Paul Lawrie and Carl Mason both fell foul of the Rules of Golf by playing each other's ball but did the crime fit the punishment?

We’re now six months into the new Rules of Golf and, after a shaky start, a bit of naivety, a bit more over-fussiness and a side helping of nonsense, we all seem to have calmed down a bit and life continues to tick along.

I’m yet to meet anyone who enjoys either taking or watching a fellow human taking a knee-high drop but otherwise most of us can get back in our boxes and tap down spike marks, unplug our balls when not in the sand and, when we stand on and move our ball in some deep bund, then nobody’s going to hammer us with a one-shot penalty.

Even those of us who are prone to making contact with the ball more than once in the throes of a chip shot – I can boast three single blows in the space of a millisecond in a dark moment in Italy a decade ago – can breathe a little easier. It’s only one shot on the card even if what’s happened may well haunt you for the rest of your lifetime.

And, for all the endless chat of putting with the flagstick in, it’s already accepted as part of the norm and, whisper it gently, everyone now quite likes the improvement in pace of play. The scenarios that we all fretted about in the first week of January of having the flag in and out on a never-ending loop are a thing of the past.

On Friday we had an incident down at Trevose on the Staysure Tour where Paul Lawrie and Carl Mason were both disqualified for playing the wrong ball. The pair had a similar marking and they played out the 5th hole with each other’s ball and didn’t realise until the 7th tee.

And, because they began (and finished) a new hole, that was the end of their week. Lawrie, one under at the time, went on to shoot five under. It was the first time in 33 years as a professional that he had made this mistake.

First things first, Lawrie had no complaints, the rules are the rules, and he messed up. If ever there was a golfer who wasn’t going to complain about this type of bad break then it’s the Scot. He’s the ultimate class act.

Then you wonder about Rule 6.3(c) and it just seems another example of some more unnecessary retribution. If this was matchplay then it’s just a loss of hole to whoever erred first.

In strokeplay you ‘must correct the mistake by continuing play with the original ball by playing it as it lies or taking relief under the Rules. The stroke made with the wrong ball and any more strokes before the mistake is corrected do no count.’

My understanding of the rules is pretty flaky but I had always thought that it was a two-shot penalty whatever had happened and then hope to god that you’ve noticed your error before you tee it up on the next. Which is unlikely given that your head will be scrambled from what’s just gone on.

From what this seems to say, or does say but I’ve lost a bit of confidence in myself now, is that you could play the wrong ball, shank a couple, run up a 10 and still go back to the original and stick one in there close and make birdie?

The more general point is that the crime doesn’t fit the punishment. What does it matter that the players had played another hole before they had noticed their mistake? They’re playing the same ball, nobody’s gaining any sort of advantage and, from what I had always assumed but can’t find in the Rules of Golf, you’d simply add two shots to your score.

While we’re at it why one shot isn’t enough is anyone’s guess?

We’re all agreed that we like the new Rules of Golf and their new trimmer figure. But, even though the R&A’s website is highly functional, there are still 24 sections to wade through before you even get into the sub sections and often curious vernacular.

On the same day as Lawrie and Mason we had Clement Berardo disqualified for running out of balls on the Challenge Tour. We haven’t heard from the Frenchman but the simple truth is that he was heading for the airport anyway and it didn’t really matter at all whether he finished his round or not.

Yet the headlines we got from two tours that would never get any headlines on a Friday are the screaming ones of players getting DQd and the perception of golf being stuffy and suffocating continuing.

Which it’s not or, at least, it doesn’t need to be. If we simply had a bottom line of reasoning whether a player is trying to seek an advantage or not then we would stand more of a chance. Anything involving a scorecard, where there have been improvements though too late for Mark Roe’s major chances, is one area where it seems a bit of a mockery to strike a line through a week’s work because of some poor admin.

Now players are allowed to wear shorts in practice it seems anything is possible, roll the clock forward a few years and we might get rangefinders in play on tour to do precisely part of the job that a good caddie would be doing anyway.