Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ask Linda #239 - Different rules for team games?

Linda, our club often holds tournaments where we play as a four-person team.

Are the rules different in a team game? Can you ask a partner for advice such as what club did he use? Can I leave my ball behind the hole if I feel it might benefit my partner who is chipping onto the green?

Thank you, Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Your first question is simple to answer. A player is entitled to ask his partner for advice, and also to give him advice [Rule 8-1]. If he has three partners, he may give or get advice from any of them.

Your second question is a bit tricky. A player whose chip from off the green strikes another ball on the green incurs no penalty – the player who chipped the ball will play his ball as it lies, and the other ball must be replaced [Rule 18-5]. However, if two players agree to leave a ball in place that might assist another player (regardless of whether they are partners), both players are disqualified [Rule 22-1 and Rule 31-7].

If no discussion has taken place, there is no penalty – the USGA has yet to penalize a player for his thoughts. But if you remark that you are going to leave your ball behind the hole because it may serve as a backstop for your partner’s chip, and your partner says: “Gee, Bob, that’s a great idea,” you are both disqualified. Once you have indicated your intention aloud, you can only avoid disqualification by marking and lifting your ball before your partner chips his.

When a player’s ball is in a position where it might help another player, he is permitted to decide on his own whether to lift it; he is required to lift it if he is asked to do so. If a player sees that another ball might assist a different player, he may request that the ball be lifted, and his request must be granted.

When any ball interferes with your play, you may ask that it be lifted, and the player must lift that ball. However, if your ball is in the way, you are not permitted to lift it unless you have been requested to do so. If you lift that ball without being asked, you are penalized one stroke for lifting a ball in play (Rule 18-2a).

Of course, you are always permitted to mark and lift a ball that lies on the putting green, and you may clean that ball. If you lift a ball any place else on the golf course that is assisting or interfering with play (this lifting is permitted anywhere on the course, including in hazards), you are not permitted to clean it. That ball should be held carefully in two fingers; if you drop it into your pocket, that is tantamount to cleaning it; the penalty is one stroke [Rule 21].

Personally, I am not fond of tournaments with four-person teams. When every person in a group is on the same team, I suspect that there are occasions when penalties are overlooked. For some players it can be psychologically intimidating to call a penalty on a teammate. While we all like to trust that every golfer is policing himself and is knowledgeable about the rules, that is not always the case.I think that tournament results are always more reliable when pairings contain opposing players. Formats with four-person teams are more suited to outings and charity fundraisers.


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