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Does your club use this ‘banned’ golf hole accessory?

They help stop debris falling into the hole and make it look neat and tidy. But they’ve fallen foul of the Rules of Golf

 

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Some players love the natural look of a well-cut golf hole. Others are grumbling if the soil isn’t brightly painted.

There are clubs that take an artificial route to perfection – using plastic stabiliser rings, placed above the top of the hole liner, that cover the top inch of soil.

Not only do they have an aesthetic use, they also help stop debris failing into the cup from the side wall and keep it free from mud.

They can be popular during the winter, and when greenkeeping teams are carrying out maintenance work on putting surfaces.

I’m not sure whether these accessories, also known as finishers, are the most sustainable approach but, if your club uses them, they’ve got another problem if they’re planning to allow you to put in scores for handicap.

golf hole

This golf hole accessory means trouble if you want to put in a WHS score

England Golf’s winter checklist reveals these stabilising rings do not comply with the Rules of Golf.

“Having discussed this with the R&A, the use of these rings would not merit an exception,” the governing body explains.

“Any scores returned for handicap purposes when the stabilising rings are in place would NOT be acceptable for handicap purposes”.

So if you want your scores to count towards your WHS index, your clubs need to remove these rings from the holes.  

What is the problem with golf hole stabilisers?

This revelation has obviously caused some consternation for the clubs that use them, with many wondering why the stabilising rings fall foul of the rules.

In the Rules of Golf, the definition of hole states that if a lining is used it “must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface”.

Lots of clubs have jumped on that last sentence, arguing the wet conditions in the UK create a need for the stabilisers to be used.

But it appears that’s not what is meant by “nature of the soil”.

In an England Golf WHS update seminar, Mike Greener, national handicap co-ordinator, said the championships team had contacted the R&A for guidance on the issue.

“The R&A would only allow an exemption on the use of those stabilising rings if the soil type was a really dry, crumbly, type – probably a really dry, desert type, climate. In this part of the world, we don’t get those types of soil types.”

Now have your say

What do you think? Is this golf hole instruction a lot of fuss about nothing, or do you agree these stabiliser rings don’t conform with the Rules of Golf? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Golf hole stabiliser pic from England Golf winter checklist

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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