They follow the Rules of Golf at The Open, but did you know there are other regulations that apply at St Andrews? Our expert picks out some of those you might not have witnessed in your weekend rounds
We’ll all be scouring our copies of the Rules of Golf at various points this week, but did you know that there are other regulations the players will need to follow at St Andrews?
For each of its championships and International Matches, whether it’s the Girls’ Under-16s Amateur or The Open, The R&A employs Local Rules and Terms of Competition, which are colloquially known as the ‘Hard Card’.
There are 21 of them in all, and sometimes they amend or alter a rule or use specific Local Rules to apply to various situations that might be found during play.
You can view the full list here, but I’ve picked out five of the more interesting that will be in force on the Old Course this week…
Embedded balls in a bunker
Rule 12.1 says a ball is not in a bunker when it’s in the wall or face. Usually, if your ball embeds here, it’s considered to be part of the general area and you could get relief under Rule 16.3.
But this Rule has been modified by The R&A. There is no free relief allowed for a ball “embedded in the stacked turf face above a bunker”.
What’s a stacked turf face? Think about those revetted bunkers you see all over links courses and you’ll get the idea. These sorts of traps are predominant at St Andrews.
If a player’s ball wedges in between the layers at the 150th Open? That might turn out to be quite a tricky shot…
Replacing a club that’s broken or significantly damaged
Rule 4.1b (3) outlaws the replacement of damaged clubs during a round, unless it’s caused by an outside influence, natural forces, or anyone other than the player and their caddie.
Back in April 2019, however, Model Local Rule G-9 was introduced and is in force this week at The Open.
It allows a player to replace a club “broken or significantly damaged” during the round with any club under Rule 4.1b (4) EXCEPT in “cases of abuse”.
If a player takes advantage of this, they need to immediately take their damaged club out of play.
Now, before some of these big hitters start getting all excited, the Local Rule clarifies what counts as “broken or significantly damaged”.
You might be surprised to learn that a club face or clubhead that is merely is cracked doesn’t count.
We’re talking things like loose grips, clubheads that have become detached or loose, and an impact area that is “visibly deformed”.
A ball can land outside of the relief area when taking back-on-the-line relief and still be played
You’ll will surely have never seen this at your club but it’s in force at The Open.
It’s Model Local Rule E-12. Normally, when you take relief – whether that’s free or incurs a penalty – the ball needs to land in a specific relief area.
This Local Rule changes that a little when it applies to back-on-the-line relief. In that case, and only when E-12 is in effect, a player won’t be penalised for playing from a wrong place if a ball is played from outside the relief area.
There is a big but, of course. The ball needs to be dropped in the relief area and come to rest “within one-club length of where it first touched the ground”.
So, for example, Tiger Woods is taking back-on-the-line relief, drops correctly in the relief area and it rolls slightly forward of the reference point – but is still less than one club-length from where it first touched the ground when dropped.
In that case, he could either re-drop the ball, or play it from where it came to rest.
I want you to think about what that might mean in practice. Imagine the ball rolled into what a player considered to be an inferior lie.
They could actually drop it again. How many occasions in golf are there where you would have that choice?
Limits when a stroke made from the putting green must be replayed
I’m going to simplify this by nicknaming it the ‘insect rule’, although it applies in various other scenarios (most notably if a ball horseshoes out and hits a player).
Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b says that when a ball played from the green accidentally hits any person, animal, or movable obstruction that’s on the green, the stroke doesn’t count and the ball needs to be replaced on its original spot.
So you might not know this but, unless this Local Rule is in force at your club, if you putt and your ball hits a bug, for example, you actually have to replay the shot.
Model Local Rule D-7 circumvents this and says that if a ball accidentally hits the player, the “the club used by the player to make the stroke or, an animal defined as a loose impediment” then the stroke counts and the ball has to be played as it lies.
Anyone replacing the ball in this instance would get a two-shot penalty for playing from a wrong place.
When a scorecard is returned
I add this one merely because it shows how much minute detail The R&A Rules team go into organising their championships.
We’ve all been through the process of posting a scorecard at our clubs and when it is classed as returned (for us it’s usually when you’ve posted it in the box).
At The Open, where a team of recorders are on hand, a player’s scorecard is classed as officially returned to the tournament committee when “the player has left the recording office/area with both feet”.
I wonder if we’ll see any player doing a little nervous hokey-cokey this week before finally leaving the scorers?
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