At The Open every game has a walking referee, which helps to deal with any rulings efficiently and correctly, assisting with the smooth running of the Championship; it also allows us to collate statistical data on the number of rulings encountered over the four days of play.
At Royal Troon, the international team of referees from 23 different countries handled 389 rules incidents in total. That’s an average of over two rulings per group per round.
With all that The Open encompasses from the crowds, infrastructure, and operational aspects and not to mention the elements, complicated situations can arise at any time. But it is the basics that occur again and again. A walking referee is there to assist the group with any rulings and therefore they must be vigilant at all times and concentrate on each situation presented to him.
One of the most commonly used Rules in golf is taking relief from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2). In total, 37 of these situations occurred during at The Open this year. Most of the time they were simple sprinkler heads but during Round 1, Colin Montgomerie had an interesting situation with a bridge on the 16th hole in which he was entitled to relief but chose not to take it. (Read more about this ruling here.)
Due to the large infrastructure in place to stage a Major Championship with 17,000 seats available for spectators in the grandstands, multiple TV towers, food outlets and drinks tents, the most popular ruling at The Open was relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO), which occurred 61 times in total. Other rulings relating to infrastructure included relief from television cables, which are considered to be movable obstructions (Rule 24-1), which occurred 20 times, relief from the metal fencing erected for crowd control, the Local Rule for which came into play 20 times.
One of the more quirky rulings of The Open happened during the third round when Gary Woodland came across a 10 pence coin lying close to his ball which he was permitted to move without penalty. (Read more about this ruling here.)
The runner-up in the Championship was also involved in some rulings. During the second round Mickelson touched the ball with his ball-marker, but as this was directly attributable to marking the ball there was no penalty and the ball was replaced. Zander Lombard also had an issue with his ball-marker when he found it stuck to the bottom of his putter. There was also no penalty and the ball replaced. (Read more about this ruling here.)
A selection of the other rulings that arose (frequency of cases in brackets):
- Query as to whether the ball was on the putting green, Rule 16 (16)
- Ball at rest moved (whether by player or wind), Rule 18-2 (11)
- Relief from spectator crossing points, Rule 25-1 (21)
- Lost ball, Rule 27-1 (20)
- Ball Out of Bounds, Rule 27-1 (21)
- Request for relief from abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1 (33)
You may not have to deal with any grandstands or television towers on your course but having knowledge of the commonplace Rules may help you save a stroke or two in your monthly medal. To try our Open quiz from Royal Troon click here. If you are interested in furthering your Rules knowledge try our online Rules Academy with Suzann Petterson or Padraig Harrington click here. We look forward to seeing you at Royal Birkdale for The 146th Open.