The R&A - Working for Golf

Sagström-Korda Ruling – 2021 Solheim Cup

Playing in the Saturday afternoon four-ball session at the Solheim Cup, Madeline Sagström and Nanna Koerstz Madsen walked off the green of the par-5 13th hole under the impression that their birdie four was enough for them to halve the hole with American duo Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing.

Unfortunately for the European pair, they had unknowingly breached a Rule just seconds earlier which in fact resulted in them losing the hole.

Nelly Korda had left her eagle putt agonisingly short of the hole, with her ball coming to rest overhanging the edge of the hole. At this point, believing that the ball would not drop, Sagström scooped Korda’s ball up with her putter and gave it back to her with the intention of conceding the American’s next stroke for what would have been a birdie four.

Sagström Too Quick

However, Sagström had been slightly too hasty with her actions as, under Rule 13.3b, if any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and then ten additional seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole. Even if it is clear that the ball will not drop, the Rule stipulates that Korda must be allowed that time to see if the ball would eventually fall into the hole, something which was inadvertently denied to her when her ball was prematurely picked up by Sagström. In match play, if an opponent lifts or moves the player’s ball which is overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended, there is no penalty to the opponent, but the player’s ball is treated as having been holed with the previous stroke. 

It is important to note that the Rule itself does not consider the probability of whether the ball will fall into the hole, it simply defines the waiting time for a player to see if it will. It could be the case that half of the ball is overhanging the hole edge with the ball teetering in the wind, or it could be that only a small sliver of the ball (even a few dimples) are over the edge. 

Referee Role in Match Play

Another aspect of this ruling which caused some confusion concerns the role of a referee in match play when a walking referee has been assigned to accompany an individual match for the duration of the round. Under Rule 20.1b, if a referee is assigned to  one specific match, the referee must act on any potential Rules breach that they see or that comes to his or her attention and the players must follow that ruling. There is therefore no requirement for either side to request a ruling before the referee will step in. Further details of a referee’s role in match play can be found in Section 6C of the Committee Procedures.

With some additional assistance from the Rules officials assigned to monitor the TV coverage checking whether the ball was indeed overhanging the hole, using the available evidence, the chief referee and TV observer agreed that Korda’s ball was overhanging the hole and was picked up by her opponent before the waiting time had ended. This meant that Korda’s third stroke was treated as being holed, and that the US side had won the hole with an eagle.