On Tour with the Rules of Golf

Disqualification for Wearing Metal Spikes

It always pays to read the Local Rules and conditions of competition, as two-time US Open Champion Lee Janzen discovered when he was disqualified from US Open qualifying for wearing metal spikes. The conditions of competition stated that “Steel spikes are not permitted for the qualifying rounds or for practice rounds…Penalty for breach of the condition: Disqualification.”

Decision 33-1/14 allows a Committee to prohibit the use of shoes with metal or traditionally designed spikes and many Committees do so in order to prevent excessive damage and spike marks on putting greens.

Lee Janzen Conditions Spikes

Use of a Putting Aid

Jeff Overton was disqualified at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club for using a putting aid during the 3rd round.

There was a wait on the 10th tee so Overton went to practise his putting at a nearby practice putting green.

Rule 7-2 states that, “Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practise putting or chipping on or near:

a. the putting green of the hole last played,

b. any practice putting green, or

c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round,

provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7).” Overton, therefore, was permitted to practice his putting under Rule 7-2b.

However, Overton used an alignment stick when practising and the use of such unusual equipment during a round is prohibited under Rule 14-3, and the penalty is disqualification. See also Decision 14-3/10.3.

Lifting Ball for Identification

Tianlang Guan, the 14 year old Chinese player who made the cut at the Masters, was penalised onestroke at the St Jude Classic for failing to follow the correct procedure when identifying his ball in a bunker (Rule 12-2). 

Rule 12-2 permits a player to lift his ball, without penalty, in order to identify it; however, the player must follow a certain procedure. Part of that procedure requires the player to announce his intention to lift his ball for identification to his marker or fellow-competitor in stroke play (or his opponent in match play). He must also give his marker or fellowcompetitor an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement.

Unfortunately Guan failed to consult with the other players in his group when lifting his ball to identify it and was penalised as a result.


Merion’s Wicker Basket Flagsticks

One of the unique features at Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 US Open, is the red and orange wicker baskets that they use atop the flagsticks.

The "flagstick" is defined in the Rules of Golf as “a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached, centred in the hole to show its position. It must be circular in cross-section. Padding or shock absorbent material that might unduly influence the movement of the ball is prohibited.”

The definition talks of “bunting [i.e. a flag] or other material attached” and it is hard to see how a wicker basket meets that requirement. However, such baskets are allowed under the Rules as they are long-standing and traditional in usage. Although they are rare today, the wicker baskets have been in use at Merion since 1912 and were employed at other venues some time before that.

During the 1st round, Lee Westwood’s ball struck the wicker basket on top of the pin at the 12th hole; in terms of the Rules, his ball had been deflected by an outside agency. This is a rub of the green and he was required to play his ball as it lay – unfortunately his ball had ricocheted 50 yards back down the fairway.

Merion Basket

A Dangerous Situation

During the 3rd round of the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson’s ball came to rest in tall grass above a greenside bunker on the fourth hole. His stance would have been in the bunker with the ball so far above his feet that he decided to play the shot left-handed. However, there was a small bees’ nest near where he would have to stand for his left-handed stroke.

Decision 1-4/10 covers a player who is faced with a dangerous situation such as a bees’ nest or snake. Johnson was allowed to find the nearest point through the green that was safe and not nearer the hole and he was then permitted to drop his ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole.

Once the ball was dropped, Johnston was not required to play the stroke left-handed; he played right-handed and finished the hole with a par 5.

It is worth noting that a player may not use an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play just to take advantage of this Rule; the stroke must be reasonable for the situation. In Johnson’s case, the original left-handed stroke was reasonable because a right-handed stroke would not have been possible with the ball so far above his feet.