Monday, October 18, 2010

Ask Linda #248-Multiple penalties

Hi Linda,

In a recent tournament a player was penalized for taking two practice swings under a tree and knocking off leaves each time. The pro at the course indicated it was two stroke penalty each time with a maximum penalty of four strokes. I was not able to find the rule in the rule book that covers this situation. Can you help?

Thank you.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

First of all, if there are more leaves left on the tree that will interfere with the player’s swing, there may not be a penalty at all (please read Ask Linda #246-Hitting branch in hazard). Briefly, if the player must still swing through leaves to make his stroke, the ruling may be that since the area of his intended swing has not been improved, the player will not be penalized.

In most cases, Lou, when a player breaks the same rule more than once prior to hitting the ball, he does not incur multiple penalties. Here are two examples provided in the Decisions book [Decision 1-4/12, #3]:

1. In stroke play, if a competitor takes several practice swings in a bunker, and touches the sand each time, he would get a single two-stroke penalty (Decision 13-4/3). He has broken only one rule (13-4b), so he receives only one penalty.

2. In stroke play, if a player removes sand on his line of play through the green, and also presses down a replaced divot, he has broken only one rule (13-2), and he would get a single two-stroke penalty.

A player would incur multiple penalties if he broke two different rules. For example, if a player takes a practice swing in a bunker and touches the sand, and then he bends a shrub that is in his way, he would be penalized four strokes – two for breaking Rule 13-4, and two for breaking Rule 13-2.

You were unable to find the rule in the rulebook that pertains to this situation because it is not specifically addressed. It comes under Rule 1-4, which tells us that if a situation is not covered by the Rules, then” the decision should be made in accordance with equity.” This means, simply, that the decision must be fair. If a player is unaware that he is not permitted to, for example, move a loose impediment in a hazard, and he moves three pine cones away from his ball, then he has essentially broken only one rule. It is fair and equitable to assess him one penalty; it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to assess him six penalty strokes (two for each pine cone).

In your question, if the player has improved the area of his swing by repeatedly knocking down the leaves, then it will cost him two strokes. The player has broken the same rule more than once; he is penalized only once.

Decision 1-4/12 explains whether a player receives one or multiple penalties when he breaks rules more than once prior to his stroke. I would highly recommend that you take out a few minutes and read it, and perhaps make a copy for the pro at the course where the tournament was played.

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