Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ask Linda #186-Cell phones and disqualification

Hi Linda,

We have a member in our ladies club who refuses to comply with "no cell phone use on the golf course.” She has been warned several times to no avail.

Would it be against the Rules of Golf if we made a Club Rule stating Disqualification from the day's play?

What would you suggest?

My husband and I enjoy your e-mails.

Thank-you Linda.

Dear Lulu,

While it would not be against the rules to disqualify a player from the day’s competition for use of a cell phone, you might want to discuss the matter further before imposing such a harsh penalty. I will explain your Committee’s options and trust the members to make an appropriate decision.

A Committee is permitted under the rules to prohibit the use of cell phones. That right stems from Rule 33-1, which states that “the Committee must establish the conditions under which a competition is to be played.”

If a player uses a cell phone during a round when the Committee has prohibited its use, it is not a rules violation, but rather a breach of etiquette.

Rule 33-7 allows a Committee to impose a penalty of disqualification for a serious breach of etiquette.

A “serious breach of etiquette” is behavior that blatantly disregards the Etiquette section in the rulebook. Examples would be intentionally offending or distracting another player.

The USGA recommends that disqualification be imposed only if the player commits a serious breach after having been warned [Decision 33-7/8].

Your Committee could issue a warning to all players prior to the round that use of a cell phone during the round will be considered a serious breach of etiquette for which the penalty will be disqualification. This might be the best way to handle the situation at your club where it appears that only one member is blatantly refusing to follow the club’s stated prohibition against cell phone use on the course.

Personally, I prefer that players be informed that the first use of a cell phone during a round will be considered a breach of etiquette, and that a subsequent use of a cell phone would be regarded as a serious breach of etiquette for which the penalty may be disqualification. The use of “may” allows the Committee discretion in dealing with a bona fide emergency.

Note that disqualification under Rule 33-7 for a serious breach of etiquette is the only permissible penalty under the rules for the use of a cell phone. Therefore, a Committee would not be permitted to impose a loss-of-hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play for the use of a cell phone.

How to deal with cell phone use on the course is a difficult issue, Lulu, and your group is not alone in its struggle to find a fair and equitable solution. If players would follow the directive in the rulebook to always show consideration to other players on the course, then any cell phones on the course would be turned off or set to “silent,” and any emergency messages would be discreetly answered out of sight and hearing of other golfers.


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