Rules and Rants
The importance of knowing golf's rules
As Tiger Woods learned this past weekend in Abu Dhabi, the better you understand golf's rules, the more they will work in your favour.
Madeline Small, Golf Canada’s Coordinator of Rules/Competitions
Published on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 04:25PM EST Last updated on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 06:29AM EST
The rules of golf have always intrigued me. Not solely because golfers must adhere to them, but also because players can use them to their advantage. The more familiar you are with the Rules, the better you are able to apply them in benefitting your game.
Knowledge of the Rules can work greatly in your favour. However, a measure of expertise is required to understand each Rule and to apply it correctly on the golf course. Simply knowing the Rules of Golf, but not understanding their proper application can be counterproductive, and actually hurt your game.
This lesson rang true for Tiger Woods at this past weekends’ Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. On the 5th hole, Tiger took a drop under Rule 25-2 for an embedded ball. Tiger called over his fellow competitor, Martin Kaymer, to observe the lifting of the ball and to determine if his ball was, in fact, embedded. The two agreed that it was embedded and that Tiger would get a free drop. While Tiger followed the correct procedure, he overlooked a fundamental element of the Rule that stipulates the kind of terrain a ball must be embedded in for it to qualify as an embedded ball.
Rule 25-2 states that “a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned, and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay, but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. ‘Closely mown area’ means any area of the course including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.”
The terrain that Tiger took relief from was determined to be a sandy area, which is not a “closely mown area” and therefore means that his ball was not in fact embedded. Tiger was told on the 11th hole that he may be incurring a penalty, and it was later confirmed in the scoring area that he would receive a two stroke penalty for breaching Rule 25-2.
Golf Week outlines the circumstance in more detail and explains that two Rules-savvy spectators observed the breach and were ultimately the reason why Tiger’s infraction came to light. When you’re playing at this level of competition, a two stroke penalty can have severe consequences. The two-stroke penalty meant that Tiger would miss the cut, which is just another example of why a detailed knowledge of the Rules Book is imperative.
In certain cases, a tournament committee will adopt a Local Rule (prescribed in Appendix I, Part B, Section 4a in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf book) which ultimately eliminates ‘closely mown area’ from Rule 25-2 and therefore opens up the classification of an embedded ball to be in the rough, or other areas on course that aren’t cut to fairway height or less. However, an important exception to this Local Rule states that “a player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown”.
No matter your level of competition, it is advantageous to know the Rules of the game and what Local Rules the committee has adopted for that specific round.
You can watch Tiger's illegal drop in the video below.
For more information on golf's rules, please consult our Rules of Golf publications – for purchase in Golf Canada’s eStore, or at your local book retailer. In addition to reading our various publications, you can begin your Rules of Golf Education anytime, beginning with our online curriculum; to start your Rules Education, click here. As always, our ‘Ask an Expert’ tool can be utilized and accessed via our website, where we would be happy to answer your Rules-related inquiries.