Following the opening round of the 2016 Evian Championship in September, Danish golfer Nanna Koerstz Madsen incurred a costly four-stroke penalty which showed that it certainly pays to know the Rules.
The incident involved Koerstz Madsen brushing sand from her line of play when her ball lay on the fringe of the 18th green. As the sand was also off the green, the player had breached Rule 13-2 and should have added a penalty of two strokes to her score for the 18th hole. However, as she was not aware that her actions were not permitted, Koerstz Madsen omitted the penalty and signed for a par 4 and a level par round of 71.
Had the sand been on the green when she swept it away, there would have been no issue, however, as the sand was not on the putting surface it could not be removed from the line of play. The reason for this is that the Definition of “Loose Impediment” states that sand and loose soil are only considered to be loose impediments when on the putting green. This means that, although players are permitted to remove other loose impediments such as leaves, stones and grass cuttings from around their ball when the ball lies through the green, they are only allowed to brush away sand or loose soil that lies on the putting green.
Unfortunately for Koerstz Madsen, her error was brought to the attention of a Rules official only after she had signed and submitted her card and it was therefore too late to amend her score for the 18th hole. Having confirmed to officials that she had indeed moved the sand lying off the green from her line of play and that she did not know that this was a breach of the Rules, this meant that, not only would she incur two penalty strokes under Rule 13-2 for improving the line of play, but she would also incur an additional two-stroke penalty for signing for the wrong score for a hole under the Exception to Rule 6-6d.
The Exception to Rule 6-6d was introduced in 2016 to provide that a player is not disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken if it is as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred before returning the score card. Instead, the player incurs the penalty under the Rule that was breached and must add an additional penalty of two strokes to the relevant hole for their score card error.
While the new Exception provides some leeway for players who are not aware that they have breached a Rule, it retains the importance of knowing the Rules by penalising the player the additional two strokes for the error.
It is worth noting that the Exception to Rule 6-6d does not apply if a player has signed for a wrong score for any other reason. For example, if a player fails to notice that their marker has mistakenly put down a four on a hole when, in fact, the player had taken five strokes, the player would still be disqualified for signing for a score lower than that which was actually taken. The new Exception applies only to situations where the player has failed to include an unknown penalty.
Although the Exception to Rule 6-6d meant that Koerstz Madsen was able to continue playing in the Championship, the penalty was costly as she went on to miss the cut by four strokes.