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 – 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

Rules of Golf 14.1c Marking, Lifting and Cleaning a Ball – So this means a player can DELIBERATELY clean their ball for a one-shot penalty?

I received a comment on Marking, Lifting and Cleaning your ball, which relates to the wording of Rule 14.1c:

‘If the player cleans a lifted ball when not allowed, he or she gets one penalty stroke.

The comment was:

‘So, this means a player can DELIBERATELY clean their ball for a one-shot penalty?

I am thinking of recent tournaments where many mud balls veered off-line. (With a 2 /3 shot lead and playing your second shot from 200yards on the last hole over water, it would be sensible to deliberately clean your ball !!!!)’.

Well, this is not quite true!

You may be forgiven for thinking it, but I would go no further than that unless you want to be tarred with the same brush as Phil Mickelson or Patrick Reed and have members think twice before playing with you or have your Club banning you from competitions.

Why?

In the first place you must have a good reason for lifting your ball and you can only lift a ball under a Rule of Golf.

So, if you have no legitimate reason to lift your ball you will incur a 1-stroke penalty for that on top of your 1-stroke penalty for cleaning the ball.

But, if you felt you had a good reason to lift your ball, you are still deliberately breaching a Rule of Golf for your own advantage and gaining an advantage over your fellow competitors.

Which brings me on to the real reasons why you should not even contemplate cleaning your ball when it is not allowed.

  1. The central principles of the game of golf for a player are:
    • Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.
    • Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game.
  2. You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play.
  3. All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by following certain advice and this includes:
  4. Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.

Something that we all sign-up to when we book a tee-time or enter a competition

Note: There are exceptions where the Rules allow the player to alter conditions on the course and require or allow the player to play the ball from a different place than where it lies, and these are set out quite clearly in the Rules of Golf.

There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act against the spirit of the game in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.

The meaning of Serious Misconduct is dealt with under Interpretation 1.2a/1:

The phrase “serious misconduct” in Rule 1.2a is intended to cover player misconduct that is so far removed from the expected norm in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified. This includes dishonesty, deliberately interfering with another player’s rights, or endangering the safety of others.

The Committee must determine if the misconduct is serious considering all the circumstances. Even if the Committee determines that the misconduct is serious, it may take the view that it is more appropriate to warn the player that a repeat of the misconduct or similar misconduct will result in disqualification, instead of disqualifying him or her in the first instance.

There are several examples of actions by a player that are likely to be considered serious misconduct included amongst them is:

  • Deliberately not playing in accordance with the Rules and potentially gaining a significant advantage by doing so, despite incurring a penalty for a breach of the relevant Rule.

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

An action that may be considered as a compromise when dealing with a ‘Mud Ball’, is that, when replacing your ball, there is no requirement to place it back in the same orientation.

It must be placed back in the same position horizontally and vertically, but it can be rotated so that your club will not strike the mud on the ball.

What you are not allowed to do is place the ball with the mud downwards, (acting as a tee-peg) this would raise the position of the ball vertically from its original position, the ball not being placed in its original position.

But this action still depends upon your lifting of the ball being legitimate under a Rule of Golf in the first place.

Enjoy your golf but play fair with your fellow golfers.

Marking and Lifting a Ball

Marking and Lifting a Ball

Hope you are all keeping safe and looking forward to the day playing golf can return, in one form or another.

Following my last post, concerning Winter Golf, an interesting observation was made by a follower of My Golf Blog:

‘I can’t see in model local rule E-3 any recommendation to mark the ball’.

Previously up to December 3st 2018, the Local Rule for Preferred Lies included the words:

‘Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position’.

In the 2019 Rules of Golf this wording was removed, so removing the requirement to mark a ball if taking relief when a Local Rule for Preferred Lies has been adopted.

The Previous Rules of Golf always stated that the position of a ball must be marked before it is lifted under a Rule that requires it to be replaced.

But, what many of you may not have known was that there was never any requirement to mark the position of a ball that was to be lifted and placed or dropped when taking relief under a Rule of Golf.

There was always confusion over this, especially given the wording of the ‘old’ Preferred Lie local rule which conflicted with the Rules of Golf (old Rule 20.1)

The position with Marking and Lifting a ball has now been clarified with the wording of Rules of Golf 14.1.

14.1 – Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball

This Rule applies to the deliberate “lifting” of a player’s ball at rest, which includes picking up the ball by hand, rotating it or otherwise deliberately causing it to move from its spot.

a Spot of Ball to Be Lifted and Replaced Must Be Marked

Before lifting a ball under a Rule requiring the ball to be replaced on its original spot, the player must mark the spot which means to:

  • Place a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Hold a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

If the spot is marked with a ball-marker, after replacing the ball the player must remove the ball-marker before making a stroke (otherwise the player gets one penalty stroke – my wording).

If the player lifts the ball without marking its spot, marks its spot in a wrong way or makes a stroke with a ball-marker left in place, the player gets one penalty stroke.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

When a ball is lifted to take relief under a Rule, the player is not required to mark the spot before lifting the ball.

You can read more by clicking on the link below:

Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing from Wrong Place (randa.org)

Keep safe and well

Best wishes

Tony

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules and Handicapping Blog: www.my-golf.uk

World Handicap System 2020 – WHS Winter Golf

World Handicap System 2020 – WHS Winter Golf

This post may be a little academic at this time of a Third Lockdown and Golf Courss being closed in England, Wales and Ireland (Scotland remaining open), but I have received a number of emails over the last few weeks concerning the WHS and Winter Handicaps, Winter Tees, Winter Courses and Winter Rules.

The most common problem has been where Clubs have not rated their Winter Tees, because of their temporary nature,  but wish to run competitions on these courses.

Added to this is is the fact that Club Handicap Software will not offer the option for winter handicaps under the  WHS.

It is the intention of the national federations that there is a 12-month handicapping season.  WHS allows for the return of scores less than 18 holes, when a club designates some unplayable, for example due to wet conditions or lack of light.  Handicap Software Systems  have  guidelines allowing for shortened holes and winter tees.  PCC (the new equivalent to CSS) is designed to account for daily playing conditions and handicaps are calculated against this, not the course rating (the new equivalent to SSS) or par.

Your Club will still be able organise non-qualifying competitions and process these through your Handicap Software for publication.

The World Handicap System states that acceptable scores for handicap purposes should be posted throughout the year.

However, this is not really feasible when winter courses are in play, especially courses which are not sand-based; the advice is that when course conditions are poor then it is not reasonable to be submitting qualifying (Acceptable) scores.

Regardless of the season, acceptable scores can only be submitted on a rated course (which would include a temporary rating where necessary).

If a Club does not have such a course, for whatever reason  and a common one now is that Winter Tees have not been rated, then clearly such scores cannot be submitted.

Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping is solely for when there are temporary adjustments to a course for reasons such as emergency maintenance on a tee etc. and does not include a winter course.

So, if a club wants to offer Acceptable Scores during the winter period when winter tees are in use, then the course being played needs to have a rating, whether that is a full rating or a temporary rating.

A Club must apply for this rating and it is up to the appropriate County to provide this service (albeit at their convenience – they are all volunteers!).

Whilst the aim is to allow submission of Acceptable Scores all year, a level of realism is required on courses that are clearly sub-standard due to weather conditions (as they would have been in previous years).

This situation may not just be for winter, it would not be unreasonable, even in the Summer playing season, that a club could prevent the return of Acceptable scores (competition and social/General Play) if the course is not in a good condition – examples of this could be when the greens have been hollow-tined or heavily top dressed.

Until a Course Rating has been issued a Club may only run Non-acceptable Competitions.

To sum up:

Acceptable Scores – Winter Competitions

To run Competitions and want scores to be acceptable for Handicap Purposes:

  • Competitions must be run over 9 or 18 Holes.
  • Rounds must be played in accordance with Rule 2.1 of the Rules of Handicapping Page 26.
  • Preferred lies are allowable under the guidance below.
  • Scaling up is allowed in accordance with Rule 3.2 of the Rules of Handicapping (Page 36/37).

If a Club cannot run Competitions that are acceptable for Handicap Purposes, it can still run Non-acceptable Competitions that can be set up using Club Software or Manually to record Scores and Winners.

The following procedure is quite permissible, and several Clubs are following similar ones.

Non-Acceptable Scores – Winter Competitions

To run Competitions where scores are not acceptable for Handicap Purposes, but where results can be processed, a neutral slope of 113 and a Course rating equal to the Par of the holes being played can be used.

This will mean a Chart to generate the Course Handicap is not required (i.e., your Course Handicap is your rounded Handicap Index).  The scores cannot be Acceptable for handicap purposes, but it does allow non-qualifying competitions to be run during this period (lockdown notwithstanding).

    • If your Club uses Software to run the competition you can follow the guidelines within the software to cater for unrated courses.
    • If your Club runs its competitions manually, you can use the Handicap Index as the basis for the calculation of a Course Handicap and/or Playing Handicap which should then be adjusted relative to the number of holes being played.

Guidance on the Preferred Lies Period

Preferred Lies – Model Local Rules E-2 and E-3.

In England, Wales and Scotland the Preferred Lies Period runs from 1st October to 30th April while in Ireland, the Preferred Lies period is from November 1st to April 30th.

Clubs can run competitions where scores are acceptable for handicapping purposes during this period when both Model Local Rule E-2 and E-3 are in force.

It is recommended that a Local Rule permitting preferred lies in the general area outside of the preferred lies period should be used only in extreme circumstances where scores will not be accepted for handicapping purpose (WHS Guidance document Appendix H).

The purpose of preferred lies as described in Model Local Rule E-3 is to protect areas of the course cut to fairway height or less.  This Model Local Rule allows players to lift, clean and place the ball within six inches in the General Area cut to fairway height.  It is recommended that the ball should be marked before lifting.  The ball must be placed in the relief area within six inches of the reference point.

However, it is not recommended that this Rule is routinely adopted for the General Area as a whole because it could give a player an unfair advantage by offering her/him free relief from an unplayable lie, e.g., a ball located behind a tree or under a bush.

There is another Model Local Rule, E-2, that may be adopted which allows balls to be cleaned in the General Area when conditions such as wet ground throughout parts of the course may cause mud to stick to the ball.

The purpose of Model Local Rule E-2 is to allow players to clean the ball in the general area (which would include the Rough) when conditions throughout parts of the course cause mud to stick to the ball.  This allows the ball to be cleaned and replaced and should be limited to those parts of the course where needed, not to the whole course. The ball must be marked before lifting and cleaning and must be replaced on its original spot before playing.

During the Preferred Lie period scores may not be returned for handicapping purposes if any of the following local rules or restrictions apply: –

    1. Preferred lies in the general area or where the relief area exceeds 6 inches.
    2. The ball is lifted from the fairway and placed or dropped in the semi-rough
    3. The competition is over less than 18 holes but is not a 9 hole competition
    4. If the competition is played using winter tees or greens and a temporary modification to the course and slope ratings has not been approved by the area authority
    5. Where the use of fairway mats does not follow the rules provided in the WHS Guidance document Appendix H GH/2.

I hope this offers some help and guidance for those of you trying to work through the Winter Period and organise competitive Golf Competitions

You can download a copy of this advice by clicking on the link below:

World Handicap System 2020 – WHS Winter Golf • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf (my-golf.uk)

Stay safe and well

Best wishes

Tony

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Blog: www.my-golf.uk

COVID-19 Restrictions – R&A, England Golf and CONGU Updates 29 June 2020

COVID-19 Restrictions – R&A, England Golf and CONGU Updates 29 June 2020

Well I hope everyone is managing to get out to play a little golf; it certainly feels a bit unusual playing under the COVID-19 restrictions, a bit clinical but at least we’re getting some golf in now.

Golf is a social game, and to have to leave a course as soon as you can after playing, takes some getting used to. This may change for some when Clubhouses can open, under strict conditions, on Saturday 4 July.

Remember however that the COVID-19 restrictions will still be in place and MUST be strictly adhered to comply with Government safety guidelines.

These restrictions are there for Clubs to provide a safe environment for staff and players and a means of being able to play golf safely.

The restrictions were agreed in consultation with the All-Part Parliamentary Group for Golf, led by Craig Stacey, the MP North Warwickshire and it was on England Golf’s assurance that all Golf Clubs would adhere to the restrictions that Golf Courses could open.

Many Clubs have enjoyed the opportunity to play social rounds and with the Government allowing groups of up to 4 people to play, some have even brought back competitions and qualifying rounds. I hope they do not abuse the easing of restrictions and assume it is ‘business as usual’. The pandemic still has some time to run.

The R&A and CONGU, without changing the Rules of Golf issued some temporary changes to the Rules to allow rounds to qualify for handicap purposes. These were first published at the beginning of June 2020 but were modified on Monday 29 June 2020.

You can read the full publication of England Golf’s ‘A Framework for Playing Golf’ and the R&A’s COVID-19 ‘Related Guidance on the rules of Golf’ by clicking on the respective link below.

England Golf’s ‘A Framework for Playing Golf

England Golf Coronavirus FAQs

R&A’s COVID-19 ‘Related Guidance on the rules of Golf’

CONGU Guidance on the Rules of Golf for Qualifying Scores

The changes to note from the previous publications are:

  1. All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed. Players may bring their own personal rakes and retrievers, which should only be handled by that player and taken away at the end of their round
  2. Open-top bins may be used on course, provided that measures are taken to sanitise the bin and to ensure players do not touch the bin or its contents
  3. All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions
  4. A minimum 10-minute interval is advised between tee times, but clubs may use shorter intervals, provided that they can demonstrate that this is safe and ensures appropriate social distancing
  5. Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the club/facility, for example not leaving cars until a certain time before their tee time
  6. Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green, for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to tee off
  7. Caddies may be used, provided group sizes do not exceed those specified by government (4 people)
  8. Where used, caddies should only provide guidance to players and should not handle clubs
  9. Appropriate social distancing and sanitising should be maintained by players and caddies at all times
  10. The distance for preferred lies in the bunker is limited to 6 inches and the area cannot be smoothed before placing.
  11. Golfers are required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times and not to touch it. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule
  12. Players may centre the flagstick in a safe manner which does not involve using the hand, even when wearing a glove or using a towel (for example, by using a club). The centring of the Flagstick may be allowed while another player putts (this may be desirable in windy conditions when the Flagstick is required to be left in the hole and is leaning towards the player making the stroke).
  13. The hole liner (sometimes referred to as the hole ‘cup’) is to be set in a way that means that all of the ball cannot be below the surface of the putting green, so the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the surface of the putting green
  14. However, if any of the following provisions are used, play in such circumstances is not in accordance with the Rules of Golf:
    1. Treating a ball as holed or holed with the next stroke if it is within a certain distance of the hole.
    2. Having the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treating a ball as holed if it strikes the liner.
    3. Treating a ball as holed when it has bounced out of the hole for any reason (for example, when it has bounced off the flagstick, a tray attached to the flagstick or the hole liner).
  15. Golf clubs can sell takeaway food and drinks until indoor bar and catering facilities reopen on 4 July 2020, in line with their existing licences and provided food and drinks are only consumed on the course or away from the premises. From 4 July, indoor bar and catering facilities can reopen under strict control. Payments should be contactless or made during pre-order. Clubs are reminded outdoor seating areas around the clubhouse should not be in use at this time.

So, enjoy your golf, Stay Safe and Play Safe

Tony

 

Coronovirus FAQs for GB&I on the Return to Golf

Coronovirus FAQs for GB&I on the Return to Golf

National Golfing Organisations Covid-19 FAQs

Following the re-opening of Golf Courses in GB&I, each National Organisation has issued its FAQs regarding playing golf in its country.

Although very similar, some of the details of the restrictions do vary in each country.

Click here to view the England Golf FAQs regarding the reopening of Golf in England

Click here to view the Wales Golf FAQ’s regarding the reopening of Golf in Wales Updated V3

Click here to download the Wales Golf Guidance Document for Playing Golf in Wales and UK Under COVID-19 Restrictions (VERSION 3)

Click here to download the Wales Golf, ‘Golfers Stay Safe Guidance’ infographic (VERSION 2)

Click here to view the Golf Ireland FAQs regarding the reopening of Golf in Northern Ireland

Click here to view the Scottish Golf FAQs regarding the reopening of Golf in Scotland

If you are returning to playing golf, Stay Safe and Play Safe

Remember that if you are in the ‘Vulnerable Category’, which includes those over 70 years of age government guidelines must still be followed and returning to playing golf is at your own discretion.

If you are in the ‘Extremely Vulnerable’ category then you must be shielding and ‘Stay at Home’ – so no Golf for you yet.

So Stay Safe and well

Tony

May I Remove a Clump of Sand from Behind My Golf Ball?

May I remove a clump of Sand from behind my golf ball?

Things have gone a little quiet on the Rules front lately, might it be the the USGA and R&A have got it right and players are understanding the Rules of Golf better, is it because not many are getting out to play golf in the poor weather conditions being experienced in many parts of the Country or are you all contemplating the introduction of the World Handicap System later in the year?

However I did receive a question during the week, and one which is quite pertinent considering the publicity surrounding one Golfing Professional.

Q: I know that I am not permitted to remove clumps of sand from the apron of the putting green when they are in my line of putt.

However, if the clump of sand is 2 – 3 inches behind my ball is there a penalty if I remove the clump of sand with my backswing (not a practice swing or using the back of the club as a brush!).

The clump of sand interfered with my normal backswing and I did not want to take an exaggerated quick lift up of the club to avoid the sand.

A: When it comes to Sand and Soil they are not regarded as being Loose Impediments unless they are lying on the Putting Green.

They cannot be disturbed or removed before making a stroke at your ball. If this happens you will be in breach of Rule 8.1a, by Improving your Lie.

You will incur a General Penalty of 2-penalty Strokes.

However, in the case of Soil, if it is compacted into a solid clump, for example a plug which has been removed during hollow-tining or an unreplaced divot, it is then regarded as a Loose Impediment and may be removed without penalty.

A recent incident on the PGA Tour highlights this:

Patrick Reed was penalised two strokes for a rules’ violation in the Hero World Challenge third round in the Bahamas in an incident that has led to a lot of criticism of the Masters Champion behaviour. Something that will stay with him for a long time to come.

Reed was penalised the strokes after twice moving sand while taking practice swings in a sandy waste area at the 11th hole at Albany Golf Club, which served to marginally improve his lie.

Reed was deemed to have improved his lie and intended line of play by “removing or pressing down sand or loose soil,” in violation of rule 8.1a

Of course there is no penalty if you move the sand or soil during the downswing and full completion of your stroke or if your Club has Preferred Lies in operation in placing your ball within 6 inches or a width of a scorecard from the original lie of your ball you may legitimately get partial, if not full, relief from the sand or soil that is impeding your stroke.

Try and enjoy your golf under these difficult weather conditions and keep smiling

Tony

Rules Blog: www.my-golf.uk

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

 

May a Committee Adopt a Local Rule for Free-relief for a Lost Ball in Standing Water or Under Fallen Leaves?

May a Committee Adopt a Local Rule for Free-relief for a Lost Ball in Standing Water or Under Fallen Leaves?

With the weather conditions that many golfers are experiencing at the moment there are some playing conditions that make a round of golf not only difficult but not that enjoyable to play.

The most frustrating thing is having played a reasonable shot, knowing where your ball has landed only to then be faced with the fact that you cannot find your ball.

Because you do not consider it is your fault you feel that under the circumstances you should not be penalised but be allowed some form of relief.

I received a request along these lines to consider if a local rule could be adopted allowing free relief.

‘Do you consider that a temporary local rule should be put in place when the following situations arise: During the winter months, especially late November and December, my golf Course suffers badly from a lot of standing water and fallen leaves. Very often a player’s ball, invariably from a tee shot, becomes imbedded in soft ground and will be lost, or becomes lost under a carpet of leaves. The new three-minute rule of course does not help the searching in these situations. Very often the player feels hard done by because the lost ball is none of his making, but due to the abnormal conditions. Also, because it is winter, the walk back to where the original shot was played, is not a high priority when playing stableford. Therefore, do you consider that a temporary local rule is warranted allowing a free-drop in the area where the ball is considered lost, with of course full agreement of the other players?’

Golf is an outside sport and so subject to many and varied playing conditions especially those created by nature, which many players accept as being part of the challenge of playing different courses at different times of the year along with the frustration that the conditions bring.

A Committee does have the freedom, within reason, to adopt its own local rules so long as it does not change a Rule of Golf or reduce a penalty that would be imposed by a Rule of Golf and if thinking of adopting a Local Rule, it will have to decide on what status a golf round will have; will it be a Qualifying Round or one for General Play only?

The reason for this is because of the impact that a Local Rule can have on the status of a Round of Golf.

A Committee will also have to ensure that all players know as and when the Local Rule is in operation.

In considering the question I will divide it into two parts:

  1. Problem with Standing-water
  2. The problem with Fallen Leaves

 

  1. Standing-water

When you go out to play a game of golf it is understood that you accept the central principles of the game stated in Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Golf and:

  • Play the course as you find it and the ball as it lies
  • Play by the Rules and in the Spirit of the Game
  • You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you do not gain any potential advantage over your fellow players or opponents

The Rule, however, does provide for exceptions where the Rules allow you to alter conditions on the course and require or allow you to play the ball from a different place from where it lies.

One such circumstance is Interference from Abnormal Course Conditions, which the R&A and USGA do not regard as part of the challenge of playing the course and free-relief may generally be allowed, except in a Penalty Area.

The Standing-water (known now as Temporary Water) is accepted as an Abnormal Course Condition and so Free-relief may be obtained from it.

An important point, especially in this case, is that you may get Free-relief for a Ball that is not found but is in the Temporary Water.

This is covered by Rule 16.1e. and the Rule applies in both Qualifying Rounds and General Play.

The only proviso is that you must ‘Know or be Virtually Certain’ that your ball came to rest in the Temporary Water; if that is the case then you may take Free Relief using an estimated point where you think your ball came to rest in the Temporary Water and use this relief instead of Stroke and Distance.

So, no real need to adopt a Local Rule for these situations.

  1. Fallen Leaves

Now these are a different problem because the R&A and USGA do not regard them as Abnormal Course Conditions, and so no Free Relief can be obtained from them in Qualifying Competitions.

Rule 18.2 provides advice on dealing with Lost Balls in these circumstances and if you have not played a provisional ball, in the expectation that your ball may be difficult to find or indeed be lost, then you have no alternative than to go back and play another ball under Stroke and Distance.

Unfortunately, you may not adopt a Local Rule to give relief from the fallen leaves, especially one that would reduce a penalty that would normally be incurred.

This is dealt with under Committee Procedures 8L – Unauthorised Local Rules:

  • A Committee does not have the authority to adopt rules to fit particular needs of a course or competition and any Local Rule must be consistent with policies established din Section 8, Model Local Rules.
  • If a Committee authorises players to play under Local Rules that differ from the Rules of Golf, the player may not post her/his score for handicap purposes and their round will be considered to be one of General Play

However, if your game is one of general play only and you lose your ball under fallen leaves, or anything else, or is Out of Bounds, and YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED A PROVISIONAL BALL, then your Committee could adopt an Alternative Rule to the Stroke and Distance as a Local Rule, intended to help with Pace of Play.

This is covered by Committee Procedures Model Local Rule – 8E – Special or Required Relief Procedures

E-5 Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Lost Ball or Ball Out of Bounds

Purpose. When a provisional ball has not been played, significant issues with pace of play can result for a player needing to take stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found. The purpose of this Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that allows a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.

The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). For guidance on when and how this Local Rule may be used in order for scores to be submitted for handicapping purposes, consult the rules or recommendations contained within the Handicap System operating in the local jurisdiction.

Where a Committee has introduced such a Local Rule for general play, and removes it for competitions, it should ensure that all players are aware of this before play begins.

A Committee may introduce such a Local Rule for all play on the course or only for one or two specific holes where it may be especially useful (for example, where players are unable to see the landing area and therefore may not know whether or not to play a provisional ball).

This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway of the hole being played that is not nearer the hole.

The player gets two penalty strokes when using this relief option. This means that the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke-and-distance relief.

This Local Rule cannot be used for an unplayable ball, or for a ball that is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area.

If a provisional ball is played and neither the original ball nor the provisional ball can be found, then the Local Rule may be applied for the provisional ball that cannot be found.

Model Local Rule E-5

“When a player’s ball has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds, the player may proceed as follows rather than proceeding under stroke and distance.

For two penalty strokes, the player may take relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

Two Estimated Reference Points:

(a). Ball Reference Point: The point where the original ball is estimated to have:

  • Come to rest on the course, or
  • Last crossed the edge of the courseboundary to go out of bounds.

(b). Fairway Reference Point: The point of fairway of the hole being played that is nearest to the ball reference point, but is not nearer the hole than the ball reference point.

For purposes of this Local Rule, “fairway” means any area of grass in the general area that is cut to fairway height or less.

If a ball is estimated to be lost on the course or last crossed the edge of the course boundary short of the fairway, the fairway reference point may be a grass path or a teeing ground for the hole being played cut to fairway height or less.

Size of Relief Area Based on Reference Points: Anywhere between:

  • A line from the holethrough the ball reference point (and within two club-lengths to the outside of that line), and
  • A line from the holethrough the fairway reference point (and within two club-lengths to the fairway side of that line).

But with these limits:

Limits on Location of Relief Area:

  • Must be in the general area, and
  • Must not be nearer the holethan the ball reference point.

Once the player puts a ball in play under this Local Rule:

  • The original ball that was lostor out of bounds is no longer in play and must not be played.
  • This is true even if the ball is found on the coursebefore the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But the player may not use this option to take relief for the original ball when:

  • That ball is known or virtually certainto have come to rest in a penalty area, or
  • The player has played another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance(see Rule 18.3).

A player may use this option to take relief for a provisional ball that has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

Ball Not Found
Ball Not Found

MLR E-5 DIAGRAM 1: BALL NOT FOUND

Ball out of Bounds
Ball out of Bounds

MLR E-5 DIAGRAM 2: BALL OUT OF BOUNDS

Ball Not Found or Out of Bounds Close to Green
Ball Not Found or Out of Bounds Close to Green

MLR E-5 DIAGRAM 3: BALL NOT FOUND OR OUT OF BOUNDS CLOSE TO GREEN

As a personal comment, but something my Golf Club has done recently, if the problem is a perpetual problem, then the Club should try to address the problem of the Standing Water by improving drainage in the affected areas and with fallen leaves clear them on a regular basis, even by just using a leaf-blower or more sophisticated Leaf Collection Equipment.

Committees and Clubs should be mindful of creating courses where players can enjoy a reasonable round of golf under all conditions.

Still, enjoy your golf

Tony

Is There any Relief Available in Order To Protect The Aprons of Putting Greens During Adverse Weather Conditions?

This time of year, is the time when man Clubs have to deal with Golf in Adverse Conditions, and when I receive many requests regarding possible relief whenm conditions are wet or verging on unplayable.

A question that I was asked this week was:

In winter, aprons can be very wet and chipping or pitching are sometimes necessary to avoid trying to guess the slowing effect of water on a putted ball. My playing partner was concerned about damaging the green and thought there may be a rule covering it? I was unsure.

Note – there was not ‘standing water’.

Secondly a ball landing on a summer green apron when the temporary winter green is some distance away raises the same question about damaging the apron with a large divot. Free relief like it had landed on the summer green? or is that only if a local rule has been adopted? 

PS I suppose the same concern could be applied to landing on the correct green (not apron) but a long way from the hole and considering a pitch shot over very wet grass rather than risking a putt up the green to the normal summer hole.

Under the Rules of Golf, the ‘aprons/fringes’ of putting greens are regarded as part of the General Area of a Golf course and therefore, under normal conditions, there are no general relief options available for balls lying in these areas and they must be played as they lie.

Point Number 1:

In winter, aprons can be very wet and chipping or pitching are sometimes necessary to avoid trying to guess the slowing effect of water on a putted ball. My playing partner was concerned about damaging the green and thought there may be a rule covering it? I was unsure.

Note – there was not ‘standing water’.

Where there are ongoing problems relating to wetness of, or damage to, the course most can be addressed by introducing Preferred Lies, marking affected areas as GUR and/or the introduction of Local Rules.

Relief under Rule 16-1b for Abnormal Course Conditions is optional and wherever practicable, particularly during the playing season, players are given the option to play the ball as it lies if they so wish.

 

Because a player may play a ball as it lies this option, and Preferred Lies, do not solve the problem of preventing damage to an area of a course but Committees do, however, have the power to prohibit players from playing from GUR, by designating these areas as ‘No Play Zones’.

See, Definition of ‘No Play Zones’Rule 2.4 and Model Local Rule E-8.1.

It is recommended that white markings be reserved for GUR where relief is optional and that where play is to be prohibited from GUR (No Play Zones), be marked in an alternative manner e.g. blue lines or white stakes with green tops.

Whenever a Committee has a need for a Local Rule to cover a situation set out in Model Local Rules, it should make use of the relevant specimen Local Rule, the wording of which should conform entirely to that given in the Model Local Rule. Wording that does not conform exactly to the R&A’s specimen wording causes confusion amongst players, particularly visiting players, who are conversant with the R&A’s drafting. Note that Committees do not have the authority to modify a Rule of Golf without prior consent from the R&A.

Other options open to Committees for consideration in protecting the fringes of putting greens are:

Teeing up on the closely mown areas or general area – cannot run qualifying competitions if this procedure is in play.

Lifting from closely mown areas and placing or dropping in the semi-rough

A Local Rule that requires or permits players to lift a ball from a closely mown area and drop or place in the semi rough to protect the fairway is not within the Rules of Golf and any competition played under conditions cannot be qualifying for handicap purposes (CONGU® UHS Decision 1(d)).

Dropping Zones Option to taking relief from Abnormal Course Conditions, Model Local Rule E-1.2 – competitions using dropping zones may be run as qualifying competitions

Use of Fairway Mats

Decision 1(a) of the CONGU® UHS sets out the conditions under which the use of fairway mats is permitted in Qualifying Competitions. It is important that the specimen Local Rule therein is adopted in its entirety. In particular note that for Qualifying Competitions the use of mats is restricted to closely mown areas and that the ball must not be teed-up on the mat (the mat itself may, however, be pegged into the ground). The use of fairway mats for Qualifying Competition purposes is restricted to the period 1 October to 30 April inclusive.

Point Number 2:

Secondly a ball landing on a summer green apron when the temporary winter green is some distance away raises the same question about damaging the apron with a large divot. Free relief like it had landed on the summer green? or is that only if a local rule has been adopted? 

Normally, no relief, because the aprons/fringes and wrong greens are considered to be general area and so will be dealt with in the same way as point 1.

However, under these circumstances, a local rule may be introduced to prevent play from the fringe of a wrong green, Model Local Rule D-4.

Why a similar Rule cannot be applied to a putting green being played to, I do not know.

Regarding the PS:

PS I suppose the same concern could be applied to landing on the correct green (not apron) but a long way from the hole and considering a pitch shot over very wet grass rather than risking a putt up the green to the normal summer hole.

The same concern may apply to landing on the correct green, but there is no Rule of Golf preventing a player from using any club on a putting green, so chipping on a Putting Green is permissible.

Green-keepers may not be too happy if a player takes a divot on a putting green, but a Committee cannot introduce a local rule preventing a player chipping on a putting green.

Enjoy your golf,

Tony