Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ask Linda #323b–Different penalties explained

Dear readers,

You may recall (Ask Linda #323a) the reader who wanted to know why there was a penalty in match play for moving your opponent’s ball, but no penalty in stroke play for moving your fellow competitor’s ball. A very knowledgeable reader came up with the answer, which is printed below.

It will help you to understand his explanation if you take a moment to read the definition of Outside Agency in your rulebook. Also, his reference to Tuft’s Principles is to a book entitled The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf, written by Richard S. Tufts and originally published in 1960.

My thanks to Phil for sharing his insight and understanding. Here is his explanation:


An obvious reason for not penalizing a player for "stepping on" (herein = unintentionally moving) a fellow competitor's ball (stroke play) is that a fellow competitor is an outside agency. An opponent (match play) is not an outside agency. So to be consistent with Rule 18-1 [which states that there is no penalty if a ball is moved by an outside agency], a fellow competitor should not be penalized for stepping on another player's ball. (It also should be pointed out, however, that there is no penalty if an opponent [in match play] moves the player's ball during a search (18-3a).)

Rationale for defining fellow competitors as outside agencies, while opponents are not, is a whole other discussion as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps such a discussion will make its way into some future revision of Tuft's Principles. ;-) Chapter 8 and 13 of Tufts do already contain related discussions as regards differences between match and stroke play, some of which you describe in your response to "Lulu."

It therefore seems to me that there are quite "logical" reasons, viz. the need for consistency within the rules, for the differences in the consequences of "stepping on a ball" in stroke play as opposed to match play and I'm a bit surprised by the "speechless" USGA [rules?] official's response.

I really enjoy your blog. As a low level volunteer Rules Official for my state golf association, it is very useful to have your emails arrive regularly; they keep me actively engaged. You do an excellent job of responding to your readers' questions, and this includes my own. Please keep it up.

Athens, GA