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,



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