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 Playing it by the book


Have you been paying attention? European Tour ref Ashley Weller has delighted at setting readers a series of teasing tests in the shape of various Rules features within these pages. And now it’s time for the season-ending spectacular – a killer collection of 20 True or False questions, 10 Multiple Choice and 3 Bonus Questions where the big points are won and lost. So who in your regular fourball really knows the Rules of Golf? Order up the beers at the 19th – this should settle matters

Whilst the Rules Of Golf are revised every four years, the Decisions On The Rules Of Golf go through the process every two years, and 2014 sees the latest version published by the R&A and USGA.

Think of the Decisions book as the 'what if' part of the Rules of Golf. For example, the Rules will tell you that you are penalised for making a stroke at a wrong ball, but the Decisions will advise the outcome if the wrong ball was concealed and that the player did not know it was there. Understandably, this is a big book with many Decisions! And so it is that the 2014 edition sees 3 new Decisions, 59 revised, 1 renumbered and 24 withdrawn. It is worth looking at a couple of the new Decisions to see how the Rules have to keep pace with advances in technology.

The new Decision 14-3/18 deals with accessing weather information through an application or internet browser on a multifunctional device. It is made clear that Rule 14-3 only prohibits gauging or measuring conditions that might affect a player's play, using a thermometer or anemometer for instance. Accessing a weather forecast or report is not actively measuring or gauging conditions. This again highlights the need to adapt to the everchanging mobile phone technology available in these times.

Decision 18/4 again deals with the ability of TV cameras to perform super slow motion and zoom functions like never before. As a result any tiny movement of a golf ball is liable to be picked up, causing Rule makers and referees headaches at every turn. A recent incident involving Tiger Woods brings this into focus. Tiger's ball was in the trees and he was moving some twigs carefully from around the ball. As he moved one twig he thought the ball had oscillated, left the twig alone and continued his play. However, there was a TV camera zoomed in close and it was clear that the ball had moved fractionally and all hell broke loose again. The new Decision makes clear that any movement of the ball must be discernible to the naked eye, and the player will not be penalised if he has used all the information available to him at the time and concluded that the ball has not moved, even if a movement not discernible to the naked eye has occurred and is later proved through use of sophisticated technology. This is a sensible move forwards and another step towards absolving players from penalty or disqualification for Rule breaches they could not be reasonably expected to have known to have incurred. Again, ignorance of a Rule is no defence.

A little taster there of the new Decisions book, available at the end of the year from the R&A website.


1. A solidly fixed marker pole (immovable obstruction) lies some five yards ahead of a player's ball on a direct line to the flag. The player is entitled to relief from his line of play.

2. A ball to be lifted under the Rules may be lifted by a person authorised by the player.

3. A player's ball lies off the putting green. A pitch mark on the green between the player's ball and the hole interferes with his intended line of play. The player may not repair the pitch mark. 4. A player's ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark on the fairway.

He may lift, clean and drop the ball within one club-length of the spot where the ball lay, not nearer the hole.

5. A player may not make a stroke while his caddie stands to one side protecting him from the rain with his umbrella.

6. A player accidentally moves the ball with his club whilst measuring out 2 club-lengths in order to take a drop for an unplayable lie. He must replace the ball and there is no penalty.

7. In Four-Ball match play an absent partner may join a match between holes but not during the play of a hole. True (Rule 30-3) In Foursomes match play if a player plays when his partner should have played, his side loses the hole.

8. In matchplay a player’s opponent accidentally moves the player’s ball while helping to search for it. The opponent is penalised one stroke and the ball must be replaced.

9. A player's ball lies 50 yards short of the green. He may not request the flagstick to be attended.

10. In matchplay a player fails to mark his ball before lifting it to identify it. He loses the hole.

11. A player may make a stroke at a ball moving in a water hazard.

12. A player may not under any circumstances make a stroke at a ball while it is moving.

13. Snow is either casual water or a loose impediment, at the option of the player.

14. In foursomes match play, if a player plays when his partner should have played the partner must replay the stroke and the side must add a penalty of two strokes.

15. A ball to be lifted under the Rules may only be lifted by the player himself.

16. A ball is out of bounds when any part of it lies out of bounds.

17. A ball imbedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and placed, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole.

18. A If a player’s ball lies in ground under repair he must take relief as provided by Rule 25-1.

19. A player lifts his ball on the fairway to determine whether it is fit for play. He may clean the ball.

20. A player may repair a pitch mark that is on the green if his ball lies off the green


21. A player misses a short putt on the 5th green and kicks his putter in anger, causing a small bend in the shaft and the putter to sit fractionally more open than before. He uses the putter for the rest of the round.

(A) There is no penalty
(B) He is penalised two strokes for each hole the putter is used up to a maximum of four strokes.
(C) He is disqualified.

22. In match play a player lifts his ball do determine whether it is damaged. He conforms with the other provisions of Rule 5-3 but cleans the ball before replacing it.

(A) The player is penalised 1 stroke.
(B) The player is penalised 2 strokes.
(C) The player loses the hole.

23. A player’s ball is resting against the flagstick. He pulls the flag out and the ball moves further away fro the hole. What is the correct ruling?

(A) The ball should be replaced on the lip of the hole without penalty
(B) The ball should be replaced on the lip of the hole and the player must add a penalty of one stroke
(C) The ball should be played as it lies

24. In addressing the ball the player accidentally causes his ball to oscillate, but it returns to its original position.

(A) The player is penalised 1 stroke.
(B) There is no penalty.
(C) The player is penalised 2 strokes.

25. A half-eaten apple lies in the same bunker as the player's ball.

(A) It is a loose impediment and therefore cannot be moved.
(B) As it has obviously been discarded by another player or an outside agency, in equity (Rule 1-4) it is classed as a movable obstruction and can therefore be removed without penalty.
(C) The answer depends on whether there is an apple tree in the immediate vicinity. If there is it must be treated as a loose impediment and if not it can be treated as a movable obstruction and removed without penalty.

26. A player's club is slightly bent when he plays a shot and strikes a tree root with his follow through.

(A) He may continue to use the club in its damaged state but may not have it repaired.
(B) He may have the club repaired provided it does not unduly delay play but may not use the club in its damaged state.
(C) May continue to use the club in its damaged state or have it repaired without unduly delaying play.

27. A player’s ball lies just off a wrong putting green, but he has to stand on the green if he is to play his next shot. Which of the following is correct?

(A) The player may take relief, without penalty
(B) The player must take relief, without penalty
(C) The player may not take relief

28. It is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is lying in casual water. Which statement below is correct?

(A) The player may take relief without penalty and for the purposes of determining the nearest point of relief the ball is deemed to lie at the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the casual water.
(B) As the ball has not been found the player must take the lost ball penalty of stroke and distance.
(C) The player may take relief without penalty and the player must estimate the position of the ball. The nearest point of relief is calculated from this spot.

29. What is the maximum allowable loft of a putter?

(A) 5 degrees
(B) 7.5 degrees
(C) 10 degrees

30. A player strikes the ball more than once during the course of a stroke. Which of the following is correct?

(A) The player must count the stroke and add two penalty strokes.
(B) The player must count the stroke and add one penalty stroke.
(C) The stroke is cancelled and the player is penalised a stroke for each time the ball is struck.


31. A ball rests in the fork of a branch of a tree. The player climbs the tree to play his next stroke. The branch bends under his weight. Although the ball has moved relative to the ground, it has not moved relative to the fork. Is the ball deemed to have moved?

(A) The ball is deemed to have moved because it has moved in relation to the ground and the player is penalised 1 stroke under Rule 18-2.
(B) The ball is not deemed to have moved since it did not move in relation to the fork of the tree in which it was lodged.
(C) The ball has not moved in relation to the fork of the tree in which it was lodged. However, in equity (1-4) if the movement of the branch is such that the player would be playing the ball from a position closer to the hole than where the ball lay before the branch moved he would be penalised 1 stroke.

32. A player’s ball lies against a board at the base of an out of bounds fence. He swings a club from the out of bounds side of the fence against the board – i.e. swings at the ball with the board intervening between club and ball. The stroke moves the board which caused the ball to move away from the fence. Which of the following is correct:

(A) The player is not allowed to stand out of bounds to make a stroke at a ball lying in bounds. He is penalised two strokes and must correct his mistake, otherwise he is disqualified.
(B) The player has not fairly struck at the ball and is penalised two strokes
(C) The player has fairly struck at the ball, even though the board intervened between the club and the ball, therefore there is no penalty.

33. A player removes an out of bounds post on his line of play. He realises he has made a mistake and replaces it before playing his next stroke. What is the ruling?

(A) As the post was replaced before the next stroke was played there is no penalty.
(B) The player was in breach of Rule 13-2 the moment he removed the post and there was nothing he could do to avoid the penalty of 2 strokes. The replacement of the post before the next stroke was irrelevant.
(C) The player restored the post to its original position and therefore gained no advantage with respect to his next stroke. In equity (Rule 1-4) the penalty of 2 strokes under Rule13-2 is reduced to a 1 stroke penalty.


Scoring: Score 1 point for each correct answer in section one, 2 points for each correct answer in section two, and 5 points for each correct answer in section three.


Answers Below











1) False (Rule 24-2); 2) True (Rule 20-1); 3) (Rule 16-1c); 4) False (Rule 25-2); 5) True (Rule 14-2); 6) True (Rule 18-6); 7) True (Rule 29-2) 8) False (Rule 18-3) 9) False (Rule 17-1); 10) False (Rule 12-2); 11) True (14-6); 12) False (Rule 14-5); 13) True (Definition); 14) False (Rule 29-2); 15) False (Rule 20-1); 16) False (Definition - Out of Bounds); 17) False (Rule 25-2 - ball must be dropped); 18) False (But a Committee may may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an area it wishes to protect); 19) False (Rule 21a)’ 20) True (Rule 16-1c);

21) Answer: C (Rule 4-3b); 22) Answer: A (Rule 21); 23) A (Rule 17-4); 24) Answer: B (Rule 18-2, Decision 18/2, Definition “Move or Moved”); 25) Answer: A (Rule 23, Decision 23/3, Definition “Loose Impediment”); 26) Answer: C (Rule 4-3a); 27) Answer: C (Rule 25-3); 28) Answer: A (Rule 25-1c); 29) Answer: C; 30) Answer: B;

31) Answer: B (Decision 29-1/7); 32) Answer: C (Decision 14-1/5); 33) Answer: B (Decision 13-2/25

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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