Rules Corner

Practice Putting After Completion Of The Hole

 Permanent link

July 15, 2012

By John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion – When Tom Watson completed play of the 11th hole of the final round of the U.S. Senior Open, he looked behind him and made sure that the group behind was not waiting. He then took a practice putt. His fellow competitor, Gary Hallberg, was surprised and asked the accompanying referee if this was allowed.

The referee explained that Rule 7-2a allows a player to practice on the putting green of the hole last played as along as play was not unduly delayed. Since the group was 15 minutes ahead of the pace of play and the group behind was not yet at their drives, there was no delay.

The reason Hallberg was surprised by this is that the PGA Tour prohibits this type of practice as they are permitted to do by Note 2 to Rule 7.  Note 2 allows the Committee to prohibit practice on or near the putting green of the hole last played and to prohibit rolling of balls on that putting green.

So unless the Committee prohibits it, you may practice putting on the putting green of the hole just completed as long as you don’t unduly delay play. If you do hold up the players behind you or cause your group to get behind, it would be a penalty under Rule 6-7.

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.


Two Misses And One Double Hit

 Permanent link


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

 Permanent link

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

 Permanent link


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

 Permanent link

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

 Permanent link

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.

Rules: Obstructions Near Greens

 Permanent link



By John Van der Borght


Lake Orion, Mich. – If you are attending the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Country Club this week or watching it on TV, one of the things you will notice is the 18th green. The green is more than 50 yards deep and nearly as wide. In order to water a green this size, a number of sprinkler heads are located at the edges of the green. Additionally, there are two large drains situated directly off the edge of the green on the front right-hand side.


Because the area around the green has been mown to fairway height, many players who are just off the green may choose to putt the ball.  But what is the player to do if there is a sprinkler head or a large drain directly on his line of play?

Rule 24 (Obstructions) does not provide relief for an immovable obstruction that is on the player’s line of play throu   gh the green as long as it does not interfere with the area of his intended swing. This means that a player may have to find a different way to play this shot to avoid the obstruction.

The Rules of Golf do provide a number of local rules that may optionally be invoked by the committee in charge of a competition or the course. These local rules can be found in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf. One of the local rules provided allows for relief in situations such as this. Let’s take a look at this local rule.

The local rule states that if a ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief.  Relief under this local rule is different than ordinary relief from an obstruction. When taking relief under Rule 24, a player determines his nearest point of relief and drops a ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. But, under this local rule, the player must drop the ball at the nearest point of relief, rather than within one club-length of that point. In both cases, the nearest point of relief must be no nearer the hole and not on a putting green or in a hazard and the ball must be dropped no nearer than the nearest point and not on a putting green or in a hazard.

In 2012, a note was added to this local rule, which gives the committee the right to restrict where it may be used. The committee may restrict its use to only balls lying in closely mown areas, to specific obstructions, only obstructions lying in closely mown areas or to specific holes.

Because the 18th hole at Indianwood is the only hole on the course where the use of closely mown areas around the greens is prevalent, the committee in charge of the U.S. Senior Open decided to implement the local rule only for play of the 18th hole.

As a player, you should always be sure to familiarize yourself with the local rules that are in force at the club where you are playing or for the tournament in which you are playing.

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: Fescue Grass Untangled

 Permanent link

By John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion, Mich. – Indianwood Golf & Country Club, site of this week’s U.S. Senior Open, has large areas of long fescue grass throughout the course. When a player hits his ball into one of these areas, it can be difficult to find. 

Frequently, when a player is searching for his ball in an area of long grass, he or some other person searching might accidentally move the ball. Rule 18 tells us that if the player or his caddie moved the ball he would incur a penalty stroke. If anyone else moves the ball there is no penalty. Regardless of how the ball was moved, Rule 18 requires that it must be replaced.  But how does the player replace the ball if he didn’t know where the ball was?

Note three at the end of Rule 18 tells the player how to resolve this situation. It tells the player that “If it is impossible to determine the spot on which a ball is to be placed or replaced, see Rule 20-3c.”  Rule 20-3c says that, through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the estimated original location but no nearer the hole than that location and it must not be dropped in a hazard or on the putting green.

Remember that any time your ball is moved and you don’t know the exact location, Rule 20-3c will guide you on how to get it back in play properly.

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.


Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit

AmEx image