A player in a competition is responsible for knowing and following the Rules of Golf. It seems simple, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
In competitions such as any of the USGA championships, the following should be considered:
- The 34 Rules written in the Rules of Golf booklet
- The entry application for the particular championship
- And finally, the Notice to Players, which points out specific items particular to the course the championship is being contested on.
That can be a lot for one to digest and understand, but the playing field for golf isn’t like other sports.
As golf officials, we look at the golf course with a fine-tooth comb to find any potential rules issues. That’s an official’s responsibility and duty. Ultimately, it is the players' responsibility to read the Rules information provided to them.
Ryuji Imada’s recent case makes a perfect example. Imada learned the hard way about the importance of reading the Notice to Players. In his case, he misapplied a local rule for “lift, clean and place” during the first round of the Mission Hills Star Trophy held in Haikou, China.
Imada discovered his mistake on the 12th hole, and by that time he had incorrectly placed his golf ball one club length from the original position of the ball about 13 times. The local rule specified that the ball may be placed one scorecard length from its original position, not one club length as Imada had thought. For his miscalculations, Imada was assessed a two-stroke penalty for each time he misapplied the rule, for a total of 26 strokes.
He took his penalty in good humor, acknowledging that it was his responsibility to know the application of the local rule. Had Imada not made those mistakes, he would have been tied for the lead after the first round of the 36-hole event.
Wendy Wooley is the director of Rules education projects for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.