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THE RULES OF GOLF: IT’S TIME FOR A DOSE OF MEDICINE

I sense that most weekend golfers don’t really care to be concerned about the rules of the game. They learn and know the basics but they don’t want to be consumed by rules and rulings. To them reading the rulebook is like taking a dose of medicine. Remember when your mother would say, “open wide” and then she'd cram an awful tasting spoonful of cod liver oil down your throat. To the contrary for some strange reason I seem to be one who has grown, overtime, to really appreciate the rules of golf. I have learned from a couple of friends whom I would describe as serious golfers that the rules of golf can be used to your advantage not just in a punitive way.

An eye opener for me regarding the rules of the game was when I purchased my first volume on the Decisions on The Rules of Golf. I couldn’t get over the vastness of it. It was well over 500 pages and packed full of rulings on the rules. The other day I had my wife pick me up another, updated volume. She came home with the 2004-2005 Pocket Edition. It is about the size of a half, piled high, stacked ham and cheese with lettuce on rye from the neighborhood deli. The Bible could not be any thicker in this 3 ½” X 5 ½ “ size. The font must be about a 5 point at most. Without a good light you need a magnifying glass to read it. Okay, so I exaggerate a little but this little book is jam packed with information. Anyway this is when I came to realize what the rules of this game really entail. That little white rule book that you get with a membership to the USGA is only a small part of the rules. The rules now include the rules and the decisions on the rules. These are decisions handed down by the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland the two governing bodies of golf worldwide. Every time I pick up that little book and start reading, time flies by as I get mesmerized by this stuff. I keep saying to myself “I didn’t know that!, I didn’t know that either!” The officials responsible for rulings at your typical tour event or USGA event have to be incredibly knowledgeable. Can you get a college degree in Golf Rules?

Since I have been reading from my new and updated volume of “Decisions” I decided to give you a quiz on the rules. So get out a piece of paper and a number two pencil. This is an open book quiz so get out your rule book. We will do this every two or three months just to keep you on your toes and maybe we’ll learn some new things about this game that we didn’t know. Are you ready? Here goes.

1. Is a bridge over a water hazard an immovable obstruction and, when interfered with by the bridge,  are you entitled to relief?

2. Is there a limit on the size of a driver head in this day and age of huge driver heads?

3. A player’s ball come to rest against an out-of-bounds stake. The player declares the ball unplayable and lifts and drops with the one club relief. The ball hit’s the ground and comes to rest only to begin rolling again then trickles out of bounds. What is the ruling?

4. A player’s partner, tending the flag on a putt, pulls the flag out and the hole liner comes out with it resulting in the putt being deflected. Is there a penalty? From which location is the next putt stroked?

5. As a player takes his stance and begins his swing, he accidentally causes the ball to oscillate, obvious to nearby opponents. What is the ruling?

6. Can a competitor be disqualified from a tournament for poor etiquette?

7. A ball comes to rest against a tree trunk. The only way the player who is right handed can advance the ball is to hit it left handed. In taking his stance his feet are on a cart path. Is he allowed to drop and get relief from this immovable obstruction?

8. A player has a blind shot to the green. He asks his opponent to show him the line to the green. His opponent stands in the direction of the hole and holds up his club to show the line. Is this asking for or giving advice?

9. Who is the ubiquitous “Committee” referred to so often in the rules?

10. A foursome is playing a casual game and they are playing “greenies” which is closet to the hole on the green in regulation. Three of the golfers miss the green. One player has his ball come to rest on grass off the green but the ball is “over hanging” the green. Does he win the greenie?

ANSWERS:

1. The bridge is normally an immovable obstruction and relief is granted, unless the “Committee” has deemed the bridge to be an integral part of the course. In this case should the ball come to rest on top of the bridge, play it as it lies or take relief, with a one stroke penalty, under the unplayable lie provision.

2. The club head must not exceed 460 centimeters in volume. The distance from the heel of the club to the toe of the club should not exceed 5 inches and the distance from the bottom of the face should not be more than 2.8 inches to the crown of the club. This is a new requirement announced with the changes to the rules for 2004. The two governing bodies of golf update the rules and decisions on the rules of golf every four years.

3. Should the ball come to rest and then subsequently begins to roll again the ball, after it comes to rest again, must be played as it lies. Thus the ball is out of bounds. Sorry folks! See rule 20-2c/3.5.

4. If the hole liner was moving when the ball struck it (its an outside agency), the stroke is cancelled and the ball must be replaced. See rule 19-1b. If the hole liner was not moving the ball must be played as it lies. If there is any doubt, the ball must be played as it lies.

5. There is no penalty if the ball has not moved. A ball is deemed to have moved when it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other position. If the oscillating ball does not change positions and returns to its original position it is not deemed to have moved.

6. Yes, a competitor can now be disqualified for poor etiquette. This is a change in the rules for 2004. One would imagine that the greatest potential cause of disqualification would be slow play.

7. This is my favorite ruling. I had a brief argument with my foursome over this one when a similar situation happened to me a few years ago. If the only shot you have is left handed and your stance puts you on the cart path then you are allowed a drop and relief from the path. When the ball is in play you may now pull out your right handed club. I noticed that CBS did a piece on this ruling last year.

8. A player who asks his opponent to show him the line on a blind shot is not asking for advice, and neither is the opponent giving advice if he shows him the line. The competitor is asking for information deemed public information. This is not considered advice.

9. The committee is the group or person in charge of competition. At a local club event this is usually the club professional or a committee in charge of the tournament. It is the ruling authority whoever that is deemed to be.

10. No, he doesn’t win the greenie, at least not by the rules of golf. The ball is said to be on the green when any part of the ball is touching the green. If the very bottom of the ball is sitting outside the closely mown area of the green then all of the ball is considered off the green even if part of the ball overhangs the closely mown area.

Here is a bonus, toss up question. Let’s say your ball comes to rest against a half eaten apple or pear in a bunker. Can you remove the fruit? Heavens no! You can only remove items deemed artificial or manufactured. Items that are natural are considered loose impediments and loose impediments cannot be removed from a hazard. However, under the R&A rules, you can remove a loose impediment that interferes with your stroke from a hazard. That's one of the few differences between the R&A and the USGA. Well, how did you do? I’d say on these questions, if you got 50% right you are on the right track.

Tom Finley
November 30, 2004


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