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Know the Definitions

December 2009
By John Reis

So many times we find ourselves referring to the definitions for an answer to our rules questions. When folks ask us how to become rules proficient, our knee-jerk reaction is to respond "Know the definitions backwards and forwards". Here is a prime example.

"I was playing with someone whose ball came to rest inside the red line of a hazard but it was above the water in the grass, and had stayed out of the water. He elected to play it, and knew that he could not ground his club because it was a hazard. While he was standing above it getting ready to play the shot, his ball fell in the water. We didn't feel that he had cause the ball to move because he technically did not address it, by what the USGA book describes "addressing the ball." We did not know whether he was to take a drop as if it had entered the hazard, or take the penalty for causing the ball to move. What would be the correct ruling?"

This player may or may not have addressed his ball as per the definition. The definition states that if a player has taken his stance when his ball is in a hazard, he is deemed to have addressed it. So, if that were the case, and then his ball moved, he would have been subject to a one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a and be required to replace the ball, or substitute another ball, if his ball were unretreivable. However, if he did not cause his ball to move, and thus it was moved by wind or perhaps gravity, he is now required to play the ball from its new position without penalty. If it is impossible to play the ball as it may be in water too deep to realistically play the stroke, he should drop a ball outside the hazard under Rule 26-1 under penalty of one stroke.

The answer rests on what caused the ball to move. Did it move after the player took his stance, or did wind or gravity cause the ball to move?  If it is indeterminable as to what caused the ball to move, the ruling should go against the player, and he would then incur a one-stroke penalty and be required to replace his ball.

The definitions are there to help clarify situations, and in this case, knowing what determines "Addressing the Ball" is vital to making the correct ruling.

Rule 14 deals with Striking the Ball and the sub-section, Rule 14-3, concerns itself with Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of equipment. My article this month will concentrate on the unusual use of equipment. Before any discussion of equipment, we have to know the definition. I am sure you have heard, ad nausea, our many admonitions that if you want to know the rules, the first thing you have to know is The Definition. So many times the definition alone will allow us to solve questions on the golf course. That being said, let?s look at the definition:

"Equipment is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped." So we see that if a player uses, wears, or carries anything, it is considered to be equipment. So clubs tees and, yes, even water bottles when carried by the player, partner or either of their caddies, are all equipment. But Rule 14-3 goes on to say that during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device, unusual equipment, or any equipment used in an unusual manner.  The exception (Exception 2) states: A player is not in breach of this rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner.

It is this last thought that is the subject of this article. There are decisions dealing with a player leaning on a club to steady or balance himself while making a stroke with another club, or strategically placing his water bottle on the green to determine slope. These are cases of ordinary equipment used in an unusual manner, and they are a breach of the rules the penalty for which is DISQUALIFICATON.

At the 2009 Ohio State Women's Amateur Championship held last month, in the semi-final match a player customarily chewed on a tee as she played. The chewing of the tee was not an occasional habit, as many of us will plop one in our mouths as we walk off the tee and maybe keep it there for a hole or two. She constantly had this tee in her mouth. Finally late in her match, she was asked why the tee? and her response was that she had it there to help her keep her head still. This is a clear violation of Rule 14-3. A tee is designed to hold a ball on the teeing ground, and when it is used in that manner, it is equipment- by definition. Also, by definition, It loses its equipment status when used to measure an area for a drop or to mark the position of a ball, but at all other times it is equipment, and when the player revealed that she used this equipment in an unusual manner to assist her in making a stroke, she was in breach of Rule 14-3 and was subsequently disqualified.

An interesting example of a rule we really don't get too involved with, but it certainly is something to chew on, wouldn't you agree?