Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee
Purpose: Rule 20 covers what players should do when they have questions about the Rules during a round, including the procedures (which differ in match play and stroke play) allowing a player to protect the right to get a ruling at a later time.The Rule also covers the role of referees who are authorized to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. Rulings from a referee or the Committee are binding on all players.
Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee
Resolving Rules Issues During Round
Request for Ruling Must Be Made in Time
A player is entitled to know the status of his or her match at all times or that a ruling request will be settled later in the match. A request for a ruling must be made in time to prevent a player from trying to apply penalties later in the match. Whether a ruling will be given depends on when the player becomes aware of the facts (not when he or she learned that something was a penalty) and when the request for a ruling was made.For example, during the first hole of a match without a referee, Player A properly lifts his or her ball to check for damage under Rule 4.2c(1), determines that it is cut and substitutes a new ball under Rule 4.2c(2). Unknown to Player A, Player B sees the condition of the original ball and privately disagrees with Player A's assessment. However, Player B decides to overlook the possible breach and says nothing to Player A. Both players hole out and play from the next teeing area.At the conclusion of the final hole, Player A is the winner of the match, 1up. Walking off the putting green, when the Committee is readily available, Player B changes his or her mind and tells Player A that he or she disagrees with the substitution that Player A made on the first hole and is making a request to the Committee for a ruling.The Committee should determine that the ruling request by Player B was not made in time as Player B was aware of the facts during play of the first hole and, subsequently, a stroke was made on the second hole (Rule 20.1b(2)). Therefore, the Committee should decide that no ruling will be given.The match stands as played with Player A as the winner.
Ruling Made After Completion of the Final Hole of the Match but Before the Result of the Match Is Final May Result in Players Resuming the Match
If a player becomes aware of a possible breach of the Rules by his or her opponent after completing what they thought was the final hole of the match, the player may make a request for a ruling. If the opponent was in breach of the Rules, the adjusted match score may require that the players return to the course to resume the match.For example:
In a match between Player A and Player B, Player B wins by a score of 5 and 4. On the way back to the clubhouse and before the result of the match is final, it is discovered that Player B had 15 clubs in his or her bag. Player A requests a ruling, and the Committee determines correctly that the ruling request by Player A was made in time. The players must return to the 15th hole and resume the match. The score in the match is adjusted by deducting two holes from Player B (Rule 4.1b(4)), and Player B is now 3 up with four holes to play.
In a match between Player A and Player B, Player B wins by a score of 3 and 2. On the way back to the clubhouse, Player A discovers that Player B hit the sand with a practice swing in a bunker on the 14th hole. Player B had won the 14th hole. Player A requests a ruling, and the Committee determines correctly that the ruling request by Player A was made in time, and that Player B lost the 14th hole for failing to tell Player A about the penalty (Rule 3.2d(2)). The players must return to the 17th hole and resume the match. As the score in the match is adjusted by changing Player B's win of the 14th hole to a loss of hole, Player B is now 1 up with two holes to play.
Playing Out Hole with Two Balls Is Not Allowed in Match Play
The playing of two balls is limited to stroke play because, when a match is being played, any incidents in that match concern only the players involved in it and the players in the match can protect their own interests.However, if a player in a match is uncertain about the right procedure and plays out the hole with two balls, the score with the original ball always counts if the player and opponent refer the situation to the Committee and the opponent has not objected to the player playing the second ball.However, if the opponent objects to the player playing a second ball and makes a ruling request in time (Rule 20.1b(2)), the player loses the hole for playing a wrong ball in breach of Rule 6.3c(1).
No Penalty for Playing a Ball That Was Not in Play When Two Balls Are Being Played
When a player is uncertain of what to do and decides to play two balls, he or she gets no penalty if one of the balls played was his or her original ball that is no longer in play.For example, a player's ball is not found in a penalty area after a three-minute search, so the player properly takes relief from the penalty area under Rule 17.1c and plays a substituted ball. Then, the original ball is found in the penalty area. Not sure what to do, the player decides to play the original ball as a second ball before making any further strokes, and chooses to score with the original ball. The player holes out with both balls.The ball played under Rule 17.1c became the ball in play and the score with that ball is the player's score for the hole. The score with the original ball could not count because the original ball was no longer in play. However, the player gets no penalty for playing the original ball as a second ball.
Player Must Decide to Play Two Balls Before Making Another Stroke
Rule 20.1c(3) requires a player to decide to play two balls before making a stroke so that his or her decision to play two balls or the choice of which ball to count is not influenced by the result of the ball just played. Dropping a ball is not equivalent to making a stroke.Examples of the application of that requirement include:
A player's ball comes to rest on a paved cart path in the general area. In taking relief, the player lifts the ball, drops it outside the required relief area and plays it. The player's marker questions the drop and advises the player that he or she may have played from a wrong place. Uncertain what to do, the player would like to complete the hole with two balls. However, it is too late to use Rule 20.1c(3) since a stroke has already been made and the player must add the general penalty for playing from a wrong place (Rule 14.7). If the player believes this may be a serious breach of playing from a wrong place, the player should play a second ball under Rule 14.7 to avoid possible disqualification. If the player's marker questioned the drop before the player made a stroke at the ball and he or she was uncertain what to do, the player could have completed the hole with two balls under Rule 20.1c(3).
A player's ball lies in a penalty area defined by red stakes. One of the stakes interferes with the player's intended swing and the player is uncertain if he or she is allowed to remove the stake. The player makes his or her next stroke without removing a stake. At this point, the player decides to play a second ball with the stake removed and get a ruling from the Committee. The Committee should rule that the score with the original ball is the score that counts since the uncertain situation arose when the ball was in the penalty area with interference from the stake, and the player had to make the decision to play two balls before making a stroke at the original ball.
Player May Lift Original Ball and Drop, Place or Replace It When Playing Two Balls
Rule 20.1c(3) does not require the original ball to be the ball that is played as it lies. Typically, the original ball is played as it lies, and the second ball is put in play under whatever Rule is being used. However, putting the original ball in play under the Rule is also allowed.For example, if a player is uncertain whether his or her ball lies in an abnormal course condition in the general area, the player may decide to play two balls. The player may then take relief under Rule 16.1b (Relief from Abnormal Course Condition) by lifting, dropping and playing the original ball and then continuing by placing a second ball where the original ball lay in the questionable area and playing it from there.In such a case, the player does not need to mark the spot of the original ball before lifting it, although it is recommended that this is done.
Order of Playing the Original Ball and Second Ball Is Interchangeable
When a player is uncertain about the right procedure and wants to complete the hole with two balls, the Rules do not require that the original ball be played first, followed by the second ball. The balls may be played in any order the player decides.For example, uncertain what to do, a player decides to complete the hole with two balls and chooses to score with the second ball. The player may choose to play the second ball before the original ball and may alternate making strokes with the original and second ball in completing play of the hole.
Player’s Obligation to Complete Hole with Second Ball After Announcing Intention to Do So and Choosing Which Ball Should Count
After a player has announced his or her intention to play two balls under Rule 20.1c(3) and has either put a ball in play or made a stroke at one of the balls, the player is committed to the procedure in Rule 20.1c(3). If the player does not play, or does not hole out with, one of the balls and that ball is the one the Committee rules would have counted, the player is disqualified for failing to hole out (Rule 3.3c - Failure to Hole Out). However, there is no penalty if the player does not hole out a ball that will not count.For example, a player's ball lies in a rut made by a vehicle. Believing that the area should have been marked as ground under repair, the player decides to play two balls and announces that he or she would like the second ball to count. The player then makes a stroke at the original ball from the rut. After seeing the results of this stroke, the player decides not to play a second ball. Upon completion of the round, the facts are reported to the Committee.If the Committee decides that the rut is ground under repair, the player is disqualified for failing to hole out with the second ball (Rule 3.3c).However, if the Committee decides that the rut is not ground under repair, the player's score with the original ball counts and he or she gets no penalty for not playing a second ball.The result would be the same for a player who made a stroke or strokes with a second ball but picked it up before completing play of the hole.
Provisional Ball Must Be Used as Second Ball When Uncertain
Although Rule 20.1c(3) states that a second ball played under this Rule is not the same as a provisional ball under Rule 18.3 (Provisional Ball), the reverse is not true. In deciding to play two balls after playing a provisional ball and being uncertain whether the original ball is out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area, the player must treat the provisional ball as the second ball.Examples of using a provisional ball as a second ball include when:
The player is unsure whether his or her original ball is out of bounds, so he or she completes the hole with the original ball and the provisional ball.
The player has knowledge or virtual certainty that his or her original ball that has not been found is in an abnormal course condition and is unsure what to do, so he or she completes the hole with the provisional ball and a second ball with relief under Rule 16.1e.
Player Allowed to Play One Ball Under Two Different Rules
When a player is uncertain about the right procedure, it is recommended that he or she play two balls under Rule 20.1c(3). However, there is nothing that prevents the player from playing one ball under two different Rules and requesting a ruling before returning his or her scorecard.For example, a player's ball comes to rest in an unplayable spot in an area that he or she believes should be ground under repair, but is not marked. Uncertain what to do and willing to accept the one-stroke penalty if it is not ground under repair, the player decides to use one ball and drop it in the relief area allowed for taking relief from ground under repair (Rule 16.1) and simultaneously in part of the relief area allowed for taking unplayable ball relief (Rule 19.2) for one penalty stroke.If the Committee decides that the area is ground under repair, the player does not get a penalty for taking unplayable ball relief. If the Committee decides that the area is not ground under repair, the player gets one penalty stroke for taking unplayable ball relief.If the player used the procedure outlined above and the ball came to rest at a spot where there is interference from the condition (required to drop again for Rule 16.1 but not for Rule 19.2), he or she should get help from the Committee or play two balls under Rule 20.1c(3).
Rulings on Issues under the Rules
A Wrong Ruling Is Different from an Administrative Mistake
There are limits on when a wrong ruling may be corrected, but there is no time limit for correcting an administrative mistake.A wrong ruling has occurred when a referee or the Committee has attempted to apply the Rules to a situation but has done so incorrectly, for example, by:
Misinterpreting or misunderstanding a Rule,
Failing to apply a Rule, or
Applying a Rule that was not applicable or does not exist.
This can be distinguished from an administrative mistake when a referee or the Committee has made a procedural error in relation to the administration of the competition, for example, by:
Miscalculating the result of a tie, or
Applying a player's full handicap strokes in a stroke-play competition when only a percentage should be applied.
Administrative Errors Should Always Be Corrected
The time frame in Rule 20.2d, which deals with penalties, does not apply to administrative mistakes by the Committee. There is no time limit for correcting administrative mistakes.For example, there is no time limit in correcting:
A handicap that was miscalculated by the Committee causing another player to win the competition.
A prize that was given to the wrong player after the Committee failed to post the winner's score.
Player Found to Be Ineligible During Competition or After Result of Match or Competition Is Final
There is no time limit on correcting the results of a competition when a player who has competed in the competition is found to be ineligible.For example, if it is discovered that a player has played in a competition with a maximum age and the player was over that age, or a player has played in a competition restricted to amateur golfers when the player was not an amateur, the player was ineligible.In these circumstances, the player is treated as if he or she had not entered the competition, as opposed to being disqualified from the competition, and the scores or the results are amended accordingly.