Diary of a USGA Rules Official: Okay or Not Okay?

The church pew bunkers at Oakmont Country Club will provide plenty of
The church pews at Oakmont Country Club will provide plenty of opportunities for USGA Rules Officials this week.

Dr. Robin Farran is one of the top USGA Rules Officials in the country. In fact, if previous years are any indication, he’s probably in Pennsylvania for the 116th playing of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club as we speak.

Dr. Farran teaches Advanced Rules at the Golf Academy of America in Phoenix, but if there’s one week you can count on him being “out of the office,” it’s U.S. Open week. Quiz yourself on the following Rules scenarios courtesy of Dr. Farran. Honesty is key. After all, golf is a game of integrity:

Okay or Not Okay?
1. Flagstick on ground is lifted as ball rolls towards flagstick after a stroke.
Okay     Not Okay

2. Ball played from fringe strikes attended flagstick in the hole.
Okay     Not Okay

3. Player putts and ball strikes the flagstick which was placed on the fringe.
Okay     Not Okay

4. A player’s ball in play after a stroke is resting against the flagstick and is not holed. A fellow-competitor, without being asked, removes flagstick and the ball falls into the hole. The player tees off on the next hole.
Okay     Not Okay

Snead putting
Sam Snead’s croquet-style putting led the USGA to ban it… but only on the green.

5. Player plays stroke from fringe with croquet-style stroke.
Okay     Not Okay

6. While a player plays a stroke on the putting green, a fellow-competitor stands on the line behind the player to watch the break being careful not to disturb the player.
Okay     Not Okay

7. On the putting green, a player reaches across the hole and taps in a short putt.
Okay     Not Okay

8. A player does not remove his ball-marker when he replaces his ball on the putting green. Wind then moves his ball at rest to a new position. The player plays the ball from its new location.
Okay     Not Okay

9. While a ball is in motion after a stroke, a player moves a bunker rake to prevent the ball played by a fellow-competitor from being deflected into a bunker.
Okay     Not Okay

10. In single match play, the two players are not comfortable with the Rule that the ball farther from the hole is to be played first and agree to play “ready golf.”
Okay     Not Okay

1. Okay              **Rule 24-1.
2. Not Okay     **Rule 17-3a.
3. Not Okay     **Rules 17-3a. Also, see Decision 17-3/3.
4. Not Okay     **Rule 17-4 and Rule 3-2. See Rule 17-3 Decisions.
5. Okay               **Rule 16-1e.
6. Okay               **Rule 14-2b. A fellow-competitor is an outside agency. 
7. Okay               **Definition of “Line of Putt” and Rule 16-1e.
8. Okay               **Definition of “Ball in Play” and Rule 20-4.
9. Not Okay     **Rule 24-1. Also, see Rule 1-2.
10. Not Okay   **Rule 1-3. Also, see Decisions 1-3/0.5 and 1-3/2.

Miscellaneous Questions

Carrying a non-conforming club is a breach of Rule 4-1a and a two-stroke penalty.

1. In which case would the player not be penalized?

a) He carries a non-conforming club but does not use it during the round.
b) He carries a 15th club but is careful not to use the club during the round.
c) He adds lead tape to a club during a round.
d) His 5-iron becomes unfit for play while make a stroke. He replaces the damaged club with a sand wedge.

2. In stroke play, it is not known or virtually certain that a player’s tee shot is in a water hazard. The player, without any statement of intent, plays another ball from the tee and then finds his original ball outside the water hazard. What is the ruling?

a) There is no penalty and the original ball is in play.
b) The original ball is lost and the second ball played from the tee is in play under penalty of stroke and distance.
c) The player incurs a penalty of two strokes and the original ball is the ball in play.

3. A competitor’s ball lies on a grassy bank within a water hazard. The player removes a stick in the water hazard near his ball and then, as he takes his stance, the player accidentally moves his ball in play.

The player then elects to take relief from the water hazard. Including the one-stroke penalty for relief from the water hazard, how many total penalty strokes has the player incurred?

a) 1
b) 2
c) 3
d) 4

4. In individual stroke play, Ball A in motion after a stroke through the green is deflected by Ball B in motion after a stroke through the green. The collision occurs on the putting green.

a) Both players incur a penalty of one stroke. The strokes must be canceled and replayed.
b) Both player incur a penalty of two strokes. The strokes must be canceled and replayed.
c) Both strokes must be canceled and replayed without penalty.
d) Both balls are played as they lie. No penalties are incurred by either player.

1. d.     **See Rule 4-3a. Also, see Decision 4-3/1.
2. b.     **See Rule 27-1a. Also, see Rule 27-2a.
3. d.     **See Rules 13-4c, 18-2, and 26-1 and Decision 13-4/17.2p under Rule 13-4, 1p under Rule 18-2, and 1p.
4. d.     **See Rule 19-5b.


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