Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kolon Korean Open Breach


     Here is Geoff Shackleford's article regarding the Rules situation at the end of the Kolon Korean Open:  http://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2013/10/20/tv-rules-rumpus-in-korea-leader-zapped-two-shots.html

    Based on reading the comments below the article, some from recognized officials and others from disgruntled fans, I want to explain as best as I can.

    Rule 13-4 governs what players can and cannot do when their ball lies in a hazard.  One Rule that most golfers remember is officially 13-4b: a player may not touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club.  If that was the real video footage, it seems fairly clear that he touched the ground in the hazard.  The penalty for doing so is two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.  The Rules Committee voted 5-3 to assess the penalty.  Why was there doubt?

     First, who has an even number of members on a Rules Committee?  If they'd voted 4-4 how would you break the tie?  Always have your Rules Committee be an odd number...
     Second, and more importantly, the reason there was some doubt lies in the Note to Rule 13-4: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.

    What that means, is the simple brushing of the grass, with practice swing or otherwise, does not constitute a breach of the Rules if it doesn't improve your lie, stance or area of intended swing.  So the question is when did the player ground his club, thereby breaching Rule 13-4?  If the video footage in Shackelford's article is correct, there seems to be two moments where the club was grounded.  The Decisions book even gives us clarity as to what defines grounding the club in Decision 13-4/8:

Q.  If a player's ball lies in a water hazard, when is his club in tall grass considered to be touching the ground in the water hazard in breach of Rule 13-4?
A.  When the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (i.e., when the club is grounded).

In the last moment of the .gif video on Shackleford's page it appears the player did have his club resting on the grass to a point that would be considered grounded.

    And for the record, if you're taking practice swings in a hazard and brushing grass, you are walking a very fine line between Rules 13-2 and 13-4 so I'd be very careful... You can certainly do so without breaching the Rules, but it wouldn't take much for that to change.

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