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Rules of Golf

June Rule of the Month - Match play tips

Tips on Match Play Rules

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission

I regularly receive requests for rulings relating to match play situations after a player has lost a hole, or the match, due to a Rules incident that they were not sure about. Most golfers play far more rounds of stroke play golf than match play golf and do not realise that there are several important differences in the Rules of these formats. Below are my 12 tips that every player should understand and remember before commencing a match.

1. You may practice on the course on the day of a match (Rule 7-1).

2. You must not touch your opponent’s ball in play, unless you are helping to search for it (Rule 18-3). 
Do not mark an opponent’s ball on the putting green, unless they ask you to.

3. A concession of a hole may be given at any time and cannot be declined or withdrawn (Rule 2-4).
You may putt out after receiving the concession, providing the action is not of assistance to your partner in in a four-ball or best-ball match.

4. Incorrect information (Rule 9-2).
If you give your opponent wrong information about your score you must correct it before they make their next stroke, or you lose the hole. Similarly, if they give you wrong information.

5. Order of Play (Rule 10-1).
If your opponent plays out of turn you may let their stroke stand, or require that they cancel the stroke and play again in the correct order. In four-ball match play, balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order that the side considers best.

6. After a stroke your ball hits your opponent, or their equipment (Rule 19-3).
You may choose to replay the stroke, or accept it and play your next shot from where the ball had come to rest.

7. Putt from the putting green hits a ball at rest on the putting green (Rule 19-5).
There is no penalty in match play, the other ball must be replaced and your ball played from where it comes to rest. 

8. Four-ball match play – representation of side (Rule 30-3a).
One partner may play for any part, or all of a match, but if and when their partner arrives they must wait until the start of the next hole to join the match.

9. Four-ball match play – wrong ball (Rule 30-3c).
If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball their partner may continue play of the hole without penalty. If it was the partner's ball that was played they must place a ball where it was wrongly played from.

10. Asking for and giving advice (Rule 8-1).
If a third party gives unsolicited advice no penalty is incurred, but you must request that they do not do so again. You may not give advice to any team member other than your partner.

11. Ignoring an opponent’s breach of Rule (Rule 1-3). In match play, you do not have to call a penalty on your opponent if you witness a breach of Rule by them
But don’t discuss the breach with the opponent before teeing off at the next hole, or you could both be disqualified for agreeing to waive a Rule.

12. If you are unsure of a Rule or procedure try and resolve it with your opponent immediately (Rule 2-5). 
But if you cannot agree, a claim has to be made before teeing-off at the next hole. You must notify your opponent that you are making a claim, agree the facts and ask the Committee for a ruling. 

This last point is important. I receive several communications where a player was ‘bullied’ into accepting a ruling by their opponent, which was subsequently found to be incorrect - too late to affect the result. Opponents should not to get into an argument on the course, but should agree on the facts of the situation and seek an authoritative ruling from a Committee member, or someone else whose knowledge of the Rules can be trusted. If a timely official ruling is not received, the match should be continued and played to a conclusion whereby there is a definitive result, depending on whether the eventual ruling for the disputed hole was won by either side, or was halved.

Good golfing,

November Rule of the Month

Autumn (Fall) Leaves

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission
I know that some regular readers of this blog like to have lists to assist them in understanding the Rules, so I am going to address what a player may move when their ball in play is stationary and when it is in motion.


I am grateful to Paul Kruger, PGA Professional at The Canyon Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for giving me permission to use his content for this week’s blog, which is very relevant to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who are currently experiencing the annual problem of falling leaves on our golf courses.

Here are some important points to remember when you encounter leaves on the golf course:

First and foremost, keep in mind that detached leaves are loose impediments, unless they are clinging to your ball, see Definition of Loose Impediments. Therefore, with leaves in the vicinity of your golf ball, you might want to leave (leaf!) well enough alone, unless you are familiar with such Rules as Rule 23 - Loose Impediments, Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard, and Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

On the putting green, you may remove leaves on your line of putt provided you do not press anything down, Rule 16-1a - Touching Line of Putt. Also on the putting green, per Rule 23-1, if you accidentally move your ball in the process of removing leaves, there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the leaves. Just remember to replace your ball to where it was before you caused it to move, otherwise you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 18-2 - Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

However, when the ball does not lie on the putting green, or in a hazard, you may remove leaves in the vicinity of your ball, provided you do not cause your ball to move. If you do cause your ball to move, you incur a one-stroke penalty and you must replace your ball, Rule 18-2.

Leaves that have been piled for removal are ground under repair, Definition of Ground Under Repair. Those are the kinds of piles of leaves that you don’t have to worry about encountering outside of a water hazard, because relief without penalty is available to you via Rule 25 - Abnormal Ground Conditions, etc. In fact, if it is known or virtually certain that your ball is lost within such a pile, relief is provided by Rule 25-1c - Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found. In taking relief, you must determine the nearest point of relief to where the ball crossed the outermost limit of the pile of leaves and drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole.

If there is a pile of leaves immediately behind your ball in a hazard, be careful not to touch the leaves with your club prior to, or during, your backswing. Otherwise, you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 13-4c - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

If you believe that your ball is covered by leaves in a hazard to the extent that you cannot find or identify it, you may, without penalty, touch or move the leaves in order to find or identify the ball. However, you must be extremely careful not to cause your ball to move in the process. See Rule 12-1b - Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard. If you cause your ball to move during the search, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and you must replace your ball. If your ball was completely covered by leaves prior to the search, you must re-cover it with the leaves; but it is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.


What a golfer may move without penalty

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission
I know that some regular readers of this blog like to have lists to assist them in understanding the Rules, so I am going to address what a player may move when their ball in play is stationary and when it is in motion.
16 09 Can they be removed
Player’s Ball in Play is Stationary;

•    Artificial objects that can easily be moved are movable obstructions, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, or out of bounds, Rule 24-1. Examples are course signage, distance markers, water hazard stakes, cans, abandoned balls and other rubbish.
•    Natural objects that are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball are loose impediments, which may be moved from anywhere on the course, except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard. Rule 23-1. Examples are grass clippings, leaves and pine cones.
•    A player is not penalised for moving, bending or even breaking anything growing or fixed, providing this happens while they are fairly taking their stance, which means using the least intrusive course of action that is reasonably necessary for the selected stroke, Decision 13-2/1.
•    A player is entitled to move a natural object for the specific purpose of determining whether the object is loose; if it is not it must be returned to its original position before making the next stroke, Decision 13-2/26.
•    If a player considers that another ball might interfere with their play, they may have it lifted, Rule 22-2.
•    Sand and loose soil may be moved from the putting green, but not from anywhere else, Definition of Loose Impediments.

Player’s Ball is in Motion after a Stroke;

•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any movable obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, except the equipment of any player and the flagstick that has been removed from the hole, Rule 24-1. Examples of player’s equipment are their clubs, clothing and golf bag. 
•    When a ball is in motion after a stroke, no player may move any loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball, Rule 23-1. Examples are divots, a detached branch and insect-like creatures, Definition 23-5/5.
•    Obviously, a player must not purposely stop any ball that is in motion, Rule 1-2.

August Rule of the Month - Searching for a ball

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission

•    A player does not have to search for their own ball if they would rather not find it, e.g. when their original ball is likely to be deep in a gorse bush and their provisional ball is in the middle of the fairway.
•    If a player requests fellow competitors not to search for their ball it is poor etiquette, but not a breach of any Rule, for them to then go and look for the ball. However, this is not the case in match play, when an opponent may decide that they could benefit by finding the player’s original ball.
•    In match play, if an opponent does go to search for a player’s original ball, e.g. because the provisional ball is lying close to the hole, the player may quickly move to their provisional ball and putt it into the hole. As soon as they do so, they have rendered the original ball lost, even if it is subsequently found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it. Although the opponent may then recall this putt played out of turn (Rule 10-1c), it would not change the status of the original ball, which was lost as soon as the provisional ball was played from a position nearer to the hole (Decision 27-2b/1).
•    If a player’s ball is found within the five-minute search period, but because they are some distance away they are unable to make a positive identification within this time limit, it is not a lost ball, even though the identification takes place after the five-minute search period has elapsed (Decision 27-5/5).
•    A player may not return to where they last played from to play a provisional ball while fellow competitors continue to search for their original ball. Once the player has gone forward to search, say 50 yards from where they played from, any ball that they return to play becomes their ball in play as soon as they make a stroke at it, under penalty of stroke and distance, even if they wrongly announce it as being a provisional ball (Decision 27-2a/1.5).
•    Following on from the last point, once a player has dropped a ball with the intention of playing under penalty of stroke and distance, that ball is in play and the original ball is lost, even though no stroke has been made at it before the original ball is found within five minutes of search starting for it (Decision 27-1/2). The situation is slightly different if the ball was played from the teeing ground, as a ball may be teed up and addressed, but is not in play until a stroke has been made at it.
•    If a player knows that their ball has definitely come to rest in an area of ground under repair, casual water or any other abnormal ground condition, they do not have to search for it, they may take relief without penalty, using the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the abnormal ground condition as the reference point for dropping their ball (Rule 25-1c).
•    In stroke play, there is no penalty when a player accidentally moves the ball of a fellow competitor, but in match play an opponent does incur a penalty of one stroke, unless they were searching for it when they accidentally moved it. In every situation where a ball is accidentally moved it must be replaced (Rule 18-3a).
•    A player is permitted a total of five minutes to search for their ball. So if they find their ball after a two-minute search, leave the area to get a club and are then unable to find it, they have three more minutes to search before it is lost (Decision 27/3).
•    A player is allowed five minutes to search for their original ball and five more minutes to search for their provisional ball, unless the two balls are so close together that, in effect, both balls would be searched for simultaneously, when a total of five minutes is allowed for both balls (Decision 27/4).
•    A player may search for a lost ball after putting another ball into play, but must not play the first ball if they find it and must not unduly delay play while searching for it (Decision 27/9).

Rule of the month June 2016

Nearest Point of Relief across Immovable Obstructions

 The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission. 

16 06 NPR from drain 

It is surprising how many golfers do not properly understand the concept of nearest point of relief. You cannot play many rounds of golf without having to determine the nearest point of relief, e.g. when taking relief from any immovable obstruction, ground under repair, casual water or staked trees where a Local Rule mandates taking relief from them.
This recently received question relates to an interesting point on nearest point of relief, which I don’t think that I have blogged about previously. 

“On our course we have a gravel filled drain running alongside the left hand side of the 16th fairway. It is very narrow, only 8 inches wide. Is it permissible to determine the nearest point of relief by taking your stance on one side of the ditch with the ball on the other side (i.e. the drain is between the player and his ball)?”

The answer to this question is, ‘Yes’ if the point on the other side of the drain is the nearest point of relief. In fact, the player must use this point to determine the permitted area where they may drop their ball, which is within one club-length of that point not nearer the hole. The reason for this being the nearest point is that there is no mental relief from an immovable obstruction in the Rules of Golf; so just because the narrow gravel strip lies between the toes of the player’s normal stance and where their ball would be positioned if they were using the club with which they would normally use for a reasonable stroke from that place, does not mean that they may drop on the near side of the immovable obstruction. In the diagram above, which is not quite the same as in the question, the nearest point of relief for the ball in the gravel drain for a right-handed player is at point Y (for yes) and not at either of the two points marked X (for wrong). Note that the player’s stance for the wrong point X on the left side of the drain would be further away than in the diagram, which represents the player’s stance for the correct nearest point of relief. Of course, once the nearest point of relief has been determined the player may then drop their ball anywhere within one-club-length of that point, not nearer the hole, using the longest club they carry, which may be back on the near side of the gravel path. Please remember that there is only one nearest point of relief, except in the comparatively rare occurrence when ball lies in a position where there could be two equidistant points, and in most situations that point will be at a different place for left and right-handed players. Also remember that the nearest point of relief does not necessarily mean that the player will be able to drop in a more favourable position; sometimes it is better to play a stroke, even though there is interference, rather than taking relief in a less favourable position by taking the correct relief under the Rules.

Now here is a point that many (most?) golfers would not realise; in some cases the nearest point of relief may be through an immovable obstruction, unless there is a Local Rule that states otherwise. Note 3 to Rule 24-2 states;

The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that the player must determine the nearest point of relief without crossing over, through or under the obstruction.

Personally, I do not know of any course where this Local Rule has been introduced, but if your ball is on the ‘wrong side’ of a wall, fence, or something similar, you should definitely check the Local Rules before determining your nearest point of relief.

Good golfing


This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

A simple subject for this blog, but one that seems to cause some confusion amongst golfers is the status of stakes of different colors in the Rules of Golf. Most of us are familiar with the three most common coloured stakes mentioned in the 34 Rules of Golf;

§ Boundary (out of bounds) – white stakes 

§ Water hazard – yellow stakes 

§ Lateral water hazard – red stakes

However, players might also encounter stakes of different colours on the course and these will be defined under a Local Rule, usually on the back of the score card, which should always be carefully checked before commencing a round on a new course. Examples of these less commonly coloured stakes are;

§ Ground under repair – blue or black stakes (although GUR is usually denoted by a white line painted around the area) 

§ Environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) defined as a water hazard – yellow stakes with green tops (Decision 33-8/41)  

§ ESA defined as a lateral water hazard– red stakes with green tops  

§ ESA defined as ground under repair– blue stakes with green tops 

§ Shrub / flower beds – e.g. red and white stakes

It is important to know that white stakes defining out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. There is no relief available from them, even if they interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing. But most other stakes are movable obstructions providing they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Occasionally, Committees will cement in stakes, so that they are immovable, which can introduce problems for maintenance staff when maintaining the areas immediately around them. Also, Committees sometimes introduce a Local Rule designating stakes as immovable obstructions, even if they do not properly meet the definition, because they are easily movable. In my opinion this should definitely be avoided, as it introduces unnecessary confusion for players, especially visitors to a course. This relevant comment is from the excellent R&A publication, ‘Guide on Running a Competition’* – Section 4 Marking the Course, 3 Water Hazards;

By Definition, stakes or lines defining hazards are in the hazards. Stakes are obstructions. Therefore, if they are movable, players are entitled to relief without penalty from them under Rule 24-1. If they are immovable, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2 when the ball lies outside the hazard. However, if the ball is in the hazard, the player is not entitled to immovable obstruction relief. Accordingly, it is recommended that stakes marking hazards are movable.

And now to my most important ‘rule’ relating to stakes. If you do move them away from your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, please remember to replace them after you have made your stroke, and also remind others that you are playing with to do so. Not correctly replacing stakes is obviously discourteous to other players and can lead to frustration and anger on the course.

Touching Growing Grass in a Hazard

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

 I have been called upon to settle more than one argument regarding what golfers may touch with their club in a hazard. Remember that there are two types of hazard on a golf course, bunkers and water hazards (which include lateral water hazards) and that strokes (where there must be intent to strike at and move the ball) are different from practice swings.

Most golfers know that if their ball lies in a hazard they must not touch the ground in that hazard, or the water if it is a water hazard, with their hand or club. Most golfers also realise that they must not touch or move any loose impediment (e.g. stones, branches and dead leaves) lying in or touching the same hazard, unless it is with the forward movement of their club as they make their stroke. However, in my experience, many players do not realise that there is no penalty for touching anything that is growing with a practice swing, their backswing, or the forward movement of their club before it strikes the ball, even when their ball is lying in a hazard.

The Note to Rule 13-4 clarifies;

At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.

Of course, the player must not do anything to improve their lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, because this would be a breach of Rule 13-2. So take care during those practice swings!

A memorable instance of a breach of Rule 13-4, by moving a loose impediment in a water hazard, occurred in 2010 on the first playoff hole at the Verizon Heritage. On the backswing of his stroke, Brian Davis slightly moved a single loose palm frond, lying amongst several growing palm fronds (see photo). Davis had to call the two strokes penalty on himself resulting in him losing the title to Jim Furyk, who was not even aware of the infraction.

Now test your understanding of the principles above by answering this 8-part question;

A player is making a shot to the putting green. In which of the following 8 situations do they incur a penalty, if while making a stroke they …

1.… touch water in a bunker on their backswing?
2.… touch sand in a bunker on their backswing?
3.… touch growing grass in a bunker on their backswing?
4.… touch loose grass in a bunker on their backswing?
5.… touch water in a water hazard on their backswing?
6.… touch sand in a water hazard on their backswing?
7.… touch growing grass in a water hazard on their backswing?
8.… touch loose grass in a water hazard on their backswing?

Answer: A penalty is incurred in 2. 4. 5. 6. 8., but not in 1, 3 and 7. The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.
Exactly the same rulings apply if the word “backswing” was replaced with “practice swing”
16 03 Loose palm frond

Re-creating the Lie and Re-covering the Ball

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.


Rule 20-3b(iii) states that if the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced in a bunker has been altered the original lie must be re-created as nearly as possible and the ball must be placed in that lie. This includes any irregularity that the ball lay in when it came to rest, not just a change that was caused afterwards.

There are two similar situations in Rule 12-1;
a)    If a player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand they may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify it (Rule 12-1a).
b)    If a player’s ball is believed to lie in a hazard, but is covered by loose impediments to the extent that they cannot find or identify it they may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify it (Rule 12-b).

So, in the above situations how does the player continue if they find and identify their ball? 
a)    The player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.
b)    If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments (e.g. leaves, as in the photo above), the player must re-cover the ball but is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

One further situation where the lie of a ball must be re-created can be found in Decision 18-2a/21 in which a player plays a wrong ball from a bunker and changes the lie of their own ball lying nearby. The player incurs the general penalty for making a stroke at the wrong ball, but is not penalised for moving their own ball in this circumstance. They must replace the ball in play and re-create the lie.

The lowdown on golf bunker rules 'do's and don'ts'

There are many hazards on most golf courses – some watery and some sandy. Most golf courses have at least a few bunkers; some have considerably more than others. However many there are where you play, even the straightest of hitters will find themselves in the sand at some stage, so knowing what you can and can’t do is essential.

Without going into all the finer intricacies, here are the essential golf bunker rules ‘do’s and don’ts’ for when you find yourself in the sand.

There are specific things you can and can’t do when you find yourself bunkered

Most golfers know you can’t ground your club in a hazard, nor touch the sand with your hand (Rule 13-4b).

However, touching or brushing the sand with your club on your backswing is also a breach of Rule 13-4b.

All breaches under Rule 13 incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

However, if you aren’t certain which club you’re going to use, and take two or more into the bunker, you may lay the extra clubs down in the sand once you’ve decided, provided nothing is done to test the condition of the hazard or improve the lie off the ball.

Equally, you can take your bag, or even trolley, in with you, and while that may sound a little silly, on modern courses with vast expanses of sand, it could be a time-saver.

But you’ll probably attract comment from other golfers, and suspicious looks from green keepers, so while it’s perfectly legal, we wouldn’t recommend it generally.

When it comes to what you can and can’t pick up and remove from a bunker, you need to tread very carefully, for you are only allowed to remove ‘movable obstructions’ (i.e. anything artificial or man-made such as scorecards, gloves, head-covers etc) and not anything classed as a ‘loose impediment’ (i.e. natural objects such as twigs, leaves, cones and branches).

It’s important to know the difference between a movable obstruction and a loose impediment in the sand

The potential stumbling block is stones, for while they are classed as ‘loose impediments’ under the Rules (so you aren’t allowed to touch them), many clubs have Local Rules reclassifying them as ‘movable obstructions’ so you can then remove them from bunkers under Rule 24-1, primarily for reasons of safety and to prevent club damage.

However, always double-check before automatically removing stones, for if no such Local Rule exists, you will be penalised for a breach of Rule 13-4c.

If you stumble as you enter a bunker and use a club to prevent yourself from falling, that is fine, and anyone who tries to penalise you for grounding your club in such circumstances should be politely pointed towards Exception 1a to Rule 13-4.

Finally, Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 permits you to smooth sand in a bunker at any time – even before playing from the same bunker – providing it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course, and that you do nothing to improve your lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play in contravention of Rule 13-2.

Jordan Spieth treads on the ball


This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.


OK, here are two questions for you Rules enthusiasts.

1. Does a player incur a penalty for accidentally treading on their ball in play that is lying in a water hazard, but not in water?
2. If the player chooses to take relief from the hazard under Rule 26-1, do they incur a second penalty stroke?

If you have answered, “Yes” to both of these questions then you know more about this Rules situation than the current world No. 1, correction No.2 golfer, Jordan Spieth.

This is what happened to Jordan at The Barclays, Edison, New Jersey, on Friday. After he played his second shot at the par-5 12th hole into a water hazard, he was searching for his ball in the long weeds, when he accidentally stepped on it. He took a penalty drop away from the hazard and made what he thought was 6 for a bogey. But on the next hole, a PGA Tour rules official approached him about the incident. Apparently, Jordan was not aware that he had incurred a penalty for causing his ball to move when he stepped on it, as he is reported by Golf Channel to have offered this rather confusing explanation;

“My intentions were if I see it, I'm going to play it, and if I don't see it, I'm going to take my drop and play it as a water hazard.”
“Because my intention was possibly to still play it, it's a penalty and that was made clear, no matter what I declared to (caddie Michael Greller) ahead of time. I just wanted to be certain about it.”

To clarify the main points of this ruling, when a player treads on a ball it moves, because it is pressed into the ground. Decision 18-1;

Q. A ball lying in long grass slips vertically downwards. Or a ball is accidentally stepped on and pressed down, say a quarter of an inch, in the grass or into the ground. In each case, has the ball moved?

A. Yes, unless the ball returns to its original position. The direction of movement is immaterial.

The penalty is incurred as soon as the ball is moved. Rule 12-1c states;

If a ball is believed to be lying in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, probe for it with a club or otherwise. If the ball in water is accidentally moved while probing, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced, unless the player elects to proceed under Rule 26-1. If the moved ball was not lying in water or the ball was accidentally moved by the player other than while probing, Rule 18-2a applies.

Following the completion of his round, Jordan spoke at length (why, what was there to be discussed?) with PGA Tour rules officials, who informed him the Rules did require him to include the penalty of one stroke for the infraction of stepping on his ball.

I can only think of three possible explanations for this incident;
a) Jordan did not know that by treading on his ball in play he had incurred a penalty, which is why he did not immediately inform his marker of the fact, as is required by Rule 9-3;

A competitor who has incurred a penalty should inform his marker as soon as practicable.

b) Jordan did not know that he had stepped on his ball !!!
c) Jordan realised that stepping on his ball did incur a penalty but chose to carry on by dropping a ball outside of the hazard without saying anything to his fellow competitors (in my opinion, this explanation is extremely unlikely).

So, I conclude that we have yet another example of the lack of knowledge that many professional golfers have about their job of work.

One last point for me to clarify is that when a player chooses to take a penalty stroke relief from the water hazard after causing their ball to move, they do not have to replace the ball before doing so, as is usually the case with a breach of Rule 18-2a.

Lost ball

When you hit your ball deep into the sort of territory where it’s possible to lose a bag, let alone a ball, and then proceed to crush your provisional ball 250 yards straight down the middle, clearly there would be much merit in declaring your ball lost and focusing on trying to salvage bogey with the provisional ball.

Sadly the Rules make no allowance for such a course of action, and it is worth remembering that you cannot render your original ball lost simply by declaration.

Saying, “I’ll just declare that one lost” is a meaningless phrase under the Rules of golf, for it’s not what you say that matters in such circumstances, but what you do.

It is, indeed, one of golf’s greatest myths that you can declare your ball lost, and we will all at times have played with someone who has uttered words to that effect.

But the reality is that your ball can only be considered lost under the Rules when…

a) You have failed to find or identify the ball as yours within five minutes of you or anyone on your side (caddie, or playing partner in a pairs competition) starting the search for it.

b) You make a stroke at your provisional ball (if you have played one) from the place where the original ball is likely to be or nearer to the hole than that spot.

c) You have already put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (rather than designating it a provisional ball).

d) You’ve put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the unfound original ball has been moved by an outside agency, or is in an obstruction, an abnormal ground condition or a water hazard. In such circumstances you should proceed under the appropriate Rule for each scenario – outside agency (Rule 18-1); obstruction (Rule 24-3); abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1); water hazard (Rule 26-1).

e) You have made a stroke at a substituted ball.

The good news is that you are not obliged to look for your ball if you don’t want to, and 99 times out of 100, those playing with you will be delighted not to be asked to rummage around in impenetrable rough for five minutes.

However, there is nothing to stop your opponent or fellow-competitor looking, and although good etiquette would probably suggest that he wouldn’t feel inclined to do so if you have clearly stated your intention to abandon it, there may just be the odd time in a match where he may want to.

Perhaps, for example, on a short par 4 where you’ve hit it sideways but not very far, then knocked a provisional on to the green from where you may well be more likely to make par than having to take whatever course of action the lie of the original ball might require, whether hacking out or having to take a penalty drop still in the trees.

That said, I have been playing for 30 years, and can’t remember ever encountering such a scenario!

And, of course, the simplest course of action if you really don’t want anyone looking for your original ball is to follow option (c) above and simply hit another ball without declaring it a provisional.

The downside to this is that, in the unlikely event that your original ball had actually taken an unseen fortunate ricochet back into play, you then wouldn’t be able to continue with it even if it was slap bang in the middle of the fairway!


Identifying your ball

This content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

It may come as a surprise to some golfers that the Rules do not require them to notify their marker or fellow competitor, which ball they are playing before starting a hole, nor when they are substituting a ball under the Rules during play of the hole.
Of course, I am not suggesting that a player should not inform those that they are playing with of the brand, number and any identifying marks on their ball; it is both good etiquette and the sensible thing to do, as it avoids any possible doubt that might arise when a ball is played out of sight. In fact, I recommend that markers make it a practice to ask the player they are marking for to describe the ball they are playing; how else can they be sure that the ball that the player finishes the hole with is the same one that they started with, or with the one that they correctly substituted under the Rules during play of the hole? Whilst on this subject I will make the point that in the absence of a ‘One Ball’ Condition of Competition, the player is permitted to change the brand, condition and colour of any balls they use during a round, without restriction. They may also borrow balls from any source. This makes it all the more necessary that they inform the other players in their group each time they change the ball they are putting into play.

I have often wondered how many Titleist Pro V1, No.1, balls there are on an 18-hole golf course at any one time. My uneducated guess is that the average is probably in excess of 18, or 1 per hole, including those that have been lost. So, how can a player positively identify their Pro V1, No.1, from the others on the course, if there is no identification mark? Even this may not be sufficient. I tell the story of a retired senior who played his home course 3-4 times a week. He had a mental block on one particular hole, which led him to regularly slice his drive into the same area of deep rough to the right of the fairway. On one occasion, after a couple of minutes, he shouted to his fellow searchers that he had found his Titleist No.1 ball. “How do you know it is yours?” responded his marker. “It has the same personal identification that I always use”, he responded. “You hit so many balls into this rough that it would need to have today’s date on it for you to be sure”, was the terse, unsympathetic reply!

Part of Rule 12-2 states that each player should put an identification mark on his ball. My strong recommendation is that each player must put an identification mark on their balls if they want to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties for playing a wrong ball, or not being able to positively identify a ball that has been found.