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 Playing it by the book


Rules expert Ashley Weller looks back at five outstanding Rules incidents that made the headlines – and in some cases earned a place in golf’s folklore


In the second round of the 1949 Open after a fine opening 68, Bradshaw pushed his tee shot on the 5th hole. He found the ball in the bottom half of a broken bottle.

With a Rules official not available Bradshaw, unclear of the Rules, decided to play the ball as it lay.

“I picked my blaster, closed my eyes tight and let fly” he said some years later. The ball moved about thirty yards, another two strokes were required to reach the green and Bradshaw walked off the hole with a 6. He tied for the title and lost the subsequent playoff to South Africa’s Bobby Locke.


The late, very great, Seve Ballesteros was crashing his way through his final round on his way to winning his first major at Royal Lytham. On the 16th he smashed his drive way right into a temporary car park where his ball came to rest under a parked car.

The car was deemed an immovable obstruction as the owner was not at hand, Seve received a free drop (over his shoulder in those days), pitched to around 20 feet and, in true Seve style, rolled the putt in for a birdie en route to a 3 stroke victory.


Carnoustie was brutal in 1999, and David Frost found himself in heavy rough near a cart path. He was lining up an attempt to hack the ball back to the fairway when his caddie suggested that he might try to chop it onto the cart path from where he would get a free drop (Rule 24-2, Immovable Obstruction). Frost took this idea one step further and took a very wide stance with one foot touching the path, claiming that as his foot was touching the path he should get a free drop for interference to his stance.

The referee with the group ruled that Frost was not attempting a ‘reasonable shot’ and denied relief. Essentially, he ruled that if the cart path was not there this would not be the shot nor stance that Frost would attempt. In other words, he believed that Frost was using an abnormal stance and direction of play in order to get a free drop from the bad lie he found himself in.

A further two opinions were sought before Frost was finally denied relief. He executed the shot to ‘prove a point’, but the ruling was based on the exception to Rule 24- 2b, which states (in part) “A player may not take relief under this Rule if…interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.


Battling for the lead, Woosnam made the perfect start to his final round, hitting to within a couple of inches on the opening par three to move to 7 under par. However, having experimented with a second driver on the practice ground, his caddie, Miles Byrne, had failed to remove the extra club from the bag. Byrne discovered his blunder on the second tee and sheepishly informed his employer. “I give you one job to do and you can’t even do that” was the gist of the response as the offending club took a short flight into a nearby bush.

The distraught Welshman took the 2 shot penalty under Rule 4-4 for carrying 15 clubs on the chin, turning the opening birdie into a bogie. He bravely battled to a closing 71, tying for third place two strokes behind the eventual winner, David Duval.


Following rounds of 77 and 70 England’s Mark Roe found himself in the company of Jesper Parnevik for Saturday’s third round. While the Swede stuttered round the famous links of Royal St Georges in 81, Roe shot into contention with a 67 to leave himself just 2 strokes out of the lead held by Thomas Bjorn.

However, in the scorer’s office – and with the cards posted – it transpired that they had failed to exchange cards on the first tee, meaning that Roe’s scores were recorded on Parnevik’s card and vice versa. Both players were subsequently disqualified for returning a wrong score (Rule 6-6d). In light of this unfortunate turn of events, Decision 6-6d/4 was introduced, ensuring that if this situation is ever repeated both players would escape penalty.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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