Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wall Lining the 17th at the International Crown

            On the 17th hole yesterday at the International Crown at Caves Valley in my birth town of Owings Mills, MD (Go O's!), twice (on television coverage) a ball came to rest on the rock wall lining the water hazard guarding the green.  For those who want to know what to do when your ball ends up in this spot, read on.
            First, it should also be noted that a television cable had been run along the wall directly next to the cut of grass and in the first instance was next to the player's ball. 
            The television cable is a movable obstruction.  Movable obstructions are one of the very few things you get relief for even when your ball lies in a water hazard.*  In this case, the player should be allowed to remove the cable, and if the ball moved as a result, she would have to replace the ball at the original spot without penalty. (Thanks to MJ for telling me this is exactly what occurred).
            Well how about playing the ball of the wall?  Stacy Lewis chipped from off the wall in an attempt to help Paula Creamer and herself square the match.  Obviously she was permitted to do so, and she was permitted to ground her club on the rock wall as well.
            I’ll cover two scenarios since I don’t have the International Crown local rules:
The rock wall is an immovable obstruction inside a water hazard.  The Note to Rule 13-4 permits a player to touch an obstruction in a hazard with a club or otherwise even when their ball lies in the same hazard.  Because of the note, the obstruction is not considered “ground” in the hazard.  (See Decision 13-4/30 regarding bridges over water hazards). 
It is also possible that the LPGA declared that wall to be an “integral part of the course” because they did not want to give relief for interference by the wall for a ball lying barely outside the hazard.  Even if the LPGA had declared the wall an integral part of the course, Lewis was still permitted to touch the wall with her club or otherwise, because that same Note to Rule 13-4 permits touching integral parts of the course as well.
So if your ball comes to rest on one of these types of walls, go ahead and play it if you can, just be careful you don’t fall backwards!

*For those wondering what other things you get relief for when your ball lies in a water hazard, see the Local Rules in Appendix I for “Protection of Young Trees” and “Temporary Immovable Obstructions.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sun-Ju Ahn and Rule 13-3

            On the 18th hole of her third round in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, Sun-Ju Ahn had a very awkward lie in the greenside bunker.  In order to gain better footing, she slid sand down the side of the bunker to help gain a foothold on the side-slope of the bunker.
            Under Rule 13-3 a player is entitled to take her stance firmly, but must not build a stance.  For those of us who have attended one or numerous Rules seminars, Ahn’s action is a classic example of a breach of Rule 13-3.  A player is entitled to dig into the sand as described in Decision 13-4/0.5, “a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking a stance for a stroke.”  However, knocking down sand from the side of a bunker to help gain a more level stance is not covered as “digging in” but rather is considered a breach of Rule 13-3 and is covered in Decision 13-3/3:

Q. A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level.  Is this permissible?
A. No. Such an action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.

When trying to decipher between “digging in” and “building” the clearest separation is whether a player has to lift their feet again to settle into the stance.  When you dig in your feet, you swish them around in the sand, but in order to build a stance you must lift your foot out of its initial spot and push more sand around from another location (side slope or otherwise).  This is not a firm and fast Rule, because there are certainly exceptions, but if you see someone on the wrong side of the line it is important to take a second look, which is exactly what the R & A did in this situation.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lexi Thompson 9th Hole TIO Explanation

            On the 9th hole, Lexi Thompson’s tee shot went long in the difficult par-three.  Her ball came to rest near a curious white line.  She called in walking referee and USGA President Tom O’Toole who explained that the white line defines the limit of the Temporary Immovable Obstruction including the grandstand and television cables and its tower. 
            The Local Rule and relief procedures for TIO’s can be found in the Appendix.  Players are entitled to relief not just for physical interference, but also line of play intervention.  In Lexi’s case, she needed to determine whether or not she had physical interference because she was standing inside the white-lined area and her ball was clearly outside the white-lined area.  The answer was yes.  For all intents and purposes, when a TIO is defined in such a manner, a player can consider the white line is a large invisible wall, and if their ball or stance break the plane of that invisible wall, they have “physical interference” even if not actual part of the TIO interferes.
            TIO’s are frequently positioned in such a manner that relief no nearer the hole as the Local Rule alone would require is impracticable, and the Committee installs drop zones.  In some cases, because a point no nearer the hole that avoids physical interference could potentially move a player’s position so drastically, the Committee installs “mandatory” drop zones.  The TIO on 9 is one of those situations.              As we heard on the telecast, it was not mandatory for Lexi to take relief, however, if she decided to take relief she was required to use the nearest drop zone.  Lexi opted to take relief and unfortunately her ball rolled into an old divot in the drop zone and it seriously affected her play and she ended up making bogey.  Sometimes golf is a game of breaks, and as a mentor of mine likes to say, “Bad luck starts somewhere.”

The Double Setup: One Plan, Two Opens

Karen Stupples Notes Comparing Round 1 Hole Lcations

            Just how similar is the course the women are playing to the men’s U.S. Open?  Well, if you go by the hole locations alone, they are playing basically the exact same U.S. Open.  The comparison was clear after Karen Stupples tweeted her notes of how similar the round 1 holes for the women were to the men’s hole locations.  But as you can see throughout rounds 2 and 3, there are very few hole locations that are more than 2 paces different, and all  are in the exact same quadrant.  This was clearly the USGA plan to give the exact same amount of healing time to the areas of the greens between rounds.
Round 1 Women Hole Locations
Round 1 Men Hole Locations

 And then Round 2:

And of course Round 3:

And for all the ladies in the Open, if I were a gambling man, I'd start making a game plan for hole locations pretty similar to these tomorrow:

Pinehurst: Women's Open Notes

            For me, Pinehurst is one of the most special places in the country.  The restoration to the golf course raised it on my own personal list from an already high position and the resort and town itself have always been at or near the top.  So it has been a bit bothersome to me that after all the hype about the double Opens, the Women’s Open has gotten the shaft when it comes to coverage.  Fortunately (actually somewhat unfortunately) an injury sidelined me to my bed yesterday afternoon and I was able to watch the entirety of the coverage, including two very interesting Rules situations.

Lucy Li’s Unplayable

            For those who don’t know, I was the staff in charge that ran the Half Moon Bay Women’s Open Qualifying and had the honor of sending Lucy Li to Pinehurst in the first place.  When she walked into the scoring area after her second round she stared at my summary board, - which at the time had 149 as the lowest number - and she turned to me and said with that 11-year-old giggle, “Oh, I’m way lower than that!”
            So it was a true delight to see how well she handled herself at the Open, and a pair of 78’s, while I’m sure not as well as she would’ve liked, was very respectable and a sign of greatness to come.
            During her second round, on the 13th hole she pushed her drive right into the natural sandy area.  It happened to be on a tongue of natural sandy area that stuck into the middle of some bunkers.  She and her caddie tried to choose the best pitch out option and her first attempt stayed in the thick weeds.  She decided to take an unplayable.
            USGA President Tom O’Toole was the walking referee and carefully gave Lucy her unplayable options:
            a) She could keep the point where the ball lay unplayable between her and the hole and drop anywhere on that line as far back as she wants.  What was interesting about this, is that O’Toole reminded her caddie to watch his step in the bunker because she had the option of dropping in the bunker if she wanted to.  This might have confused some viewers so I’ll clarify:

If the ball were in the bunker, under the option listed above (Rule 28b) she would have to drop the ball in the bunker, however, the natural sandy area is not a hazard, it is through the green.  Therefore, she can drop the ball ANYWHERE on the course that is on that line created by the original position of the ball and the flagstick. 
It is important to note, a player can declare the ball unplayable anywhere on the golf course except in a water hazard.  If the ball was in a bunker, unless the player proceeds under stroke and distance, the ball must be dropped in the bunker.  If the ball starts through the green, however, the player can drop it anywhere on the course.
b) Lucy’s other option would have been to drop the ball two club-lengths from where it lay unplayable, which would have either been in the bunker or in nasty bushes of the natural sandy area. 
What about her third option?  Stroke and distance?  Yes, the player always has the option to proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.  Unfortunately for Lucy, because she made a stroke at the ball that failed to move it, stroke and distance would have been a drop at the spot where the ball was already lying unplayable.

Karrie Webb’s Bunker Questions

            For nearly two weeks now I’ve been waiting to see this discussion take place.  I know it’s happened, but it was finally caught on camera.  On the 18th hole, Karrie Webb’s ball came to rest in a position where it was questionable whether it was in or out of a bunker.  The referee took a close a look and made the determination the ball was in the bunker.  That wasn’t enough for Karrie, and with good reason.  She wanted to know where through the green started so she could take practice swings that touch the ground.  The referee determined a safe area for her to touch the ground with her club, but that didn’t satisfy Karrie completely.  She wanted to know the line of the bunker. 
            One of the interesting things about the new Pinehurst is how the natural sandy areas truly blend into bunkers and the forest floor alike.  Prior to the championship I was extremely curious as to how they would define the bunkers.  In general, they are defined as the prepared areas of sand, and walking referees with every group are to make the judgment call on any close cases erring on the side of bunker.  After some thought, the referee was able to point to a line in the sand that would separate natural area from bunker in Webb’s case.  Whether or not every referee would agree with it does not matter, her referee (and I believe a rover eventually as well) made the call and erred on the side of hazard, just as instructed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Busy Day at the Open

            It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year…U.S. Open Week.  And this year the Open is at a place that is very close to my heart, having played in three North & South Amateur Championships (one was a Junior in which Webb Simpson was the defending champion).  I truly do love Pinehurst, the place, the course, the Village, and the restoration has made it an absolute gem of a golf course.
            Another reason I enjoy U.S. Open week is because the USGA is constantly on hand to explain some of the more interesting or unique rulings.  I think we actually saw several things happen today that we almost NEVER see happen in professional golf, (albeit fairly common occurrences at the amateur level):


            On the 18th hole, Hunter Mahan’s caddie made his way to two balls in the fairway.  Mahan and his fellow-competitor Jamie Donaldson were using the same brand golf ball with similar markings.  Mahan’s caddie didn’t look very closely and the end result was that both Mahan and Donaldson ended up playing each other’s ball.
            They realized the mistake on the putting green where exchanged balls and headed back down the fairway to play from the correct spots.  Rule 15-3 is one of the “must correct or DQ” situations in stroke play, so when a player plays a wrong ball, they receive a two-stroke penalty and also must go back and play the correct ball (or in some cases it may mean going back to a previous spot under stroke and distance because the original is lost).
            In this situation the other competitor had moved the correct ball.  In this case, the Rule requires that the owner of the ball place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was played.  Neither player was exactly sure of the exact spot, so another Rule comes into play –Rule 20-3c Spot Not Determinable.  When the spot where a ball is to be placed or replaced is impossible to determine, the player must through the green, drop the ball “as near as possible to where it lay” meaning at the estimated spot.  Both players did so under the instruction of the walking Rules official.  Mahan ended up missing the cut by one stroke.
            Rules official’s hate to have this happen in their group because it seems so preventable, but at this level when golf balls are so close together and the caddies and players make no fuss about which is which, there is no way to catch it.  We feel bad anyway, believe it or not, we don’t want to issue penalties we’re there to help prevent them.


            On the 16th hole, Matt Kuchar came across a unique problem:  he had a short putt left and noticed his ball move before he addressed it.  Or at least he thought it was before he had addressed it.  Kuchar said that he and his fellow-competitor Lee Westwood believed he had not addressed it.  The difference being that if he had addressed the ball and then it moved, Rule 18-2b would deem the player to have moved the ball under penalty of one stroke and then the ball must be replaced.  If he had not addressed it and did not cause the ball to move, he was required to play the ball where it came to rest.
            He called the Rules official over who, in order to expedite play, had him invoke Rule 3-3 and Kuchar played two balls (actually the same ball, but for all intents and purposes in this situation it was acceptably two balls).  He played one ball where it came to rest and one ball he replaced behind the original ball-marker.  After review, they determined that he had not caused the ball to move and had not addressed it, so the ball played from the new spot counted for his score without additional penalty.
            Had Kuchar not invoked Rule 3-3 and had replaced the ball, because he had not addressed it and was supposed to play it from the new spot, he would have incurred a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.  By invoking Rule 3-3, he ensured that the worst-case scenario would be the one stroke under Rule 18-2b for moving his ball at rest after address.
            I was recently discussing this Rule with some officials at an event and mentioned how much I would “Love it if a professional used Rule 3-3” and explained how rare it is for it to occur on Tour.  Leave it to U.S. Open week to see something we should probably see more often.


            Phil Mickelson did not have his best day, but he did have an interesting Rule situation. On the 15th his ball embedded into the steep slope fronting the putting green.  He was entitled to mark the ball, repair the pitch-mark and replace his ball, only it wouldn’t stay at rest.  Since the ball embedded, it had done something an un-embedded ball would not have done at that spot.  The applicable Rule for this is Rule 20-3d Ball Fails to Come to Rest on Spot. 
            Phil’s ball had a spot on the golf course, exactly where the repaired pitch-mark was where Phil had marked and lifted the ball.  Since it would not stay put when replaced, Phil had to find the nearest spot where the ball would stay at rest not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.  In the replay you can see the Rules official pointing to each new spot for Phil to try placing the ball until he finally found a spot where it stayed at rest.
            It looked strange to see a player moving the ball so significantly from the original spot but it was all done correctly and in accordance with the Rules.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bubba Watson on the Last Hole at the Memorial

            On the 18th hole of the Memorial Tournament, just a few moments ago, there was a little discussion about whether Bubba Wtason could be subject to penalty when he accidentally touched his ball in addressing it for his fourth shot.  They got it right on TV and as of now it appears the PGA Tour officials agree and there are two main reasons why:
            Under Rule 18-2a, if Bubba was not deemed to have already addressed the ball, the Rule allows a player to purposely or accidentally touch the ball in the act of addressing it, provided it does not change position (move).
            If Bubba was deemed to have addressed the ball, under Rule 18-2b he would only be subject to penalty if the ball moved, which by definition means the ball left its position and came to rest in any other place.  In this circumstance, the ball clearly neither left its position, nor came to rest somewhere else.  Therefore, even though it wobbled, it did not “move” as defined by the Rule of Golf.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Week in the Life of a Rules Official...

            It’s been a bit of a whirlwind week for me and there’s plenty to cover and discuss.  I went from the 48th Annual NCGA Four-Ball Championship, to playing (if you can call it that) in US Open Local Qualifying at Pasatiempo, straight to the NCAA West Regional in Eugene and am now in Half Moon Bay after setting up for US Women’s Open Sectionals tomorrow.  During all that, life still went on and I’ll cover the best of the best from the past few weeks.

The Four-Ball
            One of the best events and one of our biggest majors is the Four-Ball Championship.  A double-wave, 54-hole event held at Spyglass Hill.  It is incredibly fun to setup, but also an incredible grind to run.  Days run from 5:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night and this year the wind gave us a special surprise, blowing about 25 constantly and gusting around 40 (at one point I had 5 stakes in a four-post tent and still had to take the tent down unless I wanted to go parasailing).
            My notable ruling was an unfortunate two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.  I was sitting in scoring with a fellow staff member and he pointed and said the guy on the 18th hole just dropped three times.  I ran out of the tent and started waving and giving the “stop” signal but he didn’t see me and played.
            I drove up and first asked, “I just have to check, what were you dropping for?”  He told me he was taking relief for his ball in an aeration hole (one of the down-sides of our schedule at Spy is we do bump against their aeration schedule and this week the fairways and intermediate cuts were aerated but not sanded).  I asked him how many times he dropped and he answered, “Three.”  The alarms in my head were already off and I asked why he dropped three times and the wrong answer came out, “It kept rolling into aeration holes.”
            The local Rule for aeration holes is a “drop at the spot” relief procedure, meaning there is no club-length for relief, you drop at the nearest spot to where the ball was at rest in the aeration hole, no nearer the hole (the flagstick’s hole).  On our hard card we clarify that all aeration holes in a given area are considered the same situation, meaning that if a ball when dropped under this Rule rolls into a different aeration hole, 20-2c applies and it’s a re-drop.  So when it rolled into an aeration hole the second time this player should have placed the ball at the spot where it first struck the course on the re-drop.  Since he didn’t do that and then played from a different spot than required he incurred a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.  The good news was, it didn’t apply to his partner who made par on the hole.

The “Animal House” Regional
            What a great crew we had at Eugene and an absolutely amazing course!  We had US Open like conditions (in a good way) and a great field.  Four of the top five seeds and the host school all advanced and the #1 ranked amateur (for now) in the world won by seven.  Congrats to Stanford and Patrick Rodgers on yet another win this year.
            It was actually one of the quietest events I’ve ever been to from a Rules perspective, although there were several wrong place penalties.
            On the 5th hole, two drop zones were in play: one on the teeing ground side of the water for a ball in the water hazard and one on the putting green side as an additional option for a ball unplayable near an area of cart path defined as an integral part of the course.  Unfortunately we had a player who at first crossed the water then bladed a shot from the back bunker into the water hazard use the putting green side drop zone, incurring a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.  Because he was required to go to the other side of the water hazard, this was deemed a serious breach and fortunately Missy Jones was on-site to help the player correct the mistake before playing from the next teeing ground.  Sadly, he made an 11, but managed a 78, meaning he was even the rest of the way around.
            On the 7th hole, a drop zone was provided for a ball in the water hazard and we had a player whose ball was dropped correctly in the drop zone but rolled outside the drop zone and nearer the hole, yet it stayed within two club-lengths of where it first struck the course.  Thinking he needed to re-drop because it rolled nearer the hole, he picked up, dropped again and played.  In the Appendix we get some special rules for dropping zones that clarify that a ball can actually roll nearer the hole when using a dropping zone.  This clause exists because dropping zones can and frequently are closer to the hole than where the normal relief procedure and reference point would permit.  He also received a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place and we informed the player of the special rules in the Appendix to be familiar with in the future.
            One of the more interesting rulings came before the round and because the coach and player asked before the round, no penalty occurred.  A player had been struggling with his putter and so he put a piece of adhesive tape on the top and extended the line from the back of the putter so that the line went all the way from the front to back (mallet-style putter).  It was a little stumper at first, because the Decision regarding adhesive tape asks a question about adhesive tape for the purpose of reducing glare or for club protection.  However, that Decision (4-1/5), actually addresses the issue of adhesive tape in a very general manner, stating that adhesive tape is not permanent and if affixed to a club would render the club non-conforming:  “An adhesive bandage or tape added to the clubhead is considered an external attachment rendering the club non-conforming.”  There are exceptions, however the decision goes on to state, “but an adhesive bandage or tape does not fall under that exception because such items are temporary and easily removable.”  He removed the tape and no penalty was incurred.
            A huge thanks to Dean Wormer (Jim Moriarty) for the invitation.  It was an exceptional event, a testament to his preparation and expertise and I hope to work many more.  It was also fantastic to work with such a great group including Missy Jones, Reed MacGregor, Keith Hansen, Kent Newmark, Bob Planansky and our very own Tyler Tharpe, Ted Antonopolous and Lee Gidney.  We had fun with the event and the theme (fyi, Animal House was filmed at the University of Oregon).  I also want to thank Casey Martin and the University of Oregon team and staff for the wonderful hospitality, as well as Eugene Country Club for the same.  A special note of recognition for Chris, the superintendent who obviously knows what he is doing.  Prior to the practice rounds I had trouble finding divots, let alone imperfections with the course! See below for yourself.

The Beautiful Par-Three 5th Hole.  No, those aren't 6 bunkers, but a crystal clear reflection...

A nice shot to the devious final round hole location on the 15th hole. It was listed as 18.5 paces on the hole location sheet for precision.

Our very own VP Lee Gidney starting groups in the final round on the cathedral-like 1st hole.  The trees give the effect that the hole might be a long par-three but is in fact a 400-plus yard par-four.

Whoops! Decision 18/4 and Justin Rose
            We all know the situation so I won’t re-hash it too much.  Rose was issued a two-stroke penalty when he noticed a slight wiggle of his ball after address, but after agreement from his fellow-competitor and a review of the movement on the jumbo-tron he determined it did not move.  However, upon further review in the booth under 50x magnification the Tour determined it did move and since Rose failed to replace the ball, he got two-strokes for a breach of Rule 18-2b.
            Enter Decision 18/4.  The new Decision introduced in 2014 was designed exactly for a situation of this kind, however, PGA Tour VP of Operations and Head Rules Official Mark Russell, at first determined the new decision did not apply because Rose did notice some sort of movement.  The text reads, “When the player’s ball has left its original position and comes to rest in another place by an amount that was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, a player’s determination that the ball has not moved will be deemed to be conclusive, even if it is later shown to be incorrect through the use of sophisticated technology.”
Why Russell thought the Decision did not apply I’m not sure.  Rose used all available evidence and conferred with a fellow-competitor and didn’t think the ball moved.
There are some murmurs in the Rules community that there is some ambiguity in the new Decision where the Committee has to make a judgment call whether the player could have reasonably determined that the ball had moved with the naked eye, “On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball is deemed to have moved.”  This clause, I believe, is more for a situation where the ball moved enough to be seen clearly and the player wasn’t paying enough attention, not for situations where the player notices oscillation but determines the ball didn’t change its position.
            I’d love to know who at Golf House made the call to the Tour to inform them that the Decision did apply to this case, because the next morning they Tour rescinded the two-stroker, which gave Rose a decent chance and run at the title.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Terminology and Finer Points

            A couple of random goodies to whet your appetite…

            When watching television coverage of PGA or LPGA events, we frequently here commentators refer to “line-of-sight” relief for temporary immovable obstructions like grandstands, scoreboards or TV towers.  There is no such thing as “line-of-sight” relief, however, and the correct term to use is line of play.
            The Local Rule in Appendix I for Temporary Immovable Obstructions provides relief for ball that has interference on the player’s line of play.  Line of sight is never used as a term.  The difference is actually significant because a sight-line might be different than the line of play and a line of play does not require a visual connection (meaning you don’t have to see the hole for it to be on your line of play).
            Interestingly enough, there are actually two Decisions that discuss “line of sight” but in reality, when looking at the text, they are both referring to line of play.  While the two terms are frequently and commonly interchanged, it would be best to use the correct terminology and state line of play relief.  Line of play is a specifically defined term in the Rules of Golf that a Rules Official can provide relief for under the TIO local rule.  Line of sight doesn’t actually exist in the Rules, so it would be very difficult for an official to provide line of sight relief.

Scoring and Individually Identifiable:
            We had a very interesting situation in an NCGA qualifier recently, the details of which I actually will not go into, but it brought about a revelation is the meaning of “individually identifiable” as is required in Rule 31-3 (Scoring in Four-Ball Stroke Play).
            Individually identifiable has commonly been though of as “the Committee has to be able to tell who shot which score.”  In general this is still correct, as a single 4 drawn across both partners’ boxes on a four-ball score card would still lead to a disqualification.  But if, rather than drawing a single number across two boxes, the marker wrote the same number in both boxes, how would the Committee know who shot that number on each hole?  Many have felt for some time that a card done in such a fashion would also lead to disqualification as the Committee could not tell who shot the listed score, however this is not entirely true.
            Individually identifiable in 31-3 means that a single number is associated with a single player on the score card.  So, in a scratch four-ball competition, if the marker and side signed and returned a card that had the best ball score written in both boxes, even though the Committee is not able to tell who shot the score on any given hole, the side would not be disqualified.
            I’ll go through this slowly… If the better ball score is recorded the same in both boxes, that means arguably that the side signed for a wrong score on every hole.  We don’t know which partner, but one of them is wrong unless they actually shot the same score on the hole.  However, in four-ball stroke play, the side is only disqualified under Rule 6-6d if they sign for a wrong score that is lower than the side’s score for that hole.  In this unique situation, none of the wrong scores are lower than the side’s score for the hole – they are all the same.
            A bit of support for this comes from Decision 31-7a/1 where a marker attributes a score for a player that did not hole out.  In the Decision, the marker gave the player who did not hole out a 6, and the player who holed out received the 5 that he actually made.  The side is not disqualified even though they signed for a wrong score, because the wrong score is not lower than the side’s actual score for the hole.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Golf in the City and Rule 18-1

            For those of you that work the San Francisco City Championship, you will probably be incredibly disappointed to hear that I had never been to Lincoln Park until this past weekend.  The legend of the SF City as a breeding ground for incredibly unique Rules situations has grown and grown to the point where a good chunk of questions that are used on the NCGA exam come from incidents during that tournament.  Well, Saturday I had the opportunity to finally play the golf course and find out what all the hullabaloo was all about.
            Lincoln Park is truly an experience in golf “in the city.”  The holes are very close together and it is a place for the average golfer or the occasional golfer to go and enjoy a round.  What that means is that every hole is a veritable war zone, with shouts of “Fore!” coming from every direction and you’re never really sure whether you’re in the line of fire or not.  That said, I can say my experience was a truly positive one and I recommend to anyone who has not played Lincoln to give it a shot.  It may not be in the best condition, but some of the views on the course are truly unmatched.

View from the Hill of the 7th fairway to the City
            Of course, my experience at Lincoln Park would not have been complete without a true Rules incident, very similar to the kind that occurs regularly during the SF City.
            On the 13th hole, the one par-five on the course, the tee shot is through a “chute” of sorts and over a hill making the landing area blind for a scratch golfer like myself. (The players I was with claimed to have never seen anyone hit the ball over the hill).  Sure enough, I hit a solid drive, down the right side and over the hill.  We had waited a bit of extra time just in case the group in front of us was still in range.  When I arrived at where my ball should have been, a group from the 1st hole had three players hitting from right around the area of my ball.  And sure enough, my ball was nowhere to be found. I searched for a couple minutes and then asked one of the players from the group on #1 if he had seen a Nike and he replied that he had seen my ball rolling in the fairway right next to the group in front of us.  So I confirmed, you definitely saw a ball rolling in the fairway and it went right next to the group in front of us?  Could they have picked it up?  He answered yes.
            For a weekend round, that was good enough for me to proceed under Rule 18-1.  I had virtual certainty that the group in front had picked up and taken my ball from the fairway, so I was entitled to replace a ball without penalty.  Even with the assistance of the random golfer on the other hole, the original spot was no determinable so I had to operate under Rule 20-3c to get a ball back in play.  We determined as near as possible to where we believed the original laid and I dropped a ball at that spot.  Of course, Rules nerd that I am, even during this casual weekend round of golf, when the ball rolled closer to the hole than that spot on the drop, I re-dropped.  And when it did it again, I placed the ball where it first struck the course on the re-drop.  Rule 20-2c at its finest.
            I played my ball onto the green and when I walked up the group in front was still on the 14th tee.  I walked over and asked if they had seen a Nike golf ball in the fairway and first they answered no, until I pointed to the Nike golf ball sitting in their cup holder.  I picked it up and sure enough it was mine, marked with “Go Dawgs!” on the side and all. Glad I ran into that other group or I would've ended up back at the tee...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Valero Texas Open and The Goodwin Final Rounds

            Today during the final round of the Valero Texas Open there were a couple of notable situations worthy of some discussion:

Kevin Na and the Bunker
            On the fifth hole, Na’s ball found the devious fairway bunker that also took its toll on Matt Kuchar.  His first stroke from the bunker went over the first lip but came to rest in the same bunker.  In frustration Na started raking the sand with his club and then slammed his club downward into the sand making a comment about the depth of the sand on the face.
            He was assessed a two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-4 and some of the TV discussion was a bit misleading.  They gave the impression that his actions might not result in penalty if he had not gained an advantage.  This was not really the issue.
            Decision 13-4/0.5 gives specific examples of what constitutes testing the condition of the hazard and one example is making a practice swing that touches the sand in a hazard.  Na didn’t really make a practice swing so what was he really guilty of?
            When your ball lies in a hazard you may not touch the ground in the hazard with your club under Rule 13-4b.  There are several important exceptions under Rule 13-4, but slamming the club into the sand is not one of them (the smoothing of the sand for the purpose of caring for the course would be one of those exceptions since Na did not smooth sand on his line of play or in his area of intended stance or swing).  So Na was in breach of Rule 13-4b because his ball was still in the bunker.  Had the ball been extricated from the bunker or had been out of the bunker at the time Na slammed his club, he would not have been in breach of the Rule.

Slow Play
            Andrew Loupe was issued a warning for receiving a bad time while being on the clock.  Bravo to the PGA Tour…sort of.  I say sort of because this really should be happening more often and it’s only been under the more recent pressure to start enforcing pace of play that we have finally seen some action.  That said, I’m glad something was done because this final round was excruciatingly slow.  What was very nice was the explanation of the PGA Tour policy that a player receives a warning for the first bad time, a one-stroke penalty for the second bad time and an additional two-stroke penalty for the third bad time.  Players are timed once theyir group is deemed out of position.  The first player to play receives 40 seconds and each player after receives an additional 20 seconds.
Play moved noticeably quicker after the warning was issued.  Throughout the telecast we saw a lot more of the PGA Tour Rules Official who was timing several players and groups, including Matt Kuchar.

The Goodwin Final Round

            First, thank you to Coach Conrad Ray and Assistant Coach Phillip Rowe for another excellent event.  It’s always a pleasure working with them as I’ve been the lead official for the last four Stanford men’s events and I look forward to hopefully many more.  There were several notable rulings, but only one that I would like to highlight because it comes straight from a Decision that we rarely think much about.
            Congratulations are also in order, as for the first time in those four years the home team won the event, and handily at that.  Along with the team victory, number 1 in the WAGR Patrick Rodgers also took home individual honors with an impressive 63-69-64-196 finish (The 69 came in horrendous weather that included an 1:10 suspension of play mid-round).
            On the first hole, the official for the second group off tee #1 radioed from the green.  A player had marked his ball, tapped down the marker and walked away.  When he turned around, his marker was no longer there because it had stuck to the bottom of his putter!  Uh oh, right?  Actually, the action of tapping down the marker in this case is considered to be directly attributable to the act of marking the ball.  When a ball-marker or ball is accidentally moved in the act of marking the ball there is no penalty and the ball or ball-marker must be replaced.  Decision 20-1/6 covers this situation exactly.  Kudos to the official for remembering to use the radio instead of trying to figure it out on his own.  Whenever you use the radio you’re as smart as the smartest official on the airwaves.  If you have to dig into the Decisions book to determine a ruling, then you need to be on the radio.