Posted by: Rolf | September 18, 2012

Wacky Golf Rules

It might be fun to take a look at a few of the strange and often amusing rules violations — and in most cases subsequent penalties — that have come mostly from, um, “brain blips” collected over some three-plus decades around the game. So, pour another cup of coffee and read on:

Rule 1. If you’re chipping or putting from off the green you should ensure that no-one is standing near enough to the flag stick to touch it. Why?  Rule 17-1 states that if the flag stick is in the hole and anyone stands near it while a stroke is being made they are deemed to be attending it. So, if your ball then hits the flag stick you incur a two stroke penalty, even though you were playing off the green (Rule 17.3).

Rule 2. Most of us know that in stroke play if one ball putted from the putting green strikes another ball on that putting green there is a penalty of two strokes. What most players do not realize is that if the same thing happens in match play there is no penalty, Rule 19-5a.

Rule 3. You may ask anyone, including your fellow competitors, any question concerning distances. So, for example, you may say, “How far do you think my ball is from the flag stick?”, or “Is that ditch more than 200 yards away?” This has only been the case since 1st January 2008, when the definition of advice was amended to allow the exchange of information on distance which is deemed to be public information, as it is not considered to be advice. Otherwise, it’s a 2 stroke penalty… ouch!  Have you ever said to your partner ”Take your time!”. Guess what, that’s also 2 strokes if you wanna be strict and a pain in the ass. You can’t ask what club your competitor is using to hit a shot but you can ask after you have hit yours.

Rule 4. You hit a ball into the rough, you bend down and pick the ball up to identify if it is your ball. Hey, you just gave yourself 1 penalty stoke for moving your ball at rest. The correct way is 1) Before lifting the ball, you must announce your intention to your fellow-competitor in stroke play, or your opponent in match play. 2) You must mark the position of the ball. 3) You may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that you give your fellow competitor or opponent, an opportunity to observe the lifting and the subsequent replacement. Note that the ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification when lifted under this Rule.

Rule 5. You clean your ball by rubbing it against the green. That’s another 1 penalty stroke for testing the surface. (I used to do this very often…later I learnt the hard way and paid for it) Rule 16.1d. Testing Surface  During the play of a hole, a player must not test the surface of the putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.  Exception: Between the play of two holes, a player may test the surface of any practice putting green and the putting green of the hole last played, unless the Committee has prohibited such action (see Note 2 to Rule 7-2).

Rule 6. Your ball is deflected off a tree and hit your bag/cart. To rub salt in the wound, just add 1 stroke. Rule 19-2 covers the situation for stroke play. It states, “If a competitor’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by himself, his partner or either of their caddies or equipment, the competitor shall incur a penalty of 1 stroke. The ball shall be played as it lies, except when it comes to rest in or on the competitor’s, his partner’s or either of their caddies’ clothes or equipment, in which case the competitor shall through the green or in a hazard drop the ball, or on the putting green place the ball, as near as possible to where the article was when the ball came to rest in or on it.”  In a Match play, the player may cancel his stroke and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played, or he may play the ball as it lies (Rule 19-3).  However, in the process of dropping your ball and the ball rolls and touch your driver/tee, no penalty is incurred as it is an illegal drop (Rule 20-2b). You must re-drop otherwise, it’s a 2 penalty stroke.

Rule 7. You have a downhill putt, the ball rolls into the green side bunker. Do you then have to play from the bunker? NO. You may declare your ball “unplayable” and go back to the last spot where you last hit it to re-play the shot.  Rule 28, Ball unplayable states the player may declare his ball unplayable at any place except in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable. After taking a 1 stroke penalty, you may return to the spot of the previous stroke and play again; or drop within two club lengths, not nearer the hole; or drop behind the spot, going back as far as you want, keeping the original spot between the hole and the spot where the ball is dropped. If you declare a ball in a bunker unplayable and use the second or third option (taking a drop), you must drop in the bunker  How come not many invoke this rule? Because you may be seen as “chicken” man but if wagers (dollars) are at stake and the score is close, I will not hesitate to call it on you.

Rule 8. Your partner tees up his ball, takes a few practice swings, addresses the ball…take his swing and MISS the ball…does it count as 1 stroke?  YES  Your partner tees up his ball..do a few practice swings and accidentally knock the ball off the tee peg, does it count as 1 stroke?  NO.  A “stroke” is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of fairly striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the club head reaches the ball he is deemed not to have made a stroke.

Rule 9. You hit your ball into a bunker and upon reaching it you see the bunker is full of water or worse, there is a python nest there. Not risking your life…can you drop outside the bunker?  NO, unless you take a 1 penalty stroke. Rule 25. If your ball comes to rest in casual water within a bunker, you may drop without penalty at the nearest point of relief within the bunker, no nearer the hole. That applies no matter what the condition is of the rest of the bunker.

Rule 10. While waiting for the group in front to hole out, you take out your spare balls and practice your lob shots in all Mickleson’s style glory before your partners. They go “add 2 penalty stokes”. Are they right?  Yup, according to decisions 7-2/2 and 7-2/4. A player must not make a practice strokes during play of a hole.

Rule 11. Aya, you find your ball lie next to the stake, can you remove it? You cannot move a stake identifying out of bounds. However, hazard stakes may be removed, regardless whether the ball is within or outside of the margin of the hazard, as long as the hazard stakes are considered movable obstructions (Rule 24-1). Generally speaking, most courses use stakes which can be easily removed. However, should a course make the hazard stakes permanent (by placing in concrete), then a player would not be entitled to relief under Rule 24-2.

Rule 12. You hit your bunker shot but somehow the ball catches your sand wedge after you hit it, a double hit. How many stoke is that?  Rule 14-4 covers this situation, and states, “If a player’s club strikes the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the player shall count the stroke and add a penalty stroke, making 2 strokes in all.” Notice that it is irrelevant how many times the player struck the ball, be it two, three, or more. The player is then required to play the ball as it lies.

Rule 13. Must I always take relief when my ball is in Ground Under Repair (GUR)? It is not mandatory to take relief from GUR (Rule 25-1b), however a local rule may prohibit you from playing from GUR (Rule 25-1, note 2). If you find your ball next to a pile of tweaks and branches in the rough, do you know that you can claim a free relief under abnormal ground condition ruling. This may inevitably take you back to the fairway.

“The Wacky and Wonderful World of Golf” is a cleverly illustrated guide to the humorous side of the historic sport. It features amusing stories from the professional tour and all of the majors from the lucky bounces to the infamous gaffes and the strange tales of professional golfers, long balls, aces, troublesome holes, early golf rules and practices, and hazards from sand to water to animals. It also includes quotes and anecdotes from famous writers and golfers, such as Mark Twain, Arnold Palmer, Dean Martin, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Winston Churchill, Mickey Mantle, Bob Hope, Ben Hogan, and John F. Kennedy.

If you are out to have a bit of fun knocking balls who cares if you play by the rules. That said, it’s wise to play the game properly and follow the rules habitually as if you play normally. It will then reflect how you play in an actual competition.

See you on the first tee…

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