September 17, 2010
The United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Scotland are the official arbiters of the Rules of Golf, throughout most of the world. In addition to the official Rules, the two entities also put out a regularly updated edition of their Decisions on the Rules of Golf.
These Decisions are derived from formal cases that come up during competitions or other situations, and referred to the Rules folks for a final answer to the sometimes complex questions presented. The Decisions help put flesh on the barebones Rules, by showing how they work in the real world.
Most golfers never read these Decisions, or probably knew of their existence. However, the USGA has been doing us all a fine bit of service, by posting the Decisions on the USGA’s website on a near-daily basis. I enjoy stopping by the site every now and then to read them, and have sometimes discussed them in this column.
These Decisions also provide some interesting insight into the players involved, perhaps more than they might have imagined.
Two recent examples help show what I mean.
In the first one, two golfers tee off on a par-5 hole, and discover that they are playing identical golf balls with identical markings:
Based on the location of both tee shots, A knew which ball was his. To avoid subsequent confusion, A lifted his ball before playing his second shot, substituted a ball with different markings and played out the hole. Is this permissible?
The USGA’s response was fairly pointed:
No. A was not entitled to substitute a ball.
In match play, A loses the hole — Rule 15-2.
In stroke play, A incurs the general penalty of two strokes under Rule 18 for incorrectly substituting a ball, but there is no additional penalty for lifting the ball without authority….
I can understand the interest in making sure there were no problems with knowing which ball was whose. Even so, was there really any serious risk of confusion by not waiting until their two balls finally rolled into the hole? Did it ever cross the A player’s mind that he might have been a tad too quick to “fix” the problem?
The second Decision also involved someone who was a bit too anxious under the circumstances:
A ball lying on the putting green was oscillating due to wind. The player firmly pressed the ball into the surface of the green and the ball stopped oscillating. The player then holed out. Was the player in breach of the Rules?
Yes. The player incurred a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a when he moved his ball by pressing on it. Since the original lie of the ball was altered when the ball was firmly pressed down, the player was obliged to proceed under Rule 20-3b. Since he did not do so, he lost the hole in match play and incurred a total penalty of two strokes in stroke play….
The player had other options besides putting a dent in the green. He could mark the location, lift the ball, replace it during a lull in the breeze, and putt quickly if he thought the wind was going to affect it once again. He could have also taken his chances with the slight risk that the oscillation would actually affect his putting stroke—vibrating in place is not considered a moving ball.
In other words, a little more thought could have helped.
Shawnee CC Club Champions
Congratulations to Mark Johnson, this year’s club champion at Shawnee CC. Johnson was a past captain and standout player on the 2001 Cape Henlopen High School golf team.
Congratulations also go out to Lisa Hutchins, who won Shawnee’s Women’s Club Championship. This is her second such championship at Shawnee, having also won it in 2008.
Sussex Pines Results
The Sussex Pines Country Club 9-Hole Ladies Golf group competed Aug. 7 in a low gross/low net tournament.
Linda Stigile won low gross in the first flight, followed by Carol Love. Lynn Sullivan won low net in that flight, with Jennifer Hagy taking second.
In the second flight, Betty DeBoer won the gross category, with Cass Hall taking second place. Judy Freed won the net contest, followed by Carol Farrell.