Rule Tip of the Week: Incidentally (By the Way)

The Dick McGuire Invitational Tournament is an annual collegiate women’s team event held at the University of New Mexico’s Championship Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 2017 edition featured six of the top 25 NCAA Division I teams, including the Oklahoma State Cowgirls who successfully defended their title, winning by just two strokes over the Northwestern Wildcats.


During this 54-hole tournament, Rules Officials used “Incident Reports” to record their interactions with the players and coaches. While the occasional viewer of televised golf events might erroneously conclude that the sole job of Rules Officials is to penalize players, the more than 70 incident reports from the 2017 Dick McGuire Invitational clearly demonstrate that Rules Officials are there to be of assistance. The following summary of interactions illustrates the many different ways that Rules Officials assisted players and their coaches during this event:


  • The “teeth” of the UNM Championship Course are the thick rough and the native areas beyond the rough where balls seem to disappear with regularity. On at least 40 occasions, Rules Officials assisted players in searching for their balls. In virtually all cases, Rules Officials helped finding the wayward spheres within the 5-minute search period prescribed by Rule 27-1c [Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes]. On three lost ball occasions, when the players had not played a provisional ball, the Rules Officials transported the players back to the teeing ground to help with pace of play.


  • One Rules Official retrieved a club that had been left behind by a player on a previous hole.


  • On seven occasions, players needed assistance in determining where their ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard. Several of those players then asked the Rules Official to review their relief options before deciding how to proceed. One player, not wishing to incur a penalty stroke, decided to play her ball as it lay within the lateral hazard, but it struck a tree within the hazard and remained in the hazard. The Rules Official advised the player that relief from the lateral water hazard was still available with the reference point being the point where her ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (see Rule 26-2a [Ball Played within Water Hazard; Ball Comes to Rest in Same or Another Water Hazard]. The player, still not wanting to incur a penalty stroke, successfully played her ball out of the hazard with her next stroke.


  • Eight players, whose balls had come to rest in unplayable lies, asked for a Rules Official to review the relief options available under Rule 28 [Ball Unplayable].


  • One player sought help from a Rules Official on how to take relief for her ball embedded on a slope near a green, given that a Local Rule had been adopted to allow relief for an embedded ball through the green. The Rules Official cautioned the player not to repair the pitch-mark, and then assisted the player with the drop, re-drop and then place procedures dictated by Rule 20-2c [Dropping and Re-Dropping]


  • One coach was uncertain whether her player could remove stones near her ball lying in a native area. A Rules Official informed the coach that the player could remove the stones provided she did not cause her ball to move. See Rule 23-1 [Loose Impediments – Relief].


  • One player sought assistance from a Rules Official in determining the nearest point of relief from a sprinkler head per Rule 24-2 [Immovable Obstruction].


  • Just before starting the 1st round, a player discovered that the head of one of her clubs was loose. A Rules Official confirmed that the player could commence her round; meanwhile her coach could take the club and have it repaired at the clubhouse per Rule 4-3 [Damaged Clubs: Repair and Replacement]. Another coach was advised that one of her players could have her 7-iron replaced because it was damaged in the normal course of play, i.e., the shaft broke when it struck a tree in the follow-through of a stroke, per Rule 4-3.


  • On one occasion, a Rules Official served as a marshal to temporarily suspend play of a group waiting to play from a teeing ground in order to protect a player who had played an errant shot into the adjacent fairway.


  • A Rule 3-3 [Doubt as to Procedure] discussion was conducted to allow a player to report the facts and to determine which score would count after she had played a second ball. She explained that her original ball had come to rest on an unmarked pile of turf plugs adjacent to a fairway. She told one of her fellow-competitors prior to taking further action that she wished to take relief from the condition and wanted that ball to count if relief was permitted. She proceeded correctly in taking relief and scored 5 with the second ball, but scored 4 with the original ball as it lay on the pile. Rules Officials confirmed that the turf plugs were piled for removal and thus were ground under repair, so she scored 5 for the hole. It is interesting to note that the player would have scored 4 on the hole if she had failed to announce which ball she wished to count before taking further action!


September 2017 Rules