Rule of the Month: Calling All Rules Officials!
Throughout the year, questions come into the OGA, via phone or email, regarding rules situations during tournaments and club play. Often these situations involve multiple Rules and can be very complex. This month we have chosen a few of the more interesting situations to share with you.
Situation 1. Dana from Medford peaked the “interesting” scale with the following. During a stroke play tournament, player A’s ball lies on the putting green 45 ft. from the hole. Player B’s ball also lies on the putting green but about 35 ft. from the hole. Player B putts out of order and while her ball is in motion Player A putts. Before either ball comes to rest, they collide with both balls coming to rest about 3 ft. from the hole. Both players complete the hole by putting from where the balls came to rest after the deflection. They report the incident to the Committee before returning their score cards.
Situation 2. Bob, from central Oregon writes, “I can’t find an explicit Rule or decision on dropping a ball from the cart path. I thought it was to the nearest point of relief and not closer to the hole. Several members challenge that and say that it doesn’t matter which side of the path your ball is on and you may drop on either side within one club-length. Can you offer me any references..?”
Situation 3. The gold medal of questions came from Terry of Salem. Every golfer knows that it is not always easy to play by the Rules. And knowing the Rules, forward and backward, is no guarantee that you will be able to adhere to them without making inadvertent errors. After competing in a Ryder Cup club event last year, Terry, co-author of this column, called me (Pete), also co-author of the afore mentioned, with the following situation.
During play of the sixth hole Saturday morning in the alternate shot portion of the Chapman, our opponents removed a stone from the bunker behind the ball and played a shot to the green. My partner and I agreed privately that we would ignore the breach and tell them later not to do it again in the match. We finished out the hole, which was halved. On the way to the seventh tee, we told our opponents that we had made a choice to overlook the breach on the sixth hole but to avoid doing it again. The opponents asked for clarification as they thought the local rule for stones in bunkers was in place, but it was not. We continued the match with both sides believing the sixth hole was halved.
The question is that by telling the opponents we had overlooked the sixth-hole breach prior to anyone teeing off on the seventh hole had we made an agreement to waive the Rules and should both teams have been disqualified for that round.
Ruling 1. In stroke play, player B is permitted to putt out of order with no penalty. When player A made a stroke while another ball was in motion after a stroke from the putting green, she was in breach of Rule 16-1f. However, she incurs no penalty for doing so since it was her turn to play. Under Rule 19-5b when a ball is deflected or stopped after a stroke on the putting green by another ball in motion, the stroke is cancelled and replayed. Therefore, both players were required to cancel the stroke and replay. When they played from where their balls came to rest, i.e. about 3 ft. from the hole, they played from a wrong place in breach of Rule 20-7c. While a serious breach of playing from a wrong place generally involves a significant distance, putting from three feet, as opposed to putting from 35 or 45 feet, constitutes a serious breach in this case. As such, both players were required to correct the error and when they failed to do so before teeing off at the next hole, they were both disqualified.
Ruling 2. Bob wins the award for longest answer we have ever produced. We have shortened it here for context.
“When we teach the OGA Rules of Golf seminars each winter and spring, we always emphasize to attendees that they spend some time in Section II of the Rules booklet—Definitions. If a player understands the definitions, they are well on their way to understanding the Rules. And it is in the Definitions section where you will find the answer to your question. The definition of “nearest point of relief” is below. As you read through it, please make a special note that it refers to where the ball originally lies. You might also note that the definition is applicable to only Rules 24-2, (Immovable Obstructions) and parts of Rule 25 (Abnormal Ground Conditions and Wrong Putting Green). A cart path is a great example of an immovable obstruction and you might find it helpful to also read the definition of “Obstructions” in the Definition section.
“The "nearest point of relief" is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).
It is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies:
(i) that is not nearer the hole, and
(ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.
Note: In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.”
In essence, a player does not get to choose the “nearest point of relief”. Many players want to find the NICEST point of relief, which is not permitted. After the spot is determined, you may only drop within a club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole. Before lifting a ball to determine the “nearest point of relief”, a player should carefully consider the potential drop area as it could prove to be quite unfavorable – high grass, shrubs, etc. Sometimes not taking relief is a better choice.”
Ruling 3. Being eager to capitalize on errors by Terry, my (Pete) ruling would be disqualification. Since both sides in the match were aware that a breach occurred, they have agreed to waive the penalty. I see this as an agreement to waive even though no actual words of agreement took place. Words do not always have to be spoken for there to be an agreement. See Decision 1-3/6. Had Terry and his partner waited until play of the seventh hole began (by which time for valid claim under Rule 2-5 had passed), my ruling would be different. In that case, there is nothing wrong with informing the opponents of the Rule breach and that it was overlooked. A verbal warning not to do it again would also be in order. It is important to note that an opponent in match play may overlook a breach while a competitor in a stroke play competition has an obligation to bring to light any breach by himself or another player to protect the rest of the field.