How quickly do you need to tell your opponent you've incurred a penalty?

Published 26/04/2011 07:20:00

Jim is hitting an iron shot from an uphill lie. After he addresses the ball and starts his backswing, the ball moves. He continues his swing and hits the ball, which ends up near the green. Under Rule 18-2, Jim incurs a one-stroke penalty. Jim's match-play opponent, Harry, then hits his second shot. As the two players approach the vicinity of the green, Jim informs Harry that he incurred a penalty stroke, so that he lies three instead of two.

Has Jim acted properly?

No. Rule 9-2 states that a player who has incurred a penalty shall inform his opponent as soon as practicable, unless he is obviously proceeding under a Rule involving a penalty and this has been observed by his opponent. Since the penalty wasn't obvious, and Jim waited to inform Harry, Jim is deemed to be guilty of giving wrong information during the play of a hole, and he loses the hole.

The idea behind the Rule is that a player's strategy and play could be affected by wrong information. Harry, for example, might have played a safe shot to the center of the green if he'd known Jim was lying three. Generally, a player should inform his opponent before the opponent plays his next stroke, but the phrase "as soon as practicable" absolves a player if his opponent is far away and plays quickly. This penalty applies only in match play. In stroke play, there is no penalty.

Now What If?

Jim's ball moves after he addresses it and begins his backswing. He hits the ball and, not knowing the Rule, is unaware that he has incurred a penalty. His opponent, Harry, then plays his next shot. As the two are walking to the green, Jim tells Harry that his ball moved as he was swinging at it.

What is the ruling?

Jim loses the hole for not informing Harry of the penalty as soon as practicable. The fact that he was unaware of the penalty doesn't matter.


1.  I wish to begin with a definition from a Rules of Golf Book:
“An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction.”

In the 1999 Phoenix Open, Tiger found his ball had landed behind a boulder which he could not move by himself. He called upon some fans who were eager to assist him and who moved the boulder to give Tiger a clear line for his next shot.

My questions are:

What constitutes unreasonable effort? (In the example above,
is unreasonable effort determined by the number of individuals
required to remove the rock?)

How much time must pass before a player is considered to be “unduly delaying play?”

Does the ruling in the 1999 Phoenix Open tilt the playing field somewhat
in Tiger’s favour since another competitor who is not as popular may
have more difficulty in recruiting enough fans to assist in the moving of
the boulder and therefore forced to take a penalty stroke in seeking

A player is allowed five minutes to search for his ball. Does an official actually start a clock to record the time spent in the search. When does
the five minute time period begin?

comment by gerald baba - 25/09/2017 16:20

Add your comment