Monday, March 23, 2015

Ask Linda #1023-Stop play during storm

Hi Linda!
And as always, thanks for your terrific site and great information.

We play in club competitions in Ireland, where the weather can be extremely changeable very quickly. Yesterday, the heavens literally opened up for about 20 minutes, and everyone stopped play, huddling under umbrellas, or running into shelters that might be nearby. The rain was cold, extremely heavy, and most of us got soaked. However, there was no threat of lightning, etc. Normally, during the course of our competitions, there are no committee members about who might suspend play for heavy rain, although the golf club administrator would suspend when there is a threat of lightning.

My question arises regarding individuals temporarily stopping their play until the storm passes. As everyone seemed to stop yesterday, there was no one coming up from behind where they could complain of undue delay, etc. But do the rules allow for you to temporarily stop for some minutes until the heavy storm passes? If others behind you do continue to play, are you allowed to let them play through? Or must you continue under the rules, even if it means playing exposed in a torrential shower?? I can find rulings for lightning, committees suspending play in heavy rain, etc., but nothing specific for our situation yesterday. Thanks for any advice you can give!

All the best,
Lulu from Ireland

Dear Lulu,

This is a tough question, Lulu. As a tournament director, I might stop play during a torrential downpour and resume play when conditions improved, assuming the rain didn’t render the course unplayable. But you were playing without a Committee member present to make that decision, which complicates matters. Only the Committee has the authority to order a temporary suspension of play [Rule 33-2d].

The Rules require players to play without undue delay (Rule 6-7) and continuously (Rule 6-8a). The player is not permitted to discontinue play unless the Committee suspends play or there is danger from lightning (for a complete list, read Rule 6-8a). Bad weather is specifically singled out as not being a good reason to discontinue play.

The Committee does not have the option to allow players to discontinue play in bad weather by mutual agreement [Decision 33-8/5]. If no Committee member is present to halt play, I believe you have no choice but to continue play or withdraw from the competition.

Let’s take a look at some related Decisions:
• 33-8/5 prohibits a Local Rule permitting players to discontinue play in bad weather by mutual agreement.
• 6-8a/5 permits players in a match to agree to stop play due to rain. However, if one player wants to resume play, his opponent must play or be disqualified.
• 6-8a/6 permits a player in a match to file a claim if he does not want to resume play because the course is unplayable. Nevertheless, if he is unable to get a ruling from a Committee member in a reasonable amount of time, he must continue play and resolve the dispute later.
• 6-8a/2 permits players to take refuge from a storm in a rain shelter close to their next tee, but requires them to resume play as soon as the players ahead of them are out of range.

Based on all of the above information, I believe players may not discontinue play without a directive from a Committee member unless there is danger or the course becomes unplayable. If you are playing these competitions without a Committee member present, perhaps the Committee might want to designate someone who will be at the course during the competition to serve as a temporary Committee member with the authority to make weather-related decisions.

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