Monday, January 30, 2012

Ask Linda #407-Provisional hit from anywhere

Dear Linda,
There is a hole that has a lateral hazard all along the right side of the fairway on a par 4. Most of the gals lay up to the left of a big tree in the middle of the fairway to pitch it over to the green. It is close to impossible to see whether the ball made it over or not. Can a player hit a “provisional” ball from anywhere???

Dear Lulu,

A provisional ball may be hit any time a player suspects her ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. It makes no difference whether the ball that may be lost or out of bounds was hit from the tee, the rough, the fairway, a bunker, etc. The provisional ball must be hit before a player goes forward to search for her ball.

Please read Local Rule for Water Hazards, published on October 15, 2011, for a possible way to speed up play on this hole.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ask Linda #406-Removing bird droppings

Linda, on the putting green can we clear away wet bird poop on the line of putt? This happened today and we weren't sure of the ruling


Dear Lulu,

Bird poop (wet or dry) is a loose impediment (pardon the unintended pun) anywhere on the golf course [Definition of Loose Impediments]. You may remove it.

If there is bird poop sticking to your ball, then on the putting green you may clean it off your ball. Elsewhere you may not.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ask Linda #405-Lost ball procedure

Hi Linda

I am a new golfer and in a recent stroke play competition one of my fellow competitors teed off and the ball landed at the edge of the practice ground - still in play. She elected not to play a provisional ball as she said she should be able to find it.
After 5 minutes looking for it, it was still not found. She did not return to the tee to play another ball but dropped a ball where she thought the first one had landed. I asked her if she should really go back to the tee but she said she would take 2 penalty shots instead as that is what she would have incurred had she gone back to the tee. I asked her if she was sure and she said yes. As a new golfer I did not know if this was right or wrong so I let it lie. She continued to play and complete her round. Having read the rules I am certain she was wrong to do this and as she did not correct it I would have thought she should have been disqualified. What is the correct ruling?

Dear Lulu,

You seem to be more savvy about the rules than your more experienced fellow competitor.

When a ball is not found within five minutes, it is deemed to be lost. Since the player did not hit a provisional ball, she must return to the tee to put another ball into play. She will incur a one-stroke penalty for the lost ball [Rule 27-1].

Since she did not return to the tee, she played from a wrong place. The penalty for this is two strokes. However, this player has committed what is known as a serious breach, since the wrong place she hit that second shot from was considerably closer to the hole than the tee. If she becomes aware that she may have committed a serious breach, she has the option to return to the tee to play out a second ball in accordance with the Rules. This must be done prior to teeing off on the next hole. She will report the facts to the Committee at the end of the round. They would rule that play with the second ball stands.

Since this player did not play a second ball from the tee, she will be disqualified for gaining a significant advantage when she played from the wrong place.

In a casual round of golf among friends, players have been known to follow the procedure that your fellow competitor did in the tournament (hitting another ball, adding two penalty strokes, and skipping the return trip to the tee). While this procedure is incorrect, it is appreciated by both her friends (who will not have to wait for her to walk back to the tee) and the following golfers (who will not have their play of the hole delayed).

The best solution is to hit a provisional ball whenever you suspect your ball may be lost or out of bounds. Provisional balls save everyone time and enable the player to correctly follow the Rules.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ask Linda #404-Ball in paper bag


A player hits the ball 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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ask Linda #403-Moving marker on green

Hi Linda,
What is the correct procedure for marking a ball on the green which is in the line of another player’s ball?

Dear Lulu,
If you have already marked your ball, then line your putter head up with a stationary object and move your marker to the other end of the putter head. If the player asks you to move your ball two putter-head lengths, simply repeat the same procedure. I always announce what object I am lining up with so there is no dispute as to which direction I must go to return my marker to its original position.

If you have not yet marked your ball, you have two choices:
(1) You may mark and lift your ball, and then follow the procedure explained in the previous paragraph.
(2) You may place your putter head next to the ball, and then place a marker at the end of your putter head. When you replace your ball, you must reverse the procedure exactly. Place the putter head next to your marker, and then replace the ball at the opposite end of the putter head.

Here is an excellent piece of advice I picked up from a wily old veteran of the game. When you are asked to move your marker, always place it upside-down on the green. That will serve to remind you that you moved your ball and must move it back before you putt.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ask Linda #402-Sand on the fairway

Dear Linda,

I would appreciate your comments with regards to removal of sand from through the green.
At my golf club, golfers are expected to repair their divots by either replacing the divots and/or fill up the divots with sand from the sand bottles provided in the motorized carts. Unfortunately, not all sand fillings are smoothly done. Occasionally, the sand filling forms a miniature mound of sand.
While playing golf today, my opponent's ball was lying in such a mini mound of sand. As per Definitions in the Rules of Golf, "sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.". So, I told my opponent that the "excess" sand in the immediately vicinity of the ball cannot be removed by hand (as it is not a loose impediment), and the ball shall be played as it lies. However, the opponent's club was resting on the "excess" sand when he addressed the ball. And during the backswing, some sand was further displaced and this resulted in an improved area of intended swing. I am not sure what would be the ruling then.
On reaching home, I did some searching in the Rules of Golf and came across Decisions 13-2/9 and 13-2/12. Based on my understanding of these two rulings, it depends on whether the club was grounded fully or lightly on the "excess" sand. If the club is grounded lightly, there is no penalty. It is not easy to distinguish whether the player's club is grounded fully or lightly on the sand. Hence, I think this can be a potential contention on whether there is an infraction.
What are your thoughts and comments on these two decisions?

Thank you and best regards

Dear Lou,

That's an interesting question, Lou. Rule 13-2 states that there is no penalty if a player improves the area of his intended swing provided that the club was grounded lightly when addressing the ball. The two Decisions you cite state quite clearly that if the sand is pressed down at address or moved out of the way during the backswing, there is no penalty, again assuming that the club was grounded lightly.

In order to call a penalty on your opponent, I would think that one of the following would have to happen:
(1) the player displaces the sand during his waggle, thereby improving the area of his intended swing prior to the stroke;
(2) the player bangs his club on the ground to flatten the sand.

Either of these actions would be obvious if you were observing your opponent, and I think your opponent would agree that he had committed an infraction or, if not, the Committee would rule in your favor.

I am very pleased at your excellent etiquette in reminding your opponent before his shot that he could not clear away the sand, as it was not a loose impediment on the fairway. 

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ask Linda #401-Putt deflected by ball in motion

Hi Linda
I enjoy your website and am learning a lot.
My question is: In stroke play, on the putting green, competitor A has a 20-foot putt. As it is his turn to play, he putts, and his shot is deflected by the ball of his fellow competitor, who has played from off the putting green at the same time. “A” is now annoyed, as his ball is still about 18 feet from the hole. He takes his putt and holes out.
Is the fellow competitor's ball an outside agency in stroke play and should Player A have cancelled the stroke and replayed it?
I am a bit confused about outside agencies in stroke play.
Thanks for your help.
Best wishes

Dear Lulu,

Player A’s ball is on the putting green, and it is his turn to play. When his ball is deflected by a fellow competitor’s ball in motion, the fellow competitor’s ball is an outside agency. Player A’s stroke is canceled. He gets to replace and replay his ball [Rule 19-1b].

The fellow competitor is not as lucky. He is not permitted to hit his ball while another ball is in motion after a stroke on the putting green [Rule 16-1f]. His penalty is two strokes.

In individual stroke play, an outside agency is any agency that is not the competitor, his caddie, his ball in play, or his equipment.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Rules for 2012

The Rules of Golf are the same for every golfer in every country.  They are revised every four years by the USGA and the R&A. 2012 is a revision year. Since the new Rules are now in effect, let’s take a look at some of the more significant changes.

Addressing the Ball
Old definition: The ball was considered to be addressed when the player took his stance and grounded his club. In a hazard, it was addressed when the player took his stance.
New definition: The ball is addressed when the player grounds his club immediately in front of or behind the ball.
1. Taking your stance is no longer part of the definition of addressing the ball. If the ball moves after you take your stance but before you ground your club, you will no longer be responsible for a subsequent movement of the ball under Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address). See Rule below.
2. If you ground your club several inches behind the ball, you will not be responsible if the ball moves. Your responsibility begins when you ground the club right next to the ball, either in front or behind.
3. You will never officially address your ball in a hazard, since stance no longer counts and you are not permitted to ground your club in a hazard. If you take your stance, and the ball should happen to move, you are not responsible.
Note: You are always held responsible if you actually caused your ball to move, such as may happen when you dislodge a stone or step on a twig.

Rule 18-2b. Ball Moving After Address
Old rule: Once you addressed the ball, if it subsequently moved you were deemed responsible (regardless of whether it was your fault) and penalized one stroke.
New rule: If the ball moves after you address it, and it is known or virtually certain that you did not cause the ball to move, there is no penalty and you must play the ball from its new position.
Significance: This new rule will be a welcome change for golfers who play at courses with super-fast greens, for example. After you address the ball, if a gust of wind moves the ball, you will continue play from the new location and will not incur a penalty stroke.

Rule 6-3a. Time of Starting
Old rule: A player who arrived at the first tee later than his assigned starting time was disqualified. As a Condition of the Competition, a Committee could waive the disqualification penalty for a player who arrived within five minutes of his starting time and substitute a loss of hole/two strokes penalty.
New rule: If a player arrives late but within five minutes of his starting time, the penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. A player will be disqualified if he is more than five minutes late.
Significance: Everyone now has a five-minute grace period (with accompanying penalties).

Rule 12-1. Seeing Ball; Searching for Ball
Old rule: If your ball was in a hazard covered by loose impediments, and you happened to move the ball during your search, there was no penalty.
New rule: You will now incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a (Ball at Rest Moved by Player) if you happen to move your ball in a hazard when you’re searching for it under loose impediments.
Significance: The rule is now uniform for the entire course. Whenever your ball is covered by loose impediments, and you move it during search, you will incur a one-stroke penalty. But remember that there is no penalty if you move your ball while searching for it in ground under repair or in an obstruction. Nor is there a penalty if you move your ball while probing for it in a water hazard.

Rule 13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions
Old rule: You were not permitted to rake the sand in a bunker prior to hitting your ball.
New rule: You are permitted to rake the sand in a bunker prior to hitting your ball, provided the sole purpose of the raking or smoothing is to care for the course and you do not improve your lie or the area of your stance or swing.
Significance: Remember those long treks across bunkers where you wished you could rake the footprints you were making behind you so that you could exit the bunker in a shorter direction after you hit your shot? Now you are permitted to do so. Also, you can rake areas of the bunker that were neglected by less considerate golfers while you wait for your turn to play.

Rule 20-7c. Playing from Wrong Place; Stroke Play
Old rule: Note 3: A player making a stroke from a wrong place (two-stroke penalty) did not incur an additional penalty if he substituted a ball when it was not permitted.
New rule: Note 3 has been expanded to exclude other violations from additional penalty strokes, such as dropping a ball incorrectly. Read Note 3 for a more complete list.
Significance: Any rule that cuts down on penalty strokes is fine with me.

While you’re thinking of it, pick up a copy or two of the new rulebook. You can keep one for bedtime reading (almost guaranteed to put you to sleep) and one in your golf bag for handy reference.

The rulebook now has the same format throughout the world, down to the fonts and shape. Readers in the United States will notice two helpful additions: pages 9 and 10 give useful tips on how to use the book, and pages 11 to 17 provide a synopsis of the most commonly encountered rules situations, complete with illustrations. If you’re not the cover-to-cover type of reader, make it a point to read these two sections.

Have fun golfing in 2012!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ask Linda #400-Raking footprints

Hi Linda,
This question is from my wife who would normally receive the "Yes dear whatever you say" ruling when we play together. However, this happened during a tournament. Her ball was in the bunker, close to the lip, with a severe uphill lie. She had to dig her feet in deep in order to even stand. She hit the ball, it hit the lip of the bunker and came to rest in the bunker but  "behind" her original position. She elected to play the ball without raking the very deep footprints. I think she was correct because even though Decision 13-4/36 states a player can smooth footprints after a stroke in the bunker if it does not assist in his subsequent play of the hole (exception 2 to 13-4), Decision 13-2/29 states that "if a player worsens his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line…he is not entitled to restore that area to its original condition". The "yes dear whatever you say" rule notwithstanding, was she correct?
Thanks as always,
Lou from Atlanta

Dear Lou,

There is never a penalty for not raking a bunker before you hit a ball that lies in a bunker. Since your wife wasn’t sure whether she was entitled to rake her footprints, she made the smart decision to hit first and rake afterwards.

She would not be penalized for raking her footprints before hitting her next shot, provided such raking did not improve her lie, the area of her intended stance or swing, or her line of play [Decision 13-4/38]. I am assuming, from your narrative, that the footprints were on her line of play. If that is the case, then raking the footprints would have resulted in a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) for a violation of Rule 13-2.

Your wife was absolutely correct in her procedure and her understanding of the rule.

If your wife’s ball had been in the back of the bunker, and her stroke had moved the ball to the front of the bunker, she would be permitted to rake the footprints from her first attempt before hitting her second shot from the same bunker. This does not constitute testing the consistency of the sand [Decision 13-4/36].

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ask Linda #398-Scoring question

Hi Linda,
A player plays his 2nd shot to the left, towards a lateral hazard. It is raining. The co-competitors are hiding under an umbrella and you cannot hear or see anything. A tree is on his line of play and further to the left, as everybody knows, there’s a high rough. The player does not know whether his ball went into the hazard or is lost in the rough, so he plays a provisional ball, dead straight on the fairway. When going forward, right behind the tree on the left, in the ditch (marked as a lateral water hazard), the player sees a ball. He believes it is his, picks up the ball, takes a drop at 2 club-lengths (Rule 26 with 1 penalty stroke), and plays the shot. When he arrives at his ball he sees that it is not the ball he played into the tree/ditch and informs his co-competitors that it is not his ball. Believing he played a wrong ball, he picks it up, goes to his provisional and finishes the hole with that provisional ball. He tees off at hole number 3, play is interrupted, and he comes to ask for my advice on the number of strokes for that hole.
I believe that the answer in Decision 26-1/3.7 covers the situation, but I have had some different opinions since.

Eventually play was resumed but interrupted again in a later stage and the competition was cancelled altogether. Lucky for the player maybe? As you see, we do not always have nice weather in France!

I truly enjoy your emails with the Q/A’s, hope you find some time to look into this situation, look forward to hearing from you.

Have a nice day, kind regards,
Lulu from France

Dear Lulu,

The player’s ball that was hit towards the hazard was lost. When he dropped the ball outside the hazard, without virtual certainty that his ball was in the hazard, he was proceeding under an inapplicable rule and incurred a one-stroke penalty. (The inapplicable rule was the water hazard rule, Rule 26. The applicable rule was the lost ball rule, Rule 27.)

When the player hit the ball that he dropped outside the hazard, he played from a wrong place. The penalty for that is two strokes [Rule 20-7].

He must proceed with the provisional ball. His provisional is the actual ball in play, since it was properly hit for a ball that might be lost outside a water hazard, and the original ball was never found.

Here is how to score this hole:
1 – tee shot
1 – second shot hit towards hazard
1 – penalty stroke for proceeding under an inapplicable rule
2 – penalty strokes for hitting from a wrong place
1 – provisional ball properly hit from where he hit his second shot
When he hits the provisional ball a second time, he will be hitting his seventh shot on the hole.

If the player picked up his provisional before discovering that the ball he dropped and hit near the hazard was not his, he would incur an additional penalty stroke for lifting his ball in play [Rule 18-2a]. He would have to place a ball where his provisional had come to rest and continue his play. His second stroke with the provisional, now the ball in play, would be his 8th stroke on the hole.

If ever there were a perfect illustration of why players should identify the ball before hitting it, this would be it. This player would be hitting his fourth shot instead of his seventh if he had checked the ball he found, realized it was not his, and continued play with the provisional.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ask Linda #397-Rotating ball on green

Hi Linda,

Rotating ball on Putting Green, ball marked:

I find some ambiguity in placing and replacing the ball on the putting green.

1st situation: Player marks and lifts ball, replaces ball (ball is in play), leaves mark in place, walks away, a gust of wind gets to the ball and the ball falls in the hole. Ball is holed with the last stroke.

2nd situation: Player marks and lifts ball, replaces ball (again the ball is in play), leaves his marker behind the ball, aligns the ball with whatever mark, is not happy, rotates or realigns again, etc., and holes (or not) the putt.

3rd situation: Player marks and lifts ball, replaces ball (ball is in play), leaves his marker behind the ball, walks to the other side of the hole, returns to his ball and rotates (without lifting) the ball.

My question is (and I have had some varied responses back!!): Are you allowed to re-touch your ball on the putting green when you have stepped away, since the ball is in play

Dear Lulu,

As long as the position of the ball on the green is marked, you may lift it, clean it, or rotate it as often as you wish. However, if you rotate your ball after you have lifted your marker, there is a one-stroke penalty for touching your ball [Rule 18-2a].

If you replace your ball in front of your marker, and a gust of wind blows it into the hole while your marker is still in place, your ball is holed. The wind is not charged with a stroke for moving your ball, and neither are you!

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ask Linda #396-Kneeling on the green

 Dear Linda,
At our club, there has been some discussion going on, both in the men's and women's groups, regarding those who “kneel down” on the green to line up their ball with the hole. No one seems to have seen a pro do this.  Some say it is not allowed.  Others say it is.  Our pro was questioned and he said that he couldn't find anything in the rules one way or the other.  I would like your opinion since I respect your outstanding knowledge of the rules.

Dear Lulu,

This is an etiquette issue. Players are supposed to do their best to avoid causing damage to the course. If the greens are very soft, and kneeling leaves an indentation on the green, then players should use some common sense and refrain from the practice. On the other hand, if the greens are firm and the kneeling does not damage the green, there is no rule that prohibits a player from kneeling.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ask Linda #395-Continuous putting in match play


I was in a match play tournament that was addressed by the club pro before we started.  One of the rules he went over was succession putting.  He said that - unlike stroke play - in match play succession putting was not allowed.  This made for a very long round.  If I made my putt first and did not sink it, I had to mark my ball and wait for my opponent to give the putt to me or until everyone else finished their putting.  I’ve played match play for a long time and never heard of this rule and I couldn’t find it in the rules of golf.

Can you clear this up for me?  Thanks.

Dear Lulu,

There is no penalty in stroke play if you putt continuously (i.e., your putt stops near the hole and you putt again, technically “out of turn,” to complete your play of the hole). This practice is encouraged in stroke play, since it tends to speed up play [Decision 10-2b/1].

Match play is an entirely different story. While there is no penalty for playing out of turn, your opponent has the option of recalling your stroke and making you repeat it [Rule 10-1c]. There is strategy involved with not permitting your opponent to putt out of turn. As a player, you should not give up that advantage.

If my opponent’s ball is not close enough to concede, then I expect her to mark it. If she asks permission to putt, I deny it. (I always get a surprised and sometimes angry response to this denial, but neither response concerns me. A player who understands match play understands that putting is not continuous in match play.)

If I make my putt, then I will generally concede a reasonably close putt to halve the hole. But if I miss my putt, then the pressure is now on my opponent to make her putt for the win. If I allow her to putt first, I have put undue pressure on myself to make the longer putt. Why would I want to do that?

The problem I see with some match play is that players are reluctant to concede very short, easy putts. I find this reluctance baffling. This is what contributes to a long round, not the fact that you will have to mark your ball and wait your turn. If putts are conceded when appropriate, a round of match play is generally quicker than a round of stroke play.

The bottom line is that your pro is correct. You are not entitled to putt continuously in match play. Mark your ball and wait your turn.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ask Linda #394-Hitting into group in front

Hi Linda,

The following situation occurred in a recent tournament.

A player was upset that the players in a following group were hitting into his group. After this occurred more than once, the player, who was on the green putting, walked to the ball that had been hit just short of the green, picked the ball up, and threw it back towards the group in the fairway.

What options does the Committee have in dealing with this situation? Is there a penalty for intentionally picking up another player's ball in a stroke play tournament? Should the player who threw the ball be penalized or disqualified for a serious breach of etiquette?
What about the players who may have hit into the group ahead?

Thank you.

Dear Lou,

Technically, there is no penalty in stroke play for moving a fellow competitor’s ball [Rule 18-4].

Your scenario is an etiquette issue, and the decision whether to penalize both the player who threw the ball and the player who hit into him is at the discretion of the Committee.

Both players could be disqualified for a serious breach of etiquette [Rule 33-7]. However, it is recommended in most cases that players be warned after the first breach and disqualified if the behavior is repeated [Decision 33-7/8].

Players are expected to wait until players in front of them are out of range before hitting a ball. Hitting accidentally into a group in front once, accompanied by a vociferous “fore,” is generally understandable and excusable. Hitting into a group a second time is not. Intentionally hitting when players are not out of range would be clear grounds for disqualification for a serious breach of etiquette.

Instead of throwing the ball back, the player might be better advised to wait by the ball until the player reaches it. He would be within his rights to tell that player in no uncertain terms that hitting when players are not out of range is dangerous and unsportsmanlike, and that he will report such activity to the Committee if it is repeated.

It might interest you to learn that if the player hits the ball back towards the offending player, he will incur a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) [Decision 1-4/4].

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.