Inclement Weather and Suspensions of Play
A Committee must be prepared for inclement weather and players and those involved in running the competition must be able to recognise the signal that means that the Committee has suspended play. The situation where players do not know whether play has been suspended or not, or some players know and others don’t, must be avoided.
A competition need not be suspended simply on account of rain, unless the rain is so heavy that it would be unfair to require players to continue. Generally, play should not be suspended unless the course has become unplayable, for example, balls are moving frequently on the putting greens due to wind or holes are surrounded by casual water. In any event, if rain is of sufficient intensity to present an unfair condition, normally it would take little time for casual water to accumulate around the hole on at least one putting green. When that occurs, the Committee would be remiss if it did not consider the course unplayable and suspend play. If rain is not of sufficient intensity to present an unfair situation, but heavy enough to cause casual water around a hole, in match play the Committee may relocate the hole if a suitable area not under water can be found, and then resume play. However, in stroke play it is not permissible to relocate a hole unless it is severely damaged – see the Exception under Rule 33-2b. Accordingly, play cannot be resumed until the casual water problem is resolved.
Squeegees are invaluable when puddles start to form on putting greens. After heavy rain, casual water can remain on some greens for a considerable period of time if nothing is done to remove it. However, an organised squeegee crew can usually remove the casual water in a few minutes. Therefore, the Committee should ensure that a supply of squeegees is available and that the Head Greenkeeper has a team ready to put them to use.
If the Committee decides that water is collecting on the greens to the extent that it wishes to deploy squeegee operators, the following policy should be adopted when the ball is on the putting green:
“If a player’s ball lies on the putting green and there is interference by casual water on the putting green, the player may:
(a) take relief under Rule 25-1b(iii); or
(b) have his line to the hole squeegeed.
Note: Such squeegeeing should be done across the line of putt and must extend a reasonable distance beyond the hole (i.e. at least one roller length).”
If conditions deteriorate to the extent that the smooth running of the event is at risk, the Committee may authorise a combination of moving the ball under Rule 25-1b(iii) together with squeegeeing across the line. In addition, while a player is not entitled to relief under Rule 25-1 for casual water on his line of play when his ball lies off the putting green, in exceptional circumstances, if casual water on the putting green on the player’s line of play materially affects his intended stroke, the Committee may authorise its clearance. It should be noted that the Committee may enlist the help of players and their caddies in any squeegee operation (see Decision 33/1).
However, putting greens are not the only source of potential problems when the course is subject to heavy rains. As with hole locations, in stroke play, tee-markers may not be moved during a round and, therefore, careful attention should be paid to the teeing grounds. As the grass on teeing grounds is generally longer than on putting greens, it is often better to use towels to absorb the water as opposed to squeegees.
Although a Committee should not suspend play unless absolutely necessary, it is the responsibility of the Committee to do everything possible to protect players from bad weather and lightning and, therefore, no chances should be taken in this respect. There are a number of lightning detection devices available on the market, in addition to computer software packages that predict and forecast lightning.
Although Rule 6-8b governs when play is suspended by the Committee, there is a Note to this Rule that states:
“The Committee may provide in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), that in potentially dangerous situations, play must be discontinued immediately following a suspension of play by the Committee. If a player fails to discontinue play immediately, he is disqualified unless circumstances warrant waiving the penalty as provided in Rule 33-7.”
If the Committee introduces the condition for potentially dangerous situations, it overrides the provisions of Rule 6-8b in terms of discontinuance of play. This condition is in effect at all R&A Championships (see Appendix I, Part B in the Rules of Golf; page 144).
If the Committee has been advised that lightning is approaching, it should suspend play before the storm is predicted to arrive to give players a chance to seek shelter and/or return to the clubhouse. To assist players in these circumstances it is advisable to organise an evacuation procedure. This may involve sending transport to various positions on the course in advance of the inclement weather to transport players to the clubhouse if and when play is. It is also important that the Committee advise spectators if lightning is approaching. This can be carried out by putting weather warnings on scoreboards and the like (see Appendix H for sample evacuation plan and Lightning Safety Tips).
It is important to note that, while the Committee has the right to cancel a round in a stroke play competition, it may not do so in match play. If the players in a match have completed, for example, six holes, they must resume play at the 7th tee. The match is not replayed in its entirety.
In stroke play, the Committee has the option of suspending play and resuming from where play was discontinued or cancelling the round and replaying it entirely. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to when a Committee should suspend play and when it should cancel the round in stroke play. However, generally a round should be cancelled only in a case where it would be grossly unfair not to cancel it. For example, if some competitors begin a round under extremely adverse weather conditions, conditions subsequently worsen and further play that day is impossible, it would be unfair to the competitors who started not to cancel the round (see Decision 33-2d/1).
When the course becomes unplayable and play is discontinued, the Committee should keep open as many options as possible to maximise the chances of completing the competition on schedule.
For example, consider these facts:
- The field for the first two rounds of a 72-hole stroke play competition is 156, with the field being cut to 60 competitors for the last two rounds.
- Due to the size of the field, the first two rounds are normally not completed until shortly before dark.
- In the second round, a thunderstorm occurs in the middle of the day, rendering the course unplayable.
- The delay because of the storm makes it impossible to complete the second round on schedule.
- If the storm were to pass over quickly, it might be possible with the aid of squeegees and pumps to get the course playable and resume play for a couple of hours.
- If play could be resumed for a couple of hours, it would be possible to finish the second round the next morning, quickly make the draw for the third round and finish the third round on schedule.
In these circumstances, it would be inadvisable for the Committee to suspend play for the day as soon as the storm rendered the course unplayable. In doing so, the Committee would be foreclosing an option, which if retained, might result in being able to finish the competition on schedule.
Generally, when more than half of the field have completed their rounds, it would be unusual to cancel the round if the opportunity is available to suspend play and continue the following day. However, it is appreciated that an 18 hole competition to be held over one day would not have this luxury of resuming play on a subsequent day. Where it is feasible to reschedule the competition, the Committee should endeavour to do so. However, the Committee does not have the authority under the Rules to reduce the number of holes of a stipulated round once play has commenced on that round (e.g. from 18 to 9 holes). Consequently, if it is not feasible to reschedule the competition, the competition must be cancelled.
It is not uncommon for problems to emerge in team matches where, because of bad weather, it is not possible to complete the matches in the format intended and, for whatever reason, there is insufficient extension time available to complete the matches. For guidelines as to procedure in these situations, see Appendix I.