Local Rules

by Kevin Barker, Assistant Director - Rules

Richmond, circa 1940.Rule 33-8a states that “The Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I.”

Appendix I to the Rules of Golf lists specific matters for which Local Rules may be advisable, and it also provides specimen wordings, e.g. protection of young trees, preferred lies, stones in bunkers, etc. Committees are advised to use the specimen Local Rules rather than adopt different language. At all times, it is the duty of Committees to interpret their own Local Rules and, if a doubt arises about the applicability or interpretation of a Local Rule, it is the responsibility of the Committee to give a decision. The R&A does not interpret Local Rules other than those covered by Appendix I in the Rules of Golf.

Rule 33-8b goes on to say, “A Rule of Golf must not be waived by a Local Rule. However, if the Committee considers that local abnormal conditions interfere with the proper playing of the game to the extent that it is necessary to make a Local Rule that modifies the Rules of Golf, the Local Rule must be authorised by The R&A.”

Often Local Rules are introduced to clarify the course marking, clarifying the boundaries of the course or ground under repair, for example, but Rule 33-8b allows Committees to provide relief from local abnormal conditions that are not covered by the Rules themselves, provided the correct authority is gained from The R&A.

For example, it may be appropriate to provide relief from outcrops of rock in the fairway or semi-rough; a Committee may wish to give relief from animal dung that is prevalent on a course; or there might be a desire to cater for artificial tee-mats in the winter. There are many situations that may be unique to an area or course that interfere with the proper playing of the game and need to be addressed via the Local Rules. The R&A is happy to offer advice in this area.

An interesting example of Local Rules are those written for play in 1940 at the Richmond Golf Club, London, England. Written during the Second World War, it is worth noting that, aside from admiring the fact that golf continued to be played on a bomb damaged course, the entirely logical application of the Rules to the abnormal situations faced at that time.

Local Rule 2 is a simple granting of an additional permission to discontinue play, and today would be covered under Rule 6-8a(iv) by the term “some other good reason” for discontinuance.

In the Decisions book we have Decision 1-4/10, which provides relief in equity from a dangerous situation, such as a snake. Local rule 3 is presumably something along these lines, with the player being allowed some form of relief if his ball was in an area affected by a delayed-action bomb.

Shrapnel and bomb splinters would, under today’s Rules, being covered by Rule 24-1; dealing with movable obstructions. And local rule 4 is almost identical in its treatment of these items, i.e. the artificial objects can be moved and there is no penalty, if the ball moves as a result.

Local Rule 5 dealing with a ball moved by enemy action is a straightforward case of a ball at rest moved by an outside agency, today covered by Rule 18-1.

In the 2008-2011 Rules we have “holes made by greenkeepers”, which are automatically ground under repair. At Richmond they were dealing with craters made by bombs, but Local Rule 6 is, effectively, treating these holes as ground under repair, and providing relief a form of relief similar to that which Rule 25-1 would do now.

There is a bit of a sting in the tail with the final Local Rule. While permission is granted to replay a stroke affected by simultaneous bomb explosion, it does seem a bit harsh that this come at the cost of a one-stroke penalty! However, one can imagine that the one-stroke penalty was included to avoid spurious claims of distraction. Decision 1-4/1 in the current Decisions book, rather than allowing replay of a stroke under penalty, simply states that “distractions are a common occurrence which players must accept”.

Local Rule Essentials:

·         Local Rules should be introduced to deal with local abnormal conditions only. They should not be a re-statement of the Rules of Golf.

·         A Local Rule must not waive a Rule of Golf, unless authorisation for the modification of the Rule has been given by The R&A.

·         Always check the Local Rules before you play on your Club’s notice board and on the back of the score card.