By John Reis
1) You should know that the player whose ball is farther from the hole ALWAYS, yes ALWAYS, goes first, and if he fails to do so, you have the right to recall his shot. Your opponent doesn’t lose the hole nor incur a penalty, but you may recall the shot and require him to replay the stroke.
2) A stroke (as well as the hole being played, and yes, even the match itself) can be conceded at any time. Be sure that when you concede a stroke, the ball is at rest, and once that has happened, that concession cannot be declined or withdrawn. The hole or match may be conceded at any time prior to the start or conclusion of either.
3) But a little known part of the match play rules which arose this past March at the Callaway Match Play Championship revolves around the principle that at all times both players must know the status of the match. In stroke play if there is doubt, a player is permitted to play two balls under Rule 3-3, but he is not allowed to do so in match play. Why? It’s simple. If your opponent is playing two balls on the hole, there is likely to be confusion as to what his ultimate score for the hole will be, and that will have an adverse effect on your strategy as you play the hole. Along those same lines, players are required to inform each other of any penalty strokes incurred during the play of a hole. That information must be shared in a timely manner. So, referring to the incident at the Callaway this spring, a player hit his ball into a water hazard, and his opponent didn’t see the stroke and was unaware that he had incurred a penalty stroke. So what happened? He lost the hole. A severe penalty, but one that’s warranted. Rule 9-2b (i) reads as follows: …fails to inform his opponent as soon as practicable that he has incurred a penalty, unless (a) he was obviously proceeding under a rule involving a penalty and this was observed by his opponent… so if you believe your opponent did not observe your breach of the rules, be sure to inform him as soon as practical.
4) There are some other instances where loss of hole is not the applicable penalty. For instance, if a ball were accidently stopped or deflected by your opponent after a stroke, you would have the right to replay the shot and there would be no penalty. But if that ball struck you, you would incur a one stroke penalty.
5) If you touch or move your opponent’s ball, you would incur a penalty. But WAIT, you say! If that’s the case why should I take that risk and help my opponent search for his ball if I might move the ball and get penalized? Well, again, it’s simple. DURING SEARCH ONLY, we absolve the opponent from that penalty so that he can help search. That’s why the game is great.
There are a number of other rules that apply only to match play, and I encourage all of you to take a look at Rules 2 and 9 especially before you begin what so many consider a very exciting form of play. Match play is fun, nerve-racking, and outcomes of matches are always in doubt. Strategy is all important.
Best of luck at Division l Finals this year. If you’re fortunate enough to achieve that lofty goal, you will remember your matches all your lives.