This edition of “Odds & Ends” features several interesting Rules situations that occurred within the past few weeks. Each of these situations underscores the importance of knowing the Rules so that you can avoid unnecessary penalties and occasionally obtain relief from unpleasant lies.
- In the semi-final match of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas, Garrick Higgo of South Africa accepted a cart ride from a well-meaning volunteer in order to expedite taking a bathroom break. Unfortunately, for Higgo, the Transportation Condition was in effect for this competition. This condition of competition, as set forth in Appendix 1, Part B of the Rules, reads as follows: “Players must not ride on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized by the Committee.” It is worth pointing out that the penalty in match play for a breach of the Transportation Condition is not a loss of hole, but rather an adjustment to the state of the match at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered. In Higgo’s situation, the breach occurred between holes, so the breach was deemed to have been discovered during play of the next hole.
In stroke play, a breach of the Transportation Condition results in a two-stroke penalty for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred). Back in May at the NCAA Women’s Championship at Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago, both Sarah Cho of Northwestern and Kelly Nielsen of Kent State received a two-stroke penalty for accepting a ride on a cart in order to expedite taking a bathroom break.
- During the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Jon Rahm moved a vine growing near his ball while playing the 17th hole. Rahm had assumed that the vine was a loose impediment because it appeared to be dead. However, the vine was still attached and, therefore, it was not a loose impediment. See the Definition of “Loose Impediments” which states, in part, “Loose impediments” are natural objects … provided they are not: fixed or growing ….”
Due to the fact that Rahm had moved the vine near his ball, the attending Rules Official temporarily assessed Rahm a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-2 [Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play]. However, in scoring, Rahm explained to the satisfaction of the Committee that the vine was not interfering with the lie of his ball, nor his stance, nor the area of his intended swing. Therefore, the two-stroke penalty was rescinded.
- Per Rule 2-4 [Concession of Match, Hole or Next Stroke], “A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.” Likewise, a concession may not be assumed! Unfortunately for Elizabeth Moon, she did just that during the 19th hole in her U.S. Girl’s Junior semi-final match with Erica Shepherd at the Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Missouri. Moon had a 4-foot birdie putt to win the match. However, when she missed that putt, she assumed that Shepherd would concede her the tap in to halve the hole. Unfortunately, Moon quickly dragged her ball back before Shepherd had a chance to concede that putt! In doing so, Moon incurred a one-stroke penalty pursuant to Rule 18-2 [Ball at Rest Moved by Player …] and was required to replace her ball. Since Moon could no longer halve the hole with a par, Shepherd was declared the winner of the semi-final. Although Shepherd indicated that she would have conceded the next putt had she had the opportunity to do so, the attending referee for the match correctly advised the players that a concession cannot be made after the fact, e.g., after the opponent has moved her ball in play without marking its position.
- During the final round of the RBC Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, Charley Hoffman was facing a brutal “fried egg” lie in the greenside bunker at the 12th hole. When he started to work his feet into the sand in fairly taking his stance, he discovered that his right heel was touching a concrete liner hidden under the sand! The concrete liner, being an immovable obstruction under the Rules, afforded Hoffman the opportunity to avoid the awful lie. Per Rule 24-2.b(ii) [Immovable Obstruction], Hoffman determined the nearest point of relief in the bunker where there was no longer any interference to his stance. He was then able to drop his ball in the bunker within one club-length of, and not nearer the hole than, the nearest point of relief.