Friday, July 29, 2016

Ask Linda #1350-Player does not tell opponent number of strokes before putting

Hi Linda,
The following situation arose during a recent competition at my club.
A and B are playing C and D in a four-ball match. On the green, A is attending the flagstick, awaiting the putt of C or D, who are away and on similar lines of putt. A and B are uncertain as to the number of strokes taken by C. As C prepares to putt, A asks him how many strokes he has taken. A's thought is that if C has taken enough strokes that his score will not likely count as his team's score, A will concede C's putt so that D is not aided in ascertaining the proper line for his putt. In response to A's inquiry, C refuses to tell A how many strokes he has taken and says A can either concede the putt without such knowledge or let him, C, proceed to putt.

Is C disqualified for the hole for his failure to provide information as to strokes taken, and, whether or not A concedes the putt, is the hole lost if C nonetheless putts and aids D in playing his putt?

I have found no Decision precisely on point. Decision 9-2/3.5 holds that refusal to disclose strokes taken causes loss of hole unless the information is given before the inquiring player makes his next stroke. Decision 9-2/4 involves a situation where a player asks his opponent how many strokes he has taken when it is the opponent's turn to play. The Decision holds that the opponent may play his stroke and then advise as to strokes taken, so long as he does so before the player plays HIS next stroke. In that decision, however, there does not appear to be any significance to the inquiring player as to whether he receives the information before or after the opponent's next stroke. In the case at hand, however, there is real significance to A, since he must decide whether to concede C's putt, order to avoid C's assisting D with the putting line.

It seems that the entire rationale of Rule 9-2 is that a player is entitled to know the number of strokes taken in order that he may make decisions as to his best play of the hole. The rationale should extend not only to how he plays a stroke, but also to his decision as to conceding an opponent's stroke. Indeed, Decision 9-2/7 supports this position, where a player concedes a hole based on incorrect information, and the correct information is given before the player's next stroke, but after the concession. The decision holds that the opponent loses the hole, because the concession was based on wrong information as to strokes taken.
I would appreciate any guidance you might provide.
Best regards,
Lou from Denver

Dear Lou,

In match play, a player is required to answer his opponent’s question regarding how many strokes he has taken before the opponent plays his next shot, not before making his own stroke.

Player C is under no obligation to tell you how many strokes he has made before he putts [Decision 9-2/4]. If Player C putts and refuses to answer your question as to how many strokes he has taken before you putt, he will, of course, be disqualified from the hole. He does not incur a penalty for failing to disclose the information before he putts.

If you want to make strategic decisions in a match, such as conceding a putt so that your opponent’s putt will not assist his partner, you should pay close attention to the number of strokes your opponent has made. Player C, in demanding that you either concede the hole or allow him to putt without first answering your question, has shown himself to be a very savvy player.

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