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Opinion & Analysis

The View from the Ref’s Side of the Fairway: Refs Get Pushy

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We refs sometimes monitor landing zones that are soggy, hoping to help players find and take free drops for balls that become embedded in the fairway. A ref friend of mine told me the following rather quirky tale about his approaching a player who had just pulled his ball out of the muck in a stroke-play tournament.

The player cleaned his ball and was preparing to drop. My buddy, suddenly and without a word, pushed the player hard on the shoulder. The shocked player regained his balance and gasped, “What the hell are you doing?”

My friend responded, “Saving you two strokes.”

Right before the player was going to drop, he raised his foot to stomp down on the irregularity of surface caused by his removal of the embedded ball. He apparently didn’t know that doing that is a violation of Rule 13-2: Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play. (Decision 13-2/10 describes this exact case, and note that it’s also a violation of Rule 13-2 if you repair the area after your drop if doing so improves your situation.)

Fortunately, the surprise shove prevented the player from leveling the surface and from getting the resulting 2-stroke penalty. (My quick-witted friend, with virtually no time to think and even less to reason with the player, deftly transformed this otherwise rude act into one of kindness.)

Here are a couple of other things to keep in mind when dealing with an embedded ball. (The details can be found in Rule 20-1, Rule 20-2c, Rule 25-2, and Rule 25-2’s related Decisions.)

  • You are not obligated to mark your embedded ball before lifting it, though you have that option. (Anytime you’re going to have to “replace” a ball you must mark it, so it does remain a good habit to get into. And at times, marking can help you determine if the ball needs to be re-dropped as well — but it’s not technically necessary to mark a ball when it is later going to be dropped.)
  • You may clean your ball after lifting it.
  • You must drop your ball “as near as possible to the spot where it lay” (but no closer to the hole) even though the disturbed ground there may end up causing interference for your next shot.
  • If your appropriately dropped ball rolls back into the hole from which you lifted it, you must drop again and place on the valid spot it last hit the course if it rolls back in a second time. (Same thing if it stops closer to the hole than the point it embedded.)
  • If your ball embeds in a new place when you drop it, you are again entitled to relief. If it embeds yet again after the next drop, place the ball as near as possible to the place it last embedded, but again, no closer to the hole.
  • By the base Rule, you get free relief for embedded balls only when they are in a “closely-mown area through the green.” But there is a Local Rule that might be in force that extends the free relief to most other areas through the green — not just those that are closely-mown. (The PGA Tour regularly employs this Local Rule. See Appendix I of the Rules for more details and note that the relief does not apply if you are embedded in sand that is not in a closely-mown area.)
  • Any doubt as to whether a ball is actually embedded “should be resolved against the player.”
  • You may (really, should) fix the surface when you and your group are past the problem area so it doesn’t impact players in following groups.

One last thing, while you may not repair the irregularity of surface you create when you remove your ball from its embedded position, there’s nothing in the Rules which says that you can’t be extra careful when extracting it. Try to keep the surface as undisturbed as you can. It might end up helping you with your next shot.

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Howard Meditz is a member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association and author of the new book, How to Love the Rules of Golf, available on Amazon. He holds “The Highest Level of Rating” in knowledge of the Rules of Golf, a designation awarded by the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. He's a member of the Rules & Competitions Committee and a rules official for New York’s Metropolitan Golf Association; a member of the Executive Committee and a rules official for New York’s Westchester Golf Association; a rules official for the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association; and holds a seat on the Board of Governors and is Rules Chairman at Connecticut’s busiest golf facility. (He really loves the Rules of Golf.)

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bert

    Nov 7, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Even though his actions sound good, a golf referee, should never physically touch a player. I understand what occurred and the outcome was beneficial to the player, but what if …….

  2. Ryan

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    This could be a good event to watch. Most recreational golfers, whether they admit it or not, will pick up there ball at a certain, when they feel they’ve endured enough for that hole. I sometimes play in a group that plays skins, and only birdies or better can win, so everyone picks up after missing for par. No point past that, and we’ll have 3 foursomes done in 3 hours.

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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Podcasts

Ping Engineer Paul Wood explains how the G400 Max driver is so forgiving

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Paul Wood, VP of Engineering at Ping, joins our 19th Hole to discuss the new G400 Max driver, which the company calls the “straightest driver ever.” Also, listen for a special discount code on a new laser rangefinder.

Listen to this episode on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes.

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Opinion & Analysis

WATCH: How to Pull a Shaft from a Composite Club Head

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Composite club heads are increasing in popularity with golfers thanks to their technological and material advantages. For that reason, it’s important to know how to pull shafts from composite club heads without damaging them. This video is a quick step-by-step guide that explains how to safely pull a shaft from a composite club head.

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