Thursday, March 7, 2013

Live From Seattle: Rules School Day 1


            Today was the start of my 5th USGA/PGA Rules Workshop.  This year was slightly different for me, because it is the first seminar I’ve been to since I’ve officially started teaching multi-day seminars.  I really tried to pay attention to teaching styles and other particulars that would help me with my own presentation, more so than keying in on the Rules themselves.  I spend most of my days doing that as it is.
            There were some things that stood out that I would like to share, including one group question that I managed to get wrong at first, until someone pointed out the exact wording of the Rule.

The Great Explaining Principle

            This struck me as the perfect answer to a Rules debate I got into the other day.  A colleague I was playing with started to debate about the legitimacy of the Out of Bounds Rule and the stroke-and-distance penalty in general.  I gave my best defense and left him to his own opinion safe in my own knowledge that this Rule isn’t changing any time soon.  Today I was reminded of the general principle that guides this Rule and others that many think may be unfair (paraphrased):

            A penalty must not be less than the potential advantage a player could derive, and must be enough to discourage a player from seeking or receiving such an advantage.

            I think this principle goes a long way in explaining the Carl Pettersson ruling.  Many called it unfair, that a tiny leaf moving could not possibly have given him any advantage.  The Rule is written, however, for the potential advantage he could have gained by moving loose impediments in a hazard.  What if several leaves were behind his ball and in his backswing he swept them away, removing all interference of the leaves between the clubface and the ball for the stroke?  That is a serious advantage. A serious advantage that he could potentially have gained by the removal of that one leaf.  It looks harmless to the casual observer, but with this principle in mind, it makes perfect sense.  When debating whether a Rule seems fair or unfair, try to determine the potential advantage that could be gained by a breach and you may find why the penalty is what it is.

Rules 2020

            For everyone who is becoming well versed in the current organization of the Rules - brace yourself.  The USGA and R & A are looking into a total revamp (much like the revamp that gave us the 34 Rules we know today) that will go into effect in 2020.  The good news is that the revamp is geared toward consolidating and simplifying the Rules. The bad news is that we’re going to have to memorize a whole new order of Rules.

The Trick that Wasn’t a Trick

In a stroke play competition, Player A inadvertently played from outside the teeing ground on the 11th hole.  After making his second stroke, he realized his error and returned to the tee to correct his mistake, but he again played from outside the teeing ground.  What total penalty does A incur for playing from outside the teeing ground?

a.              Two penalty strokes and he must put a ball into play from within the teeing ground.  All strokes made from outside the teeing ground prior to correcting the mistake do not count in his score.
b.              Two penalty strokes and he must put a ball into play from within the teeing ground.  All strokes made from outside the teeing ground are counted in his score.
c.               Four penalty strokes and he must put a ball into play from within the teeing ground.  All strokes made from outside the teeing ground prior to correcting the mistake do not count in his score.
d.              Four penalty strokes and he must continue play with the second ball.  All strokes made from outside the teeing ground are counted in his score.

I didn’t reread the Rule even immediately following that section of the Workshop and immediately selected C.  I thought there were clearly two breaches and he still had not put a ball into play.  What I did remember correctly is that a ball played from outside the teeing ground when attempting to correct the mistake [of playing outside the teeing ground] is not a ball in play.  I did not recall, despite it being clearly written in the answer, that ALL strokes made prior to the correction of the mistake [of playing from outside the teeing ground] do not count in a player’s score.  This includes penalty strokes or strokes played from outside the teeing ground.  The player just needs to get it right, and once he does he will have incurred a two-stroke penalty for the initial breach of 11-4 (or 11-5) and the one stroke for finally putting a ball into play.  So the correct answer is A. 
            When thinking about the Rules and making a ruling or answering a Rules question always remember, as Lew Blakey says, “What does the Rule say?”

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