Rules Corner

Two Misses And One Double Hit

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July 14, 2012

Lake Orion, Mich. –The Rules define a stroke as “the forward movement of the club with the intention to striking at, and moving the ball.” During the second round of the U.S. Senior Open, two players attempted to strike their ball and missed it while another one hit his ball twice in one attempt.

On the 10th hole, after playing his second shot while standing in the lake alongside the fairway, Tom Watson’s ball came to rest in heavy rough alongside the putting green. Watson attempted to hit the ball, but it didn’t move. His second attempt reached the green and he two-putted for double bogey.

Larry Nelson left his putt for a birdie two on the 13th hole 1 inch short of the hole. He walked up and quickly tried to tap the ball into the hole, but missed the ball. Since he had intended to strike the ball, the stroke counted.

While both of these misses counted, Robert Fulton, not only didn’t miss his ball, he made contact twice during one stroke from the rough beside the 15 green. Rule 14-4 says that when a player accidentally makes contact with the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the stroke counts and the player adds one penalty stroke. It doesn’t matter if the ball is struck two, three or even four times; the player only receives a single penalty stroke. Fulton went on to double bogey the hole.

All of these incidents can be embarrassing to the player. The irony of Fulton’s double hit is that this is the first U.S. Senior Open for T. C. Chen who had one of the most famous double hits in the 1985 U.S. Open just down the road at Oakland Hills Country Club. You can see that video of that famous incident here.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at  

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA. 


Rules Incidents In First Two Rounds

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July 14, 2012

Lake Orion, Mich. – Each grouping or pairing at the U.S. Senior Open has a walking referee assigned to accompany it. Whenever the official is called on to make a ruling or he observes a player proceeding under a Rule, he records the facts and the ruling on a Rules Incident card. These cards are collected and the information is stored in a database.

Through the first two rounds, there were 133 incidents reported. In most cases, the incident was handled in under two minutes. There were 29 balls hit into the water hazards and lateral water hazards around the golf course. Eight balls were lost or hit out of bounds while five players chose to proceed under Rule 28 for an unplayable ball. In addition, there were 12 instances of a player receiving relief from a temporary immovable obstruction. Most of the rest have been for relief from obstructions, both movable ones like microphones and immovable ones such as cart paths or sprinkler heads.

The hole with the most incidents was the difficult par-4 12th hole. A large lateral water hazard lies just to the left of the drive zone. Sixteen balls have been hit into the hazard. The ninth hole with out of bounds to the right and the clubhouse behind has had the second-highest number of rulings with 13.

Having a referee with each group ensures that any time a player needs a ruling there is someone on the spot to assist them promptly. You will usually see these officials walking near the ropes with the walking scorer and standard bearer.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at  

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA. 


Rules: Rub Of The Green

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July 13, 2012
John Van der Borght, USGA

Rub of the green is a term that has been a part of the game of golf since the earliest versions of the Rules. Simply put, it means any time a ball in motion after a stroke strikes an outside agency. Outside agencies are anything or anyone that is not a part of a player’s match or the player’s side in stroke play. A tree is as much an outside agency as a spectator or a fellow-competitor in stroke play. Rule 19-1 says that anytime a ball in motion strikes an outside agency it is a rub of the green and the ball is played as it lies.


Many golfers think of a rub of the green as only a bad thing. But it can also be a good thing.

During the second round of the U.S. Senior Open, Kirk Maynord’s tee shot on the par 4 12th hole was hooked toward a lake that runs down the left side of the fairway. When the group arrived in the landing zone, the players were surprised to see Maynord’s ball in the rough short of the water. Maynord told the marshal he was surprised that the ball hadn’t reached the water. The marshal replied that it did go into the hazard on its first bounce.  Within the hazard is a large 4-foot diameter metal pipe sticking straight out of the water.  The ball had struck the pipe and bounced backward onto dry ground outside the hazard.

Maynord tried to make the best of the good break, but his second shot came up short of the green and he went on to make a bogey 5.

Remember that when you get that good bounce off a tree back into the fairway, it is just as much a “rub of the green” as when you get the bad bounce off the cart path into a water hazard.

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules education. For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at 

Ball Overhanging Lip Of The Hole

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John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion – On the sixth hole of the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Tom Watson had a 7-foot putt from the right of the hole. His putt ran up to the lip and appeared to stop. As he started forward to tap it in, the ball fell into the hole.

How long could Watson wait for his ball to fall into the hole?

Rule 16-2 says that if any part of the ball is overhanging the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional 10 seconds to determine if the ball is at rest. If the ball falls in before that point, the ball is holed. If the ball has not fallen into the hole by that time, it is deemed to be at rest.

At this point if it falls in on its own, the ball is considered holed, but the player must add a penalty of one stroke. This is exactly the same result as if the player tapped the ball in.  Therefore, after 10 seconds, there is no benefit for the player to wait any longer and the player should just tap it in.

The term “reach the hole without unreasonable delay” allows a variable amount of time for the player. In Watson’s case, he was only 7 feet from the hole. The Rule would allow some amount of reaction and then he should walk to the hole. Once there, the clock would start on the 10 seconds. Watson had barely started toward the hole when the ball fell in.

If the shot was from the fairway, 150 yards away, it might take the player a minute or two to reach the hole. If he had to wait for other players to play it might be even longer. Regardless of where the shot was played from, if the ball is overhanging the hole, the player can reach the hole and wait 10 seconds.

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules education. For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at


Pavin’s Ball Moves On The Fifth Hole

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By John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion, Mich. – Corey Pavin’s tee shot on the par-3 fifth hole at the U.S. Senior Open (his 14th hole) came to rest in the rough behind the green. From there he played a chip shot to just beyond the hole. A television replay showed that his ball had moved after he addressed it.

Pavin thought his ball had oscillated and returned to its original position. Unfortunately it did not return to the original position. The Definition of a Ball Deemed to Moved says that if the ball comes to rest in a new position it is deemed to have moved. Had the ball returned to its original position, Decision 18/2 (Ball Oscillates During Address) states there would be no penalty.

Rule 18-2b (Ball at Rest Moved ; Ball Moving After Address)  says that if a ball moves after address, the player is penalized one stroke and must replace the ball. If he fails to replace the ball, the penalty becomes a loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. Since Pavin did not replace his ball, he incurred the full two-stroke penalty.

Pavin viewed the video after the round and agreed that the ball had moved and not just oscillated. The two-stroke penalty changed his score from 65 to 67.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules communications.

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