Members (and sometimes guests) often come into the golf shop at La Paloma with questions about the Rules of Golf. While we’re always happy to oblige, I like to direct them to my web site, and one of my favorite blog posts: Diary of a USGA Rules Official.
In the state of Arizona, we’re lucky to have the man widely considered to be one of the preeminent Rules Officials in the country, Dr. Robin Farran. I know him from my days at the Golf Academy of America where he teaches Advanced Rules. He emails out new Rules scenarios almost weekly, but I don’t post them until the end of the month so I can readers like you the most bang for your buck.
In this month’s installment, Dr. Farran tackles everything from referee responsibilities to match play:
Trouble on the 14th Hole
Player A’s tee shot heads left towards a lateral water hazard. Player A, having certainty that the ball was in the hazard, proceeds in accordance with Rule 26-1, hitting his next shot into high grass left of the green.
Believing that the ball may not be found in the tall grass, Player A announces and properly plays a provisional ball which lands in the fairway.
After searching for 3 ½ minutes with an official and fellow-competitors, Player A finds a ball in the tall grass and plays the ball onto the putting green. Player A picks up his provisional ball and completes the hole in two additional strokes.
Player A, prior to starting hole #15, informs the official that the ball he found and played from the grass was not the ball he dropped and played in taking relief from the lateral water hazard.
** In the real incident, the original ball was not found. Player A incurred a two-stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball, Rule 15-3b, and a one-stroke penalty for picking up the ball played provisionally that became his ball in play – see Rule 18-2 and Decision 27-2b/9. Player A must drop the lifted provisional ball as near as possible to where the provisional ball originally lay. After the drop, Player A lay 8 and then must complete the hole.
[Under the Rules, Player A has 1 ½ minutes to search for his original ball. In the event that the original ball was found, Player A incurred a two-stroke penalty in stroke play added to his score for the hole for playing a wrong ball, Rule 15-3b and would continue play with the original ball.]
In each incident below, a referee is assigned to accompany the players in single match play. In which cases does the referee take action during the hole?
1a. The referee and Player B observe Player A teeing up his ball outside the teeing ground on hole #2.
**The referee intervenes prior to Player A playing a stroke and advises Player A that he has teed up his ball outside the teeing ground.
1b. The referee observes Player A teeing up his ball outside the teeing ground on hole #2. Player B is not in a position to observe Player A’s actions.
** The referee intervenes prior to Player A playing a stroke and advises Player A that he has teed up his ball outside the teeing ground.
2. The referee and Player D observe Player C properly taking relief from a lateral water hazard.
**There is no need for the referee to intervene.
3. While the referee is assisting Player F determine his nearest point of relief from a sprinkler head near the green, Player E marks and lifts his white ball played from the bunker and substitutes a yellow ball. The referee observed the substitution but Player F was not aware. Player E had not played the substituted ball.
**The referee intervenes and advises Player E that he is not permitted to substitute a ball and informs Player E that, to avoid a penalty, he must mark and lift the yellow ball and replace the white ball.
4. While the referee is observing Player H, whose ball is farther from the hole, prepare for his putt, Player G plays his ball from the fringe.
**The referee informs Player G that he has played out of order and informs Player H that he has the right to recall Player G’s stroke.
5. The referee assists Player J with relief for a ball unplayable in the desert. As Player J and the referee return to the fairway, the referee realizes that Player I was across the fairway and was unaware of Player J’s procedure.
**The referee informs Player I that Player J proceeded under Rule 28 and incurred a one-stroke penalty.
6. The referee sees Player K mark, lift and replace Player L’s ball on the putting green. Player K thought he was lifting his own ball. Player L observed the lifting and replacement.
**The referee informs Player K that he has incurred a penalty of one stroke for moving his opponent’s ball in play. The referee also informs Player L that Player K incurred a one-stroke penalty for lifting Player L’s ball.
Note: The rulings above are based on the Definition of “Referee.” “A ‘referee’ is one who is appointed by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. He must act on any breach of a Rule that he observes or is reported to him.”
The USGA instructs referees assigned to a match to act in a preventative manner. In each of the incidents above where the referee involves himself/herself in the match, the player has not proceeded in accordance with the Rules of Golf.
1) In match play, a player holes a putt and, incorrectly thinking he has won the match, picks up the ball of his opponent. What is the ruling?
a) He incurred no penalty and must replace the opponent’s ball.
b) He has conceded the hole by picking up the opponent’s ball.
c) He incurred a penalty stroke for picking up the opponent’s ball. [Decision 2-4/17.]
2) In match play, through the green, a player accidentally kicks and moves his ball during search. Which one of the following is TRUE?
a) The player incurs a one-stroke penalty and he must drop the ball within one club-length of its original position.
b) The player incurs no penalty.
c) The player incurs a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced. [Rule 18-2.]
d) The player incurs a one-stroke penalty and he must play the ball as it lies.
3) In match play, the players agree to consider a hole halved because they are unable to resolve a dispute. What is the ruling?
a) The Committee should require the players to replay the hole
b) They are both disqualified.
c) There is no penalty. [See Decision 2-1/1.]
4) A player incurs a one-stroke penalty for moving his ball in play in which one of the following?
a) The player accidentally moves his ball as a result of searching for his ball in tall grass, through the green. [See Rule 12-1 and Rule 18-2.]
b) removing a loose impediment on the putting green.
c) searching for his ball buried in sand, through the green.
d) removing a movable obstruction.
5) In a single match, a player is entitled to all of the following EXCEPT:
a) practice on the competition course before a round.
b) practice putt on the putting green of the hole just completed
c) make full-swing practice strokes with his driver on the range after the 9th hole of an 18-hole match that stands at “all square”. [Rule 7-2.]
d) putt out after his next stroke has been conceded.
Match Play Incidents
In single match play:
Player A’s ball comes to rest in a bunker just behind a divot. Player A believes he might be entitled to remove the divot from the bunker since a player in a preceding group should not have left the divot in the bunker.
Player A does have some doubt about whether the Rules permit removal of the divot and tells his opponent, Player B, of his intent to play two balls and check with an official later as to which ball would count. Player B agrees with the plan to play two balls.
Player A plays the ball as it lies, moving the divot with the stroke, restores the bunker to its original condition, tosses the divot out of the bunker and drops a second ball in the bunker as near as possible to where the original ball had lay. Player A completes the hole with both balls.
Prior to either player starting the next hole, Player A inquires of a Rules Official which ball would count.
**In match play, there is no provision for playing a second ball when there is a doubt as to procedure. Since there was not a referee assigned to the match, the agreement by Player A and Player B to unknowingly agree on an incorrect procedure is not a breach of Rule 1-3 (as they did not know that Rule 3-3 was not available in match play) nor may a claim be made by Player B. See Rule 3-3a, the Definition of “Referee” and Decision 2-5/8.5.
The original ball played by Player A will count for the hole with no penalty for playing the second ball, a wrong ball. See Decision 3-3/9.
In single match play:
1. Player A’s drop in taking relief from a cart path rolls into a bunker. Player A and Player B were not sure of the correct procedure so Player A and Player B concluded that Player A should play the ball from the bunker.
Later in the round, Player B described the incident to an on-course official and learned that Player A had played from a wrong place.
**The hole stands as played without any penalty. Not knowing of the correct procedure, Player A and Player B agreed on a procedure and, therefore, Player B was not entitled to make a valid claim. See Decision 2-5/8.5.
2. On hole #2, Player C teed off followed by Player D. Player D then realized that both players had started the hole from the wrong tee markers and informed Player C of their mistakes.
**Player C has the right to recall Player D’s tee shot. See Rule 10-1c. Once Player D has played a stroke, Player D no longer has the right to recall Player C’s stroke. Player C’s tee shot is his ball in play on hole #2.
3. Player E and Player F assumed that the Local Rule for stones in bunkers was in effect and, during play of holes of #3 and #4, Player E removed stones in bunkers prior to playing his ball from the bunkers. Player F was aware of Player E’s actions in the bunkers.
On hole #6, both players read the Notice to Players and realized that the Local Rule for stones in bunkers was not in effect.
**No penalties are incurred by Player E. Player F was aware of Player E’s actions in the bunkers on hole #3 and hole #4. A claim would only be valid if made prior to the start of the hole after stones had been removed from a bunker. See Rule 2-5.