Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ask Linda #480a-Opponent steps on your ball

Questions from “Lulus” in response to Ask Linda #480-Stepping on your ball:

Additional question.... what if another player steps on it or runs over it with the golf cart?

Hi Linda, was wondering what the decision would be if it was your opponent or partner who stepped on the ball.  Thanks, Lulu

Does the answer assume that the player knew the lie of the ball in the rough before she stepped on it?  If she didn't know the lie (and it would be hard for her to know it, not having seen the ball), is she not required to drop? See Dec. 20-3b/5.  Lulu

Dear Lulus,

In match play, if your opponent (or her equipment, which would include a cart) moves your ball while she is helping you search for it, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced [Rule 18-3]. If she moves your ball at any other time, she is penalized one stroke and your ball must be replaced [Rule 18-3b].

In stroke play, there is no penalty if your fellow competitor moves your ball. The ball must be replaced.

The decision whether to place or drop the ball depends on whether the player knows the original lie. If she does, she will place the ball in the closest similar lie within one club-length, no closer to the hole. If the ball is in a bunker, she will re-create the original lie and place the ball in it. If she does not know the original lie, she will have to drop the ball as near as possible to where it lay [Rules 20-3b and c].

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ask Linda #481-Why is there an “R” next to my Handicap Index?

Linda, our Women’s Golf Association uses a handicap computation system to do our handicaps based on the USGA handicapping system. When an "R" appears after a person's handicap, I understand their handicap has been reduced based on at least two exceptional tournament scores. It is very difficult to explain to a golfer why their handicap was reduced due to an exceptional tournament score. One score was in June of 2011 and the other score was April 28th of 2011. Will the April 28th T score drop off and then show a regular score? Do you have any recommendations on how to explain this to a golfer? They do not take this reduction very well and I find this very difficult to explain so they will understand. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. 
Lulu from Texas

Dear Lulu,

I will do my best to give you a simple, straightforward explanation. For those of my readers who are outside the jurisdiction of the USGA, please be aware that the information in this column pertains only to the calculation of USGA handicaps.

The first thing a player needs to understand is that her Handicap Index (HI) is designed to reflect her best rounds, not her average or poor rounds – her potential, in other words.  It is a percentage (96%) of the average differential of the 10 best scores of her last 20. The HI represents her differential when she is playing some of her best golf. A golfer plays better than her handicap less than one time out of four.

When a player competes in a tournament, most of the time she will not score as well as her HI. When a player scores lower in a tournament than her HI, the general feeling is that she had a very good day. When it happens twice in the same calendar year, it is considered unusual. When a player shoots at least two tournament scores with differentials that are 3 or more strokes better than her HI, this is a mathematical rarity. In response, the USGA adjusts the player’s HI downward and the HI is recorded as a reduced (R) handicap (e.g., 12R).

A separate record is kept of each player’s tournament scores. The player’s six best scores within the last 12 months are saved. If a player has less than 6 scores, they are all saved; if she has more than 6, the best 6 are saved. When two of those scores have differentials that are at least 3 strokes better than the player’s HI, the player’s HI is reduced according to a USGA formula that incorporates exceptional tournament performance into a player’s HI. This handicap reduction process affects less than one percent of golfers.

On the 12-month anniversary of a tournament score, it is deleted from the separate tournament file. In the case of your player, Lulu, the tournament in which she scored exceptionally well on April 28, 2011 will be deleted from her record on April 28, 2012. If this leaves her with only one exceptional score in her file, she will lose the R and her HI will once again be calculated based on her last 20 scores.

Having two exceptional tournament scores doesn’t necessarily mean that the player is a “sandbagger” – some golfers play better under pressure. However, the odds are very high that a player will not underscore her HI by 3 or more strokes in two tournaments in the same year, since her HI represents her potential –not her average– score.

Each competitor should start with an equal chance to win a net tournament on a day that she plays well in relation to her HI. While it is not surprising to see the same names at the top of the leaderboard in gross tournaments (the best golfers are, after all, the best golfers), the same players should not be winning net tournaments time and time again.

Players who are interested in reading about the development of the handicap reduction system should read the following article on Dean Knuth’s website:

Players who are interested in learning how to calculate R handicaps should read Section 10-3 of The USGA Handicap System:

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ask Linda #480-Stepping on your ball

Hi Linda,

While playing yesterday we were looking for my ball in fairly heavy rough at the side of the fairway. I had a reasonable idea where to look but in the process I didn't see it and stood on it, driving it into the ground making it almost unplayable. We weren't sure how to proceed and my playing opponent generously told me to take a free drop within a club length of where I stood on it. He reasoned it was an accident and I had almost certainly made my shot much worse when I stood on it. All very good but I'd prefer to know what the actual procedure is in case it happens again against a less generous opponent!

Many thanks
Lou from Great Barrier Island

Dear Lou,

When you stepped on your ball and drove it into the ground, you moved your ball in play. You will incur a one-stroke penalty, and you must replace your ball [Rule 18-2a].

However, that is easier said than done, since the movement of the ball was downward and you cannot restore your original lie without gardening tools.

When your original lie is altered, you must place the ball in the nearest lie that is most similar to your original lie, within one club-length, and not closer to the hole [Rule 20-3b(i)]. Don’t forget the one-stroke penalty.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ask Linda #479-Another practice swing mishap

Player A tees off. On finding his ball, he makes a practice swing and accidentally strikes the ball which then hits his golf trolley. He then plays his next shot from where it lies. What is the ruling?

Dear Lou,

When the player accidentally moved his ball during the practice swing, he was required to replace it and add a one-stroke penalty to his score. Since he did not replace the ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes [Rule 18-2a and Penalty for Breach of Rule].

The penalty for hitting your own equipment is one stroke [Rule 19-2]. However, when a player breaks two rules with one stroke, he is generally not penalized for both violations [Decision 1-4/12].

In your scenario, if the player had properly retrieved his ball and replaced it where it lay before moving it with the practice swing, his only penalty would be one stroke for moving his ball in play. Since he did not, his penalty is two strokes for moving and not replacing the ball. There would be no additional penalty for hitting the cart with the ball he accidentally moved.

Of greater concern is the possibility of disqualification. A Committee might rule that the player gained a significant advantage by playing his next shot 15 yards closer to the hole. This is known as a “serious breach.” If the Committee decides that the player committed a serious breach, he would be disqualified [Rule 20-7c]. If the player becomes aware that he might have played from the wrong place, he may play a second ball from the correct place and finish out the hole with both balls. The Committee will decide which ball will count. He must play this second ball before he makes a stroke on the next teeing ground.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ask Linda #478a-Practice swing moves ball on tee

Dear Readers,
Ask Linda #478 talked about a player taking a practice swing and accidentally moving his ball in play. I received three responses, two of which suggested I remind everyone that a ball is not in play until a player has intentionally made a stroke from the teeing ground. Therefore, a practice swing on the teeing ground that moves the ball does not result in a penalty – the player simply retrieves his ball and re-tees. I thought I had addressed this issue before, but it certainly never hurts to review.

Here are two of the responses:

Except on the tee!

• Linda: If this had happened on the teeing ground when a player is preparing to hit his tee shot, there is NO penalty because the ball is not yet in play, and the player was not intending to hit the ball...Correct?   [Yes, this is correct.]

The third response brought up a related issue. Let’s take a look:

Hi Linda,
Can you please confirm if another option is for the player to play the ball as it lies after mistakenly hitting it on his practice swing and not take a 1 shot penalty, please?

Dear Lou,

The very first Rule states that “the Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules” [Rule 1-1].

Each time you advance the ball, it must be by means of a stroke. The Definition of “stroke” tells you that your swing must be intentional.

A practice swing that accidentally moves a ball is not a stroke – there is no intention to move the ball. The player has unintentionally caused his ball to move. The penalty is one stroke, and the ball must be replaced [Rule 18-2a]. There is no option to continue play with a ball that was accidentally moved. If the ball is not replaced, the penalty is two strokes.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ask Linda #478-Practice swing moves ball

Linda, a player takes a Practice swing contacting the ground near the ball, but does not contact the ball. The ball moves.
Lou from Arizona

Dear Lou,

If a player has caused his ball in play to move, he incurs a one-stroke penalty and he must replace the ball [Rule 18-2a].

There is no penalty to the golfer if the movement of the ball is clearly attributable to another cause, such as wind. In that case, the player will play the ball from its new location.

Golfers would be well advised to take their practice swings at a safe distance from where their ball lies.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ask Linda #477-Marker signs incorrect scorecard

Hi Linda,
I have the following question on something that happened during an official club competition this weekend:

When playing the 16th hole there are white OB stakes near the fairway of the 14th hole. Our local rule reads as follows: "When playing the 16th hole a ball is out of bounds if it comes to rest beyond the line of white stakes on the 14th hole. These stakes must not be removed. Free relief can only be obtained when playing the 14th hole."

It was reported to the Competition secretary by a player who was playing the 16th hole that a player who was playing the 14th hole removed an OB stake in order to play his ball.

This is in breach of the local rule. The player recorded a score of 5 on his card. He should have incurred a 2-stroke penalty and should have altered the 5 to a 7. The competition secretary disqualified the player after consulting with the player and his marker. They both agreed that the player had removed the white stake.

The question that is now being asked is whether the player’s marker should also be disqualified for marking an incorrect card. The marker has not been disqualified because the Player is responsible for his card.

Could you please comment on this?

Best regards,

Dear Lulu,

A marker would never be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

The competitor is responsible for the correctness of his scorecard. If he returns a card with a score on a hole that is lower than what he shot, he is disqualified [Rule 6-6d].

The competitor should review the scorecard with his marker before he signs it and turns it in. Any disputes or doubtful points should be resolved with the Committee before he signs the card [Rule 6-6b].

Most scoring problems could be avoided if the competitor would check the score with the marker after each hole. However, careful checking would not have helped in your scenario. Apparently neither player took the time to read the Local Rules carefully, and the competitor paid for his mistake with a disqualification.

Get to your tournaments early so that you will have plenty of time to read and digest all of the tournament rules.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ask Linda #476-Scramble confusion

Hi Linda,

 I will try my best to explain a situation and need another set of eyes to review it. (I am a referee.)

While playing in a team stroke play event where both players tee off and choose the best of the tee shots (Ambrose) where both balls will be hit from, this happened:

Player 1 hit to a position where both 1 and 2 decided they would hit from. Player 1 went forward and lifted players 2’s ball from its position between the trees and came out on to the fairway and threw it to player 2.

Player 1 played first as was required by the Ambrose rules of the day. Player 2 then dropped his ball as close to the same position and then took his stance. On looking down he noticed that it was not his ball.

His ball was about 40 meters forward on the fairway. Player 1 had in fact lifted an opponent’s ball by mistake and thrown it to player 2. (This ball was not in a position selected by the other team and would have been lifted anyway.)

Player 2 then retrieved his ball from 40 meters away and dropped it at the original position selected and play continued. Do you see any rules breach? 

Both opponents suggested that player 2 should just hit his ball from the mark 40 meters ahead, but both 1 and 2 decided it was their mistake for choosing the poorer of the two positions.

Lou from New Zealand

P.S    I was player 2 :-)

Dear Lou,

The Ambrose format, which is similar to a Scramble, is not governed by the Rules of Golf. Any game where you are picking up your ball and moving it to a better place (or a less unfavorable place) is so contrary to the Rules that the governing bodies provide no official rules for such formats.

However, I will unofficially answer your question, trying to use golf logic and a sense of what is fair.

Once your partner hit his ball, you were obligated to hit from the same place. Your opponents’ suggestion that you move forward 40 meters to where your ball lay is contrary to the “rules” for scrambles.

I see no breach in picking up your opponent’s ball and giving it to him once you realized it wasn’t yours. Your opponents were not planning to hit that ball, so in a sense you were doing them a favor. In all honesty, I doubt there would be a penalty even if your opponents were going to choose that location for their next shot. Since you are lifting and placing your ball on every shot, you could simply replace the ball for them. No harm, no foul.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ask Linda #475-Too many clubs

Hi Linda,

In Saturday's tournament we were playing stroke play, individual net. Upon reaching the 6th tee a player in my group asked how many clubs he was permitted to carry. I said 14 and he said he was carrying 15. He thought the penalty would be disqualification but my thinking was that it was a two-stroke penalty for every hole played with 15 clubs. Upon finishing we asked the club pro and his assistant for clarification. We were told it was a two-stroke penalty for every hole played but that there was a maximum penalty of 4 strokes per round.  Is this correct?

My other question was about the extra club. Is the player permitted to carry it with him the rest of the round? He did take it out of his bag and place it in the basket of the cart. He did not use it the rest of the round.


Dear Lou,

The pro and his assistant gave you the correct ruling. When it is discovered that a player is carrying more than 14 clubs, the penalty is two strokes per hole, with a maximum penalty of four strokes [Rule 4-4]. The penalty is applied by adding two strokes to the player’s score for the first and second holes [Decision 4-4a/10].

If the player discovers the extra club before he tees off on the second hole, the penalty is two strokes [Decision 4-4a/11].

When the discovery is made, the player must declare the extra clubs out of play. Some players take them out of the bag and place them in the basket or on the floor of the cart; others place the clubs upside-down in their bags. It doesn’t matter what the player does with them, as long as he does not use them during the rest of the round.

In your scenario, Lou, the excess clubs were discovered during the round. What happens if the player notices an extra club in his bag just prior to the start of his round? May he declare the club out of play and carry it with him? The answer is “no.” A player may not start a round with more than 14 clubs. If he does not find a safe home for the club (back in his car or in the clubhouse are two suggestions), his penalty for starting the round with more than 14 clubs is two strokes.

In match play, the penalty for carrying excess clubs is an adjustment to the state of the match, with a maximum deduction of two holes. What this means, for example, is if Player A is up 4 and his extra club is discovered on hole #10, he will now be up 2. If the match were all square at that point, Player B (his opponent) would now be up 2.

The moral is a no-brainer: Count your clubs before you begin play.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.