On Tour with the Rules of Golf

This month we take a look at some Rules incidents that have occurred on the professional Tours recently…

OakleyDuring the 2012 Senior Open Championship, played over the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, Pete Oakley incurred a two stroke penalty on the 12th hole for unduly delaying play.  His caddie – who also happened to be his wife Jennifer – went ahead with his clubs at the 12th hole in case his tee shot veered into the rough, with a view to help spotting it. 

Oakley played and found a bunker from the tee.  When he arrived at the bunker, his caddie was nowhere to be seen.  Mrs Oakley had got involved in a ball search in the rough on the adjacent 10th hole and it was only after a few minutes that she realised that the golfer searching alongside her was definitely not her husband! 

She realised her mistake and hurried back to find him but in her haste, mistook the 10th tee for the 12th tee.  By the time she found her player on the 12th hole, the delay was considerable and had prevented the group from progressing.  The referee determined that Oakley had unduly delayed play resulting in a two-shot penalty (Rule 6-7). 

While losing a caddie may be a rare occurrence, losing a golf ball is something most golfers are familiar with.  Many golfers play the same brand of ball and if you cannot identify your ball, it is considered lost (Rules 12-2 and 27-1).  Putting a clear identification mark on your ball can also help to avoid the situation that Stephen Gallacher found himself in at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. 

GallacherGallacher, having played his second shot from the fairway, discovered that the amateur playing in their group, Steve Halsall, was still looking for his ball.  After looking further, it transpired that Gallacher had in fact played Halsall's ball. 

Under Rule 15-3b, if a competitor makes a stroke at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes and must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules.

Gallacher returned to play his ball and holed out for a damaging quadruple-bogey eight to slip back to a finish for 6th place.  Gallacher said: “On 16 I hit my tee shot down the left and the mistake I made was not really watching where the amateur hit it. When I got down there was only one ball sitting and I was just happy it wasn't in the bunker.

“Then the amateur, who was standing about five yards left in the rough, said, ‘Have you seen my ball? I’ve got one here but it’s not mine’.  It turns out it was mine.

“We were both playing Titliest Ones, his marked with a red dot and mine a green. Unfortunately the way it was sitting I couldn't see the marking. From now on I think I’ll look a bit closer.”

CaseyStephen Gallacher was not the only player to require the assistance of a referee at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.  While putting for an eagle on the 12th green at Kingsbarns, Paul Casey watched a dog run onto the green, pick up his ball and run off with it.

"It's the weirdest thing I've ever had happen on a golf course," said Casey. "I noticed the dog on the 12th tee and he sort of followed us down the fairway before taking a real liking to my golf ball."

The dog (an outside agency) was stopped near the 13th tee and a spectator recovered Casey’s original ball.  With the help of the European Tour referee, the ball was inspected and Casey was allowed to continue with it as it was not unfit for play.  Casey replaced the ball, as per Rule 18-1, and eventually putted out for a birdie. 

Setting the pace with five closing birdies to shoot a course record 12-under 60 in the opening round over Kingsbarns, was the eventual winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, South African, Branden Grace.  While no player has recorded a 59 in the 40-year history of the European Tour, Grace is the 15th player to shoot 60.

GraceVictor Dubuisson also shot a course record 10-under 62 on the Old Course at nearby St Andrews, despite dropping a shot at the 16th hole.

While the term “course record” is not defined in the Rules of Golf, generally it is accepted that a record score should be recognised as the official “record” only if made in an individual stroke play competition (excluding par, bogey or Stableford formats) with the holes and tee-markers in their proper medal or championship positions (see Decision Misc./1).

Dubuisson's round was one stroke less than the previous low score on the Old Course of 63 set by three players, including Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during the 2010 Open Championship.