England Golf: Rules Q & A

We put your questions to England Golf's rule expert...

Ruling of the month:
What happens if you break a club in a competition? Can you replace it or borrow one from another player?

The key point is whether the club was broken in the normal course of play, for example when taking a swing and the club damaged when the clubhead hit the ground, or whether the club was broken outside the normal course of play, for example if a player threw his club to the ground in anger and the clubhead broke away from the shaft.

If it happened during the normal course of play, then because the broken club is unfit for play, the player has the option of replacing the club – provided it doesn’t take too long and unduly delay play.

The player could in fact borrow an equivalent club from another player, provided that person is not playing at the time.

A slight twist is if a player has a club in their bag that is not selected for play, for example they have picked up a lost club on the course and put it in their bag to carry back to the pro shop. If that club belonged to someone who wasn’t playing on the course at the time, then the player whose club broke could borrow and use that one!

What do the rules say about gimmies?
Gimmes do not apply in competitive strokeplay golf, as the player always has to hole out to achieve a score for each hole.

In the rules, gimmes would be regarded as ‘concessions’ which apply to matchplay golf only. You can’t agree to gimmes before a match, for example by saying that anything inside a foot is a gimme.

This would be an agreement to waive the Rules and both players would be DQ’d.

Once a concession has been made, it can’t be retracted or declined. So if a player says to their opponent, “take it away, that’s a gimme” they can’t then say, “actually its further than I thought, you’ll have to putt out”.

Taking a correct drop
When taking a drop, if the ball hits the floor and rolls closer to the hole, do you have to drop again?

If the ball strikes the ground behind the nearest point of relief then it can roll forward up to that point, but not beyond. If you were dropping as close to a specific spot under the rules, and the ball struck the ground right next to this spot, then rolled closer to the hole, then it would need to be re-dropped.

When is a ball lost?
Just because you declare a ball as lost doesn’t mean it is lost. If you find your first ball within five minutes of starting to search for it, then that ball is in play. Had a provisional ball been played from a spot closer to the hole than where the original ball lay, before it was found, then the provisional ball is in play.

3 quick rulings
Rakes – in or out?
Rakes should be placed where they are least likely to cause an advantage or disadvantage to players. This would usually be outside a bunker but there isn’t a definitive answer. It depends on the club.

Single golfers
Single golfers are classed as groups in the same way as two, three or fourballs. So single golfers have the same rights on the course as any other group. Unless the committee determine otherwise, pace of play determines priority on the course so if a group is causing undue delay, then the group behind can play through.

Starting late
The rules surrounding the appropriate punishment for starting late were amended in 2012. The penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, was reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in matchplay games or two strokes at the first hole in strokeplay games.

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