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?

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.


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?

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.)


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.”


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.


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.

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reader response to #78

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?
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.


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.


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ask Linda #77-posting scores playing several tees

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:

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.


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 15/4). 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.