Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ask Linda #276-ESC and double par

Hi Linda,
In our league we are allowed to post double par as the maximum score on any hole for the purpose of pace of play. How would this affect the Equitable Stroke Control system?

Dear Lou,

I’m glad you asked this question, since I suspect there are a number of golfers facing this problem.

There are two issues to consider here: Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) and Most Likely Score. Both must be understood before I can answer your question, so let’s take a moment out for a quick review.

Equitable Stroke Control
Before posting a score for your handicap record, a player must review his scorecard and apply ESC. This means that if he has scored higher than the maximum score his Course Handicap (CH) permits on any given hole, he must subtract those strokes from the score he posts. For example, if a player with a CH of 12 scores a 9 on one hole, he must subtract 2 strokes from his total score before posting it. This is because his maximum ESC score is 7. If this same player scores 9 on three different holes, he must subtract 6 strokes from his total before posting.

Here is a quick ESC review:
If your CH is 9 or less, the maximum score you may post for any given hole is double bogey.
If your CH is 10-19, your maximum is 7.
If your CH is 20-29, your maximum is 8.
If your CH is 30-39, your maximum is 9
If your CH is 40 or more, your maximum is 10.

Please remember that if you are playing in a tournament and you shoot 92, you will turn in a score of 92 for the tournament. When you post that score in your handicap record, you will then apply the ESC adjustments to any holes where you exceeded your maximum score. So if your CH at the tournament was 15, and you scored 8 on three holes, your tournament score would still be 92, but the score you post in your handicap record would be 89, since the maximum score you are permitted to post is 7.

Most Likely Score
When a player does not complete a hole, he must record his “most likely score” for handicap purposes. That score would be the number of strokes already taken plus the number of strokes the player believes it would take him to finish the hole more than half the time. This is a judgment call. Ordinarily, if your ball is on the green but not in “gimme” range you would add 2 strokes to your score; if you’re within comfortable pitching distance, you would add 3 strokes (the pitch plus two putts). If the total of your “most likely score” exceeds your ESC, you must subtract those extra strokes before you post your score. In a tournament, you would write an X before your score (e.g., X-8) to indicate that you picked up before completing the hole.

Now let’s address your question. The scorecard you turn in to your league will have no “official” score higher than a double par (league rules). Because of that, you will need to keep a separate record for the score you will post into your handicap record. Each time you reach double par and have not completed the hole, your separate record should reflect your “most likely score.” For example, if it has taken you 6 shots to reach a par 3, and your ball is 20 feet from the hole, you would record a “6” for your league score (double par max) and an “8” for your “most likely score.” You will add that 8 into the score you post into your handicap record if your CH is 20 or higher. If your CH is 19 or less, that 8 exceeds your ESC limit of 7, and you will have to subtract 1 stroke from your total score before posting.

Players are required to post scores even if they do not complete every hole. The score they post for those holes will be their most likely score minus any strokes that exceed their maximum ESC.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ask Linda #275-Relief from dangerous geese

Hello Linda,
By chance (looking for a ruling regarding a dangerous situation) I came across your rules blog. Very interesting.
Your reply # 120 dealt with a similar question posed to me. Who am I? I live in France, have Dutch nationality and have been appointed regional referee by the French Federation (after some years of practice and two exams).
Every now and then players (usually Dutch) ask some specific rules questions and I try to respond as best as I can. Could you help me out with the question posed to me and the response I gave (that particular person did not agree with my answer)?

My ball is in a fairway bunker. However, if I approach the bunker, I’m attacked by some aggressive geese (a couple). Despite various attempts I do not manage to hit my ball out of the bunker without the danger of being attacked by the geese.
How do I solve this problem?

I answered that in the Decisions book a similar situation is presented in Decision 1-4/10, where reference is made to Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable). Furthermore, I made reference to Decision 28/1, the necessity to identify your ball before using option b or c, which allow a player to drop behind or within two club-lengths of the ball.
Here is Decision 1-4/10, which gives two extra options without penalty:

Decision 1-4/10 Dangerous Situation; Rattlesnake or Bees Interfere With Play
Question: A player’s ball comes to rest in a situation dangerous to the player, e.g., near a live rattlesnake or a bees’ nest. In equity (Rule 1-4), does the player have any options in addition to playing the ball as it lies or, if applicable, proceeding under Rule 26 or 28?

Answer: Yes. It is unreasonable to expect the player to play from such a dangerous situation and unfair to require the player to incur a penalty under Rule 26 (Water Hazards) or Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).
If the ball lay through the green, the player may, without penalty, drop a ball within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest spot not nearer the hole that is not dangerous and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
If the ball lay in a hazard, the player should drop a ball, if possible, in the same hazard and, if not, in a similar nearby hazard, but in either case not nearer the hole. If it is not possible for the player to drop the ball in a hazard, he may drop it, under penalty of one stroke, outside the hazard, keeping the point where the original ball lay between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped.

Coming back to the question, as we do not exactly know the details of the situation, I believe that there are several options:
1st option:
This person went into the bunker and was able to identify his ball. He can drop in the bunker without penalty or in a similar hazard nearby without going closer to the hole, of course (which normally is not possible under Rule 28).
2nd option
This person went into the bunker and was able to identify his ball but because the birds were still in the bunker he could not drop in the same bunker. Neither is there a similar bunker nearby. His option then is to drop outside the bunker with 1 penalty stroke, keeping the ball on the line-of-sight to the hole (normally not possible under Rule 28).
3rd option
This person cannot identify his ball, so there is no other option than to go back to the spot from where the previous stroke was made under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 20-5).
End of my reply

Now, this person replied to me the following:

“I do not agree that it is absolutely necessary to identify the ball. You only need to be sure (known or virtually certain) that the ball has landed in the ‘danger-zone.’ You can compare this with the water hazard ball (I have never seen someone entering a water hazard to identify his ball) or ‘ball at rest moved by an outside agency’ (I have never seen anybody flying after a bird to make sure that it was that bird that took the ball).
If it is not sure that the ball is in the danger-zone, the only option left for the player is to go back to the spot where the ball was originally hit from (with a penalty stroke). If that certainty can only be obtained by identifying the ball then it seems a ‘non-issue’ anyway, because if you can identify the ball then you can also play the ball.
In case (later) that the ball in the danger-zone was not the player’s ball, then he had no right to play a substituted ball and gets 2 penalty strokes (Match Play: loss of hole).
I am interested to hear your adviser’s opinion (should your adviser wish to debate the subject further I advise her to contact Grant Moir – Director Rules of Golf, Royal St Andrews).”

I’m sorry to bother you with such a long story, but I do appreciate your views especially as I'm not too happy with the last part of his reply (in red).

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Kind regards,

Dear Lulu,

I am honored and delighted to be consulted on a ruling by a Dutch referee working for the French Federation. I, in turn, consulted a USGA official. I suspect you will be surprised by his response.

I cannot speak for the Royal &; Ancient, but the USGA does not consider geese to be dangerous, as they are neither poisonous nor life-threatening. Accordingly, if the player chooses not to play his ball he must declare it unplayable, take his one-stroke penalty, and use one of the relief options in Rule 28.

That is the answer to your question, plain and simple.

However, since I don’t like to miss an opportunity to educate my readers, let’s take another look at your question and change the geese into rattlesnakes. If it is virtually certain that the ball has settled in a bunker and is sharing the bunker with a rattlesnake, then the player has three options:

1. drop a ball in the same bunker, not nearer the hole (probably not the best idea unless it is a very large bunker);
2. drop a ball in a nearby similar bunker, not nearer the hole; or
3. drop a ball outside the bunker on the line-of-sight to the hole, adding a one-stroke penalty to his score.

With regard to identifying the ball, if it is virtually certain that the player’s ball is in the bunker, every attempt should be made to identify it. The player and his fellow competitors should walk carefully around the perimeter of the bunker to see if it is possible to identify it. If the ball cannot be identified, then the benefit of doubt, in this case, is given to the player. He is entitled to proceed under one of the options listed above. If it is not virtually certain that the ball went into the bunker, then the player’s ball is lost and he must proceed under stroke and distance [Rule 27-1].

Lulu, the player who wrote back to you was correct in his assumption that he would not be required to identify the ball if such identification posed a danger to life and limb (assuming it was virtually certain that the ball was in the bunker). However, the point is moot, since geese are not poisonous or life-threatening birds, and are therefore not considered dangerous under the USGA Rules of Golf.

My recommendation would be to declare the ball unplayable and steer clear of the angry geese. I would not wish to disturb a nest or harm an animal to save myself a penalty in a game of golf.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ask Linda #404-Ball in paper bag


A player hits the ball and it falls inside a paper bag. If he removes the ball from the bag it will be a penalty, and if he tries to hit the ball and the bag he will lose control over the shot.

What are the ways that we can try to solve the problem?

Thank you very much.

Dear Lou,

A paper bag is a movable obstruction. You may take the ball out of the bag, lift the bag, and drop the ball as near as possible to where it lay on the course when it was inside the bag. If the bag were on a putting green, you would place the ball on the green [Rule 24-1b]. There is no penalty attached to this procedure. You are always entitled to free relief from obstructions.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ask Linda #274-Scale wall for relief?

Dear Linda,

I would appreciate your advice on the applicable ruling for the following scenario.

Firstly, I will endeavour to describe the layout of the two holes concerned on this golf course. Hole 14 is a par 4 in a North-South direction, where the putting green is at the south end. Hole 15 is a par 3 in a North-South direction too. The tee-box of hole 15 is on the left side of the putting green of hole 14.

The buggy track (cart path) is on the entire left of hole 14 from tee box to putting green; relative to hole 15, the buggy track is on the entire right side of hole 15. In other words, the buggy track is separating the putting green of hole 14 and the tee box of hole 15. From the tee box of hole 14 to the putting green of hole 15, the terrain is on a gentle downhill. The perimeter of hole 14 putting green is a vertical concrete wall.

In my scenario, my opponent's second shot from the fairway of hole 14 landed on the green but then rolled off the green and came to rest at the base of the vertical concrete wall on the left side of the putting green (about 10 o'clock position with respect to the 14th putting green). The ball was just one foot away from the vertical wall and the vertical wall is about ten feet below the level of the 14th putting green. The buggy track is about three feet away from the ball at the base of the vertical wall. The tee box of hole 15 is on the other side of the buggy track.

As there is interference to both the player's stance and the area of his intended swing, my opponent is entitled to relief due to the vertical wall, which is an immovable obstruction, as per rule 24-2.

My question: Can the player drop his ball above the vertical wall by estimating the 1 club-length horizontally with respect to the ball at the base of the vertical wall and totally ignoring the vertical distance, which is about ten feet? The place where he could drop a ball above the vertical wall would be about one foot from the edge of the wall, which would be on a closely mown area but not on the putting green. Also, the place where the ball would be dropped above the vertical wall is not nearer to the hole with respect to where the ball was lying at the base of the vertical wall. Please comment.

Meanwhile, I tried to make reference to decision 28/12 for ball unplayable. In this decision, vertical distance cannot be ignored because the ball is on the ground. In my scenario, the ball is on the ground but there is interference from the immovable obstruction. Hence, I am wondering whether vertical distance can or cannot be ignored in taking relief within one club-length.

If the player is not allowed to ignore vertical distance, does it mean that he would need to drop his ball on the road and subsequently take relief from the road as immovable obstruction? Eventually, he would be dropping his ball around the tee box area of hole 15.
I would appreciate your advice on my scenario.

Thank you and best regards,
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Don’t panic, everyone. I promise the answer will be simpler than the question.

When a player’s ball is not on the ground (e.g., perched on the walkway of a bridge over a deep hollow), he is permitted to ignore vertical distance and take relief (stance plus one club-length) from a point on the ground directly underneath where the ball lies on the obstruction. The reverse is not true. If a ball lies on the ground, the player may not ignore vertical distance and climb to the top of the obstruction to seek relief. (I confirmed this ruling yesterday with a USGA official.) He is obligated to find the nearest point of relief. In your scenario, Lou, it seems unlikely that the nearest relief would be on top of the wall, once you add in the extra 10 feet to scale the wall.

Players are entitled to free relief from an immovable obstruction such as a concrete wall. The player in your question must lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief no closer to the hole. If this point is on the cart path, then that is where he must drop the ball. After the drop, if the ball settles on the cart path, or the cart path interferes with his stance or swing, he is entitled to again lift and drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief off the cart path no closer to the hole. If that spot turns out to be on the tee box of another hole, then that is where he will drop and play the ball.

If this is a frequent occurrence, and the management of your golf course is not pleased by players taking divots out of the nearby tee box, it has the option to establish a dropping zone. That zone should not be placed on top of the wall, as this would unfairly offer players an easier shot.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ask Linda #273-Removing part of loose impediment

Hi Linda,
Recently I found my ball near a fallen branch. I found that the total branch was too heavy too move but in attempting to move it I was able to break parts of it up such that my stance would be improved. I found myself confused if this was allowable under my right to move a loose impediment but possibly not as I was not moving the whole impediment and was therefore possibly creating my own stance. Would there be any difference between attempting to move the branch, failing but improving my stance as a result vs. simply breaking up the branch until it suited what I wanted as a stance?
What are your thoughts?

Dear Lulu,

A branch that has fallen from a tree is a loose impediment. If it interferes with your stance or swing, you are permitted to break off any parts that are in your way. Not everyone has the advantage of a large entourage of fans eager to move “loose” boulders or weighty branches that may lie in your path. There is no difference between moving the entire branch and breaking off the interfering parts–both actions are allowed [Decision 23-1/4].

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ask Linda #272-Moving rooted weed

My ball was in the rough with a rooted weed lying across it. Am I allowed to move the weed away from my ball if I do not pull it loose from the ground? Would the ruling change if the weed bends and cracks, but does not break in two?
Thank you,
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

The ball must be played as it lies. A player is not permitted to improve his lie by moving, bending, or breaking anything growing [Rule 13-2].

If I am reading your question correctly, you are clearly aware that the weed lying across your ball is rooted in the ground. Under these circumstances, if you move that weed you are penalized two strokes for a breach of Rule 13-2.

You are, however, permitted to move a weed if you are unable to determine whether it is loose or attached. If you then discover that it is still attached, you must put it back before you hit the ball. Should you accidentally pull the weed out of the ground during your inspection, you cannot avoid the two-stroke penalty, so be sure to conduct your inspection with great care [Decision 13-2/26].

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Ask Linda #398-Using a club as a direction guide

Hi Linda,
Recently while playing a Team Match one of the players continually placed a club to set her direction on the teeing ground. The club was removed before she hit the drive. Is this legal?

Dear Lulu,

Yes. This is legal as long as she picks up the club before she hits the ball [Decision 8-2a/1]. Any mark placed by a player to indicate the line must be removed before making a stroke [Rule 8-2a]. If she leaves the club on the ground, she has breached Rule 8-2a and will lose the hole.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ask Linda #271-Removing leaf under ball

Linda, my ball was on the fairway and lying on a large leaf with the logo facing up. I pulled the leaf from under the ball. The ball did not change location but it must have spun because the logo was now facing to the side. Should I be penalized?
Thank you
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Did you really think you could pull a leaf out from underneath a ball without moving the ball? Are you Houdini?

A player is entitle to remove loose impediments, but if he moves the ball in the process he incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a and the ball must be replaced. If it is not replaced, the penalty is two strokes.

Moving loose impediments is like a game of pick-up-sticks. You need to survey the situation and decide which impediments can safely be moved without disturbing the ball.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ask Linda #270-Cleaning the ball

Dear Linda,
Firstly, my apology for seeking clarifications from you on an old item which was raised in January 2008. The subject was "Ask Linda #23 - cleaning the ball" and the second paragraph starts with this sentence: "When the rules permit you to take relief from an immovable obstruction, such as a fence, you are not permitted to clean the ball."
To my knowledge, when a player takes relief from either a movable or an immovable obstruction, he is allowed to clean his ball. I have validated it in rules 24-1 and 24-2, and it includes this sentence: "The ball may be cleaned when lifted for relief under Rule 24-1b" or "...Rule 24-2b".
Hence, I would appreciate if you could comment on your response in #23.
Thank you and best regards.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
It is I who must apologize and who must thank you for your diligence. You are absolutely correct–you are permitted to clean a ball when taking relief from a movable or immovable obstruction. I have corrected the information in Ask Linda #23.

This would be a good time to review the rules regarding cleaning the ball for everyone:

You are always permitted to clean your ball on the putting green. You may clean a ball that has been lifted at any other time except in the following three circumstances:

1. determining whether the ball is unfit for play [Rule 5-3];

2. identifying the ball [Rule 12-2–you may only wipe off the least amount of debris necessary to see your markings];

3. lifting a ball because it is assisting or interfering with play [Rule 22].

The penalty for cleaning the ball under the three circumstances listed above is one stroke.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ask Linda #269-Play provisional or original?

Dear Linda,
I would appreciate if you could help me with this query on the appropriate ruling.
During my regular weekend golf last Sunday, on a par 5, my opponent's third shot from the fairway went to the rough on the left slope of the putting green. As the original ball may not be found in the rough, he immediately announced that he would play a provisional ball and dropped a ball on the fairway under Rule 27-1. The provisional ball landed on the green. He then went forward to search for his original ball in the left rough and found it within 5 minutes. He hit the original ball from the rough and it landed on the green. On the way to the green, he picked up his provisional ball and continued to play with the original ball. He two-putted the original ball and his score was a bogey.
When I reached home, I search for the appropriate ruling. I came across Decision 27-1/2. There is a subtle difference between the scenario in Decision 27-1/2 and my Sunday game. In Decision 27-1/2, it states that the player did go forward to search for his original ball briefly and then went back to drop another ball. In the case of Decision 27-1/2, the dropped ball is the ball in play. In my Sunday scenario, the player went forward to search for his ball AFTER hitting the dropped ball. My question is: in my Sunday scenario, is the dropped ball the ball in play? If so, then his original ball should be deemed as lost. I would appreciate if you could enlighten me on the applicable ruling for my Sunday scenario. Thank you.

Dear Lou Lou,
The player in your scenario proceeded correctly. When a player suspects that his ball may be lost, he has the option to play a provisional ball. He must announce that the second ball is being played provisionally, and he must play that ball before he goes forward to search for the original (Rule 27-2a, first paragraph). A player loses the option to play a provisional ball once he goes forward to search for the original. In that case, if he does not find his original ball, he must return to where he hit the original shot and play another ball, adding a one-stroke penalty to his score. This procedure is known as “stroke and distance.” The purpose of the provisional ball rule is to save time. A second ball played after a search has been conducted is never a provisional ball; such a ball is always played under stroke and distance (Rule 27-2a, second paragraph).

In your example, the player hit his original ball, thought it might be lost, announced he would hit a provisional, and did so immediately, before going forward to search. He then found the original within five minutes, pocketed his provisional, and played the original. This player followed the provisional ball rule to the letter.

Decision 27-1/2 deals with a player who searches for his ball for less than five minutes, returns to where he hit his original ball, drops another ball, and then another player finds his ball before five minutes have elapsed. This player did not hit a provisional ball. As soon as he dropped that other ball with the intention to play it under stroke and distance, it became the ball in play (Rule 20-4) and the original ball was deemed “lost” (Definition of Lost Ball).

The difference between the scenario in Decision 27-1/2 and the player’s procedure in your Sunday game is not as subtle as you might think. The player in the Decision did not hit a provisional ball, and was required to play his second ball under penalty of stroke and distance as soon as he dropped it; the player in your Sunday game followed proper procedure in hitting his provisional ball, and was therefore entitled to play his original when it was found within the five-minute search period.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.