Handling Uncertainty In The Rules Of Golf

The 2021 leg of the PGA Tour starts this week in Hawaii. It will be great to watch the big boys play in prime time and in nice weather as we freeze here in the North East. Time to take advantage of the offseason to rest physically and mentally, set your goals, and work with your coaches on a 2021 game plan and spend a little time with the Rules of Golf.

As we watch the PGA Tour this week, as situations require applications of the rules, let’s take note as to how the players handle themselves, the questions they ask if the microphones can pick it up and how the Rules Officials go about gathering all the information, they need to apply the rules correctly.

It is important to remember that when dealing with the officials you meet in your events that the Rules of Golf decide all questions encountered while playing the game. Officials are there to sort through the facts as well as determine which rules specifically apply and officials never assess penalties. Also realize that these individuals are generally volunteering their time, may or may not be fluent in the rules as well as they should be, so please treat them with respect and the courtesy you would wish to receive yourself. More importantly know the rules so you may be informed when a ruling may not be quite correct or simply just to know in advance what all of your options are. If a question does arise, be polite and ask for an additional opinion. If no officials are readily available, the player has options in both Match and Stroke Play.

This area of doubt of procedure was previously handled under the old Rule 3, and now is addressed in Rule 20.1 b and c. 20.1b handles Match Play and let’s focus on 20.1c, Rules Issues in Stroke Play. I am going to summarize for brevity but:

20.1 c. (1) Players have no right to decide a Rules issue by agreement and a player should raise any issues with the Committee before returning his or her scorecard

20.1.c. (2) Players should protect other players in the competition, if a player fails to do so, the Committee may disqualify the player under Rule 1.2a

20.1 c. (3) Playing two balls when uncertain what to do: a player who is uncertain about the right procedure while playing a hole may complete the hole with two balls without penalty:

  • The player must decide to play two balls after the uncertain situation arises and before making a stroke.
  • The player should choose which ball will count if the Rules allow the procedure used for that ball, by announcing that choice to his or her marker or to another player before making a stroke.
  • If the player does not choose in time, the ball played first is treated as the ball chosen by default.
  • The player must report the facts of the situation to the Committee before returning the scorecard, even if the player scores the same with both balls. The player is disqualified if he or she fails to do so.
  • If the player made a stroke before deciding to play a second ball: this rule does not apply to the score, it counts with the ball played before the player decided to play the second ball.
  • But the player gets no penalty for playing the second ball.

Refer to the Rules Book/App for the committee decision on score for the hole 20.1 c. (4)

This process of handling uncertainty of how to proceed has remained virtually unchanged in the new version of the Rules but simply reorganized in the order of play and flow of the Rules.

Definitions of the week: (homework for you to research)

Committee, scorecard, Marker, stroke

Heath Wassem, PGA

AKA: “Rulesguy”

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