Friday, November 28, 2008

Ask Linda #97-Local Rules

Dear Linda,
There are two temporary greens on our golf course. Are we allowed to have a Local Rule that says as soon as your ball is on the temporary green you have an automatic two-putt unless your first putt goes in the hole?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

Making a Local Rule to give players an automatic two-putt on a temporary green is not permissible. Such a rule would violate the very first rule in the book, Rule 1-1, which states that “the Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules.” In stroke play, if you fail to hole out you are disqualified. In match play, you may pick the ball up before holing out if the putt is conceded.

If you are playing in a tournament, the Committee may decide to shorten the stipulated round from the customary 18 and delete the holes with the temporary greens from the competition.

There is a bit of confusion out there in the golf world about Local Rules. Some people believe that golf course personnel can make up any rules they wish and label them “Local Rules.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Committee is limited to the Local Rules published in the back of the rule book in Appendix I. This is a complete list of all the permissible Local Rules. If conditions are so unusual that the Committee feels it’s necessary to waive a rule of golf, it has to present it’s case to the USGA and get special permission to impose such a Local Rule.

Here are a few examples of other “illegal” Local Rules I have encountered:

1. Establishing a ball drop on the green side of a hazard for balls that fail to clear the hazard
2. Permitting opponents to play a second ball in match play when they are uncertain of their rights
3. Providing free relief if a player’s stroke is interfered with by exposed tree roots
4. Allowing players to smooth footprints in a sand bunker and then replace the ball
5. Allowing players to replay a stroke if their ball strikes a sprinkler head
6. Allowing free relief from a fence surrounding a driving range that is deemed to be out of bounds

None of the above-listed rules is permissible.

Local Rules that are permissible deal with such things as playing a provisional for a ball in a water hazard, preserving environmentally sensitive areas, protection of young trees, poor course conditions, stones in bunkers, immovable obstructions close to the putting green, temporary obstructions, dropping zones, and distance measuring devices. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the Local Rules in Appendix I that are approved by the USGA, it will be easy for you to recognize unacceptable Local Rules when you encounter them.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ask Linda #96-putting green issues

Dear Linda,
Is there a breach of rules for the following:
1. I accidentally mark and lift the ball of my opponent on the green
2. My opponent accidentally stepped on my line of putt or my mark
3. Fixing a spike mark on the green not in the line of my putt
Thank you.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

1. You are not entitled to lift your opponent’s ball in match play without his permission. Rule 20-1 states that “a ball to be lifted…may be lifted by the player, his partner, or another person authorized by the player.” You would be penalized one stroke under Rule 18-3b (Ball Moved by Opponent in Match Play). If this were a stroke play event, there would be no penalty [Rule 18-4].

2. There is no penalty if your opponent accidentally steps on your line of putt or your mark. There is not even a penalty if YOU do the same. However, if any damage is caused, the player has the right to restore his line of putt to its original condition. You are always entitled to the line of putt you had when your ball came to rest [Decisions 16-1a/12 and 13].

The ruling is considerably different if your opponent deliberately steps on your line of putt. Whether the intentions were good (e.g., flattening a spike mark) or bad (e.g., making a spike mark), the penalty is the same – loss of hole in match play, two strokes in stroke play. You also run the risk of disqualification if the Committee decides that what you did was intended to give another player a significant advantage, or put another player at a significant disadvantage [Rule 1-2 and Decision 1-2/1].

3. You are entitled to fix a spike mark on the green that is not in your line of putt, since doing so clearly will not assist you in your subsequent play of the hole. In fact, you are encouraged to fix spike marks and other damage to the green. My advice would be to do all your repair work after everyone has holed out. That way you will avoid any arguments with players who are unaware of this rule [Rule 16-1c].

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ask Linda #95-Match Play vs. Stroke Play

Linda, I’m interested about your comment on Rule 33-1 about not competing in both stroke and match play at the same time because that is what I’m doing this weekend.

At our club this weekend we are playing a best ball match play event (B vs. C grade pennant teams). However, the club has made a concession that we can also play in the regular club competition of the day, which is individual and best ball Stableford. Apart from putting out (even if conceded a gimme we need to putt out for our individual score) are there any other considerations we should be taking into account? Certainly the one about making sure the ball is marked on the green to avoid penalties is one consideration we will have to make.

Clearly, our primary event is the match play with the individual Stableford playing a secondary consideration. Hence, match play rules will be the primary rules we need to abide by.

Cheers
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
You have raised an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Not only do the golf rules prohibit playing simultaneously in a match play and a stroke play competition, they also state quite clearly that the result of a match played under such circumstances is null and void, and the competitors are disqualified from the stroke play competition. Despite this clearly-stated rule, clubs and organizations still insist on combining the two. I am at a loss to explain this blatant disregard of the rules, and am also mystified as to how the players are supposed to cope with the differences in rulings.

Now that I have let off some steam, I will proceed to your question. Here are what I would consider to be the most significant differences between match play rules and stroke play rules:

1. In match play you may concede your opponent’s next stroke, or even an entire hole. In stroke play, you are disqualified if you do not complete a hole.

2. In match play, if you are in doubt as to how to proceed because you are unsure about a rule, there is no provision for playing two balls. You must make a decision and continue playing. If your opponent disagrees with that decision, he can make a claim and the matter will be resolved by the Committee. In stroke play, you may play two balls and have the Committee sort it out later.

3. In match play, if you give wrong information to your opponent, you lose the hole. In stroke play, corrections to your score can be made up until you sign and turn in your score card.

4. In match play, if you hit a wrong ball you lose the hole. However, if you and your opponent accidentally exchange balls during play of a hole, and neither of you can figure out who hit the wrong ball first, then you complete the hole with the balls exchanged. In stroke play, you are penalized two strokes for hitting a wrong ball, and if you don’t correct your mistake you are disqualified.

5. In match play, if you play out of turn, your opponent has the right to recall your stroke and make you hit it again in the proper order (no penalty). In stroke play there is no provision to recall a stroke – the ball is played as it lies.

6. In match play, if you play from outside the teeing ground, there is no penalty. You will either play the ball as it lies, or replay it (if your opponent requires you to do so). In stroke play, there is a two-stroke penalty and you must re-tee within the teeing ground.

7. In match play, there is a one-stroke penalty if you move your opponent’s ball at any time other than during a search. In stroke play there is no penalty. (In both cases, incidentally, the moved ball must be replaced.)

8. In match play, if your ball hits your opponent or his equipment, you have two choices – play it as it lies, or cancel the stroke and replay it. In stroke play, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty, and you must play the ball as it lies.

9. In match play, if your ball hits your opponent’s ball there is no penalty. In stroke play, if both balls are on the green when this happens, there is a two-stroke penalty for the player whose putt hit the other ball.

This list is by no means complete, Lou, but I hope that it helps you to understand why the differences in the two forms of play make it virtually impossible to proceed within the rules of both match play and stroke play simultaneously. Even if the round were played with no rules infractions (and when has that ever happened?), you would still be ignoring the basic premise of each form of play – match play is played by hole, stroke play is aggregate score. The strategy for the one game is often at odds with the strategy for the other. The rule prohibiting playing concurrently in a match play and stroke play event is a justified and logical rule, and should not be ignored.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ask Linda #94-putt hits another ball

Dear Linda,
There is some disagreement among the women I golf with regarding who gets the penalty when you putt a ball and it hits someone else’s ball. Can you clear this up for us?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
The answer to this question depends on whether the competition is match play or stroke play.

In match play, there is no penalty if your ball is on the green, you putt it, and it strikes another ball lying on the green (Rule 19-5a). You will play your ball as it lies; the ball that moved when you hit it must be replaced (Rule 18-5).

The rule is different for stroke play. If your ball is on the green, you putt it, and your ball hits another ball lying on the green, you incur a two-stroke penalty (19-5a). The ball that you hit must be replaced (Rule18-5); you will play your ball as it lies.

It is customary and advisable in stroke play to mark and lift your ball when you are on the green. If another player has not lifted her ball, you are within your rights to ask her to do so. It’s just plain silly to risk a two-stroke penalty for an act that is so easy to avoid.

However, in match play, there may be some strategy involved in not asking a player to mark and lift her ball on the green. Suppose, for example, that you have a downhill putt, and your opponent’s ball is lying behind the hole where it could serve as a backstop for your ball if you putt it too hard. The rules state that you may lift your ball if you think it might assist another player (Rule 22-1). Note that there is a world of difference between “may” and “must.” If your opponent is showing no inclination to mark and lift her ball, take advantage of the situation and go ahead and putt.

The flip side of this advice, of course, is that if your ball may be in a position to help your opponent, you should mark and lift it. You always have the right to mark and lift a ball that you think might assist another player; another player may not require you to leave such a ball in place.

Best advice: In stroke play, always mark and lift your ball on the green. In match play, always lift your ball if it might assist your opponent, but don’t ask your opponent to lift her ball if it might assist you!

Linda

P.S. This is one of many examples where the rules differ for match play and stroke play, and should help you to understand why you are not permitted to compete in both forms of play during the same round (Rule 33-1).

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ask Linda #93-Is the ball in the hazard or lost?

Linda,
I recently had a situation where I did not know what to do. Maybe you can explain. I was playing in a tournament where the format was best net score and best gross score. On a par 5, I hit my second shot into a tree; underneath the tree there was a water hazard. No one saw where the ball went except that it hit the tree. After searching and not finding the ball I dropped a ball behind the water hazard where it last crossed. I hit my 4th shot towards the green. After we crossed the water hazard I proceeded to hit my next shot. After I hit, my original ball was found not in the water hazard. I continued playing my second ball. After I came in I realized that since no one saw the ball go into the water hazard that I probably should have played it as a lost ball. The other guys said I could hit the found ball. I do not think that was the right thing to do but I was sort of confused myself by then. What would have been the proper procedure?
Thanks,
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
The rule of thumb when you hit your ball towards a water hazard is that it must be “known or virtually certain” that the ball is in the hazard in order to proceed under any of the relief options for a ball in a hazard. Without such knowledge or certainty, you must play it as a lost ball, which means proceeding under “stroke and distance” (adding a penalty stroke to your score and hitting your next ball from where you hit your previous shot).

Since no one saw where your ball ricocheted, you were not permitted to assume it was in the hazard. You were entitled to search for a maximum of five minutes, after which you were required to play another ball under stroke and distance (Rule 27-1c).

When you dropped another ball behind the water hazard and played it, you violated two rules:

1. You were subject to a two-stroke penalty for breaching Rule 20-7c (Playing from Wrong Place)
2. You incurred a stroke and distance penalty under Rule 27-1 (Lost Ball)

This is only the start of your troubles. I’m guessing that the Committee would have ruled that you committed what is known as a “serious breach,” since the place where you dropped and played another ball was much closer to the hole than where you would have hit from had you properly hit another ball from where you hit your previous shot. Because you gained a significant advantage by playing from a spot closer to the hole, the Committee would have disqualified you from the competition.

There is a way around this disqualification (Rule 20-7c). If you realize that you may have committed a serious breach before you tee off on the next hole, you may go back and play a second ball under Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure). You must tell your fellow competitors which ball you would like to count if the rules permit, and you must explain everything to the Committee before you sign and return your score card. The Committee will sort out the mess and tell you which ball to count.

Given the facts as you stated them in your letter, you should have been disqualified from the tournament. Your guess that you should have played it as a lost ball was correct, but it came too late to fix the problem.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ask Linda #92-Why can't I post a 5-club round?

Hi Linda,
If a person scores a great round in a competition that requires using only five
clubs, why can't that score be posted for handicapping? I know that the USGA says no, but what is the rationale? I can see that high scores would elevate a person's handicap, but to penalize a person who had the best score of her life; it doesn't seem right. Am I missing something here?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
It is clear from your question that you understand that you are not permitted to post a score when one of the conditions of the competition is that the maximum number of clubs that may be used is less than 14.

Most players would find themselves at a disadvantage playing with only five clubs, and would be likely to score higher than what is normally a typical score for them. Clearly you had a very successful day carrying five clubs. I hope that you lapped the field with your great score and were generously rewarded!

Here is the rationale for not being permitted to post in this situation:

• Rule 4-4a limits golfers to a maximum of 14 clubs. A player has the option to carry less than 14 clubs; if he does so, the choice is his.

• When a player is informed he may carry a maximum of five clubs (as was the case in your tournament), he is playing under a condition that breaks a rule of golf; under the rules, he would be permitted to carry as many as 14.

• A player is not permitted to post a score when he does not play under the Rules of Golf.

You may have inadvertently made an important personal discovery. Perhaps the limited club selection freed your mind from worrying which would be the best club to use for each shot, thereby encouraging you to be creative in the shots you hit with the few clubs at your disposal. Alternately, you may have just been lucky. Why don’t you experiment with carrying fewer than 14 clubs and see if this has a positive effect on your game? I have not been able to find a rule that prohibits experimentation!

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ask Linda #91-changing course length

Dear Linda,
My home club is in Asia. On Wednesdays, which is Ladies’ Tournament Day, the Ladies’ Committee instructs the maintenance staff to move the Red tees behind the Black tees. The yardage from the Red tees is 5,674 yards; from the Black tees it is 6,560 yards. Is this allowed?

During the rest of the week, the Red Tees are in front of the Black Tees!!!! Will this not affect Yardage and Slope Rating?? Isn't this unfair for the mid- and high-handicappers, especially when there is a water hazard in front of one tee which is difficult to carry for the high handicappers? Can one move a Red tee behind a Black tee, which helps only about 4 percent of Lady Golfers?

The Red tee markers are put back to their original position the next morning.

By the way, love the personal nature of your replies, which are clear and precise.
Regards,
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
Before I address your questions, I need to explain to my readers that there are two official authorities on the rules of golf. The United States Golf Association (USGA) is the ruling authority for the U.S. and Mexico; The R&A (Royal & Ancient) is the authority for the rest of the world. The two groups cooperate in producing and revising both The Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

While the golf rules are the same for everyone, courses are not rated in the same way in the rest of the world as they are in the United States and Mexico. I don’t want to get too complicated here, so suffice it to say that the U.S. uses a combination of a Course Rating® that indicates what a scratch golfer is expected to score (e.g., 71.2) and a Slope Rating® that measures how difficult a course will be for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer (the ratings range from 55 to 155). The rest of the world uses a system based on a single rating for a scratch golfer.

Lulu, I can speak with regard to some of your points, but not all. Moving the Red tees behind the Black tees on your Ladies’ Day, which sets the distance at over 6,560 yards, is making your course exceptionally and unusually long for women golfers. For comparison, the USGA set the yardage for the women playing in the USGA Amateur Public Links Championship this year at 6,158 yards.

The Committee is entitled to establish the yardage for the competition. Personally,
I find it difficult to imagine the ladies at your club having a pleasant experience playing a course that is over 6,560 yards long. I would suggest that you meet with the Committee and perhaps the club pro and discuss what yardage would be most appropriate for your group. I agree with you that it is an unfair length for the mid- and high-handicappers.

The question that I cannot answer for you is how the longer yardage will affect your Slope Rating. Since you are playing in Asia, you will have to contact the R&A to get the correct information. Your pro might be able to help you with this question.

I could answer your rating question if you were playing in the United States, since there is a chart available to adjust the Course and Slope Ratings when you are playing from an unrated set of tees. Let’s pretend your golf course is located in the U.S., the only set of tees rated for women is the Red tees, and you are a woman playing from the Black tees. Here is how you would adjust the ratings:

1. Find the difference in yardage between the Red tees and the Black tees. At your course, the difference would be 886 yards.
2. Look at the chart entitled “Women’s Ratings Adjustments from Unrated Tees” (The USGA Handicap System, Section 5-2/g).
3. Find the line that includes 886 in its range (873-890).
4. The chart will tell you to add 4.9 to the Course Rating and 10 to the Slope Rating.
5. If the rating from the Red tees for women (and here I’m just making up the numbers, since your course is not located in the U.S.) were 70.6/121, the rating for women playing from the Black tees would be 75.5/131. (Such a high rating, incidentally, would indicate an extremely difficult course for women.)

Here is the link to find the charts to adjust the ratings for both men and women when you play from a set of tees that has not been rated for your gender:

http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/manual/manual.html

Lulu, I hope you will be able to find out from your club pro or The R&A how to adjust the rating when you play from the Black tees. This information will serve you well when you play other courses from a set of tees that has not been rated for women. I also hope that you will have a meaningful and productive discussion with the Committee, and that together you will establish a reasonable length for the tournaments held at your club on Wednesdays for the ladies.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ask Linda #90-damaged hole

Dear Linda,
In a better ball tournament, I was the first player to putt. After I finished putting, I noticed some damage to the hole, so I fixed it. There was some argument about whether I could do this. Can you please tell me if I was allowed to do that?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
You are always entitled to repair any damage to the green caused by the impact of a ball. So if you repaired a ball mark at the edge of the hole you did not violate any rule.

It’s a horse of a different color if the damage is something other than a ball mark. In that case, here are your guidelines:

1. If the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed, you should continue play without repairing the hole. In this case, if you repair the hole you are guilty of touching the line of putt, which results in a penalty of loss of hole (match play) or two strokes (stroke play). Since you fixed the hole after you finished putting, but before your partner putted, your partner is the one who would incur the penalty.

2. If the dimensions of the hole have been changed (e.g., the once-round hole now looks like one of those irregular shapes you studied under the microscope in chemistry class), then you have two options. If an official is present, you should ask to have the hole repaired. If no official is available, you are permitted to repair the damage without penalty.

My source for the above rulings is Decision 16-1a/6.

A variation on this topic is explained in Decision 1-2/3.5; since we are discussing fixing damage to the hole, it would be appropriate to take a look at this Decision right now.

In Decision 1-2/3.5, a player holes out, notices that the edge of the hole is ragged, and smoothes it out. In this situation, the player may or may not be subject to penalty:

1. If he smoothed it out as a courtesy to the following players, which is the most likely explanation, then there is no penalty. (However, read #3 below.)
2. If he smoothed it out to intentionally influence the movement of another player’s ball (you may have to be a mind reader to prove that one!) then there is a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) under Rule 1-2 (Exerting Influence on Ball).
3. In a four-ball (more commonly referred to as “better ball”) format, if a player has finished putting and smoothes the hole before his partner putts, then his partner will be penalized.

Best advice to keep you out of trouble: If the damage is severe, and no help is available, repair the hole; if the damage is a ball mark, repair it; if you want to smooth any rough edges around the hole, do so after everyone in your group finishes putting.

Linda
.
Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ask Linda #89-three-clubs only tournament

Dear Linda,
Are you allowed to post your score if you play in a three-club tournament?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
While you are never required to carry 14 clubs, which is the maximum number allowed, you may not post a score when the maximum number of clubs permitted is less than 14. It is also true that you may not post scores if you are limited, for example, to using only irons. This information can be found in The USGA Handicap System, Section 5-1/f, which is available online at usga.org. Here is the link:

http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/manual/manual.html

Here are some other situations where you are not permitted to post a score:

1. If you play less than 7 holes;
2. If you play during the inactive season (e.g., New Jersey is inactive from November through March, but if you are vacationing in Florida and play golf during those months, you must post those scores):
3. When you are not playing under the golf rules (e.g., scramble, Scotch Chapman, playing two balls throughout the round, etc.);
4. If the course is shorter than 3,000 yards (1,500 for 9 holes);
5. If the course you are playing has no USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating.

Lest we forget, you must post all of the following scores:

1. If you play at least 13 holes, you must post an 18-hole score. (Note: If you play between 7 and 12 holes, post a 9-hole score.)
2. Every round you play on a course with a USGA rating, both home and away, during the active season, must be posted.
3. You must post scores in both match play and stroke play. This includes match play or team competitions in which you may not have completed one or more holes or if you are asked to pick up when you are out of the hole. In such cases, you should record an X followed by your most likely score.
4. If you are disqualified from a competition (e.g., for failure to sign a scorecard), you still have an acceptable score for handicap purposes and should post it.

All scores should be posted on the day you play. Don’t forget to adjust your score total for Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) before you post. Here’s a quick ESC review:

“ESC” refers to Equitable Stroke Control. If you have an unusually bad hole, you must lower that score before you total your score and post it. If your Course Handicap is 9 or less, the maximum number you are allowed to post for any hole is double bogey; from 10 to 19, your maximum is 7; from 20 to 29, your maximum is 8; from 30 to 39, your maximum is 9; and for 40 or more, your maximum is 10.

Post all of your acceptable scores, and remember that your Handicap Index is not a reflection of your worth – it is only an indication of what you might be capable of scoring on your best day when you are playing the game of golf.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ask Linda #88-shortening a round

Dear Linda,
I just played in a tournament where there was a threat of a big rainstorm coming in the afternoon. My group was informed when we had just finished the third or fourth hole that the tournament would be shortened to a 9-hole tournament. I’ve never heard of anything like that happening! Is that permissible? My friends and I were very disappointed that only nine holes counted. We played all 18 holes anyway, and the weather never got really bad.
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
The definition of a “stipulated round” tells us that the number of holes to be played is 18, unless the Committee authorizes a smaller number. However, if you will be playing less than the customary 18, you must be informed of that decision prior to the start of your round. It should be printed on your rules sheet, or communicated to each player by a tournament official.

I played in a USGA qualifier this year where one of the holes on the course was closed. The competitors were informed, prior to the round, that the stipulated round for the tournament would be 17 holes. (That certainly made everyone’s score look better, although we all, of course, had to record a score for the skipped hole when we posted the score into our handicap record.)

Once you have begun play, the Committee cannot reduce the number of holes. Here is the exact wording, from Decision 33-1/2: “The Committee does not have the authority to reduce the number of holes of a stipulated round once play has commenced in that round.” Unless the weather poses a danger (e.g., lightning), or the course becomes unplayable (e.g., lakes are forming on the greens), play must continue.

It is not unusual to play golf in the rain (although I will agree that it is not the most pleasant of experiences), and the threat of rain does not constitute a reason to cancel a tournament. Indeed, Rule 6–8 reminds players that “bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play.”

In a stroke play tournament, the Committee may cancel the tournament if the course becomes unplayable. In such a case, all scores for the round are canceled. Hopefully, in such a case your tournament would be rescheduled.

From your question, it sounds like the course never became unplayable, the weather did not constitute a danger, and the competitors were not informed that the stipulated round had been reduced to nine holes prior to commencing play. The Committee was therefore not within its rights to shorten the tournament after it had begun, and the tournament should have continued until such time as the course became unplayable. This is an unusual and surprising action for a Committee to take, as it does not conform to USGA rules.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ask Linda #87-follow-up question to #86

Linda - Wouldn't she have marked all her balls in the same unique way if she was going to mark her balls? So now what?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
If a player is using balls with the same number, she should mark each one differently; if the balls have different numbers, she may mark them in the same manner. When I buy a new box of balls, I always rearrange them so that each box has three different numbers. That way I can mark each ball with my customary signature.

It’s not a bad idea to keep a couple of balls in your bag marked with a big “P” for “provisional.”

Something I probably should have mentioned in Ask Linda #86 is that when you hit a provisional, you should always announce what ball you are hitting, and how it can be distinguished from the original ball. And if you are playing in a group where a player is about to hit a provisional, if she neglects to announce her ball, don’t be shy about asking her to describe her provisional ball.

Finding two balls in the same area with no way to distinguish one from another is an avoidable predicament. An ounce of prevention (describing your provisional which you have marked differently from your original) is worth a pound of cure (hitting your fourth shot when it could have been your second).

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ask Linda #86-two same balls, can’t ID yours

Dear Linda,
My opponent in match play hit a ball off the tee and thought it might be lost, so she hit a provisional. She did not announce what ball she was using for her provisional, and I assumed that her second ball would be different from the first (different number or brand). When we reached the area where she hit both balls, she found one and claimed it was her first ball. We found another ball identical to that one a little deeper in the woods. I thought the deeper ball was her first ball; she claimed the other ball was her first ball. Both balls were identical – same brand and same number. How do you resolve this?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
The situation you describe involves a player who hit an unmarked ball into an area where it might be lost, and then hit an identical ball for her provisional (same brand, same number). Yikes!

Sure enough, Murphy’s Law comes into play (“anything that can go wrong, will”), and she hits both balls into the same area. She claims the ball in the better position to be her original ball; you claim the ball deeper in trouble to be her original ball.

There is no need to pull out the boxing gloves to settle this dispute; it is directly addressed in a very interesting Decision that you might want to read in its entirety sometime [Decision 27/11: Provisional Ball Not Distinguishable from Original Ball].

Technically, since the player cannot identify her ball, both balls are “lost.” However, this is a case where it would be unfair to require the player to return to the tee to hit another ball (that would be her fifth stroke) when it is clear that one of the two balls must be hers.

The ruling is that the player may choose to play either of the two balls. The ball she selects to play must be assumed to be her provisional ball. What this means for her score is that her next stroke will be her fourth shot on this hole (count 1 stroke for the tee shot, 1 stroke for the lost ball penalty, 1 stroke for the provisional which has now become her official ball in play).

Have you seen the TV commercial that shows the golf pros marking their balls in unique, personal ways? I believe the catch phrase is: “How do you mark your Titleist?” The ad is trying to sell a particular brand, but it is also a subtle reminder to all golfers to mark their golf balls.

I cannot emphasize enough that players need to put a unique identifying mark on their balls. I will never understand the resistance I often get (sometimes from highly skilled players) to this simple, easy-to-do task. Why would anyone want to run the risk of incurring a penalty because his ball is not personally identifiable? You have an opportunity to avoid a penalty by tapping your innermost artist and designing your own personal logo. Why skip the fun? Why put yourself in jeopardy?

There are enough penalties in golf that are unavoidable. Invest in an indelible pen and save yourself from this heartbreaking pitfall.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask Linda #85-Driving cart past ball

Linda,
Recently after a Club Championship Match an Opponent said a Player broke a rule on the 17th hole. Even though he did not "call it on him" the Opponent said the Player took his cart past his ball in order to look at the flagstick. I have searched the rules and I have even searched old rules because I believe I heard of this back in the old days. I would appreciate your help in this matter.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
There is no rule that prohibits you from going past your ball –whether driving your cart or walking– to see what lies ahead. However, there are a couple of etiquette issues that come into play here.

Section I in the rule book (Etiquette; Behavior on the Course) admonishes players to “always show consideration for other players” and “not disturb their play by moving, talking or making unnecessary noise.” A player who goes forward to check out what lies ahead should be very conscious of not disturbing the group ahead. Ride or walk off to the side, and remain still and quiet while any player is in his pre-shot routine. If the players ahead are not aware of your scouting mission, you deserve special kudos.

A second etiquette issue to consider is Pace of Play. If a player is in the habit of reconnoitering every hole, then I suspect he might be slowing the pace of play of his group, a serious no-no on the golf course.

Many of you may not be aware that you are permitted to use binoculars on the golf course. If the binoculars have no range-finding capabilities, they are perfectly legal [Decision 14-3/3].

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ask Linda #84-ball on rake rolls into bunker

Dear Linda,
My ball was on a rake outside a bunker. The bunker was a greenside bunker, and my ball was on a small strip of grass between the green and the bunker that was so severely sloped that I knew as soon as I removed the rake and dropped the ball it would roll into the hazard. I marked the ball, removed the rake, and dropped the ball. Sure enough, the ball rolled into the bunker. I dropped it again and the same thing happened. I had no luck placing the ball, either. No one knew what to do, so I played it out of the bunker. I found a Committee member after the round and explained what happened. She told me I did the right thing, but I’m not so sure. What’s your take on this?
Lulu
Dear Lulu,
This a complicated question, and we need to look at both the obstruction rule and the dropping rule to find the answer.
Under the obstruction rule, you may lift the ball and remove the rake (The rake is considered to be a movable obstruction, and you are entitled to free relief). The ball must then be dropped as near as possible to the spot underneath where it lay on the rake (Rule 24-1b).
When you drop the ball and it rolls into the bunker, the dropping rule now takes effect. You must re-drop a ball that rolls into a hazard [20-2c(i)]. Since your re-drop also went into the bunker, you would then place the ball where it hit the ground on your second drop. After the placed ball rolls into the bunker, you have to try to place it a second time. You proceeded correctly up until this point.
Here is where you went wrong: After the second try at placing the ball fails, you must place it at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. This might be a considerable distance away, and it even might end up being placed on the green (sounds too good to be true!) [Rule 20-3d].
There are seven situations in which a re-drop is required, followed by placing the ball if the second drop is unsuccessful. They are all listed under Rule 20-2c. I would recommend that all my readers take out a few minutes to review these situations. It’s always welcome news to find out that you don’t have to hit a ball out of a bunker!
Linda
Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ask Linda #83-putt hits ball on green

Linda, my question is:

Form of play: four-ball match play
• player and partner's ball (unmarked) on the green...
• player putts and hits partner's ball at rest on the green (not equipment for it has not been lifted, it is partner's ball in play)
• when you hit opponent's ball on the green, no penalty and opponent's ball is replaced and the other one is played as it lies...

Would player's partner be penalized under Rule18-2a for having his ball in play and at rest on the green moved after a stroke by his partner?

Curious Lulu in Puerto Rico

Dear Lulu,
In match play, there is no penalty to anyone for putting a ball from on the green that strikes another ball on the green. That holds true whether the ball that is struck belongs to your opponent or your partner. The ball that was in motion is played as it lies (Rule 19-5a); the ball that was moved must be replaced (Rule 18-5).

There may be some strategy involved in match play in not marking and lifting your ball on the green. If your ball lies on the far side of the hole, for example, and could serve as a backstop for your partner, it might be in your team’s best interest to leave the ball where it is. However, if your opponents notice that your ball might assist your partner, they may request that you lift the ball (Rule 22-1). If they make such a request, you must comply.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ask Linda #82-practice putt moves ball

Dear Linda,
I took a practice putt near my ball and accidentally hit it. I put it back, counted a penalty stroke, and then putted the ball. Did I do the right thing?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
I am so proud of you! Your procedure was absolutely correct.

In order for a swing to count as a stroke, you must intend to hit the ball [Definition of Stroke]. A practice swing, therefore, is not a stroke. What happens when you move the ball with a practice swing or putt comes under Rule 18-2 (Ball at Rest Moved by Player). This rule tells you that when you move a ball in play you incur a penalty of one stroke and must replace the ball.

The ruling is different if your practice swing on the tee box accidentally moves your ball. When you tee your ball up, it is not yet “in play.” A ball is officially “in play” as soon as you make a stroke at it on the teeing ground. (Note that a swing and a miss counts as a stroke, since you intended to hit the ball.) So, if you tee your ball up, step aside and take a practice swing that accidentally moves your ball, just hum along with me and pick the ball up, re-tee the ball, and start all over again.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ask Linda #80-wind blows ball

Linda, I was looking over a putt today when a gust of wind blew my ball. I put it back and then putted it. Was that correct?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
When your ball is moved by wind or water you must NOT put it back. Play it from its new location. This is true everywhere on the golf course [Decision 18-1/12].

If you move the ball back to its pre-windblown spot, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 (Ball at Rest Moved by Player), and you must move it back to where the wind blew it before you hit. Your error cost you two strokes – one for moving the ball, and another for not replacing it before you hit it.

The only time you would replace a ball that was moved by wind or water is if it occurred while play was suspended. For example, if you take refuge in the clubhouse during a thunderstorm and return to find your ball has floated from the fairway into a bunker, you must take it out of the bunker and replace it on the original spot on the fairway (I’ll bet you won’t mind doing that!). That spot may be estimated if you cannot determine the exact spot – just use your best judgment. [Rule 6-8d(iii); Exception to Rule 20-3c; Decision 18-1/11]

Remember: If YOU move your ball, one-stroke penalty and put it back. If WIND or WATER move your ball, play it from its new location.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ask Linda #79-No search for lost ball?

Linda, a quick question -
Can you play a provisional ball for a lost ball and not bother to look for the lost ball?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

You may always proceed under stroke and distance (Rule 27-1). There are times when you may hit a ball into an undesirable area where, even if you find it, you will not be able to play it. You may choose not to look for it and simply put a new ball into play. If you are on the teeing ground, you may tee the ball; if you are anywhere else, you must drop it.

As soon as you play it, that new ball is your ball in play. Count the first shot and assess yourself one penalty stroke. (If the ball you choose not to search for was hit from the tee, for example, when you tee up a new ball and hit it, that is your third shot on the hole.)

DO NOT CALL THIS SECOND BALL A "PROVISIONAL." Here’s why:

Let’s say, for example, that you slice your tee shot 40 yards off the fairway into knee-deep fescue or deep into the woods where there is little doubt that the ball, if found, will be unplayable. If you tee up a second ball and do not call it a provisional (remember that this will be your third shot), you will complete play of the hole with that second ball regardless of whether you or anyone else finds your original ball. However, if you call that second ball a provisional, and your original ball is found in that fescue or woods (where if you have good sense you will declare it unplayable), you will now have to abandon the provisional and return to the tee to hit your third shot. Even worse, if you forget you have the option to declare it unplayable and try to hack it out, you will more than likely have an unnecessarily high score on the hole that can take you right out of a tournament.

Best advice: If you hit a ball into an area where you are certain you will have no chance to hit it, play a new ball under “stroke and distance.”

Linda

Dear Linda,
Thanks for the answer on the provisional ball. If I may, can I ask another question about a lost ball? I hit the original ball great, except that it may be lost. I tee up a provisional ball and hit it 50 yards or so. Can I continue to hit the ball up the fairway or wherever it landed until I reach the spot where I think the ball is lost and then look for it? I know I can't hit the provisional after I reach the spot where I think the ball is lost.
Thanks, Linda (Really!)

Dear Lulu,

Here's the procedure for the situation you described:
1. You hit your first ball, which may be lost.
2. After everyone else in your group tees off, you hit a second ball, which you declare to be a provisional.
3. You hit the provisional only 50 yards.
4. You may continue to hit the provisional until you reach the area where your original ball is likely to be.
5. You must now stop hitting the provisional and search for your original ball. (Note: You may only search for five minutes. After five minutes have elapsed, your ball is “lost” and you may not play it, even if you find it later.) [Definition of Lost Ball; Rule 27–1c]
6. If you find the original ball, you must continue with it and abandon the provisional.
7. If you do not find the original ball, the provisional becomes the ball in play. Count the first stroke with the lost ball; count all strokes with the provisional ball; add one penalty stroke to your score.
8. If you hit the provisional ball from the place where the original is likely to be, or from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is "lost" (even if you later find it), and #7 above is in effect.

You might want to take a few minutes and read Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball.

Linda

Dear Linda,
Thank you so much. A friend and I have been having a "discussion" about this rule and you explain it much better than the pro that we asked.
Lulu

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reader response to #78

Linda–
I thought that in a better ball tournament, you can pick up your ball any time and use your partner's score for that hole for your team. You then record an estimated score for yourself to count for 18 holes total. The estimation does not affect the better ball competition because only the team score counts. Am I right?
Regards
Lou Lou

You are exactly right, Lou. In this case, the player who picked up actually had a better score than his partner (even with the penalty). I found that out in a conversation with "Lou Lou." I should have added that information to his question; I apologize that the omission created confusion.

Linda

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ask Linda #78-picking up putt

Linda, I played in a better ball tournament a couple of weeks ago. On one green, one of the guys hit his first putt and it rolled about 3 feet past the hole. His second putt lipped out and stopped about 2 inches behind the hole. He picked the ball up. Everyone else in the group knew that you can’t do that. We told him to put it back and putt it, and then we all agreed that he should add 2 strokes to his score. Did we do this right?
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
In a stroke play tournament, every ball must be putted into the hole. If a player does not “hole out,” and he tees off on the next hole without correcting his mistake, he is disqualified (Rule 3-2). You did the right thing when you told him to replace his ball and putt it into the hole.

When a player lifts or moves his ball, he incurs a penalty of ONE-stroke and must replace the ball (Rule 18-2a). The two-stroke penalty you told him to add to his score was incorrect. Although everyone agreed on the penalty, it is always best to review any unusual situations with a tournament official before signing a scorecard. Even the most conscientious golfer cannot be expected to always remember whether a particular infraction of the rules results in a one- or two-stroke penalty.

While the penalty the player added to his score was incorrect, he is not disqualified for turning in an incorrect scorecard. This is because the score he signed for was higher than what he actually got. Whenever you sign for a score that is too high, the score stands. If you sign for a score that is lower than what you shot, you are disqualified (Rule 6-6d). So if a player in your group had committed an infraction that would incur a two-stroke penalty, and everyone agreed that it was a one-stroke penalty, then as soon as the player signed for a score that was too low he would be disqualified.

Moral: Always verify with the tournament director or rules official that you have assessed the correct number of penalty strokes before signing your scorecard.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ask Linda #77-posting scores playing several tees

Linda,
I have been observing people playing golf that keep a GHIN handicap. I asked them why their handicap doesn't change and they replied that they don't post the scores. They further state that they only play match play or other "made up" games that change the tee box that they hit from based on the result of the last hole and they cannot post these scores. This seems to circumvent the purpose of the handicap system and seems to maintain a higher handicap for these players. I am aware that some tournament scores (like scrambles and alternate shot) don't get posted. Are these players complying with the rules of the GHIN system?
Thanks for all of the information you provide. You’re a valuable resource and I appreciate all you do for golfers and golf itself.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
The purpose of the USGA Handicap System is to provide fair and equitable competition between players of varying abilities. For the system to work, players must try to get the best score they can at every hole in every round, and they must post every acceptable round. Examples of rounds that would be unacceptable are (1) less than 7 holes are played; (2) golf played on a course during the inactive season; (3) playing a majority of holes not under the Rules of Golf (e.g., playing two balls per hole, scrambles, alternate shot, Ryder Cup); (4) playing a competition where the maximum number of clubs allowed is less than 14 or the types of clubs are limited (e.g., “irons only” tournament).

The question you are asking here is whether a player can post scores when he plays a round using different tee boxes. The answer is “yes” – these scores can and should be posted. Joe Golfer cannot and should not avoid posting scores simply because he is playing from different tees in the same round.

The handicap chairman can determine an approximate course rating based strictly on yardage. If your course does not have a handicap chairman, then the golfer needs to determine the total yardage played and then follow the procedure for posting a score from an unrated set of tees that is outlined in the USGA Handicap System, Section 5-2, g (pp. 33-35 in the 2008-2011 edition). Basically, the player would first determine which set of tees he used for the greatest number of holes. He would add the total yardage he played that day, and then calculate the difference between that set of tees and his total yardage. Next, he would consult the “Men’s Ratings Adjustments from Unrated Tees” (p. 35 in the manual), and then add the changes in course and slope rating if his unrated tees are longer than the rated set of tees, subtract them if they are shorter. You can find this information on the Internet. Here is the link to the USGA handicap manual:

http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/manual/manual.html

Let me give you a quick example. Joe Golfer plays 12 holes from the Whites, 4 holes from the Blue, and 2 holes from the Black. He adds the total yardage for the holes played and comes up with 6,400 yards. The listed yardage for the White tees is 6,200 yards. The difference in yardage between the Whites and the tees Joe played is 200 yards. The Ratings Adjustments table indicates that for a difference of 200 yards, the difference in course rating is .9 and in slope rating is 2. The regular White tees are rated 70.1/127. Since the yardage Joe played is longer than the regular Whites, he would add these numbers to the White rating. The “course” Joe played that day is 71.0/129.

I am aware that some players believe that they should not post a score if they pick up on a hole, if they don’t finish a hole, if they skip a couple of holes, or if they don’t play several holes under the rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some very important rules about posting scores that every player should know:

1. If you play at least 7 holes, you should post a 9-hole score (see #3 below).

2. If you play at least 13 holes, you should post an 18-hole score (see #3 below).

3. For those holes that you do not play, record par plus any additional strokes you are entitled to because of your handicap. For example, let’s say your Course Handicap® is 15. You skip playing the last three holes. Hole #16 is a par 4 and is rated the #2 handicap hole; hole #17 is a par 3 and is rated the #18 handicap hole; hole #18 is a par 5 and is rated the #12 handicap hole. For those three holes you would record a 5 on #16 (par + 1), a 3 on #17 (par), and a 6 on #18 (par + 1).

4. If you pick up on a hole, record your most likely score. Basically, what this means is that if you are left with a short putt, add 1 to your score for the hole; if you have a long putt, add 2; if you are within striking distance of the green, add 3 (your shot to the green plus 2 putts).

5. ALL MATCH PLAY SCORES MUST BE POSTED, PROVIDED YOU PLAY AT LEAST 13 HOLES (or at least 7 holes for a 9-hole score). When you consider that a significant amount of local golf competition is match play (think of all the $10 Nassaus!), it is preposterous for any golfer to consider that not posting a match play round would be an option. Match play, I might point out, has a whole rule dedicated to it (Rule 2, Match Play). The fact that putts –and even holes– are being conceded does not relieve golfers of the responsibility of posting these scores. When putts or holes are conceded, record your score as explained in #3 and #4 above.

6. After you complete your round, and before you post your score, review your score card and subtract strokes from any holes where you exceeded the maximum allowance under Equitable Stroke Control (ESC). Under ESC, if your Course Handicap is 9 or less, the maximum number of strokes you are permitted to post for any given hole is double bogey; 10–19, maximum is 7; 20–29, maximum is 8; 30–39, maximum is 9; 40 and over, maximum is 10. The score you post is not always the score you shot. If your round of 88 includes a hole where you scored a 10 and another where you scored an 8, and your ESC is 7, the score you post for that round will be 84.

Handicaps are designed to provide fair and equitable competition among players of varying skill levels. The handicap system works only if golfers are honestly and diligently posting every acceptable score. Sandbaggers (my preferred term is “cheaters”) make a mockery of net tournaments, and ruin everyone’s fun. Please help your fellow golfers to learn what scores to post and how to post them correctly.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rules #7-Match Play Rules

Match Play Rules

I. Vocabulary
Let’s start off with some definitions. In match play the game is played by holes. If you win a hole, you are “one (hole) up,” if you win two you are “two up.” If your opponent wins the next two, making the match even, the match is now “all square.” You are “dormie” when you are as many holes up as there are holes left to play, e.g., if you are three up after playing fifteen holes, making you “three up with three to play,” you are now “dormie.” (For those of you with a linguistic interest, “dormie” comes from the French “dormir,” meaning “to sleep.”) A hole is “halved” if you and your opponent have the same score for the hole. A match is won when you are more “holes up” than there are holes left to play. When a match finishes “all square,” sometimes it will stand as a tie, other times it will be extended until one player wins a hole and the match (sudden death). Ryder Cup matches, for example, may end in a tie; matches at your club to establish a club champion would be extended until a winner can be established.

II. Concessions
You may concede your opponent’s next stroke at any time. Your opponent (for match purposes, not for handicap purposes), is considered to have holed out with her next stroke and either you or your opponent may pick up the ball.

You may concede a hole before you even start playing it. You may also concede a hole in the middle of playing it. Here’s an example of when you might want to do this: Your opponent hits her second shot onto the green. You hit your second shot into the creek. Your third shot (actually your fourth, since you have a penalty stroke to count) also goes into the creek. This would be a good time to concede the hole and get on with your match!

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about concessions: A concession may not be declined or withdrawn. There always seems to be some confusion about this rule, but it is really very simple. If you tell your opponent: “that’s good, pick it up,” she can’t say “no, you can’t give me that,” and you can’t say “oops, sorry, changed my mind.” Now we can move on to a more interesting situation. Suppose you concede the hole, and your opponent proceeds to putt anyway (and misses, of course, otherwise this question wouldn’t be any fun). The concession stands; the putt was good as soon as it was conceded. However, when you have a partner, if you putt out after a concession (or chip, or make any other shot) and doing so might assist your partner in the play of the hole (maybe she got a chance to see how the ball would break on the green, or see if the green was fast or slow), then your partner loses the hole. So you obviously need to be careful when you play in a partners’ match. I would recommend, in such a match, that you pick up the ball whenever your next stroke is conceded. Then, when everyone has completed play of the hole, you may drop your ball on the green for a quick practice putt.

III. Doubts on procedure, disputes, claims
Suppose you are in doubt as to how to proceed on a given hole because you are unsure of a rule, or suppose you believe you are proceeding correctly but your opponent insists that you are not. Keep in mind that there is no provision in match play (as there is in stroke play) for playing two balls. You must make a decision and continue play of the hole. If your opponent disagrees with your choice, she must make a claim BEFORE ANY PLAYER TEES OFF AT THE NEXT HOLE. She must notify her opponent she is making a claim, explain the facts (as she sees them), and state that she wants a ruling. You might want to carry a pencil and paper for such situations. There are a few situations where a late claim can be considered (such as when your opponent gives you wrong information). Just write everything down and the Committee will sort it out for you later.

IV. Loss of Hole
In match play, the penalty for breaking a rule is often loss of hole. Even if your opponent is on her way to a 13 and your ball is lying 3 on the green, if you break one of these rules you are done, finished, kaput – pick up your ball, put the catastrophe out of your mind, and get psyched for the next hole. This is the beauty of match play--you get a fresh start on each hole. No matter how badly you botched the last hole, a one point swing in the match is the worst that can happen.

Let’s get down to business. If you do any of the following in match play, you lose the hole (the number in brackets is the rule reference):

1. Taking any action to influence the position or movement of the ball. (Here’s an example from Decision 1-2/4: Lulu’s putt is overhanging the lip of the hole. She starts jumping up and down close to the hole, and the ball falls in. Lulu has broken the rules and she loses the hole.) [1-2].

2. Carrying more than fourteen clubs. (Note that the maximum penalty is loss of 2 holes. If your extra club is discovered on the 8th hole, the match is adjusted two holes in your opponent’s favor. In other words, if you were 2 up after 8 holes, the match is now all square.) [4-4]

3. Taking a practice stroke during play of a hole. You may practice your swing to your heart’s content, but don’t hit a practice shot while you’re still playing the hole. Once the hole is finished, however, you are permitted to practice putting or chipping on or near the green you just played or the teeing ground of the next hole, provided you are not delaying anyone’s play.) [7-2]

4. Giving advice to or asking advice from anyone other than your partner. Advice is something you might say that would influence your opponent’s choice of club or method of play. (For example, you may not ask an opponent what club she used before you hit your shot, and you may not tell her that a particular hole plays longer than the actual yardage.) The following information is not considered advice, and may be shared at any time: (1) matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick; (2) information about the rules; (3) distance information. [8-1 and Definition of Advice]

5. Giving wrong information to your opponent. You have given wrong information if (1) you do not inform your opponent when you have incurred a penalty, unless (a) you were obviously proceeding under a rule involving a penalty and your opponent observed you doing so (e.g., your tee shot landed in the middle of the lake), or (b) you inform your opponent before she hits her next stroke; (2) you give your opponent wrong information about how many strokes you have taken during play of a hole, and you don’t correct that information until after she hits her next shot; or (3) you give your opponent wrong information about how many strokes it took you to complete the hole, and this affects her understanding of the result of the hole, unless you correct your mistake before anyone tees off on the next hole. Decision 9-2/3.5 explains that if B asks A how many strokes she (A) has taken during play of a hole or on a hole just completed, and A refuses to give B the information requested, A loses the hole. [9-2]

6. Moving a tee marker. [11-2]

7. Improving the area of your swing by moving or breaking anything growing or fixed (an example of the latter would be a boundary stake); removing sand or loose soil (except on the putting green); removing dew, frost or water. There is no penalty, however, if some of these things happen when you are fairly taking your stance, so bear with me while I give you some examples. You may: (1) back into a branch if that is the only way to take your stance, even if it bends or breaks; (2) bend a branch with your hands in order to get under a tree to play your ball; (3) fix irregularities on the teeing ground (but don’t move that tee marker!). You may not: (1) deliberately move, bend, or break branches or stand on them to get them out of the way of your backswing or stroke; (2) bend a branch if your stance could have been taken without bending it. If a branch breaks on your backswing, but you complete your stroke, there is no penalty, but if you discontinue your swing when you break the branch, you lose the hole. [13-2]

8. If your ball is in a hazard (whether a sand bunker or a water hazard), you may not (1) test the condition of the hazard; (2) touch the ground or water with your hand or club; or (3) touch or move a loose impediment lying in the hazard. There are exceptions to these rules. For example, it’s okay to touch the hazard if you trip and fall; if you’ve taken several clubs with you, you may lay the extra ones down in the hazard. [13-4]

9. Making a stroke at a wrong ball. Note that when you are asked to move your ball marker on a green, if you forget to move it back when it is your turn to putt, and you putt the ball from there, you are considered to have played a wrong ball and you lose the hole (Decision 20-4/2). Note also that one of the changes to the rules in 2008 allows you to lift a ball for identification in a hazard. Therefore, you are no longer exempt from penalty for hitting a wrong ball that lies in a hazard. [15-3]

10. Hitting an attended flagstick; hitting the person attending the flagstick; or hitting a flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green. [17-3]

11. Making a stroke from a wrong place. (Examples: (1) the wind blows your ball to a new position and you move it back to its original position and hit it; (2) you drop a ball and it rolls closer to the hole, but you hit it anyway.) [20-7]

12. Making further strokes at a provisional ball after you find the original ball and it is not out of bounds. [27-2]


V. Rules changes for 2008 that affect match play
Please read “Rules #1 – 2008 Rules Changes,” which was posted on my blog on Friday, February 29. This is a review and explanation of the significant changes to the rules for 2008. Please note in particular the changes to rules 4-1, 12-2, and 19-2, as they all directly impact match play.


VI. Situations where the penalty or procedure is different from that of stroke play

1. Playing Out of Turn
We all know that when you win a hole you have the honor at the next tee, and that during play of a hole the player whose ball is furthest from the hole plays first. If your opponent plays out of turn, there is no penalty. However, you may require your opponent to cancel the stroke and replay it in the correct order. [10-1]

When you are playing a match with a partner, if your partner has the honor at the next tee, so do you. And it makes no difference which of you hits first. During play of the hole, if your partner is away (i.e., furthest from the hole), you may elect to hit (or putt) before her.

2. Playing from Outside the Teeing Ground
There is no penalty, but you may immediately require your opponent to cancel her stroke and replay it from within the teeing ground. [11-4]

3. Purposely Touching or Moving your Opponent’s Ball at Rest
There is no penalty if you touch your opponent’s ball in the process of searching for it. However, if you (or your equipment) touch or move your opponent’s ball at any other time, you incur a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced [18-3].The purpose of this rule is to encourage you to help your opponent find her ball in such annoying places as dense rough and under piles of leaves, and to protect you from penalty should you happen to move it while searching.

4. Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected or Stopped by Opponent or her Equipment
There is no penalty for accidentally deflecting or stopping your opponent’s ball. If this happens, your opponent has two choices: she may play the ball as it lies, or cancel the stroke and play from the spot where the ball was last played. [19-3]

5. Ball in Motion Hits Ball at Rest
If your ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, there is no penalty and you must play the ball as it lies. This also holds true if your putt from on the green hits your opponent’s ball on the green. You would play your ball as it lies, your opponent would have to replace her ball, and there is no penalty to anyone. (The moral of this story, of course, is to always be sure your opponent marks and lifts her ball before you putt, unless her ball is sitting behind the hole and you are hoping for a favorable ricochet.) [19-5]

6. Ball Assists or Interferes with Play
You may mark and lift your ball if you feel it will assist your opponent’s play. You may mark and lift your ball at your opponent’s request if it is interfering with her play. You may do this anywhere on the golf course, including in the rough or in a sand bunker or water hazard. If her shot alters your lie, you are entitled to restore the lie to its original condition. For example, let’s say that your opponent asks you to mark your ball that is lying on the apron prior to hitting her ball out of a sand bunker. If her shot knocks sand all over the area where your ball lay, you are entitled to remove that sand, even though sand is not considered to be a loose impediment except on the putting green. [22]

Enjoy your matches! Match play is the way golf was originally played; it is my favorite format.

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ask Linda #76 - ricochet off 150-yard pole

Linda,
While playing the a par 5 at our course, my playing partner hit a great 2nd shot, straight down the middle of the fairway. Unfortunately, his ball in its descending flight hit the 150 pole. His ball ricocheted and landed in the rough, perpendicular to the 150 pole.

Does he play his ball from where it came to rest or does he get some form of relief, say within 2 club lengths of the 150 pole? My partner took relief from a spot he projected his ball would land.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

When a ball is deflected by a 150-yard post it is a rub of the green. The ball must be played as it lies (Decision 19-1/1). When your partner picked that ball up and played it from the spot he estimated it would have landed, he played from what is known as a “wrong place.” He incurred a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) for playing from a wrong place (Rule 20-7). Furthermore, if he gained a significant advantage from moving the ball he would be disqualified. From the situation you describe, it appears that the player lifted the ball out of the rough, returned to the 150-yard pole, and walked forward to drop it further down the fairway. That sounds like a “significant advantage” and a disqualification to me.

When in doubt, play the ball as it lies.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ask Linda #75 - reduced handicaps in tournaments

Linda, what's the justification for running a tournament and having a lower percent of the handicap apply? I note that this applies in many tournaments. First, they take out the high ten scores and apply a percent formula to determine someone’s handicap. This is less than 100%. Now you enter the tournament and are penalized more.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
This is an excellent question, Lou, and I would imagine there are a great many golfers out there who are wondering the same thing. Handicap Indexes and reduced handicaps in tournaments are two of the great mysteries in many golfers’ lives. I will try to unravel them for you.

Let’s start with how your Handicap Index® is computed and why it is done that way. If a player has at least 20 scores in his record, then the computation works as follows:

1. The ten scores with the highest Handicap Differentials are disregarded. (These are not necessarily your highest ten scores, but rather the ten scores that are highest in relation to the difficulty of the course. For example, a score of 80 on a course with a rating of 72.8/127 has a lower differential –meaning that it is a better score– than a score of 77 on a course rated 64.3/111. A lower score does not always equate to a better score.)

2. The ten scores with the lowest Handicap Differentials are averaged.

3. The average is then multiplied by .96 (96%). All numbers after the tenths digit are deleted, leaving you with a Handicap Index that looks like 5.2 if you’re very good, and 25.7 if you’re working on your game.

What many golfers don’t understand is that their Handicap Index is not an average of their scores, but rather an indication of their potential. A golfer who turns in a score close to or at his handicap has had a very good day indeed. You are not expected to “shoot your handicap” more than 25% of the time. A score that matches your handicap is your dream score, not your average score. When you compete mano a mano with another player using your full Course Handicap®, if you play as well as you possibly can, and so does your opponent, you will come out even. This is what makes golf so special – it is one of the few games (can you name another?) where two players of widely varying abilities can compete evenly. Would you stand a chance against Roger Federer on a tennis court? Hardly. But could you best Annika Sorenstam in golf? You certainly could, using your handicap strokes!

So what the USGA Handicap System is doing is leveling the playing field. It’s saying: “The best I can score on this course is 85, and the best you can score is 73. Give me 12 strokes to make the competition fair, and let’s go out and see who can play closer to his potential today.” It’s a great system, and when players are honest and accurate about posting their scores, the handicap system works as it was intended.

Now to address your real question, Lou. You want to know why, after all of these computations to arrive at a Handicap Index that gives you a number that is lower than the average of your ten best rounds, that number is then further reduced when you play in team tournaments. (Incidentally, there should be no reductions to your handicap when you play in an individual tournament.)

There is a very detailed and enlightening 7-page essay entitled “What the New Multi-Ball Allowances Mean to You” that was written by Gordon H. Ewen and published in the USGA Golf Journal in 1978 that will probably answer every question you have ever had about handicap reductions in tournaments. If you would like to read it, here is the link:

http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/understanding_handicap/
articles/multiball.html


I will extract the information that pertains to your question (just trying to make your life a bit easier). All quotes are from the heretofore mentioned article.

While using full handicaps in individual events makes the competition fair, the reverse is true in team events. The problem is that “higher handicappers produce a wider range of hole-by-hole scores than better and more consistent golfers do.” A good golfer will be getting mostly pars and bogies, so his net scores will be mostly pars and occasional birdies. The high handicapper, on the other hand, has a much better chance of scoring a net birdie or even an eagle on a hole where he has a par.

The USGA hired a math professor, an engineer, a member of the USGA Handicap Procedure Committee, and an aerospace scientist to determine what allowances would lead to the fairest competition in team events. One consistent result showed up in all of their studies, which was that if you choose a partner whose handicap is several strokes different from yours (preferably lower than yours), you will have a distinct advantage over teams with similar or identical handicaps. In a handicapped (net) event, a team of two players, both with a 5 handicap, are at a disadvantage against a team made up of a 5 and a 10 or even a 5 and a 15. You can read in detail about those studies in Mr. Ewen’s article. For our purposes here I will tell you that the research of these brilliant men led to the handicap reductions recommended by the USGA, which are as follows:

1. Individual stroke play: Each player receives full Course Handicap.

2. Four-ball stroke play (more commonly referred to as “better-ball”): Men receive 90% of Course Handicap, women receive 95%. The USGA recommends that the difference in players’ handicaps in these better-ball competitions not be allowed to exceed 8 strokes. This is because a team with a greater difference in Course Handicap has an advantage over a team with a smaller difference. However, the USGA recognizes that sometimes it is not possible to impose such a limit (mixed better-ball competitions come to mind – how many husbands and wives have Course Handicaps within 8 strokes of each other?). In those situations where it is not practical to impose a limit of 8 strokes on the handicap spread, it is recommended that both members of a team with a spread of greater than 8 strokes receive an additional 10% reduction. Another solution to the spread problem mentioned in Mr. Ewen’s article is to divide the field into flights based on spread, which is a solution I have tried and found very effective in making mixed competitions more equitable.

3. Two-best-balls-of-four stroke play: Men receive 90% of Course Handicap, women receive 95%.

4. One-best-ball-of-four stroke play: Men receive 80% of Course Handicap, women receive 90%.

I have listed the USGA-recommended handicap allowances for the more popular stroke play formats. For a complete list of the recommended allowances for all forms of match play and stroke play, please read Section 9-4 in The USGA Handicap System, which can be viewed on the USGA website (USGA.org).

In concluding his article, Mr. Ewen writes: “All things considered, the new allowances make sense and should be used. They are based on solid research; they are the fairest and most practical that could be devised; and they will add to your enjoyment of golf.”

How can you argue with “fair” and “practical?”

So, Lou, you can rest assured that the handicap reductions in team tournaments are designed to make the competitions as fair as possible. It may be difficult to accept the logic that reducing your handicap results in a more equitable tournament, but it does. Play your best and trust in the experts.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ask Linda #74 - Dropping Zone rules

Hi Linda,
Probably everybody watched the play-off between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate [U.S. Open].

I learned a new rule, because I did not know that if you drop your ball in the dropping zone and it roles out of it you have to play the ball from that spot.

Maybe this is a nice issue to discuss on your blog because I did not know this but probably a lot of other people do not know this either.
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

Thank you for your suggestion, Lulu. Dropping Zones are a common occurrence on golf courses, and the rule book is very specific on how to properly use them. You can find these procedures in Appendix I, Part B: Specimen Local Rules, #8, located in the back of your rule book.

Here is what you need to know about using a Dropping Zone:

1. You do not have to stand in the Dropping Zone to drop the ball.
2. When you drop the ball, it must first touch the ground within the zone. Note that if there is a line that defines the zone, then that line is part of the zone, which means that your ball may hit the line when you drop it.
3. The dropped ball does NOT have to come to rest within the Dropping Zone.
4. The only reasons you would ever have to re-drop the ball are if it were to roll into a hazard, roll out of a hazard (in the uncommon situation where the Dropping Zone is in a hazard), roll onto a putting green, or roll out of bounds.
5. This is one of the very few cases where if the dropped ball rolls closer to the hole you DO NOT have to re-drop it unless it rolls more than two club-lengths from the spot where it first hit the ground.

While we are on the topic of dropping a ball, I would like to clear up a common misconception. When you are taking relief from an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition, or a wrong putting green, please be aware that once you have defined the area in which you are going to drop a ball, the dropped ball does not have to come to rest in this area. I have noticed that players will mark the area with two tees (this is perfectly fine), drop the ball, and if the ball rolls out of the area defined by the tees they will re-drop. This is not correct. The ball may roll as far as two club-lengths away from where it first hits the ground, which will often take it out of the area defined by the two tees. The drop must not be repeated simply because it rolls out of the defined area. As long as it does not roll more than two club-lengths away and meets all of the other requirements for a drop (e.g., does not roll into a hazard, onto a putting green, out of bounds, etc. – please read Rule 20-2c for a complete list), it is a good drop.

Again, Lulu, thank you for noticing an unusual rule and bringing it to everyone’s attention.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ask Linda #73-adjusting handicaps in unusual mixed format

Dear Linda,
I recently played in a mixed tournament. The men played from the white tees and the women played from the red tees. Each team had two men and two women. The team score for each foursome was the sum of the "net" better ball of the two men and the "net" better ball of the two women on each of the 18 holes. (The cards were dotted to show the handicap strokes. The men got their full course handicap from the white tees and the women got their full course handicap from the red tees.)

Prior to the tournament I mentioned to the tournament committee that I thought handicaps should be adjusted for the different tee boxes, however the tournament committee said that since the women were not competing against the men it was not necessary to do this. On our course the difference in course ratings would have resulted in giving each woman 4 additional strokes.

When two women with similar handicaps are playing in the same foursome these extra 4 strokes would occur on the same holes so the result would be to lower the team score by a total of 4, regardless of which woman had the better score.

However if the two women in a foursome had very different handicaps then the four extra strokes would fall on different holes for each woman. On a hole where one of the ladies had an extra stroke and the other didn't there is a situation where the extra stroke may go to the woman who played the whole badly and therefore the extra stroke was of no benefit to her team. The net result would be that this team's score would not be reduced.

Now one can argue that this high/low handicapper team has the potential of being able to lower the team score on as many as 8 holes if the team was lucky enough to have the better woman on a hole also having the extra stroke.

Should the handicaps be adjusted for the different tee boxes?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

Since the format you describe (net better ball of two women added to net better ball of two men) is not a traditional format, I consulted the handicap department of the USGA for an opinion. Here is the gist of the answer I received:

1. This is essentially a four-ball (better-ball) tournament. It is the recommendation of the USGA that the Tournament Committee apply the following handicap allowances for a four-ball competition: 90% of Course Handicap® for men and 95% for women. These handicap allowances help to make the competition more equitable. (This was not your question, Lulu, but I thought it was a good piece of advice to share with your Tournament Committee.)

2. The Tournament Committee at your club pointed out correctly that the women were not competing against the men (and vice versa) in this non-traditional format. Since the women were competing only against women, and the men only against men, there was no need to make an adjustment under 3-5 for men and women competing from different tees.

If this tournament had used the more traditional Two Best Balls of Four format, in which the men and women would have been competing against each other, then the Committee would have had to adjust for both the difference in slope rating and the difference in course rating between the men’s and women’s tees. [For a detailed explanation of how to do this, please see Ask Linda #65, published on June 1, 2008.]

Lulu, you have the honor of being the first “Lulu” to write a question that is longer than my answer!

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ask Linda #72-follow-up to #71

Dear Linda,
Thank you for your quick reply! Just to give you a few more details; The yellow stakes are before the water right in front of the green and the other side (before the green) is staked half yellow, half red. I think the red stakes (used to be yellow) are there in case somebody hits into the water from the next hole (lateral). Normally we just cross the water again, but the other day I played with a lady who wanted to drop on the far side, next to the red stakes and we all love to know what is right. The golf rules are not very clear in this case, have made a lot of research!

We also have an island hole, (the green is on an island). The stakes are yellow in front of the island, but the island itself does not have any stakes. If the ball lands on the island, but rolls into the water, should one cross the water again? That's how we normally play it. Just thought that would be the equivalent to the other hole.

I'm originally from Sweden (married to a South African) and live here since 18 years. Never played golf in Sweden, but started here (in the province of Granada) some 10 years ago. Pity you never played in Sevilla as they have some of the nicest golf courses in Spain. Maybe you will go there one day?
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

It is permissible to define part of a water hazard as a water hazard in the play of one hole and as a lateral water hazard in the play of another hole (Decision 33-2a/7). If this is a permanent designation, then it would probably be best if it were printed on the scorecard.

With regard to your island green, the Committee has several options. If they mark the side of the hazard that abuts the green with yellow stakes, you must return to the tee to hit your next shot; if they mark it with red stakes, you would have the additional option under Rule 26-1c of dropping within two club-lengths and no closer to the hole; if they mark it with red stakes and it is not possible to drop the ball without dropping it nearer to the hole, they can establish one or more dropping zones. Since there is no indication of how the hazard should be treated if you hit the green and roll back into the water, then you are proceeding correctly by returning to the tee to hit your next shot.

You are making it sound very tempting to play golf in Sevilla. Perhaps I will return one day.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ask Linda #71-red- and yellow-staked hazards

Hi Linda,
I've been looking through your blog for an answer to my question, but haven't quite found it. My question is; If you hit a ball over a yellow staked water hazard, reach the other side but roll back into the water through red stakes, where do you drop? Should you cross the water again or drop near the red stakes?
Greetings from Spain,
Lulu

Dear Lulu,

It is not unusual to find a water hazard where one portion is marked with yellow stakes (indicating a water hazard), and another portion is marked with red stakes (indicating a lateral water hazard). This is most common when hazards are L-shaped. The key to understanding whether to take relief under the water hazard or lateral water hazard relief options is paying attention to where your ball LAST CROSSED the margin of the hazard.

If I’m reading your question correctly, your ball passed over the yellow stakes, landed on the other side of the hazard past the red stakes, and then rolled back into the hazard. This ball LAST CROSSED the margin of the hazard through red stakes, so you may drop the ball within two club-lengths of the red stakes, no closer to the hole (Rule 26-1c).

You still have the other two dropping options available to you under Rule 26-1a and b. You may play a ball from where you hit your last shot, or you may drop a ball anywhere behind the hazard on a line that goes from the hole through the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

Please remember to assess yourself a one-stroke penalty unless you hit the ball where it lies in the hazard.

While we’re on the topic of water hazards, I would like to remind my readers that if they hit a ball over a water hazard that is marked entirely with yellow stakes and the ball lands past the hazard boundary on the other side and then rolls back into the hazard, you must drop that ball BEHIND the hazard. Perhaps the best way to remember this is to ask yourself: Where is the ball? In this case, it is in the water hazard. The relief options for a ball in a water hazard both require that you hit the ball across the hazard. The only difference when your ball crosses a water hazard and rolls back in is that your point of reference for taking relief is where the ball LAST crossed the hazard. Note where your ball rolled back into the hazard; draw a line from the hole, through that point, across the hazard and back as far as you wish; drop anywhere on that line.

Incidentally, Lulu, I spent my junior year in Spain studying at the Universidad de Sevilla. There are many wonderful golf courses in Spain, but I never played any of them since I didn’t start playing golf until many years later. I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your Spanish golfing experience.

Best regards from New Jersey,
Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ask Linda #70-illegal rangefinder

Linda, I bought a top of the line rangefinder that takes slope into account when measuring distance. I took it to a tournament where they were allowing the use of rangefinders, and was told I couldn’t use mine. Why not? I was really mad.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
This is spelled out in the rule book, Lou, but you have to read the Appendix to find it. The use of distance measuring devices, or rangefinders, is still prohibited in the main body of the rule book (Rule 14-3b). However, a Committee is allowed to make a Local Rule that allows players to use devices that measure distance only.

If you look at Specimen Rule 9 in Part B of Appendix I (at the end of the rule book immediately following Rule 34), you will see that the Local Rule for using distance measuring devices specifies that any device used must measure distance only. If the device measures other conditions that might affect play (e.g., slope, wind, temperature), the player is not permitted to use it, even if he doesn’t activate those functions. The penalty for bringing such a device onto the course during a tournament is disqualification.

Distance measuring devices that are not permitted for tournament play should be labeled as such on the packaging. A well-trained and considerate salesman should warn players purchasing these devices that their use is not permitted in tournament play.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Ask Linda #69-donuts and devices

Linda,
I played in a tournament this week and noticed another player slipping a donut on his club and taking a few swings before hitting his drives. Is this allowed?
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Once a player has begun his round he is not permitted to use any device that is designed as a training or swing aid. Rule 14-3 prohibits the use of an artificial device that assists the golfer in his play. If a player uses such items as weighted headcovers or donuts during his round, he is in breach of Rule 14-3 and will be disqualified (Decision 14-3/10).

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ask Linda #68-computing Handicap Index®

Ask Linda #68-computing Handicap Index®

Linda,
I thought you might know the answer to this question. I just got a new index run. Do you know why there is an R after my index?
Thanks,
Lulu

Dear Lulu,
In order to answer your question, Lulu, I will have to take you on a brief tour of how your Handicap Index is computed.

If you will take a look at your most recent score history, you will notice a column on the far right called “Diff.,” which is short for “differential. The differential is based on the difficulty of each course you play; simply put, it is the difference between your score and what you might be expected to shoot if you were a scratch player. [The formula is as follows: Handicap Differential = (Adjusted Gross Score – USGA Course Rating) X 113 / Slope Rating. Your handicap computation service –GHIN, in your case– does the math for you, thank goodness!]

In computing your Handicap Index, your best (lowest) ten differentials of your last 20 scores is averaged. That average is then multiplied by .96. The most important thing to learn from this computation is that your index does not represent an average of how you usually play, but rather the score you might be expected to shoot on your best day. It is your dream score, and you are not expected to score that well more than 25% of the time.

Most players do not score as well in tournaments as they do in regular, daily play. But every rule has its exception, and for those players who score significantly better in tournaments, the USGA uses a formula for reducing those players’ Handicap Indexes to more accurately reflect their potential.

Take another look at your score history. At the bottom, you will notice a section called “Two Lowest Eligible Tournament Scores.” These scores are kept around for one year. They will figure in the calculation of your Handicap Index at each revision if the differential (that pesky number in the far right column) is as low or lower than your ten lowest differentials of your last 20 scores.

Now that you understand how your Handicap Index is calculated, I can explain why it has been reduced and now sports that “R” next to it. The USGA reduces your Handicap Index if you have what they consider to be “exceptional tournament scores.” A tournament score is “exceptional” if the differential is at least 3.0 lower than your Handicap Index. Once you have two such exceptional tournament scores, your Handicap Index is reduced according to a complicated mathematical process. If you would like to read about that process, paste the following link into your web browser:

http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/manual/manual.html

On the left, click on Section 10, USGA Handicap Formula. On the right, click on Section 10-3, Reduction of USGA Handicap Index Based on Exceptional Tournament Scores.

So, Lulu, this is a good news-bad news story for you. The good news is you have played very well in a couple of tournaments this year – congratulations! The bad news is that your handicap computation service has noticed your success and has adjusted your index to reflect your true potential. If you think about this for a moment, I hope you will agree that this is a fair system with the lofty goal of making competition between golfers of varying skills fair and equitable.

Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.