Rules of Golf Incident Blog

FSGA Rules of Golf Blog

Below are short descriptions of some of the more interesting rulings from FSGA events. We hope your find them interesting and educational!

If you have any interesting incidents to include, please email the facts of the incident to an FSGA tournament staff member. If you have any questions on any of the rulings below, please email an FSGA tournament staff member.

April 2017

  • A player's tee shot embedded in the grass bank above a bunker. He called his marker over to inspect the lie and to determine if the ball is embedded or not (the Local Rule for embedded ball through the green was in effect). The marker suggested that he mark and lift his ball to see if the ball was in fact embedded. The player marked and lifted the ball; without cleaning it, and both he and the marker agreed that the ball was embedded in its own pitch mark. The player then cleaned the ball and dropped it near as possible to where it originally lay. The dropped ball rolled back into the bunker requiring a re-drop. The again rolled back into the bunker on the second drop so the player placed the ball where it first struck the course on the second drop. He proceed to chip the ball onto the green and make a birdie. No penalty strokes were incurred.

March 2017

  • At a junior event a player teed off from the wrong teeing ground and then his fellow competitors notified him of the issue. He walked back to the correct teeing ground and played another ball from the correct teeing ground. He score a 4 with the second ball and then added a two stroke penalty for playing from the wrong teeing ground making his score on the hole a 6.
  • The USGA and R&A shook the Golf World as they announced the proposed Rule changes in their effort to modernize the Rules of Golf. The proposed changes are now in a six month comment period before being edited again. They plan to have the changes go in effect beginning in 2019.

January 2017

  • The new Local Rule for accidental ball movement on a putting green was put in effect by the USGA, FSGA, R&A, The Masters, PGA of America, and hopefully all golf clubs. See more here.

November 2016

  • At a Winter Series event a player played two balls properly under Rule 3-3 and reported the facts to the Committee before returning his score card. The situation was that the player's ball  was embedded in an exposed dirt face of a bunker. The player wanted free relief; however, the definition of a bunker states "a wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker." Free relief was denied and the score with the original ball counted.
  • The picture below of a golf ball embedded on the lip of a hole was circulated around the web creating questions on whether or not the ball is holed. The definition of a ball "holed" in the Rules of Golf state "A ball is holed when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole." While it is tough to tell from the picture, the ball appears to be rest; however, it may not be within the circumference of the hole (see the pitch mark the ball created). Also, part of the ball may not be below the level of the lip of the hole; however it is too tough to tell from the picture. It appears we need more information, or a better picture to determine if the ball is holed.
    On another note, the white plastic hole liner does not conform with the Rules of Golf and should not be used since hole liners must be sunk at least 1 inch below the putting surface (see definition of "hole" in the Rules of Golf").

August 2016

  • At a junior tournament two players hit their approach shots into the same greenside bunker. Both players then played a ball out of the bunker onto the green. After marking and lifting their balls, they realized they each hit the wrong ball from the bunker. Unsure what to do, they decided to keep playing out the hole with the wrong ball. They encountered an Official two holes later and explained the error. The Official called a Rules Official and the Rules Official came out and explained to the girls that they were disqualified because they did not correct their error of playing a wrong ball before teeing off on the next hole (Rule 15-3b)

July 2016

  • At the Florida Open, round two concluded and the 36-hole cut was imposed with 61 players advancing to the final round. The final round pairings were made, posted and sent to the players. About an hour later, we received a phone call from a player who made the cut, but said "I need to "disqualify myself." We asked for the details of what happened and this is a summary of the information the player provided: On a hole early in the round the player's ball had a good lie in the rough near a green. As the player was deciding which club to use by grounding several clubs behind the ball, the ball sunk vertically down in the grass. The player wasn't sure what to do and wasn't certain if a penalty was involved. The player played the ball from its new location and meant to talk with the Committee in the scoring area. The rest of the player's round was a roller coaster, making many birdies with bogeys. After a good finish on the final two holes the player came to scoring and completely forgot to mention the incident about the ball moving early in the round. 
    We told the player that we'd call him back in about five minutes. We knew immediately that the player should've added a two-stroke penalty to that hole for playing from a wrong place (Rule 20-7). We also knew that he signed and returned his scorecard with a score lower than he actually made on that hole, but we wanted to make sure that this situation didn't meet the new Exception to Rule 6-6d. After reading the final sentence in Decision 6-6d/10 we knew the player was disqualified from the second round and the Exception to Rule 6-6d did not apply because the player was "uncertain as to whether he had proceeded correctly or incurred a penalty."

June 2016

  • It was a quiet month regarding interesting rulings.

May 2016

  • In a U.S. Open Local Qualifier at The Club at Admiral’s Cove, a player’s ball lie through the green and came to rest having a tree in his line of play. Attached to this tree were some guide wires and these wires were tied into stakes at ground level around the tree. The player believed he may have some interference from these wires, which are considered obstructions. However, this interference was not from the lie of his ball, his stance or area of his intended swing. The player was asking for line of play relief. Intervention on the line of play through the green from an obstruction, is not, of itself, interference under Rule 24-2a.
    However, had these wires been able to be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, then this player may have moved or untied these wires from the stakes and removed them from his line of play without penalty (See definition of obstructions).
    Remember, the Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction, but this was not the case during this scenario.
  • In all USGA competitions, their 2016 Local Rules and Conditions of Competition include the Limitation on Golf Balls, also known as the “One-Ball Rule.” This optional condition prescribed in Appendix I is used to prohibit changing brands and models of golf balls during a stipulated round. In the U.S. Open Local Qualifier at The Club at Admiral’s Cove (stroke play event), a player unfortunately hit his ball into a water hazard. This player’s ball was not recoverable and he took relief from the hazard using a new substituted ball and continued to play this ball onto the putting green. When he arrived to the putting green and marked the position of his ball, he realized he had played a different model ball then with which he had started the round, which meant he had breached the “One-Ball Rule.” 
    After discovering the breach, the player had two options. He had the option of playing that ball until he finished the hole he was on, or substitute a proper ball on the spot where the ball played in breach lay. If the player chooses to play the ball in breach throughout the hole he is on, he must abandon that ball before playing from the next teeing ground and complete the round with a proper ball otherwise the player is disqualified. 
    In this scenario, the player asked if he had to go back to the place he played the improper ball (where he took relief from the hazard) and correct his mistake similar to playing a wrong ball. This is INCORRECT. Instead, the player was informed of his appropriate options and chose to substitute a proper ball on the spot where the ball played in breach was marked on the putting green. Unfortunately for the player, as soon as he made a stroke at the improper ball after taking relief from the hazard, he incurred a penalty of two strokes. 
    The penalty for a breach of the “One-Ball Rule” in stroke play is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes (two strokes at each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred). Again, the player must abandon the improper ball before playing from the next teeing ground and complete the round with a proper ball after the breach has been discovered, otherwise the player is disqualified. 

April 2016

  • In a singles match at The Concession Cup, the 8th hole had a water hazard in front of the green (marked yellow). The US player chunked his third shot and it came to rest at the end of the fairway only two feet before the water and about 20 yards from the hole. The GB&I player then chunked his second shot into the water short of the green about 10 yards from the hole. The GB&I player was examining his relief options and decided to drop a ball about 80 yards from the hole back in the fairway (Rule 26-1b) using the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. The referee then informed the US player that it was his turn to play (even though his ball was 20 yards from the hole and the GB&I player was now 80 yards from the hole). The US player was a little stunned, but played first. After a few more shots from both players they agreed to halve the hole with 6's.
    The Note to Rule 10-1b states:  When it becomes known that the original ball is not to be played as it lies and the player is required to play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), the order of play is determined by the spot from which the previous stroke was made. When a ball may be played from a spot other than where the previous stroke was made, the order of play is determined by the position where the original ball came to rest. 
  • The Senior Championship was played at Adena G&CC and the 10th hole is a short downhill par 4. A player hit his tee shot and the ball struck the cart path twice and bounced onto the green where the group ahead was on the the green putting. The player's tee shot rolled across the green and struck the removed flagstick which was lying on the green. Normally, that is a breach of Rule 17-3-Ball Striking Flagstick or Attendant, and the player would incur a two stroke penalty in stroke play. However, Decision 17-3/3 gives two examples when there is no penalty for a ball striking a removed flagstick. See the Decision 17-3/3 here.
  • Sam Till was tied for the lead in the final round of the Senior Championship when he reached the par-5 7th hole at Adena G&CC. Till's tee shot came to rest left of the cart path near a rock wall that was formed year's ago when the property was a limestone quarry. Till called for an Official requesting relief.
    David Jungk arrived and it appeared Till could take wide stance which would allow him a reasonable opportunity to chop his ball out of the long grass; however, the cart path would interfere his the follow through of his stroke. David helped Till determine his nearest point of relief and Till dropped a ball under Rule 24. Notice in the pictures below that the nearest point of relief was basically up the rocks and NOT across the path into the nice short rough. After taking the free relief, Till was able to advance his ball about 30 yards from the long grass, but made a bogey on the hole and finished one-stroke back of the champion Peter Wegmann.

February 2016

  • At a Florida Junior Tour event a players ball found its way in to a burrowing animal hole. Not knowing if he would be granted relief or not, the player decided to play two golf balls. With his original ball, he took relief under the Unplayable Ball rule (Rule 28) and with his second ball he took relief from the interference. Unfortunately, when he was going through this procedure, he did not declare which golf ball he would like to score with. In this situation Rule 3-3b (ii) states that because he did not declare which ball he wanted to score with, the original ball is to count (the unplayable ball).
  • At the very same Florida Junior Tour event there was incident where a shot from 150 yards away on to the green collided and moved another players ball on the putting green an inch or two. The players were to far away to see this happen, but the spectators by the green did see it. The spectator informed the player that her ball had moved and in her discussion with her fellow competitors they thought because they had not seen the ball move and it was only an inch that it was not an issue. The player played from the new position and afterwards a Rules Official was made aware of what happened. Being that the player knew her ball had been moved by another ball (Rule 18-5) and did not replace it, she was in breach of Rule 18 and penalized two strokes.

January 2016

  • At a junior event a player's ball made a pitch mark and the ball came to rest very close to the pitch mark. The player asked for a ruling and, after lifting the ball to inspect the ground, the Committee ruled that the ball was not embedded and it was just a bad lie. Relief was denied. (picture left)
    Afterwards, this picture was shown around to several Rules Officials and, judging just from the picture, there were arguments on both sides. Some felt that relief was allowed since they believed part of the ball was below the surface of the ground and others felt that the ball popped out of the ball mark and is resting on the edge of the hole. This was a tough one!

December 2015

  • At a junior event a player was attempting to hit a fairway wood from the fairway. During the swing the clubhead struck the top of the ball and drove the ball directly into the ground (the ball never got airborn). The player was unsure how to proceed so he played two balls under Rule 3-3 (one under embedded ball and another under ball unplayable). The player reported to the Committee and was informed that the score with the ball played under the Unplayable Ball rule (Rule 28) was the score to count, including the one stroke penalty. (see Decision 25-2/6).

October 2015

  • In match, a player sprayed his tee shot onto an adjoining fairway. A group of members where playing that hole and found a ball that belonged to the player in the match. A member lifted the ball, cleaned it, realized it wasn't theirs, and replaced the ball. The players in the match reached the ball and requested a ruling. Since the ball was replaced by the person that moved it (an outside agency) the ball was properly put back into play. The player incurred no penalty and must play the ball as it lay. The fact that the ball was cleaned by the outside agency has no impact on the ruling.
    Rules Refenced:  Rule 18-1 Ball at Rest Moved by An Outside Agency and Rule 20-1 Placing and Replacing

  • In a four-ball stroke play event, an entire group (Team A-B and Team C-D) finished the 13th hole and proceeded, incorrectly, to the 5th hole.  Each player teed off and completed play of the 5th hole, earning each a 2 stroke penalty.  They then proceeded to the 6th hole where only Player A teed off when they realized they had made an error.  The group backtracked and made it back to the correct hole (#14) before B, C, or D had teed off on the 6th hole.  

    Rule 11-5 informs us that because Player A teed off outside of the teeing ground on the correct hole (#14) and did not correct his error before teeing off on another wrong teeing ground, he is disqualified from the competition.  

    Rule 31-7a lists each time that a side would be disqualified from the competition if either partner breaches one of the listed rules.  Additionally, Rule 31-7c states that “in all other cases where a breach of a Rule would result in disqualification, the competitor is disqualified only for the hole at which the breach occurred.”  Fortunately, this is not one of those situations listed under 31-7a, meaning that Player A was disqualified for the 14th hole only.  Players B, C, and D still receive the 2 stroke penalty under 11-5 and that is applied to the 14th hole. 

  • At a junior event, a player was attempting to hit a ball out the a later water hazard. During the backswing, the player's clubhead moved a loose impediment. The players was penalized two strokes under Rule 13 (Decision 13-4/13) because the movement of the loose impediment in the backswing improved the area of intended swing. 

September 2015

  • At a junior tournament a player was disqualified for playing an "X-Out" golf ball. The FSGA's Local Rules and Conditions of Competitions require players to play a golf ball that is listed on the conforming ball list. Decision 5-1/4 states that X-Out golf balls are not conforming golf balls.

  • At a junior tournament a player hit his tee shot on a par 3 and it landed in the lateral water hazard left of the green. The ball last crossed the margin of the hazard just in front of the teeing ground, it never crossed the hazard line near the green. Instead of putting another ball in play using the reference point in front of the teeing ground the player dropped a ball up near the green and played. He played from a wrong place (Rule 20-7) and the Committee deemed that it was a serious breach. The player teed off on the next hole without correcting his error so he was disqualified

  • A player in a junior tournament found his tee shot on a par 4 out of bounds. Since the player did not play a provisional ball he had to return to the teeing ground. A Rules Official was not nearby and a parent suggested the player get in his cart and he'll drive him back to the tee. The player rode in the cart and the Committee became aware of the situation. The player incurred a penalty of two strokes for the breach of transportation as the Local Rule in Appendix  Part C 8 was in effect.

June 2015

  • At a recent State Amateur qualifying event, a competitor returned his signed and attested score card to the Committee and left the area. After noticing his score posted on the scoreboard,  he returned to the scoring area to review his card. His examination revealed that he had signed for a five on the 16th hole whereas he actually had scored seven on the hole. As a result, the Committee assessed the disqualification penalty as prescribed by Rule 6-6d.

May 2015

  • At a recent US Open Local Qualifying event, a player and his caddie arrived at the player's ball lying in the fairway after his tee shot. Both the player and the caddie were observed by an official holding up small towels in front of them using both hands. The FSGA official approached the players to inquire what they were doing with the towels. The player replied (mumbling) something like "drying my hands" while the caddie says "testing the wind". The player was informed that the action of the caddie using the towel to find the direction and conditions of the wind was a breach of Rule 14-3 which regrettably carried a penalty of disqualification. Since the player is responsible for the actions of the caddie, the penalty is applied to the player.

    Rule: 14-3 states -- Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not...use any equipment in an unusual manner ...(b) for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play. Penalty for Breach of Rule 14-3: Disqualification.

  • At the Mid-Am Stroke Play Championship, on a very windy day, a player addressed his ball (grounded his putter immediately behind the ball) and the ball moved about an inch forward. The player backed off the ball and told his fellow-competitors that after he addressed the ball to putt, he had caused the ball to move. One of the fellow-competitors told the player that the correct procedure in this case is to replace the ball in the spot from which it moved prior to address. The player, whom incurred a one-stroke penalty for causing his ball at rest to move, replaced his ball in its original location and continued play. See Rule 18-2b.

    Soon afterward, the players spoke with an Official regarding the movement of the ball. The Official was given the details about the ruling and the players now wondered if the heavy winds caused the movement of the ball instead of the player himself. Both fellow-competitors were too far away to determine the cause. The player, after assessing the situation, believed that the grounding of his club behind the ball was not the reason the ball moved. Rather, it was the wind that caused the movement.

    The player, who now was virtually certain the wind caused the movement of the ball, unfortunately should not have replaced the ball in its original location because wind is not considered an outside agency. Also, the exception to Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address), did apply here because it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move. In this scenario, because the player replaced his ball after it was moved by the wind to its original location and played his next stroke from there, he incurred the general penalty of two strokes for playing from a wrong place. Decision 18-2a/7

    The player should have played the ball from the ball’s new location after the wind had moved it and if he had done so, he would not have received a penalty.
    Decision 18-1/12

    Remember, you can always play two balls under Rule 3-3 in stroke play if uncertain about a ruling! Always report this situation in scoring or you will be disqualified! 
April 2015

  • There has been a rash of questions dealing with a couple of Rules of Golf that have come into prominence as a result of the AimPoint® green reading system. The Rules are 16-1a - Touching Line of Putt and 16-1e - Standing Astride or on Line of Putt. Hopefully, I can clarify how these Rules apply.

    The nitty-gritty of the Rules follows:

    Rule 16-1a – The line of putt must not be touched except: (seven exceptions you can touch the line of putt include....moving loose impediments, addressing the ball, measuring, lifting or replacing a ball, pressing down a ball-marker, repairing hole plugs
    and ball marks, or moving movable obstructions); and

    Rule 16-1e – The player must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball.

    First, let’s start where we always start: applicable definitions.

    The “Line of Putt” is the line the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rule 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole.

    My understanding is that when employing this system to read the green, a player attempts to determine the degree of slope on a putting green through the feel of the weight
    distribution of his feet standing approximately one pace behind the ball along with visual observation. This is perfectly legal provided that the player does not intentionally step on the line of putt (Decision 16-1a/12) as defined above.

    Next, similar to the plumb bob method, a player straddles the line of putt or an extension of the line of putt behind the ball and visualizes the break using the number of
    fingers equal to the degree of slope. Once again, all fine and perfectly legal.

    Here is where the caution comes into play. Literally, watch your step! Do not step on that line of putt or you open yourself up to the general penalty of loss of hole in match
    play or two strokes in stroke play. Furthermore, it is OK to straddle the line of putt in trying to determine the slope; just not when you are making astroke. Keep those two points in mind and you are fine according to the Rules.

  • At the Senior Championship, a player observed his ball fly into some Spanish moss hanging from a tree. Upon arrival, he swatted the Spanish moss and unexpectedly, the ball fell to the ground. Not sure what to do and without an Official on scene, he decided to play a second ball under Rule 3-3. He played the original ball as it lay on the ground and a second ball under the Unplayable Ball rule, dropping it directly underneath where the original ball lie in the tree. After getting the facts, the Committee ruled that the score with the second ball counted with a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a for causing his ball in play to move and an additional penalty stroke under Rule 28 for an unplayable lie making two penalty strokes in all. The score with the ball played as it lie was ruled not to count as it was not played in accordance with the Rules when it was played from a wrong place.

March 2015

  • At a four-ball championship a player had a 10 foot putt for eagle and after he addressed the ball (grounded his putter about a 1/2 inch behind the ball), the ball moved slightly. The player backed off and waved over an Official. The Official confirmed with the player that he addressed the ball and then the ball moved. There was basically no wind and no water was present, so the Rules deem that the player caused his ball to move. The player was informed that it was a one-stroke penalty and he must move the ball back. See Rule 18-2b and Decision 18-2b/1. Amazingly, later during the round the same situation happened to another player in the same group!

  • A player was flying in from South America the morning of the first round and his flight was delayed, and then he hit traffic on the way to the course. Luckily, his partner was at the course ready to play at their tee time. The late player arrived while his partner was putting on the 1st green and then joined the round on the second tee. No penalty to either play player. See Rule 31-2

January 2015

  • At a junior event, a player hit his tee shot into a lateral water hazard (marked red). The ball last crossed the margin of the hazard about 250 yards from the teeing ground and came to rest about two yards in the hazard, but on a dry area underneath some trees. The player elected to play the ball as it lies from the water hazard. He made a stroke at the ball and it deflected off a root and the ball went backwards behind the player deeper into the hazard. The player then called for an Official and wanted to know his options. The following options were explained to him: (see Rule 26-2a)
     1) Play the ball as it lies without penalty
     2) Operate under stroke and distance, and drop a ball in exact spot that he just played from (dropping inside the hazard) - one stroke penalty
     3) Return to the place that the last stroke was made from outside the hazard (the teeing ground in this case) - one stroke penalty
     4) Operate under the options in 26-1 using the point that the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, which in this case was the shot made from the teeing ground. Those options are listed below and all come with a one stroke penalty:
         4a) Drop a ball behind the hazard keeping the point at which the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. (This option did not apply in this situation because the hazard was on the perimeter of the course and there wasn't any golf course property behind the hazard.
         4b)  Measure two club lengths from spot where it last crossed the margin of the hazard, no closer to the hole, and drop within those two club lengths.
         4c)  Measure two club length from the spot equidistant from the hole on the opposite side of the hazard. (This option did not apply since there was not an opposite margin equidistant from the hole.
    The player elected option 4b above and dropped outside the hazard within two club lengths. He was then hitting his fourth shot.

December 2014

  • At a match play event a pivotal match came to the final hole. At this course, the 9th and 18th putting greens share one large putting green; however, the Notice to Players (local rule sheet) explained that the two putting greens were separated by two yellow dots making 9th green a wrong putting green during play of the 18th hole and vice versa. This local rule was used to prevent a player from playing a shot off the putting green with a wedge and taking a divot on the well manicured surfaces. During play of the 18th hole, a player played her approach shot and her ball came to rest on the wrong putting green (the 9th green). The player was unaware of the local rule separating the two greens and played her shot from off the wrong putting green. The penalty for playing from a wrong putting green in match play is loss of hole (Rule 25-3); however, both players were unknowing of the local rule. Since it was match play, and there were no referees assigned to the match, the Committee did not intervene. The two players played out the 18th hole not knowing any rules where breached. The player who played from the wrong putting green ended up losing the hole because she scored higher on the hole.
  • At a match play event the following incident occurred: The starter, who was a Committee member, but not a referee, was announcing the players from a match on their first hole. He announced the first player and she hit her tee shot. He then announced the opponent and noticed the player teed her ball in front of the tee markers. In stroke play, the starter should prevent the playing from playing in front of the tee markers and incurring the penalty; however, in match play Committee members are only to get involved with a match if they are a referee (or if asked by the players). The starter decided to say nothing to the player and she teed off in front of the tee markers (in match play there is no penalty for this action, but the player's opponent may immediate recall the stroke). The tee shot was not recalled by the opponent and they continued play of the hole. After this situation the Committee discussed if that was the correct procedure for the starter to say nothing and allow the player to tee off in front of the tee markers. We came to the conclusion that, in match play only and when not assigned to the match as a referee, that the starter should not correct the player in this situation. We checked with the USGA and they confirmed our conclusion.

October 2014

  • At a championship a player's ball was near a bush. As he took his stance he pushed a few limps of the bush behind his leg which improved his area of intended swing. His fellow competitor reported the breach, and the player was penalized two strokes under Rule 13-2.
  • In the scoring area, a player said he has a rules question. The player explained that after a putt, his ball came to rest about 6 inches from the hole. He approached the ball and tried to tap it in, but swung above the ball and barely nicked the ball; the ball moved slightly and then returned to its original position. The player asked if there were any penalty strokes and if the stroke even counted. The Committee informed him that there were no penalty strokes; however, the stroke did count since he had intention to strike the ball (see the definition of a stroke).

August 2014

  • At a junior tournament where walking is required, a junior found his tee shot out of bounds. Since he didn't play a provisional ball he had to return to the tee. He accepted a ride from a spectator cart and the incident was reported to the Committee. The player incurred a two-stroke penalty for unauthorized transportation.
  • At a junior tournament, a player played a shot into a bushy area. The player found a ball and played it. He finished the hole with that ball and began the next hole. At the next putting green he lifted the ball and noticed it wasn't his ball. He agreed that he must have played a wrong ball from the bush on the previous hole. The penalty for playing a wrong ball is a two stroke penalty and the player must correct the error and play the correct ball. Since he teed off on the next hole without correcting the error, he was disqualified.

This a long and very advanced Ruling...

The facts, as we know them, are that this is individual stroke play, and:

  1. Player A plays his ball from the tee down the left side of the hole.
  2. Fearing the original ball may be lost outside of a water hazard or out of bounds, Player A properly announces and plays a provisional ball. 
  3. The provisional ball comes to rest in the fairway, nearer the hole than where the original is likely to be.
  4. Player A proceeds to the area where his original ball is likely to be, and finds a stray ball in an unplayable position thinking it is his original ball.
  5. Player A picks up his provisional thinking he must abandon the provisional ball under Rule 27-2c (but he has not yet found his original ball)
  6. Player A states that he will declare the stray ball (thinking it is his original ball) unplayable and proceed under either 28b or 28c of the Unplayable Ball Rule and properly drops the stray ball.
  7. Player A plays the substituted ball by making two strokes at the ball advancing it past where the provisional had come to rest. 
  8. Player A then realizes the ball he has substituted and played is not his original ball.
  9. Player A lifts the ball without marking its position, goes back to where the provisional ball had come to rest, and drops the ball at the estimated position.
  10. Player A plays the ball into the hole by a stroke or series of strokes.
Here is a summary of the penalty strokes involved (Total of 5):
  • One penalty stroke under Rule 27-1 when the original ball was lost and the provisional ball became the ball in play under stroke and distance (even though only momentarily)
  • Two penalty strokes under 13-1 and 20-7c (no additional penalty under 15-2) when he dropped and played the stray ball at a place other than where the provisional ball had come to rest
  • Two strokes under 18-2a when he lifted his ball in play (the substituted ball after two strokes) and went back and dropped it at the spot where the provisional ball originally lay

July 2014

  • At the Boys' Junior Championship, a player's ball came to rest about four feet behind a large spotlight that illuminates a tree at night. The spotlight was permanent and could not be moved. The light did not interfere with the player's stance, lie of ball, or area of intended swing, but he requested relief for line of play. Relief was denied (see Rule 24). Line of play relief is only available for Temporary Immovable Obstructions which are normally temporary grandstands and scoreboards.

June 2014

  • At a state championship. a player reached his starting hole and before he began his round he noticed the head on his driver was loose. He handed the driver to his father, who was not his caddie, and his father went to the parking lot to retrieve a different driver. The player then started his round with 13 clubs and the driver was immediately brought out to him. No penalties were incurred. 
    This ruling took several minutes to get the exact details. Important details included: 1) where was the damaged driver when he began his round; 2) was the father a caddie; 3) if the father was a caddie then was the damaged club in pieces (components) or a complete club. 
  • At a junior event, a player began his round with 13 clubs. His father, a spectator, carried an additional driver in his spectator cart for several holes and then gave the driver to the player on the 5th hole. The player was not penalized for having too many clubs; however, he was penalized for having a caddie (caddies were not allowed). The player received a two shot penalty on the 1st and 2nd holes for having a caddie. See Decision 4-4a/16
  • In the scoring area. a player signed his card and returned it. The scoring official added the card up and said the score; the player said "Yes, that is correct." The player then left the scoring area and his card was entered into the computer and the scores added up to a different amount. The Tournament Chairman tracked down the player to review the hole-by-hole scores and the player confirmed he signed for a 4 on the 18th hole rather than a 5. Since he signed for a score lower than he actually made he was disqualified under Rule 6-6d. It was unfortunate that the scoring Official added the scores incorrectly; however, the responsibility for the correct hole-by-hole still boils down the player.
  • At a U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifier, the first group of the day (a group of only two players) missed their pace of play of checkpoint at the 9th hole and were assessed a one stroke penalty. They made their 18th hole checkpoint within 15 minutes of the group ahead; however, the one stroke penalty still applied on the 9th hole. One of the players in the group missed qualifying for the Open by one shot.

May 2014

  • A player, not realizing his ball was in a lateral water hazard, moved a loose impediment that was in the hazard. The player received a two stoke penalty and played the ball as it lies. The ball was within the red line, but on nice rough and the player didn't notice the line.
  • At a women's event, a player teed off from the wrong tee markers. She corrected her error by teeing off from the correct tee markers and applied a two stroke penalty. The tee shot from the wrong set of markers do not count towards her score.

April 2014

  • At a junior event, a player hit a shot into the top of a palm tree. While the players were nearly certain the ball was stuck up in the tree, the player was not able to identify a ball as his, despite there being several balls visible in the tree. The ball was lost and player operated under stroke and distance.

  • At a junior event, a girl had a ball fall off the tee mid-swing, and after an Official communicated with the player, it was determined she stopped her intent of striking the ball even though she somewhat completed her swing. No penalty and the player was able to re-tee the ball. (See the definition of a stroke)

  • At a junior event, a player's ball was in a bush a few feet off the ground and about six inches away from it was a small bee's nest. The player wanted relief from the nest for a dangerous situation. The Committee denied "free relief" as it was determined that it was impractical for him to make a stroke at the ball. He ended up taking an unplayable and operated under Rule 28.

  • At a senior qualifier, the 8:30 AM starting group mistakenly teed off from the 18th tee, thinking they were playing number 9.  The course ranger caught them preparing to hit their second shots and informed them they were playing the 18th hole.  The group then returned to the ninth tee and played that hole.  They were informed that, once they found out they were playing the wrong hole, they did the right thing by correcting their error by playing the ninth hole but, unfortunately, all three players were assessed a two-stroke penalty.  The Tournament Chairmen informed them that if they had completed the eighteenth hole and had teed off on the next hole, they would have been disqualified for not playing their stipulated round in the correct sequence.

  • At the Senior Championship, a question arose as to what can and what can not be done with Spanish moss. Decision 13-2/37 clarifies that when the moss is growing in a tree, it may not be moved in violation of Rule 13-2. When the moss has fallen to the ground, it becomes a loose impediment and may be moved as provided in Rule 23-1.

March 2014

  • At a junior event, a player's tee shot entered into a lateral water hazard.  The player opted to play the ball as it lies and hit it farther into the hazard. She then played the ball from its new position in the hazard and hit it farther into the hazard and was unable to find the ball.  Under Rule 26-2b ("regression") the player added a penalty of one stroke and was able to play a ball from the spot from where her last stroke was made from outside the hazard, in this case the teeing ground.
  • At a junior event, the host club had recently filled all of the bunkers with new sand making several balls plug or disappear into the sand.  Multiple players had to act under Rule 12-1a and search for their golf ball covered by sand, after seeing the ball fly into the bunker but being unable to find it. In one case, the player found her ball, re-created the lie and played out. In another case, the player found his ball, but had caused it to move.  There was no penalty, the lie was re-created and the player was able to proceed. In a third case, the player found her ball, re-created the lie, as in the first case, then decided the ball was unplayable. She then used her options under the Unplayable Ball Rule (Rule 28b) and dropped at a point behind the spot of her ball, keeping that point between her and the hole, still in the bunker,under penalty of one stroke.
  • First round of a junior tournament - A group was in breach of the pace of play policy when they finished their 18th hole and each player earned a one-stroke penalty which was added to the 18th hole.
  • There was debate on whether an Official gave a player a correct ruling when assisting the player in taking relief from an obstruction. This is a good example of when the player should have considered calling for a "second opinion" and for the Official to use the radio to double-check and reassure the player that the ruling was correct.

February 2014

  • At a junior tournament - A player addressed her ball on the putting green and the ball moved. It was not known or virtually certain that something besides the player caused the ball to moved (wind, outside agency, etc), it appeared it was just moved by gravity. The player incurred a one stroke penalty under Rule 18 and she replaced the ball before making her next stroke.
  • First round of a junior tournament - A player hit his tee shot near the margin of a lateral water hazard. He found a ball plugged in the dirt bank of the hazard. He did not identify the ball as his and made a stroke at the ball. He then realized the ball was not his. Officials were called in and they explained to the player that he played a wrong ball and incurred a two stroke penalty under Rule 15 (they also explained to the player that he should have identified the ball as his before making the stroke - see Rule 12-2). The player then proceeded with his original ball which we all believed was in the lateral water hazard.
  • First round of a junior tournament - The final group of the day was trying to finish before dark, so one player hit his tee shot on the final hole right before the Committee suspended play for darkness. The group decided to finish the hole. A player hit his approach shot near the green and has he approached the green an Official told the player "I think I heard it land left of the green, but another Official has a ball over the right bunker, but I'm not sure if it is yours." The player went to the ball over the right bunker and chipped it onto the green when he then realized it was not his ball. The player incurred a two stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball under Rule 15 (the stroke with that ball didn't count). He then searched for his ball for two minutes until they said it was too dark to search. The player came back the next morning and searched for three minutes before his ball was lost. He then returned to the fairway under penalty of stroke and distance and played out the hole. The player was five under par heading into the final hole where he made an untimely 10 for first round 72.
  • Final round of a four-ball event (one best ball of a two person team) - A team was confused and thought the format was "improve your score" meaning they were just trying to beat their score from round one on each hole. They didn't finish a few holes so they were disqualified.
  • During a stroke play tournament - A player was noticed using a belly putter with a large suction cup (1-2 inch diameter cup) on the end of the putter. When putting he would anchor the putter with the suction cup being firmly pressed against his stomach. He also used the suction cup to remove his ball from the hole. The USGA was called and they said that if the sole purpose of the suction cup was to remove the ball from the hole then it doesn't matter if it is being anchored against the player. If the player said the purpose was to get a good anchored position for putting then it wouldn't be ok to use. Basically it is one those "ask the player what his intent is" situations and go from there. It certainly looked odd for this player to anchor with a suction cup, but the USGA said it was ok since this player said he uses it to retrieve the ball from the hole. No penalty...(the player was fairly young and he seemed to bend down fine when marking and lifting his ball)
  • Final round of an individual stroke play event - A group came into the scoring area and checked their cards. One player slid his card across the table and the official noticed the competitor's signature was missing. The official informed the player that his signature was missing and the player said "I'm not signing it." After a few more questions, the official realized that the player was just refusing to sign his own card. He was informed that it would be a DQ and he said "ok, that's fine." The Committee then came to find out that the player was purposely being DQ'd to avoid posting bad scores and to avoid his scores being posted and effecting his ranking on various websites. After deliberation in the office, we decided to suspend to the player from FSGA events for three months.
  • At a junior tournament - A lot of players had trouble with relief procedures when dropping from a yellow marked water hazard. Many players tried to drop using two club lengths from the last point their ball crossed the margin instead of dropping behind the hazard or using stroke and distance. See 26-1 a & b.
  • At a junior tournament - A player accidentally struck and moved his golf ball during a practice stroke (he hit backwards). He didn't know what to do so he played two balls under 3-3. He incurred a one-stroke for moving his ball (Rule 18) and the score with the ball played from the point at which he moved it counted. He reported to Committee.

January 2014

  • Round 1 of a junior tournament - Two groups missed their first pace of play checkpoint (they weren't even close). Both groups got back into position on their back nines, however, all three players in each group received a one-stroke penalty for their breach on their front nine. Of course, the players were in shock that they were actually getting a penalty.
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