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Opinion & Analysis

A merciful new local rule

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This April, within a list of 2019 Rules Clarifications, the USGA and R&A quietly authorized a new Local Rule that you can expect to see enacted everywhere from the U.S. Open Championship to, if you’re lucky, your own club championship.  

New Local Rule E-12 provides some protection from an unintended consequence of Rule 14.3c, which requires that your ball come to rest in the relief area for the drop you’re taking. When I first read about this option, I confess that I was a bit skeptical. But now that I’ve experienced the Local Rule in action, its value has become very clear.  

My initial skepticism came from the fact that I like it that every time, we drop we now must drop in a relief area. I also like the simplicity of requiring the ball to come to rest in that relief area — no more awkward need to figure out if your ball stayed within two club lengths of the point where your drop first struck the course, as used to be the case.  So right from the start, I was very comfortable with the new rules in this regard. But in some cases, particularly for those who haven’t carefully studied the revised rules, this simple approach has caused problems. 

The freedom this new Local Rule provides applies exclusively to back-on-the-line relief drops, such as you might make from penalty areas or for unplayable balls. It’s a bit complicated, but let me take you through how it helps. We’ll use yellow-staked penalty areas as an example. Last year, for back-on-the-line drops such as these, you’d identify the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and draw an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point, select a nice place to drop anywhere you chose back along that line, and then let it drop. If you picked a point sufficiently back, and your ball didn’t hit anything prohibited, and it didn’t stop more than two club lengths from where you dropped it, you were good to go.  

This year, instead of dropping on that imaginary line, you drop in a relief area that surrounds that imaginary line. Just like before, you identify the edge of the penalty area where your ball last crossed, go back as far as you wish along an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point — but now you should identify a relief area around your selected drop location. To do so, you pick a point on the line, then define a relief area one club length from that point no closer to the hole. So you typically have a semicircle two club lengths in diameter in which to drop. If you drop a foot or two back from the front edge of the semicircle, there’s almost always no problem with the ball coming to rest outside the releif area and you’ll be ready to play.  But if you drop right on the front edge of your defined relief area, or if you didn’t bother to identify a point/relief area along the imaginary line before you dropped, and your ball bounces and comes to rest even the slightest bit forward — it’s now outside the relief area and subject to a two-stroke or loss of hole penalty for playing from the wrong place if you end up hitting the ball before correcting your mistake.

That might seem kind of harsh — you take a back-on-the-line drop like you did last year, it bounces and stops an inch forward, you hit it — and you get severely penalized.  If you had simply established the relief area an inch or two forward, things would have been perfectly legal! The 2019 rules, in their effort to simplify and make consistent the drop/relief procedure, created an unintended potential trap for players that weren’t careful enough managing their business. This seemed like it was going to be a big enough problem that the USGA and R&A decided to graciously do something about it:  Introduce Model Local Rule E-12.

When this Local Rule is adopted, a player is given some additional freedom. If he or she applies the relief area/drop principles correctly, there is, of course, still no problem.  But if he or she ends up with the ball somewhat outside the relief area, there still might be no penalty. As long as the ball originally struck the course within where the relief area should be, and as long as it didn’t come to rest more than one club length from where it first hit the course when dropped, you can still play it penalty-free (as long as it’s not nearer the hole than where the ball originally lay in the case of an unplayable ball drop, or nearer the hole than the edge of the penalty area where the ball last crossed for a penalty area drop).

While all that’s a bit complicated sounding, in practice it’s intuitive. And as an added bonus, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it or even know it’s in force — there are simply more occasions when you can blissfully, even ignorantly, play on penalty-free.

This new Local Rule provides another advantage as well. When it’s in effect, an opponent or ref (or a TV viewer) won’t have to concern themselves with whether or not the player making the drop actually followed the recommendation of first defining a relief area before making a back-on-the-line drop. If you’re at a distance, and you see a player taking a drop which bounces slightly forward, you can relax. You don’t have to wonder whether or not you should rush up and confirm that the ball didn’t squeak out of the player’s intended relief area in an effort to prevent the player from incurring a penalty.  One way or another, everything is more than likely just fine.

With all that in mind, maybe you’d like to see the specific wording of E-12:

“When taking Back-On-the-Line relief, there is no additional penalty if a player plays a ball that was dropped in the relief area required by the relevant Rule (Rule 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), 19.2b or 19.3b) but came to rest outside the relief area, so long as the ball, when played, is within one club-length of where it first touched the ground when dropped.

“This exemption from penalty applies even if the ball is played from nearer the hole than the reference point (but not if played from nearer the hole than the spot of the original ball or the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area).

“This Local Rule does not change the procedure for taking Back-On-the-Line relief under a relevant Rule. This means that the reference point and relief area are not changed by this Local Rule and that Rule 14.3c(2) can be applied by a player who drops a ball in the right way and it comes to rest outside the relief area, whether this occurs on the first or second drop.” 

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Howard J. Meditz is the author of "Get a Grip on the 2019 Rules of Golf," available on Amazon. He has been a referee for the United States Golf Association, the Metropolitan Golf Association, the Woman’s Metropolitan Golf Association, the Westchester Golf Association, and the American Junior Golf Association. He is a member of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Rules and Competitions Committee and has been awarded “the highest level of rating” in knowledge of the Rules of Golf by the PGA of America and the USGA, and holds their “Expert” Rules Certification for the 2019 Rules of Golf. He writes a regular rules column for the Connecticut State Golf Association’s "CSGA Links" magazine, is a Featured Writer for GolfWRX.com, and a member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. He is also the author of "How to Love the Rules of Golf." He can be reached at howard.meditz@gmail.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mad-Mex

    Jun 23, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    How about just PLACING the ball ? Would also speed up play!

  2. logan

    Jun 22, 2019 at 1:53 am

    zero chance those are mens pants

  3. TobyFark McGeezax

    Jun 21, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Horribly boring article. No wonder golf is dying.

  4. CrashTestDummy

    Jun 21, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Can’t stand the new drop rule. They should amend it to where you can’t drop the ball lower than your knee, but allow you to drop it from any height above that legally. There is no advantage from dropping it higher. The penalties on players dropping it the old way was ridiculous.

    • 15th Club

      Jun 22, 2019 at 8:11 am

      You clearly don’t understand why the Rule was changed. The height of a drop was mandatorily lowered, so that dropped balls are less likely to bounce out of the relief area upon hitting the ground. Or to plug, when dropped in a bunker.

      And the USGA took the time to explain this Rule to Dummy’s like you, HERE:

      https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/new-procedure-for-dropping-a-ball.html

      • Tiger Noods

        Jun 24, 2019 at 5:30 am

        That’s completely bogus, because as you likely recall, the USGA was originally going to be ok with “dropping” from 1 inch.

        Either the drop should be able to finish its drop within the defined relief area, or the rule should be that the ball may be PLACED instead of dropped.

        The 12″ arbitrary limit / knee height was borne of people saying that a one inch drop amounted to placing. Well, it’s one or another. I’m happy that you could place after a penalty, but it’s just flatly dumb to penalizing a ball dropped from higher than the required amount. And there’s no “dummy” explanation; they backtracked and still got it wrong.

        Placing, or a drop from a MINIMUM height. Dropping from a height above a maximum of knee height will go away as soon as the USGA has enough time to wipe the egg off their faces.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: An examination of proper “release”

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One of my favorite ‘contributions’ to this game I love is helping golfers t an “ah-ha” moment, wherein they gain an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the golf swing that helps them make progress in their ball striking. In so many cases with recreational golfers, keys to improvement can be much more conceptual than physical. In other words, helping a golfer discover what really should be happening in various parts of the golf swing leads them to make their own swing alterations to adopt this new understanding.

I firmly believe that teaching through understanding is much more productive than trying to teach “a new move” through the physical approach. From my observation of recreational golfers, particularly those with “homemade” swings (which all have the potential to produce better and more consistent results in my opinion), one of the most misunderstood intricacies of the golf swing is how the club should be “released” through the impact zone.

Almost universally, golfers seem to think that the club releases through impact by or with an unhinging of the wrists, so that the left arm and shaft form a straight line.

If you genuinely want to improve your ball striking, your distance, your consistency and your scores, I suggest you pursue a genuine and technical understanding of this critical segment of the golf swing. Because most of you are
stuck in front of your TV right now–watching more golf than you are playing–you can make this time count. Every chance you get, watch the slow-motion videos of the golf swing from behind the golfer, looking down the line. A
straight-on view of the golf swing does not reveal this angle, but that is mostly what we are given in swing analysis by television and magazines, unfortunately.

[I’ll offer too, that you can learn a lot more from watching the LPGA players than the guys, as these very talented ladies are much closer to our own strength profiles. In my opinion, most of them are much more fundamentally
sound in their mechanics as they simply have to get the most efficiency out of the swing.]

What you will see, particularly with the wedge and short iron shots is that the hands and arms follow a path through impact that very nearly “covers” their position at address, where a distinct angle is formed by the left arm and shaft of the club…again, looking from behind the golfer down the target line.

As you study these videos and still photos, you’ll see that in the longer, more powerful swings–driver, metals, hybrids–the hands drift a little higher and away from the body more than they do with the middle and short irons, but the angle is still there. As you watch these guys hit the delicate short shots around the greens, the hands almost identically cover their address position.

That’s because a proper “release” of the club is not as much an unhinging of the wrists, but rather a rotation of the hands and arms through impact, in concert with and driven by the rotation of the body core itself. Close examination shows that the hands remain almost directly in front of the sternum through the entire impact zone, and the forearms and hands rotate – not unhinge – so that the club is squared at the ball for consistent impact.

Now, all this diagnosis would not be worth a dime to you if I didn’t show you how to experience this for yourself. Like most new physical activities, you are always best served by trying to LEARN IT IN SLOW MOTION! Simply pick up your 8- or 9-iron and find a place in your house or garage where you won’t take out a table lamp, and make very S-L-O-W swings, while concentrating on making this rotational release motion.

Your goal is to set up at address with the left arm hanging naturally from your shoulder, not pushed out toward the ball. Take the club back with a rotation of the body core, and then back through the impact zone, concentrating on making the left arm and hands exactly “cover” their address position. The angle of the wrists is maintained, and the club rotates through the ball, as your body rotates through impact.

Once you get the feel of it in slow motion, make slightly faster swings, concentrating on the path of the arms and that rotational release. When you actually hit balls with this newly-learned release–DO IT AT 35-50% POWER–you’ll be amazed at the boring trajectories and effortless distance you will get!

Let’s get some feedback on this, guys. How did you do?

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Tiger at Riviera and his future in golf

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Tiger looked pretty bad at the Genesis this weekend and is not playing next week, what does his future look like in golf? Speculation on his future and if he will play some champions events or what. Also discussed: A little on distance and what not to do at a club demo day!

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