Playing by the Rules

IMG_0407BEST TO AVOID the Indonesian Open if you can help it. Why? Because it has been the scene of two notorious allegations of world famous golfers cheating.

Actually, when Vijay Singh signed his card at one better than he scored in order to make the cut, something he was found guilty of and banned in 1985, he was far from famous, but Colin Montgomerie was headline news in 2005.

Montgomerie needed a top three finish to get into the world top 50 and qualify for The Players Championship and his second round in Jakarta was going badly. On the 14th his ball was lodged near the edge of a deep bunker and Mongomerie was struggling to get a stance to play the shot, with one foot in and the other out of the bunker.

Then the heavens opened and play was suspended for the day with Montgomerie leaving his ball in the sand rather than marking it. The following day his ball had vanished and he replaced the ball although this time was able to play a safe chip shot with both feet outside the bunker.

Clearly he had put the ball back in the wrong spot, but did he do it intentionally? In other words did he cheat? Many, including Sandy Lyle and Darren Clarke, both of whom Montgomerie fell out with spectacularly, maintained that he did, as did a large number of others.

Coming right up to date, Tiger Woods endured his third rules violation of the season when a hawk-eyed TV producer spotted Woods’s ball move when he attempted to move a twig from behind it during the second round of the BMW championship at Lake Forest, Illinois. Woods and his entourage furiously insist that there was no movement but the rules committee decided otherwise.

So how would we have reacted in these situations when we don’t have rules officials on hand? And how many of us seriously think we are knowledgeable about the rules of golf?  Be honest!

Most of us have probably made slip ups with scores from time to time, and hopefully, ensured the correct one was marked down. Playing in a big tournament with rain interrupting play and having to return to the course will only affect a few, but Wood’s moving ball is a different proposition altogether. That is a situation where we definitely know if our ball moves or not and should know what the penalty is.

One law that has been changed is if the wind causes the ball to move having addressed it so there is no longer any penalty if the ball should blow off the tee, for example, or move on the putting green. Although if the club is grounded either in front or behind the ball and the club causes it to move that is deemed as taking address and a penalty is incurred.

Yet how many of us knew that by grounding the club in front is now regarded as taking address? Players can now also rake a bunker before playing a shot provided it is for the purpose solely of caring for the course, which will not affect Ashdown members when playing at home, but could be very useful when playing elsewhere. Previously one could be penalised raking someone else’s footprints even if they were at the opposite end of the hazard to the ball.

So whilst it should be up to clubs to circulate members with rule changes it is also a golfer’s duty to do their best to keep up with the rules too and then play to them. The R&A does a very useful online rules site for reference and, as the great Bobby Jones once said when he was praised for calling a penalty on himself: ‘You might as well praise me for not breaking into banks. There is only one way to play this game.’

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