Teeing is Believing – Again and Again

Teeing off – does anything on the course offer up such an exquisite blend of promise and anxiety?  A new fairway before us with a wealth of possibilities!  Not all of them good, as we know, and folks are watching.  Tee it up!

We posted 9 Notable Things to Know and Do Around the Teeing Area a while ago.  Inspired by new experiences, and an entertaining new book, On Par, by Bill Pennington, we’ve got a few more things to say.
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Do you place your tee nosed right up to – and in the middle of – the imaginary line between the markers?  An uneven and divot-dinged place, perhaps.  Seek level ground, as far back as 2 club lengths, because it’s easier to hit a good shot when your feet are level and level with the ball.  As Pennington says, “You’ll never miss the 3 feet.”

Marker Madness
The markers aren’t there to help you line up.  Deploy whatever personal lining-up routine you have – but ignore where the markers are pointing you.  The mowers probably placed them there.

Ball Falling Off Tee
When we tee up the ball, it is not yet in play – we haven’t tried to hit it, we haven’t made a stroke.  Along comes the wind, or we accidently knock it off at address or with a practice swing.  No penalty – we have not intentionally tried to hit it.  See USGA Section II, Definitions,“Stroke” and Rule 11-3.
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Wrong Tees
Is it the scent of freshly cut grass or the heady mix of friendship and competition?  Every year one of our group drives a ball from the incorrect tee.  We don’t notice at first, then we do and are sad … and then inspired because she takes her penalty – 2 strokes! – re-tees in the right place and keeps on smiling.  She’s our club champion in more ways than one.

Golf Rule 18-2b – Welcome Wind of Change in 2012

Thank you to Jeanne Meyers, GAM Assistant Director of Rules & Competition, for helping us understand the Rules!

Webb Simpson led by 1 stroke in the final round of the 2011 New Orlean’s Classic. On the green at address, putter 4-5 inches behind the ball, he saw the wind move the ball about 1/4″.  Simpson called a penalty on himself – one stroke.  With the score tied, he was forced to a playoff which he then lost.  His tournament win slipped away because of wind.

This year one of golf’s most unpopular Rules,18-2b, now has a welcome exception.

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Rule 18-2b. If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.
Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.

This exonerates a player if it is known that she did not cause her ball to move. Example: if a gust of wind  moves her ball after it has been addressed, there’s no penalty and ball is played from its new location.

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Debunking Golf Myths – Part 1

“You can take the ball back on the line of flight.” True or False?

The most widespread myth is that when taking relief from a water hazard or an unplayable lie, you may take the ball back on the line of flight.  You may not do that in any circumstance!  Neither rule says anything about “line of flight.”
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One of the options under the water hazard rule is to drop behind the hazard – keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped.
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The unplayable ball rule has a similar option – to drop a ball behind where the ball lies unplayable, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped.
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Jeanne Myers, GAM Assistant Director of Rules & Competitions

Substituting a Ball – The Great Eraser Rule

If you substitute a ball when you are not allowed to, or drop or place a ball in the wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules, and you haven’t played it yet, you are allowed to lift it without penalty and correct your mistake. This is the Rule that officials call the Great Eraser Rule!

For example, if you take relief from a lateral water hazard and drop a ball within three club-lengths of where it last crossed the hazard margin (instead of within two club-lengths), you have dropped in a wrong place. If, before you play a stroke at that ball, you realize what you have done, you may lift the ball and drop in the correct place without penalty – you just “erase” your mistake.

Or, take the case of your ball lying on a cart path, and you decide to take relief. After you have determined where to drop the ball, you mistakenly drop a ball other than the original. You have substituted a new ball when you are not allowed to do so. If you notice it before you make a stroke at it, you may pick it up under the Eraser Rule and drop the original ball as required, and there is no penalty.

Many golfers like to use a “water ball” when they have a hard shot over water, or a “putting” ball because they believe that a brand new ball is going to roll truer on the green. The Rules say that you must use the ball that you play from the tee throughout the entire hole, unless it becomes lost, is hit out of bounds or you substitute another ball under a Rule. There is no Rule that allows you to substitute a ball so that you don’t lose a brand new ball in the water, or to substitute a new ball on the putting green just because you believe it will putt better. You can do it, but it will cost you a two stroke penalty. So, if you have substituted a new ball on the putting green, and someone lets you know you are not allowed to do that, as long as you haven’t hit it, you may lift it and replace the original ball back in the correct spot without penalty. The player who lifted his ball in play in the fairway and replaced it with a “water ball” is not quite so lucky. As long as he hasn’t hit the “water ball,” under the Eraser Rule he can replace the original ball and avoid that penalty. However, he will still receive a one stroke penalty for lifting his ball in play when he had no right to do so.

If you drop a ball when you should have placed it, or placed a ball when you should have dropped it, under this handy little Rule, you may lift the ball and correct your error without a penalty. If you mistakenly drop a ball a third time, instead of placing it on the spot where it hit the ground on the second drop, you can “erase” that under this Rule also.

You won’t find this helpful Rule in the Rules of Golf listed as the Great Eraser Rule. It’s just hiding out unobtrusively under Rule 20, Clause 6. This is one of those little gems that good golfers should know to help them get out of trouble. Not all the Rules of Golf are bad!

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Jeanne Myers, Assistant Director – Rules & Competitions
Golf Association of Michigan

Provisional Ball

I suspect every golfer who has ever played the game, at one time in his golfing life, has proceeded incorrectly when he cannot find his ball. We all know the correct procedure and the penalty for a lost ball. The player must take a stroke penalty and return to the spot from which he last hit a shot and hit again. We call it “stroke and distance.”

You know all the excuses – “I’ll just drop here and add a stroke to save time” – or “somebody coming down the other fairway must have picked it up” – or “I don’t want to walk all the way back there.”

If there has been virtual certainty that the ball has been moved by an outside agency, the player is entitled to drop on the spot from which it was moved. However, in the absence of that virtual certainty, the player is required to take the stroke and distance penalty. If he drops and plays from the spot from which he “thinks” his ball was moved by an outside agency (without virtual certainty), he has played from a wrong place. In match play, he just lost the hole. In stroke play, the player must add one stroke penalty for the lost ball, two strokes for playing from a wrong place, and he must go back to where he hit his last shot and correct his mistake or be disqualified.

That is the most severe penalty in golf and this is probably the most abused Rule in golf!  If all players would just play a provisional ball when they think their ball might be lost, this kind of situation can be avoided. But don’t forget to announce that you are playing a provisional, because if you do not announce it, then the ball you play is not a provisional, but is the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance. “I’m going to re-load” or “That might be out of here,” or “That’s in the next zip code” do not constitute announcing! A player really has only two options in announcing. Since I have never heard a player say, “I am proceeding under Rule 27-2a,” which is the first option, I believe we are all stuck with actually saying the word “provisional.”

A player may play any number of shots with the provisional, until he reaches the place where the provisional ball is LIKELY TO BE. If he plays a shot with the provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a place nearer the hole than that place, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play, and the original ball is lost. If the provisional ball thus becomes the ball in play, and then the original ball is found, any further shot played with the original constitutes playing a wrong ball.

After playing a provisional, if you then find your original ball, and it is in bounds, you must abandon your provisional – you don’t get to choose. Even if the original ball is in a water hazard or unplayable (situations which include stroke and distance as one of the options), you must abandon the provisional. If you then select stroke and distance as an option for the ball that is in the water or unplayable, you must take the stroke penalty and go back to the place from which you hit your last shot. The provisional ball must be picked up.

Always remember though, that if you play a stellar provisional, you are under no obligation to look for your original ball. Holing out a provisional on a par-3, for a 3, will probably make the best of us blind when looking for the original or even keep us from wandering in the original’s direction at all!

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Jeanne Myers, Assistant Director – Rules & Competitions
Golf Association of Michigan

Equity Decisions – You Are Entitled To the Lie Your Stroke Gave You!

You have played a pretty good shot to the green, and the ball has come to rest on the fringe or collar. A fellow-competitor then blasts out of a greenside bunker depositing sand all over and around your ball. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? The USGA agrees with you, and has adopted many Decisions they call Equity Decisions to take care of situations such as this. There is a principle in the Rules of Golf that says that a player is entitled to the lie his shot gave him. That principle comes into play here, and in the instance described above, the player is allowed to remove all the sand around his ball, even the sand on the fringe, and he can lift and clean his ball even though he is not on the green.

The same is true, in some circumstances, if another player’s pitch-mark through the green interferes with your lie or line of play. Normally, you may not improve your line of play by eliminating “irregularities of surface” or “pressing down cut turf”. Therefore, if the pitch-mark is there when your ball comes to rest near it, you will not get relief. But, if the pitch-mark is created after your ball came to rest, in equity, you will be allowed to repair it.

Your ball lies in a bunker. You take a practice swing outside the bunker, and by mistake, tear out a large divot which lands behind your ball in the bunker. That divot is a loose impediment, and you are not allowed to remove it without penalty. However, if another player does the same thing to you, you are allowed to remove the divot under the principle that “the player is entitled to the lie his stroke gave him.” The same would be true if your ball lies in a water hazard.

Suppose a branch falls from a tree and comes to rest on your ball lying in a bunker. You might assume that under this generous principle you are entitled to remove it. Not so. The principle applies only in cases in which the lie of the ball has been altered as a result of an act by another player, caddie, spectator or other animate outside agency. In this case, the lie was altered by natural causes and you are not entitled to relief.

The principle may also be applied when a player’s area of intended stance is affected by another player’s stroke. For example, if another player removes a huge divot when playing his ball, and that divot hole now affects your stance, in equity, you may restore that area as nearly as possible without penalty. The equity ruling even goes so far as to say that if the area of the stance can’t be restored, you may place your ball, without penalty, on the nearest spot within one club-length of the original lie that provides the most similar lie and stance to the original. This new spot may not be nearer the hole or in a bunker.

This equity principle also applies if your lie or line of play gets improved instead of damaged. For example, your ball lies in a bunker, and before you can reach the bunker, a greenkeeping staff member rakes the bunker improving your lie or line of play. As long as you have not sanctioned the raking, you are absolved of penalty.

The general rule of thumb is that if another person creates the situation, you are absolved of blame and can get relief. However, if you create the situation yourself, or it happens through natural causes, you are just out of luck!

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Jeanne Myers, Assistant Director-Rules & Competitions
Golf Association of Michigan

Marking and Lifting a Ball

Marking a golf ball seems to be a simple thing, but most of us haven’t spent much time reading the Rules dealing with marking. For example, most golfers believe that they have to mark the ball on a cart path before they lift it to take relief, but that is not the case. Rule 20-1 says you only need to mark a ball before lifting it if you are going to have to put it back (replace it). That would be the case on the putting green, or if someone asks you to lift your ball because it interferes with his shot. But when you are taking relief from a cart part, you are not going to have to replace the ball on the path – you are going to drop it somewhere else. Therefore, you do not have to mark it. You can, but it is not necessary. This is also true if you are taking relief from any other immovable obstruction, or abnormal ground conditions such as casual water, ground under repair, or a hole made by a burrowing animal

A ball may be lifted by the player, his partner, or another person authorized by the player (such as the player’s caddie.) Just as a side note here, it may be replaced by the player, his partner, or the person who lifted it. So you can see that if a caddie lifts the ball, the player may replace it. But if the player lifts the ball, the caddie may not replace it. In stroke play, if your ball is lifted by a fellow-competitor without your authority, there is still no penalty, and the ball gets replaced. However, in match play, if your opponent lifts your ball without your authority, he gets a one stroke penalty.

When marking a ball on the green, the marker may be placed behind, to the side of or in front of the ball as long as nothing is done (i.e. pressing down a tuft of grass) to influence the movement of the ball when played. There are a lot of ways to mark a ball, many of them not recommended, but they are permissible. You may place the toe of a club at the side of or behind a ball. You may use a tee or a handy loose impediment (make sure it won’t blow away). You may not just point out a blemish near your ball and use that as a mark – you must physically mark the position of the ball.

Is there a “correct” way to move a ball-marker to the side because it interferes with someone else’s putt? You may measure from the side of the ball or from the ball-marker, as long as you reverse the exact same process to get the ball back on the spot from which it was lifted.

What happens if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in this marking/lifting process? There is no penalty provided the movement of the ball or marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking/lifting. That means if you nudge the ball forward as you are marking, you do not have a problem. But, if you are walking up to mark your ball and drop your putter on the ball, that will be a penalty of one stroke, and the ball must be replaced.

One point to remember: once you mark and lift your ball from the putting green it is no longer the “ball in play” – it has become part of your equipment. Once you replace it on the spot from which you lifted it, it is again the ball in play – even if you leave your marker in place. Therefore, if the wind blows it somewhere else, you must play it from its new location!

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Jeanne Myers, Assistant Director-Rules & Competitions
Golf Association of Michigan

Why You Must Know the Definitions in the Rules of Golf

Jeanne Myers is Assistant Tournament Director, Golf Association of Michigan.

In order to apply the Rules of Golf, or even to find the answer to a Rules problem in the Rules of Golf, you have to know the definitions. There are only fifty-one of them, but there is a huge amount of information in them.

More than one golfer has given himself a stroke penalty for causing his ball to oscillate. The Rules savvy golfer, however, knows that oscillating, according to the USGA, is not moving. For a ball to have “moved” it has to leave its position and come to rest in another spot. So, even if you accidentally nudge a ball forward, as long as it returns to its original position, you are safe from penalty – because it hasn’t come to rest in another spot.

Under the definition of “equipment” you will find that when you are sharing a golf cart, when your ball is involved, that cart and everything in it belongs to you – unless the cart is being driven by the other person. And, that “everything in it” includes the other person when the cart is stationary. Therefore, assume another player in your group who is sharing a cart with you, drives the cart and parks it near the green and stays in the cart. You then proceed to play, and your shot hits the person sitting in the stationary cart. You have hit your equipment and will get a one stroke penalty. Hopefully, he will only get a sore arm.

A “stroke” is the forward movement of the club with the intention of hitting the ball. So, if you check your downswing voluntarily or alter your swing path so that you intentionally miss the ball, you have not made a stroke. But, don’t use this to try to disguise a “whiff.” We all know what a “whiff” looks like.

“Through the green” is the whole area of the golf course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole you are playing and all hazards. Therefore, through the green includes fairways and rough. When you look up relief options, you will need to know that term.

A “rub of the green” is not bad luck. It is when your ball in motion is accidentally stopped or deflected by any outside agency. Therefore, it is a rub of the green if your shot is deflected out of bounds by a piece of mowing equipment, but it is also a rub of the green if it is deflected into the hole by that equipment.

There are no sand traps or pins on golf courses, so you’ll have trouble looking up a Rule involving either. Instead, there are “bunkers” and “flagsticks,” and you will have no problem finding the proper entries in the Index to the Rules of Golf to find the answer you need using those terms.

An “obstruction” is anything artificial except 1) objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences and stakes, 2) immovable artificial objects located out of bounds, and 3) integral parts of the course. If you know this definition, you will know that if retaining walls in a water hazard have been declared to be integral parts of the course, you will not get free relief from them even if your ball lies outside the hazard.

A “provisional ball” is one played for an original ball that may be out of bounds or may be lost outside of a water hazard.

The rest of those definitions are up to you!

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