The R&A - Working for Golf

Rulings from The Open

During The 147th Open at Carnoustie, an international team of referees from 30 different organisations handled nearly 400 rulings.  This was an average of over two rulings per group per round.

The most common ruling was relief from either movable or immovable obstructions (Rules 24-1 and 24-2), such as roads, sprinkler heads and television cables, which occurred 70 times through the week.  Due to the large infrastructure required to stage a Major Championship, there were also many grandstands, TV towers, food outlets and drinks tents located around the course.  Despite these structures being located as far away as possible from the fairways, 48 rulings were needed to give relief from these under the Local Rule for temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs). As these structures are not part of the normal challenge of the course, this special TIO Local Rule also allows the players line of sight relief.

Next on the popular rulings list were relief from water hazards and players asking if their ball was on or off the putting green. It was particularly difficult to tell where the edge of the 8th green was in parts and to assist with this, small blue paint dots were added to the edge of the putting green to highlight the definition.

The following is a selection of other rulings that occurred during the Championship:

Thursday 19 July 2018 – Round 1

With the fairways playing hard and fast on the opening day at Carnoustie, the putting green was the place for players to secure birdies and avoid any potential slip-up’s.

In marking his ball on the 4th putting green, Argentine, Emiliano Grillo tapped down his ball-marker with the sole of his putter but, in doing so, the ball-marker stuck to the bottom of the putter causing it to move from its original position.

Such a situation is specifically covered by Rule 20-1 which states (in part) that if a ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of marking its position, there is no penalty providing the movement of the ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of the ball.  Decision 20-1/6 then clarifies that the act of tapping down the marker with the putter is considered to be part of the act of replacing the ball. Therefore, the ball-marker was simply replaced on its original position without penalty.

In fact, as the Local Rule for a ball accidentally moved on a putting green is in effect at The Open, the result would have been the same even if the movement of the ball marker was not directly attributable to the act of marking its position, for example if the player had dropped his ball on his marker.

Under this Local Rule, when a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment. The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.

If the spot where the ball or the ball-marker lay is not known, the ball must be placed as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole (Rule 20-3c).

Friday 22 July 2018 – Round 2

One of the more unusual rulings on the first two days came on the 13th hole of the second round when the ball of England's Matt Wallace came to rest just off the edge of the green.

When Padraig Harrington then played his ball out of the bunker his shot caused sand to be deposited around Wallace’s ball. Normally, sand and loose soil lying off the putting green cannot be removed as it is only considered to be a loose impediment when lying on the putting green.

However, as a player is entitled to the lie and line of play that he had when his ball came to rest, the referee clarified to Wallace that he was allowed to remove the sand deposited by Harrington’s bunker shot. Had he wanted, Wallace would also have been allowed to mark, lift and clean the sand from his ball. This is as clarified by Decision 13-2/8.5.

Matt Wallace made par on the 13th hole and completed his debut at The Open with a +4 total, to miss the cut by just one stroke.

Saturday 21 July 2018 – Round 3

Although the demanding reputation of Carnoustie tends to be most closely associated with the nerve testing final stretch entwined with the Barry Burn, the traditional links also offers up some lesser known quirks throughout the round. One prime example of this is the combined 4th and 14th greens at Carnoustie, a double green on the course measuring nearly 80 yards long.

When playing the 4th hole during the 3rd round, Thomas Pieters found himself on the back portion of the green a considerable distance away from the 4th pin.  As it is a double green, he was not considered to be on a wrong putting green and was not entitled to relief. It is worth noting that the Committee could define the green into two separate greens if they wanted by using paint dots, stakes or some other method (see Decision 25-3/1), however, the large double green at Carnoustie is one of the features of the course and so is treated as one green.

Being that he was so far from the hole, Pieters decided that he wanted to chip the ball rather than putt and asked the referee if he would be allowed to use a club other than a putter.  There is nothing in the Rules of Golf that requires a player to use a putter on the green, and as he was ‘fairly striking at the ball with the head of a club’ (Rule 14-1a), the referee confirmed that the player was permitted to use an iron to chip the ball. The player was also made aware that although he was chipping the ball, he would still need to have the flagstick attended to avoid any potential penalty should he hole out, as the rules simply state that ‘the player’s ball must not strike the flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green (Rule 17-3).

With a level of precision that would be the envy of most golfers, Pieters was able to play the shot skilfully without damaging the putting green and, while there would have been no penalty if he had damaged the green, he would certainly not have been a popular person with the green-staff had he done so.