Sunday, January 17, 2016

First Look at an Anchoring Ruling on Tour

     A little more than two years ago we first heard about anchoring and the proposed new Rule. Then several months ago, when the USGA announced the 2016 changes to the Rules of Golf, anchoring again was in the spotlight as one of the four major changes to the 2016 edition.  For the first two weeks on the PGA Tour this year, however, we’ve been hearing more about the absence of anchoring and had yet to run into any actual issues with the Rule itself.
     Until Zac Blair used a fairway wood to play a chip from the fringe on the 71st hole of the Sony Open in Hawaii and television footage caught the handle of the club clearly catching his torso at the end of the stroke. PGA Tour officials questioned Blair, and no penalty was issued because he did not intentionally anchor the club for the stroke.
     This is a great opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about the new Rule now that we’ve seen one of the potential gray areas arise in competition.

Misconception #1: The anchoring ban is specific to putters.
Truth #1:  Rule 14-1b applies to all clubs and all strokes.  The new Rule does not permit players to anchor with other clubs, however, it does not prohibit players from using long or belly putters without anchoring.

Misconception #2: If the grip touches the torso during any part of the stroke, the player is in breach of the Rule.
Truth #2: Rule 14-1b prohibits intentionally anchoring the club, either directly or through the use of an “anchor point.”  If the player’s club inadvertently comes into contact with the body, the player is not in breach of Rule 14-1b (see Decision 14-1b/6).

Misconception #3: As long as the club does not touch the body, the player is not anchoring.
Truth #3:  Rule 14-1b prohibits both direct anchoring and anchoring through the use of an “anchor point.” Note 2 to Rule 14-1b explains that, “An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.”  This means that a player may not anchor his forearm against his body with the intent of steadying the grip of the club and thereby creating a pseudo-pendulum. Even though the club itself is not anchored against the body, the use of the “anchor point” violates the new Rule and would come with a penalty.

Misconception #4: Because anchoring is a prohibited stroke, a player who does so is disqualified.
Truth #4: The penalty for a breach of Rule 14-1b is loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play for each anchored stroke.  To apply the penalty, count the anchored stroke itself and add an additional two penalty strokes.

At the Sony Open, the fact that Blair did not intentionally hold the grip against his torso meant that he was not in violation of the Rule, even though the grip clearly did come into contact with his body during the stroke. We will probably see more situations like this throughout the year; the key point to remember is that anchoring is an intent-based Rule. Without intent, there is no breach.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Live from Rules School 2016

            Well, as I found out delightfully this week, I know there are more than just my fellow NorCal brethren awaiting the first 2016 post. As has become tradition, I have a Live from Rules School summary for everyone after taking the first workshop and exam session of the year down at PGA Education HQ in Port St. Lucie.
1.     I hadn’t been back to the Education Center since graduating the PGM program in 2009, and I suppose there were some good vibes in the air, although quite a bit different from attending a workshop at a hotel ballroom site. If you haven’t attended a workshop there, it is worth it, the projection setup and acoustics work very well for a seminar.
2.     A gigantic thank you to the two instructors John Morrissett and Jim O’Mara. I signed up based on John’s reputation and he certainly did not disappoint. It’s quite clear his time away from the USGA has still been spent thinking about the Rules with a level of understanding the rest of us are only hoping to attain. But I also have to compliment Jim, whose presentation was not only on point, but also very solid from a performance standpoint (voice inflection, gestures, engaging the class, etc.). Not intending to discount previous PGA instructors I’ve had, but for those who look for instructors to see I would put Jim on that list for the future.
3.     Additionally, a big thank you to the Workshop maestro himself who served as coordinator, David Staebler. It’s always clear the thought going into the presentation and the little additions and Stabeler-isms that make difficult concepts easier to grasp (although I was disappointed that "announcey-marky"did not stick).

I spent the week fighting off a nasty cold (that still really isn’t completely gone), but was still able to come away with a few new points of emphasis that I think can help Rules aficionados of all levels and are worth sharing.  If you’re new to the blog and are hoping for exam insight…not gon’ happen.  Scratch that, I have one big tip… Don’t tell David I shared… KNOW THE DEFINITIONS.  Hope that helps. =) And for those asking how I did, in an attempt to answer the question once rather than a thousand times, there’s a hint in the article below.

Stroke Play Must Correct or DQs:

            I’m always looking for the ways the Rules are interconnected and the philosophy behind them.  While Tuft’s Principles are, of course, key, he hasn’t been involved in writing the Rules for some time so finding other connections still helps. John Morrissett proposed thinking of the must correct or DQ requirement of Rule 15-3 as an extension of Rule 3-2, (i.e, if you hole out a wrong ball, you haven’t really holed out, so if you don’t correct the mistake and play the next hole, you never really holed out).
            I think you can extend this thought and “principle” to all the stroke play must correct or DQ situations. 

·      Rule 11-4 & 5: If you play from outside the/a wrong teeing ground in stroke play when starting a hole, you must correct the mistake or be disqualified.  While this isn’t quite the same as extending the “failed to hole out” principle, it is easy to think about it as “you didn’t play the whole course and you didn’t play the same game.” Remember, if you start the hole by playing from outside the teeing ground, you don’t have a ball in play in stroke play. If you never have a ball in play, how can you say you’ve played the game as set forth in Rules 1 or 3? If you play from a wrong teeing ground at the start of a hole, not only do you not have a ball in play, but it’s possible that you may have left 100 yards of the hole behind (playing from a forward tee instead of a back tee).

·      Rule 15-3: As mentioned in the opening paragraph, if you hole out with a wrong ball, you didn’t play the game with a ball in play. How can you say you’ve holed out if you never finished the hole with a ball in play?

·      Rule 20-7c (Serious Breach): If you’ve committed a serious breach of playing from a wrong place, you haven’t played the whole course. The Rules require you to negotiate all the challenges a full course entails, and if you’ve gained a significant advantage by playing from a wrong place, you’ve obviously skipped one or more of those challenges by your breach of the applicable Rule.

·      Rule 29-3: If the wrong partner plays in threesome or foursome play, the side hasn’t abided by the given format – they didn’t play the same game. So the Rules are going to require that mistake to be corrected.  This may seem like an overly harsh penalty for a seemingly small breach, but the advantage that could be gained by having the wrong partner play a stroke is so significant, the Rules have to dissuade it with an equally significant penalty.

To keep the consistency factor going, all must correct or DQs have the same timeliness factor for correcting the error: prior to playing from the next teeing ground, or in the case of the final hole, prior to leaving the putting green (3-2 requires the correction prior to leaving the putting green, the rest require that the intent to correct be declared prior to leaving the putting green).

Parallel Rules?

            Have you ever thought of Rules 13 and 16 as parallel Rules? Rule 13 gives you the dos and don’ts for through the green and in a hazard (13-4), while Rule 16 gives you the dos and don’ts for the putting green.  13-2 even gives some permissions for the teeing ground and it also applies to your situation on a putting green, but they sort of work together in principle.

“Might Influence” Support

            Influencing the movement of a ball in motion is a big no, no in the Rules of Golf. Even just taking action with the intent to influence a moving ball is a penalty, regardless of whether the action actually affects the ball in motion (Rule 1-2).  And while the word intent does not appear in the other prohibitions (16-1b, 17-1 and -2, Notes to 22-1 and 22-2, 23-1 and 24-1) whether or not the action actually affects the ball in motion is never the consideration for whether the penalty applies.
            With Rules 16-1b and 17-2 we get specific Decisions that tell us when the penalty applies in these “might influence” situations. In both Decisions (16-1b/4 and 17-2/2) we get the (almost) exact same sentence, “The determination as to whether there is a reasonable possibility that B’s ball/the removal of the flagstick might have influenced the movement of A’s/the ball is made by reference to the situation at the time B lifted the ball/the flagstick was removed.”
            The principle is that in “might influence” situations the determination is made at the time the prohibited action occurs, not whether the action actually influences the ball in motion. But we only get those two Decisions.  This means we have to extend that principle to the other “might influence” situations. For Rule 17-1, it’s easy to apply 17-2/2 because we’re dealing with the removal of a flagstick. For the Notes in 22-1 and 22-2, I’m a believer that the Notes are really just referring back to the specific prohibition in Rule 16-1b (rather than acting as stand alone Rules violations) and so applying 16-1b/4 is a perfect match in my mind. But when we get to 23-1 and 24-1, we have to apply the principles from those Decisions to situations that are not specifically described.
            In order to do so, take the italicized phrase above and insert the applicable prohibited movement:

The determination as to whether there is a reasonable possibility that __________ (B’s ball / the removal of the flagstick, loose impediment or movable obstruction) might have influenced the movement of the ball in motion is made by reference to the situation at the time ________ (B lifted the ball / the flagstick, loose impediment or movable obstruction was removed).

One hundred cheers to everyone and good luck with your upcoming championship seasons!