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Over the last 2 years, I have had the pleasure of presenting the Rules to over 4000 golfers and at nearly every presentation, many of the same questions continue to come up. The intent of these questions and explanations is to enlighten golfers and banish many of the myths that continue to circulate about the Rules of Golf. In doing so, I hope that all golfers will be able to better understand the Rules and attain more enjoyment from the game. In addition to the answer for Riddler #10 below, you can view Riddler #11 by clicking here. Riddler #11 deals with interference from gates and doors in out of bounds fences and maintenance buildings.
OGA Rules Riddler #10 addressed the following situations:
1. Rule 8-1 – Advice. This may seem redundant but I believe this is the most frequently breached Rule in golf.
2. What is scouting and is it permitted?
3. When can you (and when can you not) touch the putting green in the line where you want your ball to travel? This was a repeat from Riddler #9 and hopefully none of you were tripped up by this one.
4. Is it ever OK for your ball to strike the flagstick after putting?
Riddler #10 – The Question
Peter and David are fellow-competitors and are playing the last group of a tournament.
After the 17th hole, Peter is 3 strokes ahead of David and both are well ahead of the rest of the field. While waiting on the 18th tee for the marshal to give them the all clear, Peter decides to drive up and “scout” the landing area for his upcoming blind tee shot and ensure he has a good angle for his approach to the green.
He drives up to the top of a nearby hill and as the last player in the group ahead gets ready to play he drives back to the tee with a much better idea of where he should play his tee shot.
David has the honor and plays down the left side of the fairway. He sees a nearby volunteer and signals for him to come over.
While the volunteers is approaching, Peter, knowing the hole is on the left says, “good shot David but I think I’ll play down the right side to open up today’s left hole location.” Peter David (thanks to reader Kathie for catching this mistake!) responds, “you only know that because you scouted the hole, which is against the Rules. Besides, I still think your best play is down the left because you can use the backstop on your approach.”
David explains to the volunteer, in private, that Peter drove up and scouted the hole before playing and would like confirmation that it is a two-stroke penalty. The volunteer responds, “I think you’re right but I’m not an official and I don’t have a radio. I’m sorry but you’ll have to check when you get in.”
As the volunteer leaves, Peter asks David what he just asked the volunteer. David responds, “I was confirming with him you were not allowed to scout the hole. He also thought scouting was not allowed but did not have a radio. He told us to check when we get in.”
Peter responds, “I always do that if I know I won’t be delaying play.” A bit shook-up, Peter takes a minute to collect his thoughts, decides David was right and plays up the left side of the hole.
Both players arrive at their drives, play approaches to the green and are left with putts for birdie. Peter is on the fringe about 10 feet from the hole and David is on the green about 12 feet from the hole.
David plays first and holes his putt. Peter replaces the flagstick into the hole and walks to the apex of his line, grounds his putter on the green and takes a few practice swings to get a feel for the break. He then walks back to his ball, putts a bit firm and the ball hits the flagstick before dropping into the hole.
The fellow-competitors arrive at the scoring tent where they recount the above story.
Who won the tournament and by how many?
Ridder #10 - Resolved
When you play a course with which you are unfamiliar, blind tee shots and doglegs can be very intimidating. One of the most common questions I receive at club presentations is, “Can a player scout a hole prior to playing it?” The answer is maybe. If you try to look up “scouting” in the Rule book (or the decisions book) you’ll come up empty. However, Rule 6-7 may be applicable depending on the situation. While it is OK to scout a hole, it must be done without delaying play. Rule 6-7 provides, in part, that, “the player must play without undue delay.” If your group does not have a wait and you drive up for the purpose of scouting the hole, you may be penalized for delaying play. Note that there are legitimate reasons to view a blind landing area prior to play including the most obvious … to ensure the previous group is clear and you will not be placing other player in danger by playing.
David plays down the left side to begin play of the hole and Peter makes a comment about the best play being up the right. Because David has already played, Peter is not in breach of Rule 8-1, the Advice Rule. However, when David* responds saying the left is actually a better angle he is providing council that might assist Peter who has yet to play. This is a breach of Rule 8-1 and David incurs a two-stroke penalty in stroke play.
Peter plays up the left as well and both players then play to the green.
Although David is on the only player on the putting green, he is further from the hole and is first to play (Rule 10-2b). David holes his 12 foot putt for what he believes is a birdie three on the final hole and waits for Peter to finish out.
Peter replaces the flagstick and in determining the line of his next stroke touches the putting green. If his ball was on the putting green he would be in breach of Rule 16-1a for touching his line of putt. However, because his ball is not on the putting green, Rule 16-1a does not apply and there is no penalty for his actions. He putts and the ball strikes the flagstick. This is also permitted because he played from off the green. Had he putting from on the green he would have been in breach of Rule 17-3c.
So the result of the hole is:
Peter – 3
1 – stroke from the tee
2 – stroke to the fringe
3 – stroke into the hole
David – 5
1 – stroke from the tee
2&3 – 2 stroke penalty for giving Peter advice
4 – stroke to the green
5 – stroke into the hole
Peter had a 3 stroke lead to begin the hole and gained two additional strokes on the hole to finish 5 strokes ahead in the competition.
Congratulations to the 9% of you who got this one right! Rules Riddler #11 is now available by clicking here.
*When this riddler was initially published, Peter was attributed to the phrase where the left side was suggested. Though this did not make sense with respect to the story, it would have not been a breach of Rule 8-1 because, as explained above, David had already played from the tee. Thus, if you answered Peter won by 3 strokes and this was why consider yourself correct on this one as well!
Craig Winter serves as the Manager of Rules Education for the OGA and was one of ten officials to achieve a perfect score on the 2010 PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Examination given to over 1200 Officials annually.