Thursday, December 3, 2015

Top Rules Situations from 2015

                As the year comes to a close, we start to see list after list of Top 10 happenings in every sport and golf is no exception.  The Rules of Golf should certainly not be overshadowed so here is a look back at the Top Rulings of 2015 at all levels.

5) Rule 19-5 – Ball in Motion Stopped or Deflected by Another Ball
Rule 19-5 just doesn’t seem to happen that often.  The ruling itself is quite simple when the ball in motion is deflected after a stroke from somewhere other than the putting green: play the ball from where it came to rest and Rule 18-5 has the other player replace the ball that was at rest.  What becomes difficult, is when you can’t quite tell where the ball at rest originally lay.

  •   During the US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Pacific Dunes I was fortunate enough to be a walking Referee in both Stroke Play Rounds and several Match Play rounds, including the Semi-Final Match between Hannah O’Sullivan (the 2015 Women’s Amateur Champion)/Robynn Ree and Madelein Herr/Brynn Walker.  In the second stroke play round, I had to apply Rules 18-5 and 19-5 on the 18th hole.  Both players involved knew where the original ball lay and the ruling went quickly. 

  • During the semi-final match, however, on the very first hole Walker’s approach from the fairway struck her partner’s ball at rest on the green.  From 120 yards away I had to rely on my forward observer to tell where Herr’s ball needed to be replaced.  I thought this was rare enough, but 3 holes later Walker managed to strike her partner’s ball again on her approach from about 50 yards short.  This time I was close enough to see the spot clearly and this ruling went quickly. See the FarbTalk article here:

  • Just when I thought I’d seen enough colliding golf balls, during the third round of the US Senior Open at Del Paso on the 16th hole, former Champion Olin Browne’s approach from more than 200 yards away struck P.H. Horgan’s ball at rest on the putting green.  The ruling took several minutes and the testimony of a spectator in the stands about 10 yards from the collision because we had trouble agreeing where Horgan’s ball needed to be replaced.  I had to think back to high school geometry to help explain why the eventual replacement made sense and in the end we trusted the eyes of someone who was very close to the action to make sure the ruling was correct. See the FarbTalk article here:

4) Angry Golfers
                Naturally when there is some confusion regarding the Rules of Golf, players tend to forget that it is, after all, just a game.  Tensions are especially high when there is more than a title on the line and potentially millions of dollars are at stake.  Two rulings in 2015 come to mind where golfers perhaps were a little angrier than they needed to be:

  • During the Open Championship at St. Andrews, JB Holmes found his ball in a less than savory position on the 15th hole of the first round.  JB was not please when his walking referee did not offer relief and even more upset when the rover, European Tour Official and Rules stalwart John Paramour, backed up the walking referee. The confusion came from the assertion that the player is “entitled” to a second opinion, but that isn’t the case.  Rule 34-2 states that the Referee’s decision is final.  A good walking referee will offer a second opinion when there is doubt, but the player is not entitled to it.  Holmes unfortunately appeared to let the unfavorable ruling affect his round and was not off to a great start in the Open. See the FarbTalk article here:

3) Loose Impediments
                Loose impediments are natural objects that are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded or adhering to the ball.  Knowing the Definitions are everything when it comes to the Rules of Golf and a couple of times, understanding the difference between loose impediments and other defined terms (like burrowing animals) made a difference in some notable rulings:

  • Graeme McDowell had some interference by a friendly (to some) insect during the final round of the Masters. In the process of trying to gently shoo (read “violently swat”) away a bee that was near his ball-marker on the putting green, McDowell accidentally moved the ball-marker in the process.  The referee on site initially issued McDowell a one-stroke penalty for moving his ball marker and had him replace the marker.  Interestingly enough, the ruling was properly corrected to no penalty, because the movement of the marker was directly attributable to the movement of a loose impediment.  Read the FarbTalk article here:

  • Bubba Watson suffered some confusion with the definitions during the PGA Championship when he tried to get relief from an ant mound, claiming that it was a burrowing animal hole.  An ant, however, is not a burrowing animal (even though they do “burrow” as Watson pointed out). The Definition of Burrowing Animal specifically excludes worms, insects and the like, however the definition of loose impediments includes worms, insects and the like AND the casts or heaps made by them.  The difference is that a burrowing animal hole would entitle the player to relief under Rule 25-1 which would require lifting and dropping the ball somewhere else, whereas Rule 23-1 simply permits the player, through the green, to move the loose impediment so long as the ball is not moved in the process. See the FarbTalk article here:

2) To Concede or Not to Concede
During the Solheim Cup, there was an extremely controversial ruling in the match between Alison Lee-Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen-Charley Hull.  Lee, believing that she had heard on of the European players concede her 18-inch putt on the 17th hole, lifted the ball.  Pettersen then vehemently denied that the putt had been conceded and Lee was assessed a one-stroke penalty for lifting her ball in play, costing the Americans the hole and eventually the match. Decision 2-4/3 could have permitted the Referee to allow Lee to replace the ball without penalty, but after interviewing the players the Referee did not believe there was enough evidence to suggest Lee had good reason to think the putt had been conceded.  Read more and see the video at here:

1) The “One Ball” Rule, Mickelson and the Presidents Cup
                By far the most controversial ruling of the year came at the Presidents Cup.  For whatever reason, the optional Condition of Competition known as the “One-Ball” Rule, which requires the player to play the same brand and model of golf ball throughout an entire round, came into play on multiple occasions throughout the year (see the FarbTalk summary here:

               What made the Mickelson situation more noticeable was the high-profile event and the fact that the ruling was botched (for lack of a better term). The confusion surrounded the fact that the penalty for a breach of this Condition is an adjustment to the state of the match.  Unfortunately, the officials on site at first declared that Mickelson was disqualified for the hole and had him pick up his ball.  Mickelson should have been permitted to complete the hole and then the status of the match would be adjusted based on the standing of the match at the end of that hole.  By the time the correct ruling was realized, it was too late to correct the error. Due to the complexities of the ruling, many misunderstood and thought Mickelson had “lost the hole twice” but the reality is that Mickelson-Day lost the hole, and then the match was adjusted by one hole for the penalty.  It was a major swing in the match. Read my article at here:

                I hope everyone enjoyed this look down the 2015 memory lane and in the end learned at least one more thing about the Rules of Golf.  The Rules change on January 1, 2016 and in many ways became simpler and friendlier to the everyday and championship golfer.  For more on the Rules changes you can read my earlier article on FarbTalk ( and visit for more details and FAQ.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The 2016 Rules of Golf Are Here!

            The USGA and R & A released the 2016 Rules of Golf today and with the release came several significant changes that affect even the everyday golfer.  In addition to the major changes, one of which has been known for some time, there were also several smaller changes that will help Rules officials and gurus alike, addressing some issues that previously only had answers as USGA Staff decisions.

The Major Changes

Anchoring – Rule 14-1b
            There is no surprise here, we’ve known about the anchoring ban since 2013 and frankly it warrants very little discussion now.  The key for most golfers is to remember that this is not an equipment ban – the long putt and belly putters are still legal pieces of equipment.  However, you cannot anchor them to your body or by use of an “anchor point.”  What is key to the release of the new Rules is the introduction of several new Decisions that will help officials with various situations regarding anchoring.
           Seven new Decisions will help players and officials in dealing with issues regarding anchoring.  Most notably the new Decisions attempt to tackle the issue of "partial" anchoring, i.e, inadvertent touching, touching clothing or only part of the stroke being anchored.  In the case of inadvertent slips where the club or gripping hand happen to touch the body during the stroke or happen to touch clothing, there would be no penalty.  However, in the case of the partial anchor, anchoring is prohibited for the entire stroke (forward movement of the club made with the intent of striking the ball) so even if the anchoring stops toward the end of the stroke the player is in violation of Rule 14-1b.
          For more on Rule 14-1b please visit the USGA's informational website: Rule 14-1b Resources

Rule 18-2
            Since 2012 there has probably been no more controversial Rule than 18-2b and the Exception that was added in 2012 supposedly to alleviate unwanted penalties only added fuel to the fire.  With the 2016 Rules, gone is both the ill-advised exception and Rule 18-2b.  A play is no longer deemed to have caused the ball to move if the ball happens to move after address.  This is a move where we can see the Rules steering toward presuming the “honorable golfer” as they are intended rather than presuming a guilty golfer (keep this in mind for a later change). 
            This does not mean, however, that you can get away with causing the ball to move after address or that you are definitely off the hook once you’ve addressed the ball.  The new Decision 18-2/0.5 addresses what happens when a ball moves after a player has addressed it.  The new Decision is not in question and answer format as it is designed to give us guidance in how to determine whether the player has in fact caused his ball to move. Like other notable 0.5 Decisions, 18-2/0.5 gives us specific examples of when a player should be considered to have caused the ball to move and when the player should not be considered to have caused the ball to move.  Humorous to see (to me at least) is the example of a ball that has been addressed on a windy day falling under the "no penalty" category, showing that the governing bodies have not forgotten about the four-year adventure that was the 18-2b Exception.
            All in all, the change brings the Rule to its true intention: don’t cause the ball to move and if you do, take your stroke penalty and put it back.

Scoring and Rule 6-6d
            This may be one of the most interesting changes and may serve as a gateway to a more dramatic change in a couple years where the importance of the score card starts to be lessened.  The new Exception to Rule 6-6d provides that when a player signs for an incorrect score card due to a failure to include a penalty he did not know he had incurred, rather than a disqualification penalty, the player incurs the penalty he failed to include plus an additional two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect score card.  This is an extremely severe penalty, which ultimately in elite competitions might as well be a DQ, but at least the player is still in the competition.
            What is unique about this change, is that the Rule is not specific to TV situations, or situations covered by the 2014 new Decision 18/4 where a player could not have reasonably discerned the penalty with the naked eye.  The failure to include a penalty could be the result of ignorance, something the Rules generally don’t look kindly upon (remember Rule 6-1 is that the player is responsible for knowing the Rules).
            This is a significant change that really affects amateur golf more than professional golf and is a sign of a friendlier Rules of Golf Committee.  An educated guess would lead me to believe the penalty for a wrong score card in any situation may eventually become a two-stroke penalty down the road (although they are quite clear that other instances where a p[layer signs for a lower score will still result in disqualification).
            Where this new Rule is quite harsh, however, is that the penalty can add up.  There is no penalty limitation. The new Exception to Rule 6-6d reads, "In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule and an additional penalty of two strokes for each hole at which the competitor has committed a breach of Rule 6-6d."  For example, a player fails to include a penalty for grounding his club in a hazard because he didn’t know that was a Rule.  It actually occurred on three separate occasions.  In that case, the player incurs a two-stroke penalty on each of the 3 occasions (let’s say holes 4, 10 and 16).  He also incurs an additional two-stroke penalty for EACH of the 3 occasions of signing an incorrect card.  So in the end the player suffers TWELVE penalty strokes for his ignorance of the Rules.  This is probably where the Rules of Golf Committee can argue that they aren’t actually going soft on ignorance.

Rule 14-3 and the Distance-Measuring Devices
            Another significant change for the everyday golfer is Rule 14-3.  There are two parts to this change, both the penalty statement, and the application.
            The penalty statement is changing to a two-step process.  A player in breach of Rule 14-3 incurs a two-stroke penalty for the first violation.  This would have been nice for Juli Inkster and the club donut, Jeff Overton and the putting device and any number of players I can think of that were disqualified on the first hole of Open qualifying for accidently using a distance-measuring device.  Now if you’re silly enough to breach the Rule again during the round, then it becomes a disqualification.
            I think just as important as the penalty statement change is that the application of this Rule with regard to distance-measuring devices is changed significantly. Two very small changes to verbiage show that the Rules no longer (as of January 1st of course) care if your distance-measuring device has an illegal slope function (or other illegal function) so long as you don’t actually use the illegal function.  First, the Note to Rule 14-3 that permits the Committee to make a local Rule allowing distance-measuring devices no states simply, "The Committee may make a Local Rule allowing players to use a distance-measuring device."  Formerly, the Note read, "...allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only." Then, when you go to the Appendix to get the proper verbiage for instituting such a Local Rule in the part that used to prohibit what functions could also be performed by the DMD, it now reads, "If, during a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g., elevation changes, wind speed, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3." So yes, your new laser range finder is legal, even if it has slope.  Just don’t use the slope feature during the round.

Changes for Gurus

Definition of Ball in Play
            The definition now clarifies the status of a ball that has been marked but not lifted, or a ball that has been marked, lifted and replaced is back in play whether or not the marker has been removed.  This draws out a ruling that has been in place for some time and just puts it right in the definition where it’s easy to spot.

Definition of Equipment
            The Definition of Equipment has been re-worked to be more understandable to the casual reader, drawing out the "exceptions" (things that are not equipment) into bullet points.  The new Note 2 clarifies the status of rakes when held or carried by a player's side and the new Note 3 takes care of the status of both shared golf carts AND now covers other shared or borrowed equipment.  A little bit of common sense came into play here so a player doesn't get penalized if he lends his towel to a fellow-competitor who then turns around and leaves the towel in a very bad spot and his hit by the original player's stroke.

Rule 25-2

            Along the theme of drawing rulings to the forefront, three new Notes have been added to Rule 25-2, all of which draw out rulings or information that were previously "hidden" somewhere else in the Rules or Decisions.  Note 1 clarifies when a ball is "embedded" which was previously only clarified by Decision 25-2/0.5.  Note 2 takes the internal Definition of "closely-mown area" out of the text of Rule 25-2 and separates it so that it is easier to find.  Note 3 is a new "Committee Note" taking the Local Rule in the Appendix and putting it right under the Rule itself.  The Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green is so widely used that this seems to be a USGA/R&A compromise.  The R & A does not want to make through the green the Rule, but having the Local Rule in the Note brings it to the forefront.

Rule 3-3
            Rule 3-3 has been completely re-written to make the important Rule much more friendly for the casual reader and much clearer for Committee application.  So much clearer, in fact, that Decision 3-3/0.5, formerly the ultimate guide to which ball must count, has been withdrawn. The re-write accomplished several goals in making the Rule clearer:
  1. By changing "must" to "should" in the initial procedure, it better separates this Rule from other procedural Rules where a penalty is incurred if the procedure is not followed.
  2. The re-write uses bullets (a theme in the changes this year) to pull out the recommended procedure for players invoking Rule 3-3 to clarify what the player should do when he decides to use Rule 3-3. 
  3. Two new Notes pull out the most confusing parts of the old Rule and better clarify what the original intention of that specific verbiage was, a) Note 2 clarifies that if the original is not one of the balls used, the first ball put into play has the status of the "original" ball, and b) many of us questioned what the meaning of "permit the procedure used" was and the new Note 1 clarifies that for us.
  4. The re-write of Committee Determination of Score for Hole does a couple great things: a) by labeling it "Committee Determination" it further emphasizes that the player may not make a determination of which ball will count, only the Committee does that; b) it completely eliminates Decision 3-3/0.5 by making it clear what the Committee needs to do in various situations.

Rule 26-2
           The re-write of Rule 26-2 brings the Rule to its original intention.  Let's get you out of the water hazard.  What made the old Rule really was starting with the player operating under stroke and distance.  Then it required an "additional" penalty stroke for use and players and officials alike had trouble determining whether one or two penalty strokes were incurred.
           You can throw that all away now. The Rule is simplified to deal with the situation at hand alone.  If you play from within a water hazard into another water hazard, you can get the ball out for one penalty stroke.  They took the confusing stuff and put it into a note that clarifies if you first are silly enough to try the stroke again under stroke and distance, but after dropping realize your mistake and decide to get out of the hazard, you will incur two total penalty strokes.  Part B to Rule 26-2 has also been re-written for further clarity.

There are certainly a number of other notable changes (particularly in Decisions) and not nearly enough time to cover them all.  I do want to point out two new Decisions that Rules Officials should shout for joy at:

1)  33-8/32 - Finally, FINALLY we can handle random deer hoof damage (or other hoofed animals) appropriately.  This new Decisions permits the Committee to make a Local Rule that gives players permission to repair damage to the putting green that is clearly identifiable as having been caused by animal hoofs. Unfortunately for me, this goes into effect 2 1/12 months too late to help me with the dancing deer we had last week at the Stanford Intercollegiate.

2) 33-8/32.7 - How many times have you been told that dung is a loose impediment and may be moved provided the ball is not moved?  And how many times have you been disgusted that you are being forced to touch a big old cow-patty?  The new Decision provides that the Committee may make a Local Rule declaring dung prevalent on the course to be ground under repair, providing free relief.  It should be noted, that Rule 25-1 does not permit substitution so you're still going to have to retrieve the ball from the middle of the dung...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Phil Mickelson at the Presidents Cup

   Just a little while ago there was a confusing incident at the Presidents Cup. What happened is actually very simple, but not easy to understand because it involves a Condition of Competition that is only used at the highest levels of competition.  The every day golfer has likely never been subject to the "One Ball" Condition.
   The Rule/Condition in question can be found in Appendix I-C of the Rules of Golf.  What is making the understanding of this ruling more complicated is that the Condition involves an adjustment to the state of the match penalty for a breach.  But before I cover that, let me just state what the Rule actually is.
   The "One Ball" Condition requires each player to play the same model/brand/type golf ball throughout an entire round.  This means if you start the round with a Pro-V1 you may not switch to a Pro-V1x at any point.  Phil Mickelson was carrying a second model of Callaway golf ball and put it into play on the 7th hole believing the "One Ball" Condition was not in effect (it was not in effect for the Foursomes competition the previous day).
   The penalty in match play for a breach of this condition of competition is an adjustment to the state of the match penalty, NOT a loss of hole.  The verbiage is here: "At the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round - Two holes." This type of penalty also occurs in Rule 4 (carrying non-conforming clubs, having too many clubs, etc) or in Rule 6-4 (having more than one caddie at a time).
   What this means is that when a breach of this condition is discovered, the player should complete the play of the hole and determine the status of the match, not including the penalty.  At that point, you deduct holes, or "ups" (or add "downs") to the status of the match.  In the Mickelson situation, the status of the match after completing the 7th hole was International 1 Up (USA 1 Down), therefore the status of the match was then adjusted to make the International Team 2 up (or Mickelson/Johnson 2 Down).
  Some of the interesting kinks to the ruling:
  Why did the whole side incur the penalty? - The whole side incurs the penalty because of Rule 30-3d.  Because the format of play is Four-Ball match Play, according to Rule 30-3d when either member of the side breaches a local Rule or Condition of competition for which the penalty is an adjustment to the state of the match, the entire side incurs the penalty.  The reason for this is simple: in four-ball there is no other way to apply an adjustment to the state of the match penalty because the match applies to both players.  This also applies with breaches of Rule 4 (too many clubs, carrying non-conforming clubs, etc) or 6-4 (having more than one caddie).
   Where the Presidents Cup went wrong, was having Phil Mickelson pick up and not continue playing the hole.  In many situations in four-ball, one partner might end up simply disqualified for the hole and the other partner must try to play out the hole on his own.  The referee made the mistake of thinking the breach was a disqualification for the hole situation (and was incorrectly confirmed over the radio) and had Mickelson pick up his ball when in fact he should have continued the hole.  In fact, he could have continued the hole with the incorrect ball if he so desired because the "One Ball" Condition only requires the player to start playing the correct ball by the next teeing ground after the breach is discovered.
   I understand this appears to be a complicated ruling, but really it was made much more difficult by the Committee error in having Mickelson pick up on the hole.  If nothing else, I hope everyone who reads this article takes away a better understanding of adjustment to the state of the match penalties. Mickelson/Johnson did not suffer a double loss of hole penalty, only a one hole adjustment that happened to occur after completing a hole they had just lost. Check out Decision 4-4a/9 for a clarification of how the adjustment to the state of the match penalty works.
    Also check out my post from earlier in the year The "One Ball Rule" in the Spotlight.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Solheim Controversy

                I hate to say, but I was unable to witness the incident with Alison Lee at the Solheim Cup as I was in the middle of running a championship, but after hearing the incident and some of the uproar I want to clarify the situation as it is really pretty clear.
                Alison Lee believed that her short putt was conceded based on something she heard, so she lifted her ball. Her opponents Hull and specifically Pettersen denied conceding the opponent and this was confirmed by referee Dan Maselli.  So Lee was penalized one stroke, which resulted in her side losing the hole and eventually the match.
                Rule 2-4 specifies that a concession cannot be declined or withdrawn, but in this case a concession was never made.  Because a concession was never made, Lee was not authorized to lift her ball without marking it and therefore incurs the one-stroke penalty under Rule 20-1.  This exact type situation is covered in Decision 2-4/3.
                In the Decision, an opponent made a statement which the player interpreted as a concession and lifted the ball.  The opponent then stated the stroke was not conceded.  The ruling given is that if the opponent’s statement could have reasonably led the player to believe the stroke was conceded, there would be no penalty and the ball must be replaced.  However, if the statement could not have reasonably led the player to believe the stroke was conceded, the player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1. 
                In the Solheim incident, Pettersen and Hull were adamant that nothing was stated that could have led Lee to believe a concession was made and the referee did not hear anything resembling a concession either, so Lee incurred the penalty.  While a lot has been made out of the sportsmanship behind the concession denial the simple fact is that Lee should never have lifted the ball without being sure it had been conceded.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bubba Watson and the Ant Cast

            On the 5th hole of the final round of the PGA Championship, Bubba Watson called over the Rules Official requesting relief from an ant-hill or cast.  Bubba was denied relief and there was a very good discussion.
            Under Rule 25-1, the player is entitled to relief for interference by an abnormal ground condition.  Abnormal ground conditions include burrowing animal holes.  Bubba argued that the ants clearly did burrow for habitation and that they are clearly animals.  However, the definition of burrowing animal specifically excludes worms, insects or the like.  Therefore, even though ants do create holes for habitation, they are not burrowing animals as defined by the Rules of Golf.
            I thought the best part of the whole scene was that the official did not hesitate one bit to get on the radio for a second opinion.  He knew the Rule and that Bubba was not entitled to relief, in fact the situation was most likely discussed in the pre-championship Rules meetings, but the player was in doubt and the official offered him a second opinion.

            The only part of the situation that could need clarification is the cast being a loose impediment.  Ant casts are generally consisting of loose soil, which is not a loose impediment except on the putting green.  However, the definition of loose impediments states that “worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them” are in fact loose impediments and may be moved by a player provided he does not move his ball. See also Decision 23/5 which specifically states that an ant hill is a loose impediment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

US Amateur Qualifying and the Missing Tee-Marker

                Those who have worked events with me know that I am extremely particular when it comes to course setup.  Notably, I have a very specific manner in which I want the tee-markers to be placed that is different from the common practice.  A little background is necessary:
                Dotting teeing grounds is done for several reasons depending on the championship and timing of the dotting.  In major championships like the Opens, dots are placed behind the marker so that if one is displaced the Committee knows where to replace the marker, but also so that the player can see the markers are placed where they are supposed to be.  Since the markers are placed by staff on the morning of play, the dots do not have significance as far as alignment toward the landing area.
                In qualifiers and other championships at the SRGA level, in many cases the dots are placed in the days leading up to the championship and are placed so that SRGA volunteers or course staff can properly place the markers aligned appropriately to the landing zone.  Once the marker is on the dot, the dot then can be used to replace the marker in the proper spot.
                But funny things happen at SRGA tournaments or qualifiers, and markers sometimes go missing.  So I always place tee-markers with the front outside corner of the marker on the dot, leaving just enough of the dot for Committee to see.  For me, the dot serves a third purpose: the replacement marker when needed.
                I contend that the tee-markers should be placed with the leading outside edge on/touching the dot so that if a tee-marker goes missing and a player estimates the teeing ground using the dot, the teeing ground dimensions have not changed.  Perhaps the Committee doesn’t have a replacement marker once the missing marker is discovered, and needs to use the dot to define the teeing ground.  If the markers have been placed as I describe, the dot is an exact replacement and the teeing ground has not changed.
                My neuroticism is typically met with some contention because it is against the common practice. However, at US Amateur Sectional Qualifying yesterday, my specific placement came into play.
                The 17th hole at Bayonet Golf Course is located not only near the entrance road, but also near a teeing ground for the other golf course on the facility.  Our third to last group played significantly ahead of the maximum pace leaving a decent gap behind them.  During that gap, someone decided that the nice USGA tee-marker would make a great souvenir and when the penultimate (all you Senior Open officials can chuckle) group arrived they found only one tee-marker.  We had a very small group of officials and the group knew it might be some time before they could find an official, so they found the dot and played from the estimated teeing ground using the dot as the second tee-marker.

Decision 11-4b/2 covers this situation exactly:
Q. In stroke play, competitors in a group, finding one tee-marker missing from a teeing ground, determine for themselves the area of the teeing ground based on the position of the remaining tee-marker and the shape of the tee.  What is the ruling?
A. The correct procedure is to discontinue play until the Committee resolves the problem.
                However, if the Committee is satisfied that the competitors did not gain an advantage by playing from the place they judged to be the teeing ground, it would be appropriate for the Committee, in equity (Rule 1-4), to accept their scores, without penalty.  Otherwise, they incur the penalty prescribed in Rule 11-4b.

Since the dot was placed at the exact corner of the actual teeing ground and the players used that to estimate the teeing ground, it was extremely simple to determine that they gained no advantage.  If you place the markers in any other manner and try to use the dots, then it is possible for the players to play from a different spot than the original teeing ground depending on the size and shape of the marker.  There may be no advantage involved, but why not set up in the first place so that the teeing ground doesn’t change?