Sunday, February 22, 2015

Influencing the Movement of the Ball

   As I watch the Fresno class diligently flipping through their Decisions books while taking the Open Book portion of the NCGA exam, I decided to highlight one of the classes' point of emphases worth an in-depth look: influencing the movement of the ball.
   The Rules have made a basic principle on this topic: purposely influencing the movement of the ball is prohibited. By ANYONE.  Accidentally or potentially influencing the movement of the ball is prohibited in specific instances. The general principle is that the stroke should be the only thing that has direct influence over the ball besides elements of the course and outside agencies (but we'll get to deliberate outside agency actions).

Rule 1-2 - The Ultimate Intent Rule

Rule 1-2 prohibits someone in the competition, whether it be a fellow-competitor, player or partner in stroke play (and by extension of Rule 6-1 their caddies) or an opponent (or his caddie) in match play, from intentionally influencing the movement of the ball. This Rule is a "catch all" because Exception 1 tells us that if another Rule covers the action (whether by permission or prohibition), that is the Rule that governs. But Rule 1-2 is completely intent based. If a player takes an action not covered by another Rule that influences the movement of the ball accidentally, Rule 1-2 does not apply. Note that this intent does not apply to potential influence for another group (a damaged hole repaired after completing the play of the hole so that subsequent groups may have an undamaged hole is not a breach of 1-2).

The Note to Rule 19-1

When a ball in motion is influenced (stopped or deflected) by an outside agency (OA) we have a rub of the green.  If the stroke was made form the putting green and the OA was moving or animate, then we get a cancel and replay because the putting green is a special place, close to the hole where the player should be allowed to putt without interference. But when an OA deliberately influences a ball, we get a very unique circumstance where the Committee must determine where the ball would have come to rest without that interference. The general principle above guides this ruling: something else should not be able to deliberately make the ball end up somewhere other than the stroke would have put it.

Rule 16-1b

Under Rule 16-1b a player must not lift a ball that might influence the movement of a ball in motion.  Here is the beginning of a list of several golf obstacles that must be left in place and the potential influence is the breach rather than actual influence. The intent here doesn't actually matter, the ruling hinges upon whether the movement - at the time the stationary ball was lifted - may have potentially influenced the ball in motion. Whether the ball in motion was actually influenced by the lifting is irrelevant (i.e. the ball in motion stops just short of where the ball was lifted from).

Rule 17-1

As much as this Rule drives me (and others I know) bonkers, at least one premise in Rule 17 is consistent.  A player may not move a flagstick that is unattended prior to the stroke if the movement has a potential influence on the ball in motion. As we'll see again below, the philosophy is actually clear.  Rule 17-1 gives the player the right to have the flagstick attended, removed or held-up prior to the stroke. If the player fails to take advantage of that Rule, he should not avoid penalty (striking an unattended flagstick in the hole after a stroke from the putting green) or the consequence (bouncing of the flagstick).

Rule 23-1

We get the same exact clause for loose impediments. The Rules are kind enough to let us move loose impediments (except when 13-4 applies), but we must do so before a ball is in motion headed toward that loose impediment. It is the potential influence that is a breach of the Rule, not whether the action actually influenced.

Rule 24-1

The Rules are consistent in many places, contrary to public belief.  Movable obstructions fall under the same category as a ball or loose impediments in that they must not be moved if the movement has a potential influence on the ball in motion.  But under this Rule we get an Exception to the entire general principle: the flagstick (which is a movable obstruction) and the equipment of any player MAY be moved even if there is potential or actual influence. Part of the reasoning is that it is unfair to force a player into a penalty for striking a removed flagstick or their own equipment particularly if it happens as a result of a poor stroke headed in a direction the player did not foresee (i.e the flagstick was placed in a position believed to be safe).

The philosophical question is why that premise does not apply to the ball in play (Rule 16-1b)? The reasoning is actually clear: players have the right to have a potentially interfering or assisting ball lifted prior to the stroke under Rule 22.  If a player fails to do so (whether the player making the stroke in the case of an interfering ball or the player with a potentially influencing ball in the case of assistance), the Rules are not going to allow the penalty to be avoided (if both balls lie on the putting green prior to the stroke in stroke play) due to this failure.  In addition, because there is no penalty other than the instance listed above, this can fall under the category of playing the course as you find it.  There is a ball in the way, and there is a Rule that gives the player the right to have it lifted if necessary. If the player does not take advantage of that Rule, the player must live with the consequences.

If you find yourself in one of these situations and need to determine whether an action "might have influenced" the movement of the ball in motion, see Decisions 16-1b/4 and 17-2/2 for further clarification.

No comments:

Post a Comment