Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 U.S. Intercollegiate Wrap-Up

            The 2013 Stanford U.S. Intercollegiate has come to a close and for the first time in six years Stanford defended on their home turf with an impressive showing.  Four of their players finished in the top 10, with Patrick Rodgers finishing second after opening with a pair of 66’s. 
            As a Rules Official I have to remain impartial during the event, but I have to admit I’m extremely pleased to have both the Stanford events I’ve worked won by Stanford this year.
            From a Rules perspective, the week was extremely quiet, which is a good thing for the event, a bad thing for my blogging.  I did have several interesting calls that I will highlight:

Adjustable Driver Head Loosened

            Late into the second round I received a call from Stanford’s Coach asking if a player may tighten a previously loosened driver head.  If the head became loosened in the normal course of play the answer is yes.  If the player loosened the head other than in the normal course of play the answer is no, and must not use the driver for the remainder of the round.  If you’re looking for a reference by Decision, you’re not likely to find it.  Adjustable woods have not yet been tackled in the Decisions book.
            Fortunately, the Rule covers this just fine.  Rule 4-3a states that if during the stipulated round a club is damaged in the normal course of play he has 3 options, 1) use the club in its damaged state, 2) repair the club so long as in doing so he does not unduly delay play, or 3) only if the club is unfit for play he may replace the club so long as the new club isn’t currently selected for play by another player on the course and he doesn’t delay play to do so.  Tightening a loosened head would fall under option 2.

Ball Covered By Sand

            During the final round the UC-Davis Coach called me to confirm whether it was permissible to use a rake in order to find a ball covered in sand in a bunker.  I pointed him to Rule 12-1a, which permits the player to touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball.  If the ball is moved, there is no penalty and it must be replaced.  Once found, the lie must be re-created except that if the ball was completely covered a small portion of the ball may be left visible.
            He followed up with asking whether this would be permissible in sand in a water hazard.  Again the answer is yes.  Rule 12-1a applies to a ball covered in sand anywhere on the course, which includes bunkers, water hazards and lateral water hazards.

Burrowing Animal Holes

            A rover was following the last two groups and on the 16th hole a player hit the ball well into some high grass and sure enough, into a burrowing animal hole.  And of course, the hole was not by its lonesome.  The rover astutely called on the radio to confirm that relief needed to be taken from only the one burrowing animal hole and that if another hole interfered after dropping, it was not a re-drop but a new situation.  He got it right, both in using the radio and the ruling itself.  Decision 20-2c/7 tells us that a second burrowing animal hole is a new condition and if, after dropping when taking relief from one hole another interferes, that would be a new condition from which the player may or may not take relief from.  Do not lift and re-drop the ball in that case.  
          If a collection of holes is in an area such that it would be improbable not to continually have interference the Committee should either mark the entire area as ground under repair or invoke the Note to 25-1 and state that interference from a burrowing animal with a player's stance in and of itself is not interference.  This would decrease the likelihood of having to make multiple drops. Also, a good Decision when dealing with burrowing animal holes in setting up a golf course is 33-8/32.5

Flower Power

            During the final round it was brought to the Committee’s attention that a player had played from the flowerbed near the 14th green.  The flowerbed was listed in the local Rules as an area of ground under repair from which relief was mandatory.  This information came about because a member of the Committee had just assisted a player in taking relief from the area and a volunteer spotter commented that a player from a previous group had played from that area.  He did not know which group or which player.
            For the Committee, the information is important, but if no players in that group were aware of the penalty and did not mention the situation at scoring, there would be nothing we could do.  Although we know the Rule was breached, it would be impracticable to ask every group in scoring if they had a player who played from the 14th flowerbed.  So yes, there is a player who got away with one.  To all you players out there, please, PLEASE read the local Rules for every event you play in.
            Had a member of the group brought the situation to our attention at scoring, the penalty is simple.  The player would incur a penalty of two strokes for playing from a wrong place in breach of the local Rule.  The breach would not be a serious one and playing out with that ball was correct. 
            In discussing the situation, the fact that the area currently had no flowers made us believe more players might not think of the area as a flowerbed.  During most months, it is filled with white and red flowers making a red Stanford S.  We still didn’t want players trouncing around in the soil there and left it as a mandatory relief area.  One official then suggested that I add plastic flowers to my tournament travel kit so I can accurately define which areas are flowerbeds in case they don’t contain actual flowers.

Double Relief

            The cement wall lining near the 7th green has been dealt with in many, many ways by the Rules over the years at Stanford.  For this year’s event, the wall was an obstruction with out of bounds defined by the fence above the wall.  With a cart path running nearby, this meant that there was a possibility a player would come to rest in a spot where they would take relief from the wall, drop on the cart path, and then need to take relief from the path.
            Where it got interesting is that when this happened, the ball came to rest near the wall in an area where there were bushes and other junk.  The player did have a reasonable stroke and was given relief from the wall and he dropped on the path.  His relief from the path however, was back in the bushes and in a spot where he would not have interference from the wall.  The player decided to play from the path.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The 2012 U.S. Intercollegiate Revisited

            It’s time for another Stanford U.S. Intercollegiate and before the tournament begins tomorrow it will be fun to review the interesting events of last year.

            During the second round a large rain cell came through northern California drenching the Stanford Golf Course and eventually forcing us to halt play for several hours.  We did everything we could to keep play going as long as possible, but eventually it was too much.  I’m hoping this year I won’t have to break out the squeegees, but last year there was no choice.
            It was the first time in my career, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, that I had to invoke Decision 33/1.
            Decision 33/1 permits the Committee to do what is necessary to remove casual water that has accumulated on the putting green.  More importantly it allows the Committee to permit players to do so as well, even on their line of putt so long as it is sanctioned by the Committee.
            At last year’s Intercollegiate, we had to use anyone and everyone to help with squeegees.  I was out there as well as other tournament officials and coaches.  Occasionally we permitted players to squeegee their line of putt as well, because it was necessary.  Eventually, nature won the battle and we suspended play.  There weren’t enough squeegees to go around.  On at least two greens we were using two squeegees just to keep afloat.
            Hopefully, this year we won’t get enough rain to warrant any squeegees, but if they have to come out, Decision 33/1 has us covered. 
            You can follow the 2013 Stanford U.S. Intercollegiate through Gamebook, and the leader board embedded below.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ball Must NOT Be Played As It Lies

                Sergio’s amazing shot from the tree got me thinking about playing the ball as it lies.  It is a general principle of the Rules of Golf, in fact it is THE guiding principle behind the Rules of Golf.  But there are actually many instances under the Rules where a player would be penalized for playing the ball as it lies at the spot it comes to rest.  There are three categories these situations can fall under: 1) the ball has come to rest in an area from which play is prohibited, 2) the ball has come to rest in or on an object from which the Rules require relief, or 3) the Rules require the stroke to be canceled and replayed from the previous spot. 

Areas From Which Play is Prohibited

Rule 25-3: Wrong Putting Green
                When your ball comes to rest on a putting green that is not the putting green of the hole being played, it is a wrong putting green.  This includes any practice putting or chipping green that may be on the course.  Only when a ball is on the wrong putting green does a player have interference.  But when a player does have interference, he does not have an option.  The player must take relief by finding the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or on a putting green.
                In fact, Rule 25-3b explicitly states, “If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies.”  If the player makes a stroke at a ball lying on a wrong putting green, he has breached Rule 25-3 and would incur a penalty of 2 strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.  And there we have our first exception to Rule 13-1.

Rule 27-1: Ball Lying Out of Bounds
                How many times have you wanted to just take a swing at that ball lying a mere inches beyond the boundary of those pesky little white stakes?  The definition of ball in play tells us that a ball lying out of bounds is not our ball in play and that under Rule 27-1 if our ball is out of bounds we must proceed under stroke and distance.  The definition of wrong ball tells us that any ball other than a player’s ball in play, provisional ball or second ball played under Rule 3-3 or 20-c is a wrong ball.  So Decision 15/6 sums that information up nicely, if a player makes a stroke at a ball lying out of bounds he has made a stroke at a wrong ball and would incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, loss of hole in match play, and in stroke play would be required to correct the mistake by correctly proceeding under stroke and distance under Rule 27-1. So if your ball is out of bounds, you must not play it as it lies.

App. I-B-2: Environmentally-Sensitive Areas
                The definitions of Water Hazard and Lateral Water Hazard tell us in a Note that the Committee is permitted to make a local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a water hazard or lateral water hazard.  At Appendix I-B-2b we can read the entirety of possibilities for environmentally-sensitive areas. 
                ESA’s can be water hazards, lateral water hazards, ground under repair or out of bounds.  In all of these cases, if the player’s ball comes to rest in these areas the player must not play the ball as it lies.  What is more interesting about the ESA local Rule, is that the player is also prohibited from playing the ball as it lies if the ball lies outside the ESA and something within the ESA interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing.  Potentially, a ball could be lying through the green in the fairway, and a bush from within an ESA marked as ground under repair could be interfering with your swing.  The player is required to take relief from the bush even though the ball lies through the green.  The player must not play the ball as it lies and would incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play for doing so.  Furthermore, in stroke play the breach could be considered a serious one and the player may be subject to disqualification.
                One thing to remember with ESA’s, the Committee may not declare an area to be an ESA, it must be declared as such by an authorized agency (general a Government Agency).

App. I-B-2: Ground Under Repair-Mandatory Relief
                If you have seen that statement on a local Rules sheet, then you have heard of another instance in which the player must not play his ball as it lies.  At Appendix I-B-2a we have a specimen local Rule the Committee may use to prohibit play from a specific area of ground under repair.  Typically we see this with flower beds or newly-sodded areas.  In situations where it would be beneficial for the course to not have players playing out of this area, the Committee should declare the area ground under repair from which play is prohibited.  If the player plays his ball as it lies, he would again incur the general penalty.

App. I-B-3: Protection of Young Trees
                In yet another approved local Rule involving the protection of an area, Appendix I-B-3 gives us a local Rule for the Protection of Young Trees.  The Committee may identify specific young trees that need to be protected and if the player has interference from the tree with either, his stance or area of intended swing, the ball must not be played as it lies.  If you have interference from the tree you must not play the ball as it lies or you will incur the general penalty.  The Exception to the local Rule, also provides an exception to this instance:  If interference by anything other than the tree makes the stroke clearly impracticable the player may not take relief under the local Rule.  This means that if the Committee determines that something else is making the stroke impracticable, the player must either declare the ball unplayable or take a swipe at it.  You wouldn’t incur the general penalty for trying in that circumstance.

Ball Comes to Rest In or On an Object From Which the Rules Require Relief

Rule 19-1a: Ball In Motion Stopped or Deflected by Outside Agency
                Under Rule 19-1a, if your ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on an animate or moving outside agency the ball must not be played as it lies.  The player is required to drop the ball as near as possible to the spot directly underneath the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, not nearer the hole.  A player who plays the ball as it lies in this case would incur the general penalty for a breach of 19-1a.

Rule 19-2 and 19-3: Ball In Motion Stopped or Deflected Comes to Rest on Clothes or Equipment
                If a ball in motion stopped or deflected comes to rest in or on the player’s clothes, the clothes of his caddie, the player’s equipment, the same of his partner, or the same of his opponent, the player will not be permitted to play the ball as it lies (although I’m sure many of you would love to take a swing at a ball lying in your opponent’s shirt pocket). 
Rule 19-3 will give the player the option to cancel a replay the ball, or if he likes the location and it has come to rest in or on the opponent’s or his caddie’s clothes or equipment he must drop through the green or in a hazard drop the ball, or on the putting green place the ball on the spot directly underneath where the ball came to rest on the clothes or equipment.  Failure to do so would result in the general penalty for a breach of 19-3.
Rule 19-2 does not give the player an option.  If the ball comes to rest in or on the player’s, his partner’s or his caddie’s clothes or equipment, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed directly underneath the spot where the ball came to rest on the clothes or equipment.  Again, a failure to do so would result in the general penalty for a breach of 19-2.

Rules Require the Stroke to be Canceled and Replayed from the Previous Spot

Rule 19-1b: Ball Deflected or Stopped by Animate Outside Agency on Putting Green
               Under Rule 19-1b, if a player’s ball in motion is stopped or deflected by an animate or moving outside agency (except worms, insects or the like) after a stroke made from the putting green, the player must cancel the stroke, replace the ball and replay it.  If the player plays the ball as it lies he would incur the general penalty for a breach of 19-1b.
                Under the Note to 19-1, if the ball was deliberately stopped or deflected we have a few more scenarios in which the player is not going to play the ball from where it came to rest.

Rule 19-5b: Ball In Motion Strikes Another Ball In Motion After a Stroke from the Putting Green

                If a player’s ball in motion is stopped or deflected by another ball in motion after a stroke from the putting green, the stroke is canceled and the ball must be replaced so the stroke can be replayed.  A player who fails to do so by playing the ball as it lies would incur the general penalty for a breach of Rule 19-5b.

Rule 17-2: Ball Strikes the Flagstick or Unauthorized Attendee After Stroke from Putting Green
                If a fellow-competitor or opponent (or their caddies) has attended the flagstick without the player’s authority there is already going to be a problem.  The unauthorized attendee will incur the general penalty.  However, if the player was making a stroke from the putting green and the ball subsequently strikes the flagstick, the unauthorized attendee or anything carried by him, the stroke is canceled and the ball must be replaced and replayed.  If the player does not do so he would incur the general penalty for a breach of 17-2.

Rule 5-3: Ball Breaks Into Pieces
                If after a stroke a ball is broken into pieces as a result of a stroke, the stroke is canceled and the player must not try to play a piece of his broken ball.  The player must play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.

Decision 33-8/13:  Ball Deflected by Power Line
                Decision 33-8/13 allows the Committee to make a local Rule requiring the player to cancel and replay a stroke that strikes a power line.  The Committee can even include the supporting poles and towers that would require canceling the stroke if struck.  If the player were to play the ball as it lies after striking an overhead power line when this local Rule is in effect, he would incur the general penalty for a breach of the local Rule.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sergio Garcia climbs a tree to hit one-handed second shot

In case you missed it...

Sergio Garcia clearly has the main principle of the Rules of Golf down cold...Play the Ball As It Lies.  The main phrase from Rule 13-1 (and recently highlighted again in an article below about Phil Mickelson's Barclays commercial) most definitely came into play yesterday as Sergio scaled a fairly large tree to get at his ball lodged in the center of it.  I won't spoil the surprise of the stroke, but unfortunately his return journey to the ground and climbing took a toll on the Spaniard as he later withdrew citing left shoulder and Achilles pain.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Dad's One-Time Caddie Service

            I was at Spanish Bay working on my short game and I started talking to a father-son pair that had come to practice after their round.   They are on a trip of a lifetime, playing Pebble Beach tomorrow and I commented how nice it is that they can go on the trip together and enjoy golfing at that very special place.
            My father, while not the only parent responsible for my golf game and commitment to the game, was the first to bring me out to the course and instill a love for the game.  He died in a plane crash 7 years ago today. 
            We managed to play many special places together, including Pinehurst and PGA West.  There are many special memories I’ll have forever from those trips and many others, but there is really only one major Rules memory I’ll always carry.
            At U.S. Amateur qualifying in Arizona in 2002, the rare condition allowing caddies to use carts was in effect because the golf course was a brutal desert course that would have been nearly impossible to require caddies to walk.  This was the one time I had him as my caddie and through no fault of his, it was not the best of days.
            I started on the back nine and turned in many over par.  By the time we came to the par-3 6th hole (my 15th), my only goal was to avoid embarrassing myself any further.  The 6th hole was a downhill par-3 with a carry over some nasty desert. My ball had journeyed through the desert on the previous hole and I decided to put another ball into play and my dad tossed me another ball from my bag.
            When we arrived at the green it took a minute but we found my ball, which had embedded in the rough just short of the green.  Being an USGA qualifying tournament, the “One Ball Rule” was in effect, as well as the embedded ball through the green condition.  I lifted my ball from its pitch-mark and realized that I had not played the same kind of ball that I had been using.
            At that point in time, the Pro-V1 had just come out but the Professional 100 was still a prominent and effective golf ball.  I had just switched and was using Pro-V1’s with black numbers from the start of the round.  I did not realize, that I still had black numbered Professional 100’s in my bag.  When my dad had tossed me another golf ball, I had failed to notice the difference and had breached the “One Ball Rule.”  I consulted a Rules Official, half hoping to be disqualified at that point, at least I wouldn’t have to post the monster number that was about to be next to my name.  He gave me the correct ruling, I incurred a two-stroke penalty and was required to play the correct ball, either by replacing the correct type of ball immediately or prior to making a stroke from the next teeing ground.  I chipped onto the green and holed out for what became a 5. 
            The best thing about that round that I remember is after the double bogey I needed to par the last three holes to break 90.  And I did.  Despite the poor play it was a nice day on the golf course with my dad. 
The Arizona Golf Association did have mercy on me, as there was an 18-hole cut, so I didn’t need to suffer through a second round… 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

MGA Rules Quiz Answers Are Here

            The answers to the MGA Rules Quiz are now available at the MGA’s website.  Ryan Gregg and myself made our guesses following the arrival of this year’s quiz, and I am dismayed to see that we have 4 answers different.

To see the complete answer and reference list Click Here

            Of those, however, I am thoroughly convinced I have a good argument against two of the MGA answers.  One great thing about this Rules quiz is that there are usually several questions that have no official answer yet.  I am going to review the four questions and answers here:

MGA Answer
Our Answer

Question 7

Competitor A swings and misses his tee shot.  He tees the ball lower, takes another swing and drives the ball down the fairway.  His fellow-competitor B then swings and misses his tee shot.  He decides he doesn’t want to use a tee and drops the ball where the tee had been and steps on the turf behind the ball to remove irregularities of surface.  Competitor B then drives the ball down the fairway.  What do competitors A and B now lie?
a.              A lies 2 and B lies 2
b.              A lies 3 and B lies 2
c.               A lies 3 and B lies 3
d.              A lies 3 and B lies 4

We answered C.  The correct answer according to the MGA is B.  We answered C based on Decision 18-2a/1, which applies the stroke and distance penalty to the player A situation.  We determined that player B basically did the same thing.  Here the catch is that the tee is a movable obstruction. 

Under Rule 24-1b if the ball lies in or on the obstruction the player may remove the obstruction and drop it as near as possible to the spot beneath the spot where the ball lay on the obstruction.  Decision 25-2/8 specifically discusses relief situations on the teeing ground. Touché MGA.

Question 10

A player’s tee shot on a 200-yard par-3 comes to rest in a greenside bunker.  He decides his ball is unplayable and takes relief by dropping a ball behind the point where the ball lay keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped but the point is outside the bunker.  He addresses the ball and the ball moves.  He replaces the ball, plays to the green and holes the putt.  Before he leaves the green he is informed that he was supposed to have dropped in the bunker and fearing he may have committed a serious breach of playing from a wrong place he drops a ball inside the bunker in accordance with 28b. He plays the ball onto the green and holes the putt.  The player reports the facts to the Committee.  The Committee should rule the player has scored:
a.              4
b.              5
c.               6
d.              7

We answered C.  The player made 3 actual strokes.  He also had 1 penalty stroke for the ball unplayable and 2 for playing from a wrong place.  Note 2 to Rule 20-7c states that strokes made with the ball ruled not to count and any penalty strokes incurred solely by playing that ball are disregarded.  We did not give him a penalty stroke under 18-2b for that reason.  The MGA answer is D.

The argument here is about that penalty stroke under 18-2b.  Even though the movement of the ball preceded the playing from the wrong place, I believe that penalty stroke was incurred solely by playing the ball ruled not to count.  Clearly, the MGA is ruling that the timing matters and that the 18-2b penalty should stick.  Decision 20-7c/5 specifically states 18-2a as one of the kinds of penalties that are disregarded under Note 2 to 20-7c, meaning 18-2b is also one of those kinds of penalties.  I think it is a stretch here to stick the player with the additional one stroke.

Question 14

While entering the bunker to play his ball, a player inadvertently kicks a stick lying in the bunker and the stick strikes his ball moving it several inches. The player plays the ball from its new position.  The player has incurred a:
a.              One stroke penalty
b.              Two stroke penalty
c.               Three stroke penalty
d.              Four stroke penalty

We answered D, giving the player two penalty strokes for moving the loose impediment in a hazard when his ball lies in the same hazard and an additional two penalty strokes for failing to replace the moved ball.  The correct MGA answer is B.  What we missed were Decisions 13-4/13 and 13-4/13.5 which specifically allow the player to accidentally move loose impediments in a hazard when approaching the ball so long as the movement doesn’t affect the lie with respect to 13-2. The player is only penalized two strokes for failing to replace the moved ball.  Touché MGA.

Question 25

Competitor is unaware the ball is in a water hazard.  He addresses the ball and a gust of wind causes his ball to move.  The player picks up the ball and places it in its original position.   He then learns that his ball lies in a water hazard and he proceeds to take relief under Rule 26.   The player has incurred:
a.              1 penalty stroke
b.              2 penalty strokes
c.               3 penalty strokes
d.              4 penalty strokes

We answered D.  You are not able to address the ball in a hazard without incurring the general penalty under Rule 13-4 (see 18-2b/2).  So that is 2 strokes.  He takes relief from the water hazard.  That is 3 strokes.  The MGA’s answer is C.  The final stroke and debate surrounds the ball at rest.  When the gust of wind caused the ball to move, it should have been played from where it came to rest.  Despite the fact that a player may not address the ball without penalty in a hazard, because he did address the ball 18-2b applied.  Because a gust of wind caused the ball to move, the Exception to 18-2b applied. 

When the player lifted his ball in play, he was not aware he was in a hazard and would be taking relief.  Therefore he incurred a 1 stroke penalty under 18-2a.  When he subsequently learned he was in a water hazard he was not required to replace the ball but could proceed under Rule 26.  The stroke for moving his ball at rest does not go away.  That, is 4 strokes.  See Decision 12-1/5 for a situation where a ball at rest in a hazard is moved and the player subsequently takes relief under Rule 26.  The player incurs the one stroke for the initial movement.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Caddie Trouble

            Just when I thought there was a slight Rules lull, we have another phoned-in viewer notification that results in a two-stroke penalty. 
            The ruling that eventually went against Stacy Lewis at the 3rd round of the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup in Arizona certainly had some controversy.  After the initial viewings I strongly believed the LPGA had it wrong.  At first, I thought they had it wrong because I didn’t see the action, then I wasn’t sure they dug far enough into the Rule.  Unfortunately, for Stacy, they did get it right.
            On the 16th hole, Lewis found herself in the fairway bunker.  While trying to figure out her play, her caddie walked into the bunker as well.  At a point in the conversation where they were discussing the depth of the sand, her caddie could be seen twisting his foot ever so slightly as if to test that depth.  It seemed innocent enough, but 13-4 does not permit the player, and by extension the caddie, to test the surface of the hazard in this manner.
            I initially found fault with the ruling because if you read Decision 13-4/0.5, it specifically permits the player to dig in slightly with her feet in preparation for a stroke or practice swing.  It even permits the player to do so (and by extension the caddie) anywhere in the bunker. But before I get to the catch, I’m going to sidetrack to a ruling at last year’s Stanford U.S. Intercollegiate.
            During the final round, the USC coach came in to me for a ruling regarding an Oregon player.  We had heavy rains the day before and many bunkers had muddy and sandy areas.  The player in question took a stance for a practice swing very close to the golf ball because it was the only area with a similar condition to where the golf ball lay rather than where he would normally take his stance.  He dug in slightly and the USC coach was calling this into question.  The player even stated he took the stance where he did to test the condition of the hazard.  This seemed damning enough.  However, 13-4/0.5 specifically permits this action anywhere in a hazard.  So long as he didn’t improve his lie with respect to 13-2, there was no breach.  We confirmed this with the USGA.  They confirmed that the provisions of 13-4/0.5 override the fact that he used the phrase “testing the condition” specifically because this form of testing was explicitly permitted.
            It was with that ruling in mind that I initially had trouble wrapping my fingers around this one.  I give credit to a colleague who made sure to point out the difference:  he wasn’t taking a stance or mimicking a stance preparatory for a stroke.  He was just wiggling his toe around in the sand.  It is this key difference that makes the action a breach of Rule 13-4a.  Had he taken a stance and wiggled around as you normally would for a bunker shot, there is nowhere in the Rules that I find a penalty.
            You have to wonder, if Stacy had not made a comment about the depth of the sand would he have dug his toe in?  It seemed pretty reactionary.  Just a bit of bad timing.  

You can also read the USGA Manager of Rules Commmunications John Van der Borght's article on the incident here.

A Lesson in Rule 28 - Imperfect 10 John Daly makes sextuple-bogey in Tampa | Golf Channel

Imperfect 10 John Daly makes sextuple-bogey in Tampa | Golf Channel

            John Daly’s sextuple-bogey on the third hole of the Tampa Bay Championship yesterday is the perfect opportunity to talk about Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.  In the article above the score is described as including two unplayable ball penalties, and a bunch of other strokes.  John’s biggest mistake, it appears, was his attempt to advance the ball in the first place. 
            Rules 28 affords the player three options under penalty of one stroke if they decide to declare the ball unplayable:
  1. Play a ball as near as possible from the previous spot (i.e., proceed under stroke and distance); or
  2. Drop a ball keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and spot on which the ball is dropped with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or
  3. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

When John Daly attempted to advance the ball from the difficult position after his tee shot, he lost the ability to effectively use option 1.  The previous spot was only 5 inches away.  He was no longer permitted to go back to the tee.  He then proceeded under 28c (option 3) and dropped the ball two club-lengths from where it lay. 
            Now at this point, it made sense for him to try and advance the ball.  Unlike Rule 26 (Water Hazards), which has a “regression” rule (26-2), there are two potential situations that are considered regression under Rule 28:

  1.  If the dropped ball rolls into the position from which it was declared unplayable, or into another unplayable position, you do not re-drop.  The only option is to again take an unplayable, or attempt to advance the ball. (See Decision 28/3).
  2.  If the only option is for a player to take a series of unplayable penalties in order to extricate himself from the area, he must do so (See Decision 28/5). 

So once Daly made a stroke at the ball lying poorly, his only real option was to successively take unplayable penalties and attempt to advance the ball, because nothing in the Rules permitted him to get out of that area (presuming 28b/option 2 at the top was infeasible).  In Daly’s case, it took him two unplayable penalties and three strokes to advance it to a position where he could successfully advance the ball near the green.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Man Survives Sinkhole Scare on Illinois Course | Golf Channel

Man Survives Sinkhole Scare on Illinois Course | Golf Channel

            Now that we’ve all heard this amazing story, I want to cover a bit of the obvious:  What do we do if we’re playing the round and our ball – rather than ourselves – fall into the sinkhole?  Assuming the same kind of muddy floor and 10-20 foot drop, it is highly likely that the ball would be lost inside that sinkhole.  Fortunately, there’s a Rule for that.
            First, the crazy part is that the sinkhole, in and of itself, does not have a place in the Rule book.  The sinkhole does not meet the definition of abnormal ground condition or the more specific definition of ground under repair as stated in the Rules of Golf.  It is safe to assume, however, that the Committee would deem the sinkhole and the immediate surrounding area to be ground under repair.  Anytime our ball becomes lost in ground under repair, we must turn to Rule 25-1c.
            Rule 25-1c permits the player to take relief from an abnormal ground condition (which includes ground under repair) when it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is lost in the condition.  The player may (this is an important ‘may’) take relief following the procedure outlined in Rule 25-1b, except for one thing – we need to give the ball a place on the golf course.  For the purpose of applying the Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at the spot where it last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition.  While proceeding under this Rule it may even be helpful to position a ball or tee at that spot for reference when determining your nearest point of relief.
  •   If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the condition through the green, the player may drop a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. 
  • If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the condition in a bunker, the player may drop a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief in the bunker, or under penalty of one stroke, the player may drop outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped. (If complete relief in the bunker is impossible see Rule 25-1b regarding 'maximum available relief'). 
  • If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the condition in a water hazard the player is not entitled to relief without penalty and must proceed under Rule 26-1 (Relief for Ball in Water Hazard). 
  • If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the condition at a spot on the putting green the player may place a ball on the nearest point of relief.
Now I said the ‘may’ is extremely important because the player does have another option.  The player may, under penalty of stroke and distance, put another ball into play as close as possible at the spot where the previous stroke was made.  So if the relief options aren’t so pleasant, the best option may be to take the one-stroke penalty and play again from the previous spot and avoid that condition as best as your game allows.
            Remember though, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the condition in order to apply Rule 25-1c.  If the ball may be lost outside the condition, and it isn’t find within 5 minutes of beginning to search for it, the ball is lost and you must proceed under stroke and distance.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Live from Seattle: Rules School Wrap-Up

            Well, another year’s Rules School is over and done.  The Road to 100 has ended for 2013, a measly 2 questions shy of the perfect score.  I can’t reveal the two questions I missed (except that they were numbers 40 and 74) until after the USGA is done giving tests for the year, but I can tell you they were simple mistakes – brain farts if you will.  All in all, I feel good leaving Rules School this year, with a new appreciation for the principles behind the Rules, and the growth of my own knowledge. 
            I need to make several thanks on this trip.  First and foremost to the instructors and coordinator of the seminar:
  •  John Van der Borght from the USGA.  He is very much a big part of how I got into this side of the industry and taught me a lot before he left the NCGA for the USGA.  His instruction and knowledge has grown even more while he’s been at the USGA and that is apparent (that’s saying something about someone I witnessed take the entire test closed book and score 100).  Thanks, I know we’ll be talking just as soon as we start second guessing ourselves.
  •  David Price from the PGA.  David is an extremely experienced instructor and just resigned as Chair of the PGA Rules Committee.  He sits on the Joint Rules Committee that we’ve been hearing so much about.  His stories from past championships have made both workshops I’ve attended that much more interesting.  Thank you, I hope we’ll cross paths again soon.
  •  Chuck West from the PGA.  I haven’t had him as an instructor but he was fine coordinator and fun to talk to.  Thanks Chuck.
  • Southwest Airlines.  Thanks for not charging me for checking my golf clubs as oversized baggage.  That saved me $150.  Every bit helps and I managed to get in 18 at 2015 US Open site Chambers Bay because of it.

For all 3 or so of you (I hope there were more) that followed along, there were some important, albeit well-known lessons.  Know the definitions.  I wouldn’t have done nearly as well if I was struggling with the definitions.  Always remember, “What does the Rule say?”  I wrote that on my answer sheet prior to starting as a reminder to remember what the Rule says.  I forgot twice, but remembered 98 other times.
            Since there isn’t much pertinent Rules information to report, I’ll end this and keep it brief.  Catch everyone next time around and don’t forget to vote on the bifrucation survey on the right hand side of the blog!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

There's a Tiger in the Tree!

            When Tiger’s ball ended in a tree on the 17th hole he had a Rules problem.  Here is the proper explanation:

            When Tiger’s ball ended in the tree, if he could not identify it himself he had only one option – return to the tee under penalty of stroke and distance under Rule 27-1.  By definition if the ball is not identified as his within 5 minutes, the original ball is lost and he must proceed under Rule 27-1.  (Note also, under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable – he is not required to identify the ball if he proceeds under Rule 28a, which is proceeding under stroke and distance). 
            If he could identify the ball as his, he would be permitted to drop the ball under Rule 28c using the point on the ground directly beneath where the ball lay in the tree as the reference point for taking relief (see Decision 28/11).
            Tiger used binoculars to identify the golf ball, which is permissible even if he didn’t retrieve the golf ball (see Decision 27/14).  Because he identified the ball he was entitled to declare the ball unplayable and proceed under Rule 28c, dropping a ball within two club-lengths of the spot on the ground directly underneath the ball in the tree under penalty of one stroke. He made bogey on 17, but ended the day with a four-stroke lead going into the final round.

Live from Seattle: Rules School Day 3

            The brain is a little fried and I’ll be taking the review fairly easy tonight.  While cramming has worked for me in the past throughout high school and college, I’ve been constantly looking at the Rules more in depth than I ever have for the past year and if I’m not ready for the exam by now, I never will be.  I’ll review some definitions and a few exceptions to make sure they stick.  Perhaps the 0.5 Decisions as well as those can be key, but I will get to sleep early and trust that I remember what the Rule says.
            One major premise I learned today, that actually required a revamp of my thinking, is worth review.

Rule 6-7

            Rule 6-7 has two notes appended to the end of the Rule.  The second allows the Committee to modify the penalties for a breach of Rule 6-7.  Popular pace of play policies, including those used by the USGA in their own competitions, had appeared to be in conflict with those approved modifications.  Today I asked why and how.
            The conflict is exemplified by the USGA’s Four-Checkpoint Pace of Play Policy (see Pace of Play page), which sets a Warning for the first offense.  Note 2 to 6-7 states that the Committee may modify the penalty to one stroke for the first offense (in stroke play) and loss of hole in match play.  This didn’t make sense to me.
            The explanation makes sense and makes it perfectly clear:  The modifications that the note permits apply to actual penalties being given to the player.  The Committee is permitted to create guidelines that give some leeway (ie a warning), but the Committee must adhere to Rule 6-7 and Note 2 once they start handing out penalties for breaches.  In other words, the Committee could otherwise two warnings if it so wished, but once the first penalty is given, it must adhere to the parameters set forth in the Rule.

            So, tomorrow morning is the test and my Road to 100 comes to an end.  Hopefully it ends successfully.  The perfect score is ultimately the goal, but even the best Rules minds in the country miss a question or two on the exam.  My only disappointment will be if I fail to improve upon my previous scores. Remember folks, “What does the Rule say?”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Live from Seattle: Rules School Day 2

            Day 2 is complete at Rules School here in Seattle and it was a doozey of a day.  Starting with Rule 20, we also made it through Rules 15 and 21-28.  There were a couple important thoughts that I would like to share about the principles of the Rules and also my one shining moment (I’ve now met my quota for the year):

“You’re Stuck with What You Got Right”

            Whether it’s his quote or not, I give John Van Der Borght credit for the phrase, “You’re stuck with what you got right.”  The discussion was about changing relief options when re-dropping. 
            To simplify so all Rules followers can follow - beginners and advanced alike - we re-drop under several different Rules.  
  • Rule 20-2a requires a player to re-drop when a dropped ball strikes any person or equipment of any player before or after it strikes a part of the course.  
  • Rule 20-2c gives us one of our “Lists of 7”, or seven situations where a dropped ball must be re-dropped without penalty.  
  • And then there’s Rule 20-6, or the “Eraser Rule” allows us to correct an improper/incorrect drop without penalty.

            Under Rules 20-2a and 20-2c, when re-dropping we are not permitted to change relief options.  For example, if I am proceeding under 26-1c for relief from a lateral water hazard and the ball rolls back into the hazard, I cannot then decide to proceed under 26-1b.  I dropped the ball correctly under 26-1c and I am required to continue proceeding under 26-1c.
            If, however, I attempt to proceed under Rule 26-1c and drop the ball three club-lengths from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, when I am correcting the mistake under Rule 20-6, I could then decide to proceed under 26-1b, ie change my relief option.  I could not, however, then decide to play the ball as it lies (without being penalized for moving my ball at rest).  It was correct for me to proceed under Rule 26 and I am bound to Rule 26.  Since I didn’t get the 26-1c part correct, I am not bound to that option.
            Simplifying the ability to change relief options to the statement, “you’re stuck with what you got right,” helps clarify (at least for me) when I am allowed to change.

Playing a Wrong Ball Moving in Water in a Water Hazard

            Several years back the Rule was changed so that you could play a wrong ball out of a hazard.  An important exception remained under Rule 15-3a and 15-3b that there is no penalty for playing a wrong ball moving in water in a water hazard.  I hadn’t given it too much thought, but couldn’t figure out why.
            The answer is simple.  Rule 14-6 allows a player to play a ball moving in water in a water hazard, but with the stipulation that the player must not delay in doing so in order to allow the wind or current to improve the position of the ball. 
            Because a player must play the ball moving in water without delay, this would prevent a player from identifying their ball, which would normally be permitted under Rule 12-2 were the ball lying anywhere else on the course.  Since the Rules don’t give the player the opportunity to identify the ball in this situation it would be unfair to penalize the player for then playing a wrong ball.  How could the player possibly know it was a wrong ball?  This little tidbit gave me a stronger realization of the principles behind the Rules and why we have the Rules as they are.

My Shining Moment

            Consider the following question given after Rule 24:

A players ball lies on top of a discarded score card such that the ball is not touching anything but the score card.  She reaches down and lifts the score card which causes the ball to move and roll a few inches away.  She places a tee in the ground approximately at the spot underneath where the ball originally lay on the score card then lifts and drops the ball as near as possible to that spot not nearer the hole.  The ball hits the ground and rolls a few inches farther from the hole.  The ruling is the player:

a.              Incurs no penalty and must play the ball as it lies
b.              Must correct the error of dropping the ball by lifting and placing it at the spot marked by the tee without penalty.
c.               Incurs one penalty stroke for removing the obstruction before lifting the ball but otherwise has proceeded correctly.
d.              Incurs one penalty stroke and must correct the error of dropping the ball by lifting and placing it at the spot marked by the tee.

Has anyone caught it yet?

Rule 24-1b states, “If the ball lies in or on the obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed.  The ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay in or on the obstruction but not nearer the hole.”

How about now?

The Rule states that the ball MAY be lifted and the obstruction removed.  There is no requirement that the ball be lifted first, and under Rule 18-2a, there is no penalty if the ball is moved as the result of moving a movable obstruction. Answers C and D are out.  If the ball lies through the green or in a hazard, the player has proceeded correctly and the answer is A (the intended answer).  If the ball lies on the putting green, the player has dropped when she should have placed and must correct the error under 20-6 by placing the ball at the correct spot.  So if the ball on the score card was on the putting green the correct answer is B.  The question does not tell us where the ball and score card lay and therefore the question has two correct answers depending on where the ball lay.
Yesterday I made the mistake of not reading a Rule correctly and missed the question.  This time I read the Rule and realized the problem with the question and pointed it out.  There’s my one shining moment and good catch for the year…