To set the mood, the Carolinas Golf Association greets its Rules of Golf’s seminar participants with a hypothetical question projected on a big screen.
The situation: Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on a par-3 into a greenside bunker. He blasts out, the ball stopping on the fringe.
Before his next shot, he repairs a ball mark on the green and removes sand from the putting surface. His chip hits the flagstick and stops four inches from the hole. He holds the flagstick in one hand and taps the ball into the hole.
What’s his score?
Rusty Harder, the CGA’s tournament director who conducted a recent seminar at Forest Lake Club, notes that a lot of rules are in play in this scenario. Can a player repair the green before he plays? Can he move sand? What about the ball hitting the flagstick? Are there any penalties? He gets answers ranging from 4, 5 and 6. About half are correct -- 4; Tiger incurred no penalties.
The Rules of Golf are not easy, but Harder said, they are not as complex as some would make them ... if players would take time to familiarize themselves with the basics. After all, it is the player’s responsibility to know the rules.
Although a lot of discussion in this seminar centered on the flagstick, Harder said afterward that generally the toughest challenge for most centers on a lost ball.
“When is a ball lost?” he asked participants, then provided five situations for answers.
“One thing we encourage players to do is to play a provisional ball if he thinks his ball might be out of bounds or, perhaps, lost in trees,” Harder said. “That way, if a ball is lost, the player does not have to return to where he played his last shot from to play again, and that speeds up play.”
Of course, he added, the provisional ball must be put into play properly — and that’s another rule.
One that befuddles some is whether a lost ball went into a hazard. “They might say, ‘Oh, it’s in the water’ and take a drop,” Harder said. “But it must be certain, or virtually certain, the ball is in the hazard; otherwise, it must be played under the lost-ball rule (stroke and distance).”
Or, if the ball is lost in trees or thick rough, they might drop there, incorrectly, instead of returning to the previous spot.
The 2012-15 Rules of Golf provides a quick guide that covers some basics, including diagrams on the proper way to take drops. Obstructions — there are both movable and immovable — can be a head-scratching problem, but the Rules of Golf definitions and index provide a guide to the proper section.
Understanding the words is a priority. “May” equals “optional,” “must” is an instruction and “should” is a recommendation. There is a difference between “a ball” and “the ball.”
“The rules are interesting, and we can get some crazy problems,” Harder said, “but if a player has a good knowledge of the rules, the game is more fun.”
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