Rule of the Month: Just Don’t Do It
By Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Part 2: Course Played as It Is Found — Prohibited Actions
Last month, the focus of this article was on actions that the player is allowed to do even if the action improves the conditions affecting the stroke. The main purpose of Rule 8 is to restrict the player in physically changing the course to gain an advantage.
In most circumstances, it is required that the player accept the conditions of the course. Additionally, the player is restricted from altering the physical conditions of the course that may affect subsequent play.
In this month’s article, we continue with the principle of playing the course as you find it, but our focus is on actions that the player must not do prior to a stroke.
Questions: True / False
- Just prior to dropping a ball, the player replaces a divot in the relief area. Since the player doesn’t have a ball in play, there is no penalty.
- A boundary stake may be removed to eliminate interference to a player’s swing.
- Prior to making a long approach shot to the green, a player must not replace a divot three yards in front of the ball on the line of play.
- Prior to making a low-running chip or a putt from off the green, a player must not replace a divot three yards in front of the ball.
- Dew on the putting green may be removed by the player.
- A player is concerned that his or her chip shot from the general area might come to rest in a nearby bunker. He or she rakes the bunker to ensure a good lie if it does. This is permitted since the ball was not in the bunker and the bunker wasn’t on the line of play.
- After carefully taking a stance by backing into a tree, the player purposefully pushes a branch behind his or her leg to eliminate interference to the swing. If the player makes a stroke, there is a penalty.
- Grass behind the ball must not be pressed down with a club.
- Sand that has splashed out of a greenside bunker and interferes on the line of play for a ball on the fringe may be brushed off the putting green but not the fringe.
- Sand on the side of bunker must not be knocked down to create a level area to stand on.
- False. Rule 8.1 & Interpretation 8.1a/8. When a player becomes aware that they will be dropping in a relief area, the prohibition against repairing the relief area applies. If a player improves the area by replacing a divot or altering the surface of the ground, they would incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.
- False. Rule 8.1a(1). Unlike penalty area stakes, boundary stakes must not be moved prior to the stroke unless the movement of the stake incidentally occurs as a result of the player taking a stance in the least intrusive manner.
- False. Rule 8.1a(3) & Interpretation 8.1a/2. Replacing a divot on the line of play may or may not create a potential advantage for the player depending on the length and/or type of shot. In this case, the action is unlikely to improve the conditions affecting the stroke creating a potential advantage. Therefore, no penalty is incurred. However, see question #4 for further clarity.
- True. Rule 8.1a(3) & Interpretation 8.1a/1. Due to the type of stroke the player intends to make, replacing a divot on the line of play would improve the conditions affecting the stroke creating a potential advantage. In this case, the player must accept the course as it is found.
- False. Rule 8.1a(5). Dew must never be purposely removed by the player unless the dew is within the teeing area. If dew is removed accidentally due to another action that is permitted, such as marking and lifting the ball, there is no penalty.
- False. Rule 8.2b & Interpretation 8.2b/1. This situation requires careful scrutiny because raking the bunker for the care of the course wouldn’t be a penalty. However, since the player purposely raked the bunker with the intention of making sure of a good lie if the ball landed in the bunker, there is a breach of Rule 8.2b and the player would incur the general penalty of loss the hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.
- True. Rule 8.1a(1) & Interpretation 8.1b/4. The player is prohibited from moving or bending any growing or attached object for the purpose of eliminating interference. However, before making a stroke, the player may avoid the penalty by restoring the conditions, which is the focus of next month’s article.
- True. Rule 8.1b. A player may lightly ground the club in front of or right behind the ball, but must not purposely press the club on the ground to compress the grass.
- True. Rules 8.1a(4) & 8.1b(10). Sand and loose soil may only be removed from the putting green and the teeing area. Therefore, if the sand was there prior to the player’s ball coming to rest on the fringe, the sand must not be removed from the fringe. Fortunately, the sand located on the putting green may be brushed aside.
- True. Rule 8.1a & Interpretation 8.1a/6. A player is allowed to place his or her feet firmly when taking a stance, but must not alter the ground beyond what is necessary to take the stance. Some digging in with the feet is allowed in a bunker, but the player must accept the conditions of the ground where the stance is to be taken and must not build a stance.