Diary of a USGA Rules Official: MSR Credits

In order to keep their Certifications, PGA Members are required to attend seminars.

In order to keep their PGA Certifications current, PGA of America Members are required to accrue a certain number of Member Service Requirement (MSR) credits each year.

One way to do this, at least in the PGA’s Southwest Section, is to attend a Rules of Golf Seminar with Dr. Robbin Farran at the Golf Academy of America in Chandler. Dr. Farran teaches Advanced Rules at the Academy and is one of the USGA’s top Rules Officials.

The two-and-a-half hour seminar is worth three MSR credits, and registration is free. Topics include: selected incidents, Rules questions, and Rules topics typical of everyday play.

In this month’s Diary of a USGA Rules Official, Dr. Farran gives us a sneak preview of  several of those incidents… and more:

Rule 3-3 Incidents
In stroke play:

Incident 1
Player A’s ball comes to rest on a gravel cart path. Not knowing whether the gravel path is an immovable obstruction, Player A announces intent to play two balls but does not state which ball is to count.

Player A plays the original ball and a second ball played correctly under Rule 24-2. At Scoring, Player A reports the facts of the incident to the Committee. The Committee informs Player A that the gravel path is an immovable obstruction. Now what?

**The score with the original ball played from the gravel path counts. See Rule 3-3b(ii).

Incident 2
Player A announces that he will play two balls under Rule 3-3 and selects the second ball to count. The player plays the original ball in accordance with the Rules and the second ball from a wrong place. What is the ruling?

**The second ball, the ball selected to count, was not played in accordance with the Rules, therefore, the score with the original ball counts. See Rule 3-3b(i).

Under Rule 3-3, the competitor should announce which ball he wishes to count.

Incident 3
Player A’s ball lies on a paved cart path. Having doubt as to where he is permitted to drop the ball, Player A informs his fellow-competitors that he will play two balls but does not announce which ball he has selected to count.

Player A dropped his original ball on the left side of the cart path and played the ball from a wrong place.

Player A dropped another ball on the right side of the cart path and played the ball from a wrong place.

Not including any penalties, Player A scored 5 with the original ball and 6 with the other ball. What was Player A’s score for the hole?

**Player A’s score for the hole is 7, including a penalty of two strokes for playing from a wrong place. Neither ball was played in accordance with the Rules, therefore, the score with the original ball counts. See Rule 3-3b(iii).

Incident 4
Player A’s ball is in a cactus high off the ground in the desert. Player A, being unsure as where to drop, in proceeding under Rule 28c, announced intent to play two balls. Without declaring which ball was to count, Player A dropped and played the 1st ball from about 3 club-lengths on the left side of the cactus and the 2nd ball about 3 club-lengths on the right side of the cactus.

Not including any penalty strokes, Player A scored 6 with the 1st ball and 4 with the 2nd ball. What was Player A’s score for the hole?

**Player A’s score for the hole is 9; a one-stroke penalty under Rule 28 and a penalty of two strokes for playing from a wrong place. Neither ball was played in accordance with the Rules, therefore, the score with the first ball played counts. See Rule 3-3(iii) and Note 2 to Rule 3-3.

As long as its removal was authorized, the penalty for hitting the pin is two strokes.

Flagstick Incidents
In individual stroke play:

1. Player A removes the flagstick and lays the flagstick on the fringe some distance from the hole. Player B putts from about 20 feet from the hole knowing that the flagstick had been removed (authorized action). The ball rolls down the slope of the green and strikes the flagstick.

**Player B incurred a penalty of two strokes for a breach of Rule 17-3a. Decision 17-3/3 provides useful guidance on similar incidents.

2. Player A removes the flagstick and lays the flagstick on the fringe some distance from the hole. Player B putts from about 20 feet from the hole. As the ball begins to roll down the slope of the green towards the flagstick, Player B lifts the flagstick and the ball rolls past where the flagstick had laid.

**No penalty is incurred by Player B. Although a flagstick has the status of a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1 states that a removed flagstick in a location that might influence the movement of a ball in motion may be moved.

3. Player A removes the flagstick and lays the flagstick on the green about 15 feet left of Player B’s line of putt to the hole. As the ball played by Player B rolls toward the hole, Player A lifts the flagstick and places the flagstick on the fringe.

**In this incident, the removed flagstick is not in a location to affect Player B’s play. A movable obstruction not affecting play may be moved at any time. Rule 24-1 provides guidance.

4. After a chip from off the green, Player B’s ball comes to rest against the flagstick and is not holed. Without any conversation between Player A and Player B, Player A walks to the hole, carefully moves the flagstick and the ball falls into the hole. Player A picks up the ball and tosses it to Player B.

**Player B’s ball is not holed. Rule 17-4 permits Player B or anyone authorized by Player B to move the flagstick and, if the ball falls in the hole, the ball is holed with Player B’s last stroke.

In this incident, the ball was moved by an outside agency without authorization, Rule 18-4, and must be replaced against the flagstick by Player B or Player A, without penalty. Player B or anyone authorized by Player B may now move the flagstick. See Decision 17-4/3 for additional clarification.

If competitors knowingly play out of turn, both players are disqualified.

Match Play Reminders
1. In single match play, on a par-3 hole, the tee shot of Player A lands in a lateral water hazard about 50 yards from the green. The tee shot of Player B comes to rest in the fairway about 80 yards from the hole. Player A states that he will play again from the teeing ground.

**It is Player B’s turn to play. See Note to Rule 10-1b.              

2. In single match play, on a par-3 hole, the hole location is 16 Center with a severe slope back to front. Both tee shots are on the green, Player A about 10 feet left of the hole and Player B about 10 feet right of the hole. As the players look carefully at their putts, Player A looks at Player B and says, “Good, good?” Player B says, “Yes”, and the players leave the green.

**OK, the hole is halved! See Decision 2-1/1.5.

3. In single match play, both players are on the green, it is Player A’s turn to play. Player A putts and leaves his putt 12 inches short of the hole. Player A says to Player B, “You haven’t given me a putt all day. OK if I just putt out?” Player B says, “Sure. Go ahead!”.

**If the players knowingly agreed to waive Rule 10-1b, requiring the players to play in the correct order, both players are disqualified. Otherwise the hole stands as played. See Decision 1-3/2.

4. In Single match play, Player A’s ball is on a gravel path. Player A says to Player B, “The Notice states that only concrete or asphalt paths are obstruction. That makes no sense. Let’s agree for our match that gravel paths are also obstructions”. Player B agrees.

**Both players are disqualified for knowingly agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf. See Rule 1-3 and Decision 1-3/0.5.

5. In single match play, Player A and Player B are on the 7th tee. As Player A is preparing to play, Player B says to Player A, “I hate this hole. It is yours. Let’s go over to #8”.

**OK, Player A wins hole #7! See Rule 2-4.

6. In stroke play, Player A completes his round and returns his score card at Scoring. Prior to the close of competition, Player A returns to the Scoring Area and states to the official, “During lunch, I learned that the Local Rule for stones in bunkers is not in effect today. On hole #3, my ball was in the greenside bunker and I picked up a stone near my ball”.

**Player A must add a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4c and a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d to the score for hole #3. See Exception to Rule 6-6d.

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