Rules of Golf

Rules from the Tours

The R&A
12 Apr 24
4 mins

As many of us settle down to enjoy the Masters Tournament and the start of the major championships for 2024, there has been no shortage of professional events which have taken place so far this season. Let’s take a look at some of the higher profile rulings which have occurred, and also perhaps some which you were not aware of.

Joaquin Niemann, Mayakoba, Mexico

Going into the final round in Mexico, Joaquin Niemann was given the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play) following an incorrect dropping procedure. When taking free relief from a cart path, Niemann dropped his ball clear of the path and played onto the green.  After Niemann had returned his scorecard, it was noticed that he had played from more than one club-length from his nearest point of relief, and so he should have included a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place on his score for the hole. However, as Niemann was unaware of the Rules breach, there was no additional penalty for signing for a wrong score (Exception to Rule 3.3b(2)). In the end Niemann brushed aside his penalty and went on to claim victory in a sudden death play-off.

For more information on how to take relief from a cart path, watch the following video:

Relief from Abnormal Course Condition in General Area

Rahil Gangjee, Kolkata Challenge, India

Now over to India, and Rahil Gangjee playing in the Kolkata Challenge at Royal Calcutta Golf Club. A referee was called to the 15th green, where Gangjee’s ball had been moved by a bird on the putting surface. As a bird is an outside influence, the referee instructed Gangjee that the ball was to be replaced on the spot where it originally lay. However, as this exact spot was not known, the ball was replaced on the spot where it was estimated to have been before the bird moved it, with no penalty (Rule 9.6). Gangjee was able to continue his round and eventually finished in a tie for second. Meanwhile, some local assistance was sought to act as scarecrows on the 15th to deter further bird and golf ball interactions!

Rory McIlroy, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Perhaps a ruling you have seen or read about, involved Rory McIlroy and an unplayable drop at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California.  On the 7th hole at Spyglass Hill, McIlroy’s tee shot found a low hanging tree and he decided to declare his ball unplayable. One of the relief options available under the unplayable ball rule (Rule 19) is to drop back on the line. This option allows the player to drop a ball behind the spot where the ball lay in the tree, but he is required to keep the spot of the original ball between the hole and the spot where the ball is dropped. The ball must then come to rest within one club-length of that spot. Unfortunately, McIlroy dropped one club-length to the side of this line rather than attempting to drop a ball directly on it, thus incurring the general penalty (two-strokes in stroke play) for playing from a wrong place.

For more information on the unplayable relief options, watch the following video:

Unplayable Ball

Joel Moscatel, SDC Open, South Africa

Earlier this year in South Africa, Joel Moscatel was competing in the SDC Open at Zebula Golf Estate & Spa, when he needed some Rules assistance. Moscatel noticed as he started his pre-shot routine that a number of hornets had taken up residence in a tree, extremely close to where his head would have been to play the stroke. A referee was called, and he determined that Moscatel could incur a serious physical injury from the hornets if he was required to play the ball as it lay, so he was granted free relief from the dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2). The Rules allowed Moscatel to find the nearest point where there was no longer danger from the hornets, not nearer the hole, and drop within one club length of that point, again no nearer the hole.

Hurley Long, Dubai Invitational

And finally we head to the Middle East, where Hurley Long was playing at Dubai Creek Resort in the Dubai Invitational. In the opening event on the DP World Tour for 2024, Long got a slice of misfortune when his pin-seeking second shot into the 18th green struck the flagstick and ricochet into the penalty area next to the green. Long took lateral relief from the red penalty area which required him to drop onto a steep slope. The ball failed to come to rest inside the relief area when dropped and he was required to drop in the relief area a second time. Again the ball did not remain in the relief area, so he was required to place a ball on the spot where the second drop first struck the ground, which Long successfully did (see Rule 14.3c(2)). Long then walked onto the green to assess his shot, at which point gravity took over and his ball rolled back into the penalty area. At this point you could be forgiven for thinking 2024 was really not going to be his year! However as Long’s ball had been at rest after he had taken relief and natural forces then caused his ball to roll into another area of the course, he was required to replace the ball on the spot from which it moved, with no additional penalty (see Exception 2 to Rule 9.3).

Watch the following video for more information on this Rule:

Ball Moved by Natural Forces after Taking Relief