Can We Do That?

At the recent United States Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship conducted at the Country Club of Birmingham in Birmingham, Alabama, I was assigned the duty of a referee for a match in the round of 32.

My players had gotten off to a bad start, making only two pars in the first six holes. The poor play had resulted in our match falling behind the pace of play schedule by five minutes. On the fifth hole, I was instructed to advise the players of the situation and to give them a “bump” in hopes of getting them back in position on the course.

On the fifth tee, I advised the players and politely asked that they “make a couple of birdies” so that we would be able to regain our position on the course. I received a chuckle in return but they got the message. I knew they could have easily replied with “we’re trying to make a few pars nonetheless birdies” in reply.

After finishing the sixth hole just three minutes over the time par, we proceeded to the long and difficult seventh hole. Regrettably, both players pushed their tee shots right into a heavily wooded area. Their caddies had walked forward from the sixth green leaving neither player with a ball to hit provisionally on the hole. I knew this would set us further back in our efforts to regain our position.

We arrived in the general area of where we thought the balls would have come to rest. I started my watch for the five minute search period as soon as the caddies arrived in the area to begin to search for the balls. The forward observers had also joined the search.

Moments after we arrived, one of the balls was found and identified by one of the players as his. I called for backup from a roving official knowing I still had the other player searching.

The player began to ask for his options under the unplayable ball Rule and I let him know what he could and could not do. He then inquired about a large branch and whether he could move it or not. I let him know that he could, but if the ball moved as a result, he would incur a one stroke penalty (Rule 23).

My relief then arrived and I turned that player over to the roving official and returned to the remaining player still searching for his ball. Several balls were found but none of them was his as the five minute search period expired. He was going back to the tee; stroke and distance under Rule 27-1c.

After contemplating his situation, the other player decided that his best option was to return to the tee as well under Rule 28a.

Knowing this whole incident was going to set us back further on our pace schedule, I let the players both know that the Rules of Golf allows for two players in match play to agree to a half of a hole during play of a hole (Decision 2-1/1.5).

They looked at each other and said “let’s go”. We walked straight to the eighth hole. Upon arriving at the tee of the par three eighth hole, I glanced at my watch to record our time for finishing the seventh hole; two minutes ahead of our pace!

Remember, use the definitions, index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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