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By Lorraine Thies

No wonder the rules are so complicated

about golf that is different from all other sports is that you do not have a consistently defined playing field. Every golf course is different and each has unique characteristics and difficulties. Now let’s complicate that by having the players of the game nowhere close to one another on that playing field. In match play the entire “field” is in


your group so you always know what the person playing against you is doing. However, that’s not the case in stroke play. Tom who is playing the second hole has no clue what’s happening with his buddy Harry who’s playing the eighth hole. So with the Rules of stroke play, it’s paramount that they protect the field. It’s no wonder the Decisions book that accompanies the rules is so thick — the more people play and the more competitions that are conducted, the more situations occur that can make your head spin. Let’s look at an example of a

situation that actually happened. In a stroke-play competition, Tom was playing a par 4. He played well from tee to green and had about a 10-foot putt for birdie. After missing his putt, he proceeded to pick up his ball. Oops — that’s a no-no in stroke play — a player must putt out on every hole (Rule 3-2). He then replaced his ball on its previous spot on the green and putt again — and missed — picked his ball up, repeated the process and missed for a third time. He then picked up his ball and started to walk to the next tee. At that point, someone in his group told Tom that he did not actually finish the hole so he proceeded to replace his ball on the spot where he missed the first putt and holed out.

32 | AZ GOLF Insider | SPRING 2016

very sport comes with its own set of rules. So it is with golf — there are 34 of them. But the unique thing

So what was his score for the hole? The good news is that someone

in his group kept him in the game. If he had not completed the hole before teeing off on the next one, he would have been disqualified under Rule 3-2. Let’s look at the possible answers. 1. When Tom lifted the ball after his first putt, he lifted a ball in play which is a 1-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2. When he failed to replace that ball, he played from a wrong place which turns that 1-stroke penalty into 2 strokes (Rule 20-7). He repeated the process which would result in another 2 strokes. Then to make matters worse, he lifted that ball in play again and placed it at the spot where his original putt was made and holed out. Score? 6 strokes plus 6 penalty strokes for a total of 12.

2. When Tom lifted his ball in play and placed it back on the spot where he originally putt from, he was proceeding under stroke and distance (the sure get out of jail move — taking stroke and distance is always permitted in any situation). So that’s 1-stroke. He repeated the process so that’s another stroke. When he lifted the ball the third time and placed it in another spot, he was operating under Rule 18-2 (lifting a ball in play) and Rule 20-7 (playing from a wrong place). Score? 6 strokes plus 4

penalty strokes for a total of 10.

3. When Tom missed his first putt, he figured the next putt was a “gimme” (no such thing in stroke play) and the hole was over. Subsequently, the next 2 strokes were considered practice under Rule 7-2. Players are permitted to practice between the play of two holes. However, since he hadn’t actually completed the hole, any practice results in a 2-stroke penalty. He did that twice so does that mean 4 strokes for practice? Well you have to go to Rule 1-4 to answer that question. There is a decision (1-4/12) that says if, prior to your next stroke, you breach one rule more than once, you would only receive the penalty once — so it’s 2 strokes for practice. In this scenario although he lifted his original ball in play, he eventually replaced that ball and holed out so it’s a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2. Score? 4 strokes plus 3 penalty strokes for a total of 7.

So what is the correct answer? As a rules official, it’s critical to talk with the player to find out what was going through his mind at the time of the infraction. What was his intent? Upon further investigation, we determined that he thought the hole was completed and he was just trying to figure out how to make that putt. Good answer Tom — your score for the hole is a 7. n

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