Accidentally Knocking your Ball off the Tee

Accidentally Knocking Your Ball off the Tee

Most of us have accidentally knocked our ball off the tee when setting up for our drive.

Then, there’s always somebody in your group who shouts’, “One”.

 But is it actually a stroke? Does it count? NO!

Rule 6.1a tells us that we start a hole by making a stroke and a stroke, by definition, is the forward movement of the club with the intent to hit the ball. Knocking the ball off the tee by accident is not an intent to hit the ball, so it doesn’t count as a stroke. You can put the ball back on the tee and hit away with no penalty.

The teeing area is a special part of the golf course. The teeing area is a rectangle with the corners being the front edges of the tee markers and two club lengths backwards.

You can alter the surface, move bend or break grass, remove dew or press down grass or dirt within the teeing area before you start the hole.

If you make a stroke with the intention of hitting your ball, then that stroke counts even if you barely make contact with your ball or even whiff it (air-shot).

If your ball moves outside the teeing area you must play your ball as it lies.

However, should you barely make contact with your ball or even whiff it (air-shot) and your ball stays within the teeing area you have many more options than you had before the 2019 rules changes.

  1. You can play your ball as it lies, pick it up and move it anywhere within that teeing area with no penalty to make your next stroke. (Rule 9.4b).
  2. You can even tee it up again or substitute a new ball!

The new rules have made the teeing area a free for all in many respects and knowing this rule can be used to your advantage.

But when is your ball in the Teeing Area?

Your ball is in the teeing area when any part of your ball touches or is above any part of the teeing area.

See the diagram below:

Image detailing when a ball is in the teeing area
WHEN BALL IS IN TEEING AREA The dotted line defines the outside edges of the teeing area (see Definition of Teeing Area). A ball is in the teeing area when any part of the ball touches or is above part of the teeing area.

Why do Golf Clubs have a Dress Code?

Why do golf clubs have a dress code?

There is, in fact, no set or fixed golf dress code, except in professional golf tournaments, e.g.:

‘At all PGA Golf Management tournaments, players shall present themselves with a neat and clean appearance. Shorts or denim are not permitted to be worn by male competitors. Khakis or slacks and collared shirts must be worn by all male players. Female competitors may wear shorts or skirts’.

A golf club’s dress code is whatever the club decides. Some clubs are happy to have none, others can have some highly complicated regulations. However there is some broad consensus among golf clubs which have chosen to have dress codes as to what is and is not acceptable.

If you are in any doubt as to  what to wear, check with the Golf Club beforehand.

Many golf courses require golfers to wear particular clothing because this instils a sense of professionalism and respectability. It’s important for players to look their best, so they maintain the reputation of the club.

If in doubt, wear chinos and a collared shirt. No club is going to object to that. Well not if the shirt is tucked into the trousers anyway, as some clubs have prohibitions on untucked shirts.

What is acceptable on the course and in the clubhouse can be different, too. If you have ever wondered what a spike bar is, this is a bar that players can go into straight off the course without having to change out of your spiked golf shoes.

Why Do Golfers Have A Dress Code?

When you start thinking about playing golf, you’ll come across a lot of new rules.

Not all of them have to do with how you play golf, your swing, choosing a club, playing a stroke, birdies, pars, or eagles. One of the things many of you may feel concerned about is a dress code.

Many municipal golf courses don’t have any rules about the way you should dress. However, when it comes to private golf clubs, you can face a dress code. Each club may have its own dress code, but the basic points are usually the same.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why some golf clubs are strict about maintaining a dress code.

A Respect for Tradition

A dress code is steeped in tradition

The first games of golf as we know them date back to the 15th century. Although there is evidence that golf may have originated much earlier than that; the game has had several centuries to grow and develop and so have the traditions around it.

Golf, initially, was played by royalty and the elite. Each game being a special event at which the nobility didn’t just have fun. They used it as an opportunity to discuss important matters and arriving at a golf course inappropriately dressed was absolutely out of the question.

If you were to arrive at the golf course looking less than impeccable, the consequences could be dire, starting from unpleasant rumours and ending with the dissatisfaction of the king.

That’s why with time, a certain dress code has emerged, and Golf Clubs and players have continued to ensure that they follow it closely.

As time has passed, and although the game of golf has turned into an entertaining event accessible to more and more people, players haven’t really wanted to change tradition.

Comfort and Safety

If you look at old photographs of golfers, it will seem that the comfort of the players was rarely considered, with time however, it has become more and more important. What may at first appear to be a tribute to tradition is, in fact, a sensible way to add comfort and safety to the players.

  • Golf hat or cap – protects the player from the sun while the visor shields the eyes from direct sunlight to help make a good swing.
  • Collared shirt or polo – a collar is an excellent way to protect your neck from the sunshine and avoid sunburn.
  • Special golf shoes – ensure comfort on the course for hours without slipping or damaging the grass.
  • Slacks, pants, trousers, shorts, skirts – provide freedom of movement, protection from the sunrays and undergrowth and proper ventilation.

So, even if a club doesn’t demand it, it makes sense to follow the common dress code. Wearing clothing made specifically for playing golf, can make your game comfortable and increase your chances of achieving better results.  

Following the Dress Code

In the 21st century, following the golf club’s dress code is easier than it may seem. If you wear a collared shirt, trousers, tailored shorts, skirts and golf shoes without metal spikes, you are likely to be accepted at most golf clubs.

Also bear in mind, that besides following the dress code, you must protect your skin from the sun and also dress appropriately in cold or rainy weather. No matter how strict your club is about the dress code, it’s likely to relax its rules when it comes to rain suits or overcoats.

A Final Comment

When you are planning for your next game, consider having a change of clothing with you, especially when there is a threat of inclement weather.

A day at the golf club may entail a dinner or a cup of coffee inside the building. You don’t want to sit at the table sweaty with your clothes dripping wet or stained by grass. That’s why you should have a change of clothing that suits the club’s dress code.

No matter how well you know the dress code, it’s important to call the club in advance or visit the website to check the details. Each golf club, especially well established ones, may have its own dress code nuances, which could become the cause of ruined plans.

Rules of Amateur Status

Guidance on the Rules of Amateur Status – Revised 2022

Significant Changes To Golf’s Rules Of Amateur Status Published

The R&A and USGA have published new Rules of Amateur Status which came into effect 1st January 2022, which bring in big changes to prizes and sponsorship.

RULES OF AMATEUR STATUS: THE HEADLINES

The new Rules identify that only the following acts would result in a golfer losing their amateur status:

  • Accepting a prize with a value exceeding the prize limit (£700/$1000) or accepting prize money in a handicap competition.
  • Playing as a professional.
  • Accepting payment for giving instruction (although all current exceptions still apply, such as coaching at educational institutions and assisting with approved programmes).
  • Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.

To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes have been introduced:

  • Distinguishing between scratch and handicap competitions in terms of the prizes that may be accepted.
  • The prize rule applies only to tee-to-hole competitions played on a golf course or a simulator but no longer apply to long-drive, putting and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition.
  • Eliminating all advertising, expense-related and sponsorship restrictions.

PRIZES

The rules make a distinction between scratch and handicap golf.

Rule 3a says that an amateur playing in a scratch competition may accept a prize (including cash) up to a new limit of £700 or $1,000 – that limit is raised from £500 or $750.

But Rule 3b states that an amateur playing in a handicap competition is not allowed to accept prize money but can claim any other prize up to the £700/$1,000 limit.

The initial proposal was a situation where any amateur golfer would be able to accept a cash prize up to the prescribed limit, regardless of the type of event they were playing in.

Feedback that the R&A and USGA received demonstrated two main concerns –

Firstly, that cash has certain temptations, and they didn’t want to tamper with the fabric of amateur golf – The game the majority play which relies so heavily on integrity and self-policing in terms of Rules and handicapping.

Secondly, a concern on the potential loss of revenue for Golf Clubs. The way it works with vouchers and merchandise as prizes is important to the game financially, as it stays within the golf clubs.

Those two aspects made the R&A and USGA reconsider the situation with regards to cash prizes across the game. So, they’ve limited that to scratch only.”

By removing the cash prize element for handicap golf, the governing bodies were able to consider raising the prize money limit. It will now by £700 or $1,000.

By changing their position on cash prizes, it enabled them then to feel that they could also give something for handicap golf by raising the limit.

The prize limit applies to any tee to hole competition, any skills competition within a tee to hole competition (nearest the pin or longest drive for instance).

Total prizes accepted in a single competition should not exceed the limit – If you were to win the team, individual, nearest the pin and longest drive prizes in one event, you wouldn’t be able to accept total prizes with value higher than £700 or $1,000.

But in non-tee to hole competitions, a long drive contest or trick shot contest for instance, the prize limit does not apply.

SPONSORSHIP

Perhaps the biggest change to the Rules is the removal of all restrictions on advertising, expenses and sponsorship on amateurs being able to advertise the source of sponsorship assistance they were given.

There are reasons for that. As they were, if you were part of a national squad, what you could receive and what the squad could do in terms of giving publicity to the sponsor was out of kilter with what an individual could do.

Similarly, if you managed to get yourself onto a scholarship programme in the U.S, or elsewhere, you’d have funding and backing that would enable you to compete at an elite level.

But if you were just short of that standard then you’d be looking to try to get some assistance without being able to offer anything back.

A halfway house would add a burden on administrators and players themselves. Therefore, it seemed right that the time had come to remove those restrictions.”

INSTRUCTION

The Rule on instruction has been tweaked slightly to allow amateurs to give instruction online if it’s not to a specific individual or group.

This is taking note of the number of elite amateur players who may have social media or other online accounts, in which they inevitably talk about their golf in a way that could be construed as instruction.

Instruction was previously allowed to be given in writing, via a magazine article or book for instance.

This is not seen as a significant change to the instruction rule, it’s a logical incremental step based on how social media has become the new form of instructional book.

The new Rules on Amateur Status, together with guidance notes and an overview document can be downloaded by clicking on the download buttons below: 

Cheating in Golf

Hi,

I hope you are able to get out and enjoy lots of golf now that the weather is better and more settled.

It would appear that many of you are organising and entering Open Competitions and I have been informed of some suspicious actions by players during a round.

I have received several emails asking for my advice on how to deal with cheating in Golf.

Perhaps your initial feeling is that you cannot tolerate it and the offender should be disciplined and kicked out of the Club.

But, because of the repercussions of accusing a player of cheating, you need to keep a level-head and carefully assess your approach before you do anything.

What follows are my own ideas on how to approach cheating.

You may not agree with them but I feel they will allow you to deal with a situation without affecting your round, enjoyment of your game or relationship with your playing partner.

A central principle of the game of golf is that players play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game; it makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.

According to studies by the National Golf Foundation, approximately 90% of golfers claim that they play by the rules. So why are there still lots of golfers that sweep away two-footers , improve a lie or take extra tee-shots and don’t add extra strokes?

This is because, basically, although there are players who will always cheat, there are a number of players who don’t even really know they are cheating. So, instead of berating them for it, you should extend them the benefit of the doubt that they are unaware of the cheating – don’t go full pelt into disciplinary action but use the moment to teach them.

You could simply say, ‘You know you’re not supposed to do that?’ and generally, many will thank you for your input and change their behaviour. However, if this isn’t the case and they continue to play the same way, then you simply never play with them again.

Calculate the costs of your actions and always act with a level head. 

Golf is seen by many as not just a fun pastime, but also a social event. So, any accusations of cheating in golf can have implications that go way beyond the golfing green. You may accuse a golfer of cheating on the fairway – and then be expected to have a meal and drinks with him/her later… maybe with partners and children.

If the match is of low importance and no one is really losing out greatly by the cheating – and making accusations can cause difficult situations in the future, then it might simply be best just to let things slide. However, if it’s a tournament or important competition, then it’s different. So, are you playing for high stakes or low stakes, or is there more to lose than gain by confrontation?

Calculate what your accusation may cost overall and work out whether it’s worth it.

So, what advice can I offer you?

In 2016, before the New Rules of Golf were introduced in 2019, it was advocated that all Clubs should have both a Code of Conduct and Pace-of-play Policy in place and in the public domain. Unfortunately, not every Club followed the advice.

A policy would provide a reference for players and visitors as to what kind of behaviour was expected from them and, should a player or visitor be guilty of misconduct, a reference to why they were considered to have been in breach of the Code of Conduct and what penalties they might face.

Rule 1.2 is an important Rule in the Rules of Golf as it details the conduct that is expected of all players and what is meant by spirit of the game but on its own it is weak and can be difficult to impose.

There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may under Rule 1.2a, disqualify a player for serious misconduct for acting contrary to the spirit of the game. This applies whether, or not, there is a Code of Conduct in place for a competition.

When considering whether a player is guilty of serious misconduct, the Committee should consider whether the player’s action was intentional and whether the act was significant enough to warrant disqualification without first giving a warning and/or applying other penalties when a Code of Conduct is in place

A Committee, or individual, should also be mindful of a person’s reputation and the far-reaching effects of an accusation outside of the golf course or Golf Club.

Any accuser or attestor to an incident must be 100% certain of the facts, it is no use just having a suspicion.

Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a and further guidance on what is meant by serious misconduct, can be found in Interpretation 1.2a/1.

However, a Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5H (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted).

Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.”

A suggested Code of Conduct Policy is available on my Website, click on the link below:

Code of Conduct Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

Also for consideration is an example Pace-of-play policy available by clicking on the link below.:

Sample Pace of Play Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

Summary

So, in summary, some points that come to mind, for consideration when it comes to suspecting an individual, or group of individuals, of breaching Rules are, in no particular order:

  1. Cheating is a matter of fact it has always gone on and always will with some individuals, professional or amateur.
  2. You must be 100% certain of your facts, be careful to avoid using the word ’cheat’
  3. A mere suggestion could have serious repercussions outside the Golf Course for the ‘guilty’ party, the accuser and the Golf Club
  4. If only a suspicion that an individual is breaching a rule, keep a close eye on them but do not call them out until you have definite evidence.
  5. Is the misdemeanour serious or just a minor infraction?
  6. Is the infringement intentional or accidental?
  7. Could a player handle the situation without resorting to informing a Committee, better this way if it can be done?
  8. Try to use any trespasses as a means of education and avoid any confrontations.
  9. Depending on the status of the competition, if 100% certain of a breach of the Rules, call the player out immediately or could you leave it until you get to the clubhouse and talk it over with him/her. Picking a player up on his/her behaviour may cause an atmosphere for the rest of your round.
  10. Again, depending on the status of the competition, impose a penalty there and then or just give them a reminder of their actions and the correct procedure to follow.
  11. If the individual is a persistent offender or the offence considered really serious, then, having called them out during a round, refuse to mark their scorecard, inform the committee of both your and the player’s actions and let the Committee handle the situation.
  12. Ensure the committee has a sound policy in place for dealing with disciplinary actions.

There is also some advice on My Golf website on how to discipline a member, click on the link below to read more:

How to Discipline a Member (or Visitor). • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

There may be a few more observations that you can think of and I would like to hear them from you, but I hope you find these helpful at the moment.

Enjoy your Golf

Tony

New Rules of Golf – 2019

New Rules of Golf – 2019

 

INTRODUCTION

The new Rules of Golf 2019 which took effect on 1st January 2019. The key changes included:

NEW DEFINITIONS:

  • Penalty Area – an area from which relief with a 1 shot penalty is allowed (formerly ‘Water Hazard’). Still defined as either yellow or red.
  • Relief Area – the area in which the ball must be dropped (and come to rest) when taking relief under a rule.
  • General Area – anywhere on the course except Teeing areas, Penalty areas, Bunkers and Greens (formerly ‘Through the Green’)
  • Temporary Water – formerly ‘Casual Water’

PACE-OF-PLAY SUPPORT

  • Encouragement of Ready Golf in Stroke Play.
  • Players may agree to play out of turn in Match Play.
  • Elimination of ‘Ball Moved’ penalties
  • No penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball.

RELAXED PUTTING GREEN RULES

  • No penalty if a ball hits an unattended flagstick in the hole.
  • Players may repair damage to the green, whether their ball is on the green or not. This includes old hole plugs, spike marks and damage made by shoes, animals, and maintenance practices (but not aeration holes, unless there is a local rule in place).
  • No penalty for touching the line of putt.
  • A ball resting against the flagstick is deemed holed if part of the ball is below the surface of the ground.
  • Interference by a Wrong Green now includes the player’s stance.

RELAXED BUNKER RULES

  • No penalty for moving loose impediments (stones, leaves, etc.) in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with hand or club (but not directly in front or behind the ball or in making a backswing or practice swing).
  • An extra relief option for an unplayable ball, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two stroke penalty.

RELAXED RULES FOR PENALTY AREAS

  • Expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed.
  • No penalty for moving loose impediments, touching the ground or water or taking a practice swing in a Penalty Area.

SIMPLIFIED WAY OF TAKING RELIEF

  • New procedure for taking relief by dropping in a specific Relief Area.
  • Ball dropped from knee height and must stay within the Relief Area.

LOST BALL & PROVISIONAL BALL

  • A ball is Lost if not found within 3 minutes of commencing search, although a reasonable amount of additional time is allowed to get to and identify a ball that has been spotted within the 3 minutes.
  • A Provisional Ball may be played after the player has moved forward, at any time up to the end of the 3 minute search period.

ALTERNATIVE TO STROKE & DISTANCE

  • A new Local Rule to allow golfers to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty.
  • This Local Rule is not available in Qualifiers and is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.

SOME OTHER CHANGES

  • The honour on the tee is determined by the player with the lowest gross score on the previous hole.
  • No need to announce the intention to lift a ball to identify it or determine if it is in an abnormal condition (ball must be marked first).
  • A ball may be marked by holding a club behind or to the side of it.
  • Natural objects may be moved to see if they are loose or unattached. If they are found to be attached they must be replaced as close as possible to their original position.
  • No penalty for a multiple hit or if the ball accidentally hits the player.
    Relief for an embedded ball is available anywhere in the General Area and the Relief Area is 1 club length from a point directly behind the ball.
  • No “opposite side relief” from red penalty areas.
  • A player may keep using and/or repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger.
  • A player is not allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged by an outside influence or by someone other than the player or caddie.
  • A new form of Stroke Play called ‘Maximum Score’ where the maximum score for a hole is set at a specific number (e.g. 8), or twice the par of the hole, or nett double bogey. For example, if the maximum score for a hole is set at 8 and you lose your ball and decide not to complete the hole, your score is entered as 8. Similarly, once you have played 7 (or less) shots you can pick up your ball and record 8 on the scorecard.
  • For Acceptable Scores, the maximum score must be set at a minimum of 5 over par (equivalent to net double bogey for a player receiving 3 shots on the hole).

Click on the links below which will take you to more detailed videos on specific topics and which are often accompanied by additional written explanations:

BALL AT REST

TAKING RELIEF

THE PUTTING GREEN

PENALTY AREAS

BUNKERS

PLAYING THE BALL

WHEN TO PLAY DURING A ROUND

PLAYER BEHAVIOUR

NEW LOCAL RULE which golf clubs may adopt

RELIEF OPTIONS

The relief options under the New Rules of Golf are described below. Click on the links to go directly to the rule.

R&A RULES OF GOLF WEBSITE

Click to go to the Official Rules of Golf website, which is made up of 6 parts, including:

  • The Rules of Golf (full version) which is intended for those who administer the game and who need to answer the variety of questions that can arise in relation to golf competitions.
  • The Rules of Golf (Player’s Edition) which is intended for you, the golfer. It contains the Rules situations that occur most commonly on the course and is an abridged version of the full Rules. Although its text is edited, it gives the same answer that is in the full Rules of Golf and so it is a functioning Rule book.
  • Definitions – over 70 defined terms that form the foundation around which the Rules are written.
  • Interpretations – provided only for aspects of the Rules that are considered to require additional clarification (replaces the old ‘Decisions’ book).
  • Committee Procedures – practical guidance for those involved in running day to day play at golf courses, including defining Penalty Areas and defining Local Rules.

R&A RULES MODERNISATION WEBSITE

The Rules of Golf Modernisation website contains detailed descriptions, documents and videos about the new rules, as well as a link to download a 2019 Rules app for iOS and Android.

Slow Play – Pace of Play – Ready Golf

Slow Play – Pace of Play – Ready Golf

Now we all know how frustrating a slow round of golf can be and are always ready to blame players or a group in front of us, but player behaviour may not always be the reason for Slow Play.

The R&A and USGA have championed the use of Ready Golf in order to deter Slow Play and many Golf Clubs are following their recommendation in the misguided belief that it will encourage golfers to play more frequently, attract more individuals to play golf and overnight turn round their falling revenues.

I do not see how the R&A and USGA can continue to promote this action when their own findings from their Pace of Play Global Survey (2015) clearly demonstrated that Player behaviour did not play a major part in increasing the  time to play a round of golf.

Their Global Survey clearly showed:

  1. That less than 18% of golfers said Slow Play prevented them from playing more frequently
  2. Over 75% of golfers said they had no issues with Slow Play and did not feel it affected their membership or impacted greatly on the Pace of Play

Meaning that Player Behaviour was not a major factor in increasing the Pace of Play of a round of golf.

What the R&A and USGA did find from their Global Survey, and I do not know why they are not asking Clubs to put these issues to the top of a Pace of Play agenda was that the three major factors affecting Pace of Play were:

  1. Overcrowding the Golf Course
  2. Course Set Up
  3. Course Management

Many policies that Golf Clubs have already in place create a slow pace of play even before a golfer has teed up his/her ball on the first tee.

Surely Clubs must be encouraged to address these issues if they want to thrive and improve revenues, rather than covering them up by blaming player behaviour for the problem – which Ready Golf only emphasises.

Ready Golf as it is being introduced at the moment, like the previous ‘keep up with the group in front’, will not work alone.

To have any effect it will require marshalling, which is expensive both in time and manpower and the need to have a strict pace of Play Policy in place so that players, both members and visitors, know what is expected of them out on the course or in a competition.

You can browse the R&A  Pace of Play Manual by following the link below:

https://www.randa.org/pace-of-play/manual

or download a copy of the R&A Pace of Play Manual by clicking on the download button below:

You can link to an example of a Pace of Play Policy, from where you can also download a copy, by clicking on the link below:

Sample Pace of Play Policy – Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

VIDEO:

Click on the link below to view a video featuring Andrew Coltart and John E Morgan providing advice on how Pace of Play can be improved:

How you can improve Pace of Play – Sky Sports Video

 

 

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball, covers when and how a player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

Many players assume that they must take Free Relief under a Rule that offers it as an option or take Free Relief because it is offered.

However, there are occasions when a player decides against taking Free Relief because a Nearest Point of Complete Relief may place her/his ball in an unfavourable lie, and so s/he opts to play the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to play her/his ball as it lies if they so wish.

There may also be occasions when Free Relief may not be allowed, and these are outlined under Rule 16.1a(3) – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball.

There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The diagram below illustrates a typical instance when Free Relief would not be allowed.

Diagram Showiing Relief Options for Ball Unplayable in General Area with Temporary Water
Diagram illustrating that Free Relief is not a right and may not be an option.
This diagram assumes that you are Right-handed.

You discover that your ball is lying in the middle of a bush.

To play a stroke at the ball you find that you will be standing in Temporary Water and decide to take Free Relief under Rule 16, Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions etc.

Unfortunately, because of the lie of the ball, it is not possible for you to play a normal stroke at the ball, even if the Temporary Water was not there; you must be able to play a normal stroke at your ball.

To claim Free Relief under a Rule of Golf that offers it as an option you must, in the first instance, be able to play a normal stroke at your ball. So, in these circumstances, you are not allowed to take Free Relief from the Temporary Water and your only course of action is to declare that your ball, in the bush, is unplayable. (See Rule 19) You now have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke:

1. You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).

2. You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

3. You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, including the Temporary Water. If you decide to, and can drop your ball in the Temporary Water, you may then get Free Relief from the Temporary Water under Rule 16, remembering to still include your one penalty stroke for the initial Unplayable Ball.

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball, covers when and how a player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

Many players assume that they must take Free Relief under a Rule that offers it as an option or take Free Relief because it is offered.

However, there are occasions when a player decides against taking Free Relief because a Nearest Point of Complete Relief may place her/his ball in an unfavourable lie, and so s/he opts to play the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to play her/his ball as it lies if they so wish.

There may also be occasions when Free Relief may not be allowed, and these are outlined under Rule 16.1a(3) – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball.

There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The diagram below illustrates a typical instance when Free Relief would not be allowed.

Diagram Showiing Relief Options for Ball Unplayable in General Area with Temporary Water

Diagram illustrating that Free Relief is not a right and may not be an option.
This diagram assumes that you are Right-handed.

You discover that your ball is lying in the middle of a bush.

To play a stroke at the ball you find that you will be standing in Temporary Water and decide to take Free Relief under Rule 16, Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions etc.

Unfortunately, because of the lie of the ball, it is not possible for you to play a normal stroke at the ball, even if the Temporary Water was not there; you must be able to play a normal stroke at your ball.

To claim Free Relief under a Rule of Golf that offers it as an option you must, in the first instance, be able to play a normal stroke at your ball. So, in these circumstances, you are not allowed to take Free Relief from the Temporary Water and your only course of action is to declare that your ball, in the bush, is unplayable. (See Rule 19) You now have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke:

1. You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).

2. You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

3. You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, including the Temporary Water. If you decide to, and can drop your ball in the Temporary Water, you may then get Free Relief from the Temporary Water under Rule 16, remembering to still include your one penalty stroke for the initial Unplayable Ball.

Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

The diagram below gives you an idea of how to assess the Nearest Point of Complete Relief from an Abnormal Course Condition using relief from a Cart Path as an example.

Diagram of Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief
The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1, and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the ACC.

But what if you are physically unable to determine the NPCR because of, for example, the trunk of a tree, a boundary fence, or a boundary wall?

The diagram below illustrates the point where a right-handed player may be unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate the point under Rule 16. Also see the Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed.
B1 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P1 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S1 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P1 – results in player’s stance being out of bounds
B2 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P2 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S2 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P2 – unable to take stance because of Boundary Wall
B3 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P3 = Nearest point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S3 = Notional Stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief At P3 – Unable to take this stance because of tree trunk

But golf is a test of playing ability and is the same for everyone, but some can be more adept at playing shots than others, or more inventive, so long as a stroke is not unreasonable.

In the diagram above there are several options for a right-handed player:

  1. There is no rule that prevents a player from standing Out of Bounds or on a Boundary Wall to play a stroke at a ball that is in play on the course.
  2. A player may strike the ball with the face of a club if he stands with his back to the direction of play and plays the ball backwards from the side of his shoe, not standing astride the line of play, in a reverse Croquet Style stroke. There would be no Free Relief for this type of stroke because it is not a recognised as reasonable as the player could strike the wall first in making the stroke.

If a player is looking for Free Relief, then s/he may make a stroke at a ball with the back of a club, which would be regarded as a left-handed stroke.

This is an acceptable stroke and so the player would be entitled to Free Relief from the Cart Path as a Left-handed Player.

Once the reference point has been ascertained and relief has been taken and the ball dropped, the player may continue playing her/his left-handed stroke or if the lie of the ball now allows him to be able to take a stance in an area where he has complete relief from the Cart Path, so not standing on the Cart Path, then he may continue play in any direction he wishes.

See Rule 16.1a

16.1a(3)/1
Obstruction Interfering with Abnormal Stroke May Not Preclude Player From Taking Relief

In some situations, a player may have to adopt an abnormal swing, stance or direction of play in playing his or her ball to accommodate a given situation. If the abnormal stroke is not clearly unreasonable given the circumstances, the player is permitted to take free relief under Rule 16.1.

For example, in the general area, a right-handed player’s ball is so close to a boundary object on the left side of a hole that he or she must make a left-handed swing to play towards the hole. In making the left-handed swing, the player’s stance is interfered with by an immovable obstruction.

The player is allowed relief from the immovable obstruction since use of a left-handed swing is not clearly unreasonable in the circumstances.

After the relief procedure for the left-handed swing is complete, the player may then use a normal right-handed swing for the next stroke. If the obstruction interferes with the right-handed swing, the player may take relief for the right-handed swing under Rule 16.1b or play the ball as it lies.

16.1a(3)/2
Player May Not Use Clearly Unreasonable Stroke to Get Relief from Condition

A player may not use a clearly unreasonably stroke to get relief from an abnormal ground condition. If the player’s stroke is clearly unreasonable given the circumstances, relief under Rule 16.1 is not allowed, and he or she must either play the ball as it lies or take unplayable ball relief.

For example, in the general area, a right-handed player’s ball is in a bad lie. A nearby immovable obstruction would not interfere with the player’s normal right-handed stroke, but would interfere with a left-handed stroke. The player states that he or she is going to make the next stroke left-handed and believes that, since the obstruction would interfere with such a stroke, Rule 16.1b allows relief.

However, since the only reason for the player to use a left-handed stroke is to escape a bad lie by taking relief, use of the left-handed stroke is clearly unreasonable and the player is not allowed to take relief under Rule 16.1b (Rule 16.1a(3)).

The same principles would apply to the use of a clearly unreasonable stance, direction of play or the choice of a club.

Another situation is shown below when your ball lies close to a cart path. There is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green, but you cannot play towards the green from where your ball lies because of intervention by the tree.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. At point A there is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green. However, the player cannot play towards the green from point A because of intervention by the tree. Her/his only reasonable stroke is sideways to the fairway but her/his stance for such a stroke would be on the cart path.
As a result of the tree, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 16 for the sideways stroke since this is not an unnecessarily abnormal direction of play and his NPCR would be Point B. After the ball is dropped within 1 Club-length of point B (within the shaded area) and it comes to rest at point C, the player may then play in any direction s/he wishes.

Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief – Not Nicest

Hope you all are enjoying your golf and feeling that there is some return to normality, especially as many Clubs are beginning to run competitions.

With the return to golf, there have been more questions flowing in, a majority, as expected, are concerning the WHS but questions related to the Rules of Golf are also appearing.

A recent query concerned a ball that lay on a Cart Path (An Abnormal Course Condition), the player realised that the only free relief placed his ball in the middle of a bush. He wondered whether free relief was or could he take relief under the Unplayable Ball Rule instead.

This is not an uncommon situation and one that you could find yourself in on several occasions during your rounds of golf.

The straight answer is yes he  could; a player may declare a Ball Unplayable anywhere on the course provided her/his ball is not in a penalty area, for 1 penalty stroke.

Before you take this decision you need to look closely at the situation and your options.

  1. If you take an unplayable immediately, where will your ball lie.
  2. May it be better to take the relief first and then declare your ball unplayable, this may allow you to drop your ball in a better position.
  3. There is always the option to take stroke and distance and play a ball from the place where you played the last shot.

The diagram below gives you an idea of how to assess the Nearest Point of Complete Relief from an Abnormal Course Condition using relief from a Cart Path as an example.

Diagram of Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief
The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1, and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the ACC.

But what if you are physically unable to determine the NPCR because of, for example, the trunk of a tree, a boundary fence, or a boundary wall?

The diagram below illustrates the point where a right-handed player may be unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate the point under Rule 16. Also see the Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed.
B1 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P1 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S1 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P1 – results in player’s stance being out of bounds
B2 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P2 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S2 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P2 – unable to take stance because of Boundary Wall
B3 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P3 = Nearest point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S3 = Notional Stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief At P3 – Unable to take this stance because of tree trunk

Another situation is shown below when your ball lies close to a cart path. There is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green, but you cannot play towards the green from where your ball lies because of intervention by the tree.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. At point A there is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green. However, the player cannot play towards the green from point A because of intervention by the tree. Her/his only reasonable stroke is sideways to the fairway but her/his stance for such a stroke would be on the cart path.
As a result of the tree, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 16 for the sideways stroke since this is not an unnecessarily abnormal direction of play and his NPCR would be Point B. After the ball is dropped within 1 Club-length of point B (within the shaded area) and it comes to rest at point C, the player may then play in any direction s/he wishes.
Enjoy your golf, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like specific content to the My Golf website.

Best wishes

Tony