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?

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.


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].


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.

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.


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?

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!


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.