Rule of the Month: A Santa by Any Other Name ...
By Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Christmas Gifts from the Rules of Golf
One good thing that can be said about 2020 is that it was excellent for the game of golf. And while the season may have gone by quickly, many golfers will prolong it by continuing to play through the holiday and winter months. In fact, golf can be a welcomed break from the hectic schedules, shopping and the everyday chaos surrounding the holidays. And if you need a last minute gift idea, the Rules of Golf booklet makes a wonderful stocking stuffer for every golfer.
As in previous years, we have changed up the format for the final article of the year by adding a holiday theme and giving you a break from our normal True/False format. The following bullets points are gifts that golf and the Rules provide that are easy to overlook but add a certain level of enjoyment to the game. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
- Courses provide flagsticks to indicate the location of the hole and often provide assistance with distance by listing yardage on sprinkler heads or providing yardage stones. Neither the course or Santa Claus (aka Father Christmas) are under an obligation to provide either.
- For those boys and girls that like to play in the sand, Kris Kringle, which originates from the German word Christkind or Christ child, has a special gift. When a player moves sand in order to find a ball that was completely buried, the lie of the ball must be re-created. However, as a gift, the player may leave a small part of the ball visible.
- Rule 16.1e is a gift that requires a strong belief in Father Christmas (aka Papa Noel in Spanish), before unwrapping it. When the ball is lost in an abnormal course condition (ACC), such as temporary water or an immovable obstruction, the player must be 95% certain (known or virtually certain) that the ball is in the ACC. If the player’s belief is strong enough, without penalty or loss of the distance gained by the stroke, the player may drop another ball in the prescribed relief area and continue playing.
- Starting in 2019, Sinnterklaas, which is the Dutch pronunciation of Saint Nickolas, began to stockpile gifts in the teeing area and on the putting green of the hole being played. Unwrapping these gifts in the teeing area or on the putting green allows players to repair any damage including spike marks left by previous gift’s recipients. There is also no penalty for accidentally causing your ball to move when it lies in the teeing area or on the putting green. In fact, as a bonus gift, with no penalty, a ball in the teeing area may be re-teed elsewhere within the teeing area, even if the ball is in play. Therefore, the play of every hole starts with a Christmas party in the teeing area and ends with a Christmas party on the putting green.
- Rule 15.1 is a special gift from Babbo Natale, which in Italian means Daddy Christmas, that the player must unwrap very carefully. Loose impediments may now be removed anywhere on or off the course and in any way. This includes penalty areas and bunkers. However, unless the ball lies in the teeing area or on the putting green, if the removal of the loose impediment causes the ball to move, the player will incur a penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.
- Saint Nicholas, the patron saint famous for giving generous gifts to the poor, put extra thought into his gift as every recipient (rich or poor) will use it repeatedly throughout a round. A player may search for their ball using reasonable actions and will not be penalized if the ball is accidentally moved while searching or trying to identify it. Therefore, if it is reasonable to shake a bush or move grass aside to find a ball, there is no penalty if the ball moves or if the conditions affecting the stroke are improved. This it true anywhere on the course. Just remember that the ball must be replaced and if sand is moved, the lie must be recreated.
- In the east of France, Pere Noel (Father Christmas), is accompanied by a man dressed in black who is said to punish the children if they misbehave. However, as golfers never misbehave, their stockings are stuffed full of wonderful exceptions to Rule 9. There is no penalty when a player accidentally causes the ball to move while applying a Rule. This would include when the player is marking and lifting the ball, removing movable obstructions, taking relief under a Rule or determining the relief area. As mentioned previously, there is no penalty for accidentally moving the ball while searching for it or when trying to identify it. Pere Noel’s best gift left for us is there is no penalty for accidentally causing our ball to move when on the putting green, no matter how that happens.
Ded Moroz, (Russia’s Grandfather Frost), brings a special gift for golfers that play during this time of year. This gift allows a course to enact a Local Rule that permits a player to lift, clean and then select their own lie within a certain distance of the original spot. Local Rule E-3 (Preferred Lies) allows the golfer better enjoyment of the game when playing in less than favorable conditions. Just remember that the course must put this Local Rule into play or Grandfather Frost will leave you bitter cold with penalties.
Have a joyful holiday season and we look forward to seeing everyone in 2021.