New Rules in Play
Since the introduction of the new Rules of Golf last month, members of The R&A’s Rules team have attended several professional and elite amateur events to assist golfers and referees with the application of the new Rules on the golf course. Here are some helpful examples of the new Rules in action:
South American Amateur Championship
The new Rules which allow golfers to play Ready Golf and putt with the flagstick in the hole proved to be popular with competitors at the South American Amateur. Maria Escauriza, who won the women’s event, also benefitted from a change to the Rules when her ball moved on the 9th green. As the ball moved after Escauriza had marked, lifted and replaced the ball, the referee confirmed to the player that she must replace the ball on the original spot without penalty (see the Exception to Rule 9.3).
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
One ruling involved Branden Grace who was playing from a sandy waste area. Grace was intending to chip out sideways towards the fairway, which was reasonable in the circumstances given the ball was behind a large rock between him and the green, and heading back to the tee under stroke and distance was not a desirable option.
Playing the sideways stroke meant that Grace had interference from an immovable irrigation hose, meaning that he was entitled to relief under Rule 16.1b. After taking relief from the hose, Grace was then able to change the direction of his stroke and play towards the green, permissible under the Rules.
SMBC Singapore Open
Relief for an embedded ball is available in the general area under the new Rules, regardless of the height of the cut of the grass, and this came into play during the Singapore Open when a player’s ball embedded in the ground just above a bunker.
Under the embedded ball Rule (16.3b), the player had to drop the ball into the identified one club-length relief area, but the ball rolled into the bunker when it was dropped, so the player had to try again.
When this happened a second time, the player had to place the ball on the spot where the ball that had been dropped for the second time had first touched the ground. When the ball would not stay at rest on that spot, he had to try to place the ball on that spot once more, but again it would not come to rest.
This meant the player had to find the nearest spot where the ball would come to rest in the general area. In this case, it meant placing the ball on a flatter lie to the side of the bunker.
Latin America Amateur Championship
The Championship was held on the stunning Teeth of the Dog Course in the Dominican Republic, and with many of the holes running alongside the Caribbean Sea, the new Penalty Area Rule (Rule 17) frequently came into play.
Ready Golf also came to the fore during the week with the players logging much improved overall round times in comparison to 2016, when the same Championship was last staged over the challenging layout.
Rule 6.4b actively encourages Ready Golf when it is safe to do so during stroke play, this not only helps with faster overall round times, but enables players to close gaps between groups much more quickly.
Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Lucas Herbert’s ball lay in a waste area when he removed some leaves from behind the ball with his club, which he was entitled to do. But he also scraped away sand in the process, improving his lie in breach of Rule 8.1a as a result.
Sand is not a loose impediment, so cannot be removed or pressed down around the ball if it leads to an improvement in the conditions affecting the stroke. Herbert could have carefully hand-picked the leaves away from around the ball, and if some sand had moved in the process then actions such as this would be considered reasonable.
However, when Herbert used his club to remove the leaves it resulted in much more sand than would be considered reasonable being removed from around the ball, meaning that the conditions affecting the stroke had been improved.
Women’s Australian Open
This was the third event for the LPGA players under the new Rules. Some players were embracing the new flagstick Rule and leaving it in when putting from distance. The greens at the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide were in excellent condition, but did suffer from shoe damage due to the nature of the grass. The change in the Rules to allow the repair of shoe damage was seen a real positive, enabling the greens to retain their quality throughout the day, without any negative impact on pace of play.
Knee height drop
A common occurrence at many of these events was players utilising many different techniques to drop from knee height, but what has been very pleasing is the significant reduction in the number of re-drops required. The new dropping procedure means the ball is more likely to stay within the relief area when dropped, allowing players to proceed more quickly and efficiently with their game.