Rules Q&A

Rules Q&A

A question that has been on my mind for a long time. I noticed on the Solheim Cup a caddy standing/kneeling behind a player actually lining her up for her putt. Though I've seen this before and understand it is within the rules of golf, to me, it is much more objectionable than anything else I've seen, I think it almost smacks of cheating. It certainly takes the "individual" out of the sport. Seems if someone is a "pro" with all that implies, they would be practiced enough to compete on their own merit and not depend on someone else to line them up.

Yes it is part of the Rules of Golf for a caddie or partner to help a player read putts and help them align the putter face to that line.  It does not in any way shape or form come close to cheating.  A golfer must execute every shot on their own and their success or failure is based on their skill and ability to play the game.  At the professional level, the caddie becomes a teammate to the player.  Jim "Bones" Mackay is an intricate part of every shot Phil Mickelson hits and helps him read every putt and Phil would tell you how important that relationship is to his career.  The USGA and R&A study and govern the Rules of Golf to insure every competitor is competing on a level playing field.  Every four years they modify and change Rules to achieve that goal.  Within their Rules, they sometimes allow a Rules Committee, to consider allowing or prohibiting certain conditions of competition, for instance allowing the use of distance measuring devices or prohibiting practice putting after the completion of a hole.  The practice of allowing a caddie or partner to align a player is not a condition of competition and therefore cannot be prohibited under the Rules.  The ladies on the LPGA Tour are very talented and do succeed on their own merit and within the Rules of Golf.  Thanks again for the question and keep watching!

During the U.S. Women's Open one player was able to have the bunker raked and then place the ball and the other was not. Please explain why?

Thursday during the U.S. Women's Open we had a situation where two balls lay next to each other in a bunker.  Rule 22 covers this situation.  If a ball interferes with another players line of play, lie of ball or the area of their intended swing, they may have the interfering ball marked and lifted.  In this case, because both balls lay in the bunker, the lie of the lifted ball will be altered by the other players stroke.  When that happens in a bunker, the lie of the lifted ball must be recreated and the ball placed in that lie.  For that reason, you would see a caddie rake a bunker prior to a player playing from that bunker.

During the Saturday round of the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open a player marked her ball on the fringe of the 10th green prior to putting.  Is that allowed?

Thanks for the great question!  According to the Rules of Golf, unless the player is operating under an applicable Rule, she is not allowed to lift her ball in play unless it lies on the green.  The penalty for lifting a ball without authority is one stroke.  During this year’s ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, the Rules Committee decided to play preferred lies.  Preferred lies is a local Rule that is imposed, when conditions warrant, to allow a player to lift her ball in any “closely mown area” on the hole being played.  A closely mown area would be any area that is cut at fairway height or lower, i.e. the fairway, tee decks and the fringe of the green.  So, the player was operating under that local Rule so the lifting and cleaning of her ball on the fringe of the 10th green was okay.

In a tournament, I had lost my ball and played a new one after declaring a provisional and finished the hole. After teeing off at the next tee, I noticed my playing partner had my lost ball and apparently had finished the previous hole with my lost ball. Both my playing partner & I were DQ'd, my partner for playing my ball and me for not playing my original ball.

I’m assuming a few things in this question.  This is stroke play, you played the provisional ball before going forward to search for your ball and your ball was not found in the 5 minutes allowed by the Rules because your fellow competitor played your ball.  If both you and your fellow competitor played from the next teeing ground, your fellow competitor is disqualified for playing a wrong ball and not correcting it.  You are not disqualified because you played in accordance with the Rules.  Your ball was lost, not found in the 5 minute search period and you then played your provisional ball.  You can refer to Decision 27/6 for a more detailed explanation and I would hesitate playing golf with that particular person until they get their eyes checked.  At the very least she owes you lunch.

Grass is growing in a bunker. The margins of a bunker extend vertically downward. Can you ground your club on the grass but not the sand without incurring a penalty?

If the grass growing in the bunker are weeds you need to get a hold of the golf course superintendent first to get that stuff removed.  However if the grass growing in the bunker is by design, the margins of a bunker extend vertically downward but not upward so a ball within the outer margins of a bunker but lying on grass growing in the bunker does not lie in the bunker.  Therefore, the player may ground her club on the grass or the sand without penalty.  She may also move loose impediments in the bunker without penalty.  Keep in mind, if any part of the ball is touching the sand, the ball lies in the bunker.

Why wasn't Cabrera penalized for throwing his ball to the crowd before finishing the hole ?

Angel Cabrera finished out in both the final round and the playoff.  However, in a playoff, if Player A lies 3 and has a short putt for 4 and Player B makes a putt for a 3 to win the playoff, Player A is not required to hole out.

When on the green and the hole has an abnormality as if someone pulled the ball out with their putter head, can you fix the rim by running your fingers in a circle around the rim as long as you do not do it before your putt but fix it before another’s putt? Someone stated you can do it after you have finished the hole but not during the hole while putting out.

When there is damage to a hole, try to remember these three steps and you’ll always get it right under the Rules. 
Step 1 – Is the damage a ball mark?  If yes, fix it and it’s over.  If it’s not a ball mark, go to the next step.
Step 2 – Does the damage materially change the dimensions of the hole?  If no, play without fixing the damage.  It would be a sign of good etiquette to fix the damage once all have finished the hole.  If yes, go to the next step.
Step 3 – Is a member of the committee readily available?  If yes, ask them to fix the damage.  If not, you may fix the damage. 
You will find a detailed explanation of these three steps in Decision 16-1a/6.  In the example you cited, unless the damage to the hole was significant, you would probably have to play without being able to fix the damage.  By all means, please fix the damage after all in your group have finished the hole.

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