We all play to the Rules of Golf, but there are some in force at The Open that you’re very unlikely to encounter at your club
You know that big thick book, The Rules of Golf? Yes, they play to that at The Open but there are also other regulations the players need to follow at Royal Liverpool.
For each of its championships and International Matches, whether it’s the Girls’ Under-16s, the Amateur Championship, or The Open, The R&A uses Local Rules and Terms of Competition. You might know it a bit better as the ‘Hard Card’.
There are 19 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.
On top of that, there are additional Local Rules in effect just for the duration of this championship.
Here’s some of the more interesting used at The Open this week that you’re unlikely to encounter when playing at your own clubs.
Open rules you won’t see in your weekend medal
The Open rules: The folly of the practice putt
Did you know you can practise putting or chipping “on or near the putting green of the hole last completed”? So if you’ve had a shocker with a tiddler, you are allowed to try and right that wrong once the hole is over. It’s there in Rule 5.5b.
I say, YOU are allowed, because the competitors at The Open are not. Model Local Rule I-2 modifies that rule to prohibit the practice. It’s a two-shot penalty if they do.
The Open rules: Check your golf balls
There is a whole raft of Local Rules covering equipment at The Open that your competition committee will never have considered. Like the Groove and Punch Mark Specifications (Model Local Rule G-2), or the List of Conforming Driver Heads (Model Local Rule G-1).
But the one that catches most people’s eyes is the One Ball Rule, or Model Local Rule G-4 to pronounce its correct title.
Each time a player makes a stroke, they need to use the same brand and model of ball with which they started their round. That ball also has to be on a conforming list.
It’s to stop them switching balls with different characteristics depending on the shot they’ve got or how the hole is shaped.
You only really see this rule in elite professional and amateur events, but it does catch the odd amateur out in Regional Open Qualifying.
It’s also pretty strict. Each individual listing is considered a different ball. A Titleist Pro V1x and a Pro V1x with a dash, for example, are not the same type of ball. Using different coloured balls would also fall foul of this rule.
The penalty can be equally severe. It’s a penalty stroke for each hole where a player is in breach of the Local Rule. And once they figure out they’ve played a ball that breaches it, they’ve got to go back to their original brand and model sharpish.
If they don’t do it when they play from the next teeing area they will be disqualified.
The Open rules: Embedded balls in the stacked turf face above a bunker
A ball is not in a bunker when it’s in the wall or face. There is a big diagram included in Rule 12.1 which says so. If your ball embeds in one at your club, it’s part of the general area and you are allowed free relief under Rule 16.3.
But at Hoylake this week, and at certain other links clubs too, this rule is modified.
“No free relief is allowed for a ball embedded in the stacked turf face above a bunker.”
What’s a stacked turf face? Think revetted bunkers and you’ll get the idea. There are plenty of these at Royal Liverpool.
The Open rules: When a scorecard is returned
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”.
Do any of the players ever leave a foot in the camp, as they rid themselves of some last second worries? I have visions of an impromptu hokey cokey.
The Open rules: How damaged is that club?
You’re allowed to repair or replace a club that’s damaged during the round, except in cases of abuse. You can check out Rule 4.1a (2) if you don’t believe me.
But at The Open, Model Local Rule G-9 provides a significant caveat. That club can only be replaced if it’s “broken or significantly damaged”.
What counts as “significant”? Helpfully, the Local Rule provides a list. Some are obvious. “The clubhead is detached or loose from the shaft”. That would be pretty significant.
But a loose grip, and a clubhead that is visibly and significantly deformed, also qualify – among others.
What doesn’t count, and this may surprise you, is this. “A club face or clubhead is not ‘broken or significantly damaged’ solely because it is cracked’. Players will just have to grin and bear it.
The Open rules: Lights, camera, action?
This one makes me smile, simply because it shows the incredible detail The R&A Rules team put into thinking about every conceivable thing that happens at The Open.
There is a wire camera to the right of the 18th green that provides some amazing footage during the tournament. It’s held in place by some ‘elevated support wires’.
What happens if a ball hits either? It might feel like a one-in-a-million occurrence but, if it does, there is an answer.
They are classed as integral objects. If a player’s ball hits the camera or the support wires, they play it as it lies.
Except, if they are on the player’s line of play. Then, should they strike them, they have got to replay the stroke using Model Local F-22 to guide them.
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