We had a competition at our golf club, and on the 6th hole, one of the women I was playing with realized that she had left a club behind on the 4th hole. We moved to the side, to call people through if needed, and the woman went back to the 4th to retrieve her club.
Afterwards, another competitor told us that this was illegal; that during a competition you cannot go back to retrieve a club left behind. Is this correct? We asked this woman, what if it had been a competitor’s putter? Would you therefore be unable to putt and have to drop out of the competition? The woman responded that you do not have to use a putter on the green, but could use another club. I have never heard of this, and hope you can set us straight!
Thanks very much.
Your Irish fan, Lulu
Returning to retrieve a golf club is not an “illegal” activity, but the player may be subject to penalty under Rule 6-7 for “undue delay.”
Your group’s considerate decision to allow the player to return to retrieve her club and permit the following group to play through is a reasonable way to handle the problem in casual play or weekly league play. I would even go so far as to say it would be acceptable in a club competition among good friends. Things can get a little sticky, however, in a serious competition. A player is subject to a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) if her trip to retrieve her club delays play [Decision 6-7/1].
If the player were riding in a golf cart, I doubt very much a return drive to pick up a club would cause any meaningful delay, and I see no problem with her doing so. If she were walking, then I for one would not want to stand around and wait for her to walk the entire length of a golf hole and back, and this should not be permitted in a tournament.
Why not hail a marshal or a ranger to retrieve the club? If neither is in the vicinity, why not place a call to the pro shop to ask if someone can help out?
The penalty for “undue delay” is rarely enforced in any but the most serious of competitions. However, pace of play should always be a primary consideration on the golf course in all forms of play.
Let’s consider your concern about a player having to continue a round without a putter. I can think of three situations where this might happen:
1. A player forgets her club on a previous hole, and it is inconvenient for her to retrieve it (pace of play regulations or a player is on foot).
2. A player’s putter is damaged through normal use (perhaps the head falls off the shaft). Provided it does not unduly delay play, this player would be permitted to have the club repaired or replace it.
3. A player breaks her putter in anger. This player would not be permitted to replace or repair the club.
I have seen players use anything from a driver to a wedge to handle the putting chores when they find themselves sans putter. There is no rule that requires a player to use a putter on a green.
Note that a player is never permitted to borrow a putter (or any club, for that matter) from another player playing on the course.
Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.