Rules and course behaviour

Published 01/10/2008 22:24:19

Thinking about course behaviour, perhaps brisk play is the best courtesy you can offer the other players in your game, and also the other users of the course.

As you walk up to your ball, be making your mind up about club selection. Consult your yardage chart, if you carry one, as you walk along.


Professionals go about their business with reasonable speed for their tee shots, because the decision is a reasonably simple one. Length of shot is often not critical. The only things they have to consider is how to be sure to be short of a fairway bunker, or that a shot down the right hand side gives a better angle for a shot to the green. Changing weather conditions can make a difference but practice rounds have probably taught them what to do beforehand.


Approaching the greens however, many professionals set dreadful examples for club golfers. Not only do they not decide on club selection on their way to the ball, but they often appear not to give the matter any thought whatsoever as they wait for the other members of their grouping to play. Only then do consultation with caddies, tossing of grass into the air, and examination of charts begin.


Order of play in a four-ball sometimes causes confusion, even though the convention is clear cut: furthest from the hole plays first. Minor troubles often arise from macho characters who do not like to admin that they are not nearest the hole, so haven't actually hit the longest drive.


But the longest drive is by no means necessarily the closest to the green, because the line of the tee shot is also significant. Quite a short tee shot, tight to the angle of a dog-leg right for example, may be much nearer than a long drive going left. If you are a sensible golfer however, you won't want to be making pints about the length of your tee shot and will merely wish to avoid playing out of turn. Just ask for agreement that it's your shot - or that it isn't.


Before you play, make sure that the game ahead is well out of range. This means not playing when your predecessors have left the green, but are still close to one side. You wouldn't hit a drive to a fairway with people a little off line but still within range: so it stands to reason that neither should you when playing to a green.


Most players are quiet enough when they are on the tee, close to a player about to tee off. However remember when you spread out on the course, that sound travels. Don't be too noisy with your clubs, and do not shout aloud in triumph or despair as you watch the result of your shot. There are other people on the course, perhaps about to tee off on another hole, or sink a downhiller with a testing borrow.


And when you've played - do replace your divot. make sure that there's only one of them: that you haven't been scattering turf with your practice swings.


Like tee shots, shots from the fairway don't involve any particularly complicated rules, mainly because they are played from a well-prepared and well-defined part of the course. There are. however, rules which do become significant when you come upon unusual conditions. 


Casual Water 


This is water occurring anywhere other than in a water hazard. It is usually the result of winder conditions, or heavy rain in summer. You are in casual water if your ball likes there - or if you are standing in it. In that case, there need not be any surface water: if it wells up around the welts of your shoes you can declare it 'casual water'.


In either case you can play the ball as it lies, or move to the nearest point, not nearer the hole, which avoids the conditions, and measuring one club length away, take a free drop. You are entitled to clean the ball before doing so.


Ground Under Repair


Exactly the same rules apply as for casual water. The only difference is that you are more likely to have a good lie under ground under repair, and many golfers forget that they are entitled to play the ball under these conditions. 


Embedded Ball


You are entitled to relief when a ball is embedded in its own pitch mark, in any closely mown area. But it must be its own pitch mark, and not an earlier one, and you must be sure that the hole in which you have come to rest is a pitch mark.


This can lead to arguments from time to time, usually from golfers wishing to claim relief when they're not entitled to it. However, there is a distinctive fresh appearance about a newly embedded ball situation.


Unusual Ground Conditions


The same rules apply here as for casual water and GUR. If you take a look at the fairway and surrounds of greens during a Tour event, you will find that the professionals have it a little easier than club golfers. They tend to demand a surface of approximately the same consistency as a very expensive carpet, and their wishes are often observed. 


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