Time of Starting and Ready to Play Print

October 2008
By John Reis

I want to share with everyone an incident that occurred at the US Juniors at Shoal Creek in July.

A player came to the first tee with only his putter and a ball. His caddy was missing. Decision 6-3/2.5 discusses "Time of Starting" and it states that a player must be at his assigned tee on time and ready to play. These two concepts are critical. "On time" implies that even though a player is third in his group to play, he must be present at the assigned time (See Decision 6-3a/2); he would be deemed to be late should he arrive a minute after player A tees off but in time for him to play. The second concept of "ready to play" implies that he be on the tee with shoes, ball, clubs, etc ...ready to play?. At the 2008 U.S. Junior Championship at Shoal Creek, a player arrived with only a putter and a ball. His caddy was nowhere to be found. Was he ready to play? In these circumstances the appropriate question to the player would be "Are you ready to play?" If his answer was yes, then he would be obligated to begin play with his putter. If he responded "No", then he would be subject to either disqualification or a two stroke penalty for being late to the tee. The disqualification penalty would only apply if the Note to Rule 6-3 were NOT if effect. That note, which we use all the time states that the player has an additional five minute grace period before the DQ penalty takes effect.

It was fun discussing the ramifications of this rule and the options the player has once he arrives at the tee. Obviously, in collegiate play, we don't use caddies, but it's worthwhile remembering that ready to play may have different interpretations.


Player Representative Questions

This month we also received our first rules questions from player representatives from colleges and universities across the country.  We will ask players to submit rules questions each month to be answered by one of our rules experts.  Below are this month's questions along with answers from John.

Q: Could you explain Abnormal Grounds?

A: Often when we are asked a rules question, our first thought is to go to the definitions. They sometimes provide the answer or the path we need to take to get to the answer.

With respect to Abnormal Grounds, the definition, Section II Definitions Page 4, defines it pretty well. It is casual water, ground under repair or a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, reptile, or a bird. This hole must be made by a burrowing animal. Thus a hole made by a dog, for example, would not fall under this definition.

It also can include material piled for removal (Ground under repair). This would be refuse, sticks, weeds, clippings, and the like that the groundskeeper plans to remove at a later date. This would not include clippings that are thrown aside and meant to be left there. We see that often with grass clippings that are tossed into the woods by the grounds crew.


Q: The other day at practice our team came up with our first rules question for you. We were on a par 3 and a member of our team was in between clubs. The tee markers were on the back of the tee box, and the tee box was surrounded by rough. Would it have been legal for him to use him to use his two club lengths back from the tee markers to put his ball in the rough in order to get a flier lie and hit less club?

A: What a great question!. One of the things we are always cognizant of when setting up a golf course is the placement of tee markers. By definition, and so many times we as rules officials refer to the definitions for our answer or the path to our answer, the "Teeing Ground" is defined by a rectangular area two club lengths in depth. Nowhere in the Rules or in the Decisions is there any discussion of where those two club lengths will take us, so if the Committee were to err and place the tee markers so far back that two club lengths will take a player into the rough, so be it. Have at it! Most of the time we will hear complaints that we can't go back two club lengths and find a fair lie if the markers are too far back, but if the player chooses to go into the rough, he may, and he may create or repair irregularities of surface therein. But, as an aside, be aware, that if there were something growing that might interfere with his stroke, other than irregularities of surface (such as a bush, overhanging branch, and the like), he would be prohibited from breaking or removing it.  With respect to the discussion of breaking or removing a growing object that interferes with a player's stroke on the teeing ground, the reference is Decision 13-2/14 (Page 161).