to be in a position to deliver my eBook, ‘666 Questions on the NEW Rules of Golf 2019” within the next couple of weeks. You can be one of the first to start absorbing the new Rules in the easiest way possible by adding your name to my growing pre-order list. Just email me at The target price is $12.99.

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

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Phil Mickelson and the Rules

When I finished writing my previous blog, less than two weeks ago, little did I imagine that I would be writing so soon about Phil Mickelson’s professed knowledge of the Rules of Golf. Let me remind you what he said at that time, during an interview with Curtis Strange on Fox Sports (which can be viewed at this link);

 “Look, I don’t mean, I don’t mean disrespect by anybody I know it’s a two-shot penalty. And at that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the Rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.” [My bolding]
…But I know it's a two-shot penalty, hitting a moving ball. I tried to hit it as close to the hole as I could to make the next one. And you take the two shots, and you move on.”

As many subscribers have reminded me, if Phil’s understanding of the Rules was as good as he claimed, he would almost certainly have been better off waiting for his ball to come to rest behind the bunker, then picking it up and replacing it on the putting green where he had just putted from, for a single penalty stroke, under Rule 28a or Rule 27-1. I have mentioned this option many times in previous blogs, including this one, titled ‘Stroke and Distance Penalty’.

Following another incident just two weeks later, on Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic, there is more evidence that perhaps Phil’s understanding of the Rules is not quite as good as he thinks. He made an elementary mistake that in my experience few amateur golfers would make, getting him a penalty of two strokes. The circumstance was that he had teed his ball on the 7th hole when he noticed that there were wisps of fescue on his intended line of play, which was going to be a low stinger. So he walked forward off the teeing area and trampled down the offending grasses. When he returned to his ball, something clicked and he said, presumably to his caddie and brother, Tim Mickelson;

“I’m not sure that what I just did is legal. ….. I’ll ask somebody.”

As was later confirmed to him by Robbie Ware, a course Rules official, his action was a breach of Rule 13-2. These are the relevant parts of that Rule;

A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
… his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole
… by any of the following actions:
… moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed
… creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,
… However, the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs:
… in creating or eliminating irregularities of surface within the teeing ground

When the official returned in the Rules car to confirm the penalty Phil asked him;

“Had I picked up my tee and moved it to the side where it didn’t affect the shot, I would have been OK?”

Robbie Ware's reply was incorrect;

“No problem, it’s just when it’s on … when it’s on your line of play.”

Phil cut in;

“I had that thought and thought why don’t I move it just in case … and I didn’t, so OK.”

Err no, they were both wrong! Once the original line of play had been improved Phil could not have avoided the penalty by moving his ball to another part of the teeing ground before making his stroke. It is Decision 13-2/14 that is relevant in this circumstance;

Q. On the teeing ground, a player broke off a branch of a tree which was interfering with his swing. The player maintained that such action was not a breach of Rule 13-2 because his ball was not yet in play. Was the player correct?

A. No. The player was in breach of Rule 13-2 for improving the area of his intended swing. Although Rule 13-2 allows a player to eliminate irregularities of surface on the teeing ground, it does not allow him to break a branch interfering with his swing. The penalty would apply even if the player, before playing his next stroke, re-teed elsewhere on the teeing ground - see Decision 13-2/24.

Note that had the fescue, or any other irregularity of surface, been within the teeing ground it could have been tapped down or removed, without penalty. The whole incident, including the confusing commentary by Brian Bateman and Robert (?) and the on-course dialogue between Phil Mickelson and Robbie Ware, can be viewed at this PGA Tour link. (Pay special attention to the commentators’ uninformed and confusing analysis!).

After this event, on its social media accounts, the PGA Tour tried to emphasise the positive by saying that this was another incidence of a player calling a penalty on himself. That is not quite how I saw it!

Unfortunately, this episode provided yet another example of TV golf commentators, who presumably make a good living from their chosen profession, continuing to embarrass themselves by not having a clue about the correct ruling for occurrences that are just slightly out of the ordinary. Surely, they have enough ‘off-air’ time that they could usefully spend brushing up their Rules knowledge. The mind boggles as to what it will be like next year when the new modernised Rules come into effect!

Returning to Phil Mickelson, who brought this spotlight on himself with his earlier claim that he knows the Rules, I am pleased to partly redress the balance by drawing readers’ attention to another interesting Rules incident from two years ago, when he did take advantage of a fairly obscure Rule on the par-5 18th hole of Torrey Pines North course. Click here for a short video of the situation (that follows the ad).

Good golfing,

Phil Mickelson features in other Rules incidents in my book, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’ that contains 99 articles on memorable Rules of Golf incidents, most of them relating to golfers competing in Professional Golf Tour events. Each of the wide ranging articles highlights a breach of a Rule of Golf with interesting nuggets of information, including explanations of the rulings, comments from the players and officials concerned, links to videos showing the circumstance of the breach and the consequences of the penalties imposed. Click here to purchase the eBook file from me, or if you prefer a paperback, it can be purchased from Amazon (a more expensive option).

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

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Moving Balls - Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson

Mickelson Strikes His Moving Ball
By now most readers will have made up their own mind about the Mickelson incident at the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills. Some may not have seen this updated statement from USGA PR, which in my opinion shows why there was never any possibility of an alternative ruling;

There appears to be some continued uncertainty about the basis of the ruling with Phil Mickelson during the third round of the 118th U.S. Open, and we would like to further clarify previous statements. During play of the 13th hole Mickelson made a stroke on the putting green at his ball, which was moving. As a result, he incurred a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 14-5; the stroke made at the moving ball also counted. His score for the hole was 10. Rule 14-5 does not include a serious breach clause or disqualification as part of the penalty statement.

Rule 1-2 did not apply in this situation because Mickelson made a stroke at the ball (defined as the forward movement of the club with the intention of striking at and moving the ball) as opposed to another act to deflect or stop the ball in motion, which are two acts covered by Rule 1-2. Additionally, Exception 1 under Rule 1-2 states that “an action expressly permitted or expressly prohibited by another Rule is subject to that other Rule and not Rule 1-2.” As the act of making a stroke at a moving ball is expressly covered by Rule 14-5, that Rule and the penalty associated with that Rule were applied. The Committee looked at the facts of the situation and determined that there were no grounds under the Rules of Golf for any further penalty, including disqualification.

The key point is that Mickelson made a stroke at his ball in motion, the forward movement of his club made with the intent of striking it to the hole. Rule 1-2, which many have been confused by, relates to a player deflecting or stopping a ball. An example of this would be when a player, after chipping their ball up a steep slope, sees it roll back down the slope and to avoid it ending up in the water of a water hazard, they either stop it or deflect it sideways.

Interestingly, the ruling on this incident would be the same under the new Rules of Golf - 2019, as they are currently drafted.

Agreeing with the USGA ruling does not mean that I condone Mickelson's action, which in my opinion was unbecoming of a professional golfer. I would have preferred if he had apologised and withdrawn before the next round commenced. At least he has since had the sense to correct his original assertion that he had made a deliberate action to “take advantage of the Rules”. In a tweet to a GolfDigest reporter he said,

“I know this should've come sooner, but it's taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I'm embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I'm sorry“.

Zach Johnson Delays Making a Stroke at His Ball because it Might Be Moving 
On Friday, at the Travelers Championship, at TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut, Zach Johnson narrowly missed a birdie putt on the 3rd hole. His ball was overhanging the hole (as per the photo above). It is Rule 16-2 that is relevant;

When any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional ten seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke, and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole; otherwise, there is no penalty under this Rule.

Presumably, Johnson was aware of this Rule, because he waited to see if the ball was going to drop before slowly walking to the far side of the hole, apparently counting off the 10 seconds on his fingers, and then taking a stance and placing his club behind the ball to tap it in. This is when the ball dropped into the hole and he immediately stepped back. He knew that the 10 seconds time limit had passed before the ball hit the hole, so there was no question of the ball being holed with his previous stroke. However, this did not stop him from calling an official.

Afterwards Johnson clarified his reasoning with these words;

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree. The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

Well, let me tell you why! The bolded part of Rule 16-2 above, says that after the 10 seconds limit the ball is deemed to be at rest. Not at all vague. After this time expires the player may make a stroke at it or mark and lift it. They do not have to be concerned about making a stroke at a moving ball, because it is deemed to be at rest. Even if they replace the ball on the lip and it subsequently falls into the hole the player is deemed to have holed out with their last stroke and has to add a penalty stroke to their score for the hole; so the score will be the same as if they had hit it in the hole (Decision 16-2/0.5).  

The incident can be viewed at this YouTube link

Good golfing,

A reminder that you can ensure that you continue to receiving my fortnightly blogs on the Rules of Golf by subscribing to The Oswald Academy newsletter, which will replace mine over the next few months. Between us, Brian Oswald and I will be endeavouring to keep you updated on all things related to the Rules of Golf, including explanatory articles, incidents and rulings on the Pro Tours, quizzes, book recommendations, teaching materials and tips, seminar information and much more!

Subscribing is free, you may unsubscribe without question at any time and your email address will not be passed on to any other party. Please click here to ensure that you keep up to date on the new Rules. 

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

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Word and Phrase Changes in the New Rules

No More ‘Rub of the Green’ !

Part of Rule 19-1 states;

If a player's ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. [There are some exceptions].

OK, don’t panic, my headline does not mean that there will be a change to the ruling in this circumstance. The relevant part of the new Rule 11.1a states;

If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence:
• There is no penalty to any player. [This Rule goes on to confirm that the ball must be played as it lies and there are similar exceptions to the current Rule].

The point of my headline is that the rather quaint term, ‘rub of the green’, which was originally used in the game of lawn bowls to describe any hindrance or impediment that diverts the bowl from its proper course, has quite rightly been dropped from the modernised Rules of Golf that will be effective from 1st January, 2019, as it is an outdated idiom that most golfers have difficulty interpreting in a golfing context. Having recently started compiling my book of questions, answers and explanations on the new Rules* I have discovered many other changes to the words used, which the Ruling Bodies expect will make it easier for all golfers to read and understand the modernised Rules.

Another phrase that does not appear is ‘through the green’, to be renamed as the ‘general area’ of the course, which includes all of the course except for the teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole they are playing and the putting green they are playing to, all bunkers, and all penalty areas. Although ‘bunker’ remains and has a Rule to itself (Rule 12), the word ‘hazard’ does not, as water hazards will be included in the new term, ‘penalty areas’ (Rule 17).  

I know from the correspondence I receive that many golfers have problems in distinguishing between ‘fellow competitors’ (who are in the same group in stroke play), ‘opponents’ (on the other side in match play) and ‘partners’ (members of the same side in four-balls, foursomes and team events). From 2019 a ‘fellow competitor’ will become ‘another player’ in the same group, which should help clarify any confusion.

Some words we have been accustomed to using in a golfing context that do not appear at all in the new Rules are; ‘address’; ‘permit’ (now ’allow’); ‘closely mown’; ‘invalid’ (but ‘valid’ does occur twice); ‘margin’ (now ‘edge’); and ‘stipulated’. Several words and short phrases have subtle changes; ‘abnormal ground condition’ to ‘abnormal course condition’; ‘casual water’ to ‘temporary water’; ‘conditions of competition’ to ‘terms of the competition’; ‘nearest point of relief’ to ‘nearest point of complete relief’’ (another welcome clarification); ‘outside agent' to 'outside influence’; ‘teeing ground’ to ‘teeing area’; and ‘undue delay’ to ‘unreasonable delay’. From January 2019, a ball is no longer ‘deemed’ unplayable, but the player may ‘decide’ to take unplayable relief’; they will not ‘incur’ a penalty, they will ‘get’ a penalty (this is probably the only language change that I am uncomfortable in using!) Two additional, but minimal changes are ‘score card’ becoming ‘scorecard’ and ‘stroke and distance’ becoming ‘stroke-and-distance’.

Though it does not appear in the current Rules book, some of us involved with interpreting the Rules have been using the term ‘flagline’ to describe a relief that is sometimes available, e.g. from a water hazard or for an unplayable ball, that keeps the relief reference point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped. The new Rules use an even better description, ‘back-on-the-line’ relief. 

Something about the language used in the Rules of Golf that has bothered me for some time is that they have exclusively referenced male players, with a brief note at the front of the current Rules book stating;

In the Rules of Golf, the gender used in relation to any person is understood to include both genders.

Most of my subscribers and readers will know that I choose to use the singular form of 'they', which is widely recognised as being grammatically acceptable English, in order to avoid being gender specific, so I am pleased to acknowledge that the R&A and USGA have eliminated this language discrimination in the new Rules by using ‘his or her’ and ‘he or she’ throughout. Well, almost throughout! I have spotted that the word ‘him’ is used twice, in Rule 4.3 and Rule 10.3a, in the published proof copy. Hopefully these can be corrected before the final print!

Good golfing,

* The working title for my new book is, ‘666 Questions on the New Rules of Golf – 2019’. Please email me at if you would like to be placed on a pre-order list, with no obligation to purchase. This eBook's target price is US $12.99 (delivered as both .pdf and .mobi files).

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

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

May Miscellany

Brian Harman's Ball on 17th at Sawgrass
US Pro, Brian Harman, found his ball in a difficult lie on the iconic, island green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass during the first round of the 2018 Players Championship (see photos). Harman’s options were limited. a) He could not take relief for an embedded ball because his ball was inside the margin of the water hazard, Rule 25-2. b) For the same reason he could not take relief from the wooden bulkhead, an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-1. c) Nor could he deem his ball unplayable in a water hazard, Rule 28. d) Note that the line defining the water hazard margin is yellow, which means that the option of dropping within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin, not nearer the hole, is also not available, Rule 26-1c.

After carefully studying the situation, Harman decided that he did not want to risk playing the ball from such a precarious lie, prised the ball from the turf and waked back to the designated dropping zone for a penalty of one stroke. His other options, also for a penalty of one stroke, were to return to the teeing ground, or to drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, Rule 26-1b.

Tyrrell Hatton Forgets the New Local Rule
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, currently ranked as the 21st best golfer in the world, made an elementary and expensive mistake in a sudden death shootout, which prevented him from progressing to the weekend knockout stage of the 2018 WGC Dell Match Play. Hatton was preparing to tap-in for par at the first extra hole when he noticed his ball had moved slightly after he had placed his putter behind it. Instead of replacing the ball without penalty, as permitted by the Local Rule introduced in all Tour events and by most amateur Clubs, he assumed that he was penalised one stroke for causing his ball to move and then compounded his error by holing out from this wrong place, instead of replacing the ball. Unbelievable from a Tour Pro! The Local Rule, which all Clubs and Societies should have introduced from January 2017, is ‘Accidental Movement of Ball on Putting Green'. There is a full explanation in this blog of mine. 

The Rules of Golf Are Being Modernised, Not Necessarily Simplified
It seems that many golfers imagined that the modernisation of the Rules of Golf would result in there being far fewer Rules and that they could be learned with little effort. One correspondent noted that although the current 34 Rules have been reduced to 24 Rules, there are almost as many sections, more sub-sections, more Definitions and more Exceptions. I haven’t counted these for myself, but I can tell you that there are 156 pages of Rules and Definitions in the proof copy of the new Rules, and only 104 pages of Rules and Definitions in the current Rules book. This should shatter the misconception that golfers can forget most of what they have learned about the Rules, obtain a free copy of the soon to be published ‘Players Edition’ * and will never get caught out by a Rule again, because that is not going to happen! One of the reasons why the new Rules book contains more pages than the current Rules book is that some of the rulings that have been interpreted in over 1,300 interpretations in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf book are now incorporated into the new Rules of Golf, others will not be relevant to the modernised Rules and the remainder are likely to be covered in yet another publication from the Ruling Bodies, 'The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf', a “guidebook” that replaces the need for a Decisions book and will contain information to best support committees and officials. 

Don’t misunderstand me, I certainly approve of the modernisation of the Rules of Golf, because for the majority of players there are going to be fewer principles for them to learn, there will be more resources to assist them, including the aforementioned 'Players Edition', and the pace of play should be improved for amateur golfers. Of course, there will still be a requirement for experts who can navigate their way through the new Rules book, and associated guidebook, to assist in making definitive rulings for the incidents that will inevitably arise (see the last item in this blog). 

The Player’s Edition will include the Rules that describe the essential characteristics of the game of golf – for example, the fundamentals of the game, such as playing by the Rules, the different parts of the course and the equipment to be used. It also covers the most commonly used Rules. For the less frequently occurring situations that are not included, the Player’s Edition will tell the golfer where to find those answers in the full Rules of Golf.

World Handicapping System
It is anticipated that a year or so after the new Rules of Golf become effective (January 1st 2019) there will be major changes to the way that golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps. The new World Handicapping System, to be implemented some time in 2020, follows an extensive review of systems administered by six existing handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA.

If you are interested in the proposed features of the World Handicapping System, remember its implementation is at least 19 months away, you can check out either of these links;

Membership of The Oswald Academy
Regular readers will know that I have joined forces with Brian Oswald of The Oswald Academy ( to share the workload that we anticipate will hit us with the introduction of the new Rules of Golf. Anyone who has responsibility for disseminating Rules information within their Club or Society, whether officially or socially (!), is going to need a reliable, responsive source of information. We believe that we have a perfect solution for this requirement with the personal and club memberships of The Oswald Academy. I am providing links to these subscription services below, but in short, the personal membership (US $69 p.a.) currently includes;
  • Free answers to your rules questions (usually within 24 hours).
  • Free subscription to the Rules News which is published four times a year.
  • Free loading of your USB key with all training materials from The Oswald Academy (slideshows, exercises etc.) – and free access to it all on Dropbox.
  • A 15 % discount on all Oswald Academy courses, rules trips, seminars, books etc. for personal use.
  • A free newsletter which gives you all the latest information about The Rules of Golf straight into your inbox.
  • More benefits that we are still working on.
There is also a Club membership (US $599 p.a.), which should be a ‘must join’ to ease the burden for all Club secretaries / managers.

For more information on either membership click on one of the following links (all that is required is your name, email, address and golf club), or you can email Brian direct at,
Personal membership
Club membership
Good golfing,
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Does a Local Rule Override a Rule of Golf?

I have been asked this question.

“In a circumstance where a Committee has introduced a Local Rule that modifies a Rule of Golf, can a player choose which one to follow? Do they operate separately or does the Local Rule override the Rule of Golf?”

In most cases the above situation does not arise, because the Local Rule offers additional options to the Rules of Golf. Examples are;

The Rules do not permit a player from removing stones (loose impediments) from a bunker, but a Local Rule may offer this option for player safety reasons.
The Rules do not permit a player to prefer their lie, but a Local Rule for 'Preferred Lies' does give the player this option.
The Rules only permit a player to take relief if a ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area, but a Local Rule can extend this relief to a ball that is embedded through the green.

However there are Local Rules that do limit what the Rules allow. Examples are;

The Rules state that a player may take relief from GUR, but a Local Rule often makes it mandatory to take relief to protect certain areas of the course.
The Rules do not provide free relief from trees, But a Local Rule often makes it mandatory to take relief from young trees, identified with stakes, to protect them from accidental damage.
The Rules allow any ball that is in bounds to be played, but if the course is divided, say by a public road that is defined as out of bounds, it would be unfair that a ball that lands on the road is out of bounds and a ball played over the road and back onto another part of the course is in bounds, so a Committee may introduce a Local Rule to deal with this circumstance. 

Rule 33-8 states that the Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I. In addition, a statement in this Appendix adds that, if local abnormal conditions interfere with the proper playing of the game and the Committee considers it necessary to modify a Rule of Golf, authorisation from either the R&A or the USGA must be obtained. However, I am aware of many instances where Committees have introduced a Local Rule that is not allowed by the Rules. For example;

A Committee may not adopt a Local Rule to assist players who cannot drive over a water hazard hazard by allowing them to drop a ball, under penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone that is located on the green side of the water hazard. Decision 33-8/2.
A Committee may not make a Local Rule allowing a player to replay a stroke, without penalty, if their ball has been deflected by course furniture, e.g. direction signs or sprinkler heads. A deflection of a ball by such an outside agency is a rub of the green and the ball must be played as it lies. Decision 33-8/12.
A Committee make not make a Local Rule providing relief without penalty from divot holes. Decision 33-8/34.
A Committee may not make a condition of competition requiring that a competitor must enter their score into a computer. Decision 6-6b/8.

The Oswald Academy
Thank you to the 1,300+ readers who have already subscribed to The Oswald Academy newsletter on the Rules of Golf. Let me remind others that I am now working in association with Brian Oswald to bring you the latest content on the Rules, presented in a variety of formats to assist you in understanding the new Rules of Golf that become effective on 1st January next year. Click here to make sure that you do not miss out. The newsletters are free, you can unsubscribe at any time and your email address will not be shared (Brian is a lawyer who lectures on GDPR!).

Want to Learn the New Rules Numbers?
For those of us that need to familiarise ourselves with the new Rule and Section numbers (99 of them!), a valued subscriber, Martin Fraga, has uploaded them to Quizlet, a useful application that provides a novel and even entertaining way of approaching this task, I especially recommend this free tool to all those that are studying for the R&A and USGA exams; check it out and save it to your smart devices for easy reference whenever you have a few minutes spare; Quizlet flash cards. Thank you Martin for responding so quickly to my request and once again providing this excellent resource for Rules of Golf enthusiasts.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

My Intentions Re the New Rules of Golf 2019

Apologies to those of you that have already received this important update from me, because you are also subscribed to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series. However, there are a significant number of subscribers to this fortnightly blog who do not receive these other emails from me.

It is obvious that Golf Clubs, Societies, Committee Members, Rules Officials and all serious and recreational golfers, are going to require a lot of information and assistance to properly understand and apply the new Rules of Golf, which become effective everywhere in the world from the 1st January 2019. From different interactions I am having I realise that many golfers are underestimating both the scope and the consequences of the radical changes that will have to be observed, applied and governed in all formats of golf competitions.

I recently made a decision to continue with my commitment to assist golfers of all abilities to learn and understand the new Rules of Golf with a mix of ‘no cost / low cost’ Rules resources. However, in view of the size of this task, I am pleased to say that I will be entering a partnership with Brian Nygaard Oswald, founder of The Oswald Academy - ‘A world of nothing but the Rules of Golf’. Check out Brian’s web site at for information on his past performance and evolving success in this area. Brian and I believe that we are ideally matched when combining our individual expertise and ambitions and that the opportunity to work together will benefit both of us and more importantly, benefit our subscribers and customers.

Soon after the first meeting that Brian and I had to discuss how we could jointly advance our interests, I realised that it was imperative for me to follow up on my previous ‘999 Questions’ books with one that addressed the new Rules. I am still convinced that an excellent way for golfers to better their knowledge of the Rules is by learning how they are applied and testing themselves through questions and answers, with accurate references and explanatory notes to support the answers. I have already made good progress with this and hope to publish ‘?99 Questions on the New Rules of Golf – 2019’, in the 3rd quarter of this year. The “?” is because I do not yet know how many Q&As there will be when I have finished; it will be more than 499 and less than 999!

Brian and I also intend to merge our emails to subscribers on the Rules of Golf. Some of you have already received the last ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly email from me, having reached the end of the ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’ series. However, you will start receiving new emails from us, mainly addressing subjects on the new Rules and incidents relating to them that happen on the Professional Tours. I have never subscribed anyone to my lists without their permission, nor have I passed on anyone’s email to a third party. As always, if you want to be removed from the new emails you will be able to unsubscribe at any time, by clicking on a link at the foot of every email, or by emailing me personally at

I hope that I can encourage you to stay involved with our combined Rules resources, as there is much to learn and those who gain a good understanding of the changes will benefit from avoiding unnecessary penalties and being a source of information to club or society fellow members and casual golf companions.

After sending the above email to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ subscribers last week many of them have already signed up to receive the Oswald Academy emailed newsletters on the Rules of Golf (one or two each month). I strongly recommend that you too subscribe to this newsletter, which will replace mine over the next few months. Between us, Brian Oswald and I will be endeavouring to keep you updated on all things related to the Rules of Golf, including explanatory articles, incidents and rulings on the Pro Tours, quizzes, book recommendations, teaching materials and tips, seminar information and much more!

Subscribing is free, you may unsubscribe without question at any time and your email address will not be passed on to any other party. Please click here to ensure that you keep up to date on the new Rules.

Kelly Kraft’s Tee Shot Strikes Bird in Mid-air
I think that those of you that, like me, are interested in Rules incidents that happen on the Pro Tours will be interested in what happened to Kelly Kraft’s ball after his drive on the 14th hole at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA, on Friday 13th April. Normally, I write my own overview of these rulings, with references to the relevant Rule or Decision, but on this occasion, for brevity, I am providing this link to an account of the incident from the PGA Tour web site. 

I cannot let this opportunity go without reminding you that my new book, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’, recounts 99 similar, interesting Rules situations. It is available direct from me as an eBook (low price!) at this link, or from Amazon, as a more expensive paperback.

Good golfing,

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Marking a Ball on the Putting Green

I am often asked whether marking the position of a ball on a putting green with the toe of a putter head is permitted by the Rules. Personally, I wish that it wasn’t, as in my opinion it is an unsatisfactory, lazy practice that should be discouraged, especially in competitive golf, but this part of Decision 20-1/16, clarifies that it does not incur a penalty.

Q. The Note to Rule 20-1 provides that "the position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball." Is a player penalized if he uses an object that is not similar to a ball-marker or small coin to mark the position of his ball?

A. No. The provision in the Note to Rule 20-1 is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with the Note.

Examples of methods of marking the position of a ball that are not recommended, but are permissible, are as follows:
  • placing the toe of a club at the side of, or behind, the ball
  • using a tee
  • using a loose impediment
  • scratching a line, provided the putting green is not tested (Rule 16-1d) and a line of putt is not indicated (Rule 8-2b). As this practice may cause damage to the putting green, it is discouraged.
However, under Rule 20-1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of a ball. For example, it is not permissible to mark the position with reference to a blemish on the putting green.

Prior to the recommended Local Rule relating to the accidental movement of a ball, or ball-marker, on the putting green being adopted by Committees at the beginning of 2017 (see this blog), there was always a chance that the player could be penalised if they then lifted their club from the putting surface, e.g. while cleaning their ball, but that does not now apply, providing the action was accidental.

Decision of Ties in Stroke Play
Rule 33-6, Decision of Ties states;

The Committee must announce the manner, day and time for the decision of a halved match or of a tie, whether played on level terms or under handicap.

This is a subject that is often ignored by Committees, until they are forced to address a situation that has arisen when two or more players finish a stroke play competition with the same scores.

The 34 Rules of Golf do not specify how ties should be decided, though there is a guide that most Committees would do well to follow in Appendix l, Part B, Conditions of the Competition, Section 10, which can be found at the back of the Rules book. The whole of this section should be read by Competition Committees, but in handicap competitions where the handicap stroke table is relevant and there is no playoff, the following is the recommendation;

(c) If a play-off of any type is not feasible, matching score cards is recommended. The method of matching cards should be announced in advance and should also provide what will happen if this procedure does not produce a winner. An acceptable method of matching cards is to determine the winner on the basis of the best score for the last nine holes. If the tying players have the same score for the last nine, determine the winner on the basis of the last six holes, last three holes and finally the 18th hole. If this method is used in a competition with a multiple tee start, it is recommended that the “last nine holes, last six holes, etc.” is considered to be holes 10-18, 13-18, etc.

In my experience this is the most widely used condition of competition relating to ties in Club and Society competitions and is easy to administer.

Good golfing,

To sign up for my current "Rhodes Rules School" free, weekly email series, 'Pros Getting it Wrong!' click here. To purchase the full set of 99 issues of 'Pros Getting it Wrong!' click here

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

Monday, 2 April 2018

Rules of Golf Changes for 2019

Now that the R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the new Rules of Golf for 2019 I have taken the time to digest them and am ready to offer some initial thoughts. I do welcome most of the changes, especially those that should help to address what I believe to be the biggest problem facing the majority of amateur golfers – the time take to play a competition round of 18 holes. I do not intend to get into specific detail about individual Rules changes for two main reasons; first, the Ruling Bodies have done an excellent job of highlighting those changes with videos and explanations on their web sites; second, there are still nearly nine months before the new Rules are implemented and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, that means a whole season of golf, where the existing Rules continue to apply.

However, I do encourage those of you who are involved in golf Committees to start planning for the changeover, sooner rather than later, as there are many items that should not be left to the end of the year. For example, most score cards will have to be reprinted, as the Local Rules will almost certainly require several major changes. It is presumed that most Clubs and Societies will introduce the Local Rule that provides an alternative to the stroke and distance penalty for a ball that is lost or out of bounds. This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have been lost, or gone out of bounds, and the edge of the fairway at a point that is not nearer the hole, rather than returning to where they last played from, if a provisional ball was not played. Another change that needs to be carefully considered, is whether other areas of the course are to be considered as penalty areas, which can now be expanded beyond water hazards, such as deserts, jungles, or expanses of trees or shrubs

I am also concerned that Club/Society Committees will not be fully prepared to handle the vast increase in the numbers of Rules situations that will inevitably occur in the early months of 2019. In the northern hemisphere many Clubs will be operating non-handicap counting competitions for the first few months, due to local abnormal conditions (‘Winter Rules’), but those below the equator will be in the middle of their seasons, where one month they will be competing under the current Rules and the next month under the new Rules, which differ in so many ways. I expect that many players will absent-mindedly take relief by dropping a ball from shoulder height instead of from knee height, and others will play a dropped ball that has rolled a few inches outside of the permitted drop relief area, forgetting that under the new Rules a ball has to be re-dropped in this circumstance. Those of us who take an interest in the Rules should assist players wherever possible in preventing a breach of Rule before it happens, by stepping in and providing information on the new procedures. In both of the above cases, the player can avoid a penalty if they are informed that their drop was not valid and they then correct their mistake before making a stroke at their dropped ball, new Rule 14.3. Note that not only have all the Rules number references changed, they are presented in a different format; e.g. currently Rule 25-1b(ii), in 2019 Rule 14.3b(2).

Those of us engaged in any sector of golfing media have some additional problems to deal with. There are many significant alterations in the terminology used in the new Rules from that which has evolved over more than two centuries. Some are definitely welcome; for example ‘fellow competitor’, which was never used consistently by many golfers and golf commentators, who incorrectly referred to players in the same group as ‘playing partners’. In the new Rules they, are now just ‘players’ (not even ‘competitors’) in the same ‘group’. But how long will it be before we get used to the fact that there will no longer be any ‘hazards’ (‘bunkers’ and ‘penalty areas’), no ‘margins’ (‘edges’), no ‘outside agent’ (‘outside influence’),no ‘Conditions of Competition’ (‘Committee Procedures’) and no ‘through the green’, ‘rub of the green’ or ‘stipulated round’. 

I have now made the decision to continue with my efforts to assist others to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf and will shortly announce a new partnership that will extend the services that I will be able to offer to both individuals and Clubs/Societies. Keep watching this space!

Good golfing,

My latest eBook, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’ is now also available in paperback format, direct from and (just search the Books section for ‘Barry Rhodes’). Obviously, it is a lot cheaper to purchase this book, which will remain wholly valid when the new Rules become effective, direct from my web site in eBook format at this link

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