Professional Golf tournaments are perilous and fraught with rules that you barely know about. Any misstep and you will end up with a heavy penalty or disqualification from the tournament. When you play for the love of the game with your closest cohort, the rules are just 'Guidelines'. You get a little favor from your buddies when the ball dives out of bound or when you use provisional ball at the slightest excuse. The USGA lays down the law of the land when you play competitive golf. You might err without realizing and before you know it, you will be off the golf course crying over your had-been golf career. The easiest way to keep the rules within reach is to carry the USGA pocket rule book.
Here are a few quirky rules that caught our attention and the player’s dismay:
#1: One too many Clubs
You can’t have more than 14 clubs in your bag right? Ian Woosnam got a penalty that burned really bad at the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Both he and his caddy failed to notice that he was carrying 15 clubs in his golf bag. The penalty was two shots. Woosnam was stymied by this setback in the championship in spite of his impressive display.
He also lost his place in the 2002 Ryder Cup. Being the big man that he is, he took the responsibility of not counting his clubs. But this has burned the image of the following USGA rule 4.4 in our mind:
Rule 4.4 a. Selection and Addition of Clubs
The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
The addition of a club or clubs must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and the player must not add or borrow any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.
#2: Using a Golf Cart
Yes, you heard right. Using a golf cart between holes can get you disqualified. This golf rule not only encompasses the player but also his caddie. Eduardo Molinari paid a hefty price for his caddy’s slip-up and was disqualified from European Tour’s Shenzhen International Tournament. Yes, we did a double take too. His caddy took the buggy between 9th and 10th hole and Molinari did not notice this. As a result, he did not assess himself for the penalty.
He got kicked out for signing off the wrong score. Appendix ‘L’ of USGA rule book elaborates on this rule :
Exceptions are made in case of disability but USGA has to be informed previously.
As a general rule, with the exception of the two Senior Amateur Championships (where players may use automotive transportation), players and caddies must walk at all times during a stipulated round and are prohibited from using automotive transportation. This rule also applies during USGA qualifying rounds except in the case of a shuttle that the Committee has provided by Local Rule. Players and caddies may use push/pull carts (manual or battery-operated) unless the club/course has a policy prohibiting their use.
#3: Caddy Using Golf GPS
The legality of golf rangefinding devices is questionable in many tournaments. All the major PGA tournaments frown upon golf GPS use. And this is not just about the player. Even a caddy caught playing around with golf rangefinders during the rounds can cost his player the game. Jerry Rice, the all-time NFL wide receiver was taken off the 2010 BMW Charity Pro-am because his caddy used a rangefinder during the round. Golf players are responsible for slights by the caddies according to USGA. Their stand on Distance Measuring Devices is given by Rule 14.3b
Rule 14.3 : Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment
Rule 14-3 governs the use of equipment and devices (including electronic devices) that might assist a player in making a specific stroke or generally in his play.
Golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player. This principle guides the USGA in determining whether the use of any item is in breach of Rule 14-3.
For detailed specifications and interpretations on the conformity of equipment and devices under Rule 14-3 and the process for consultation and submission regarding equipment and devices, see Appendix IV.
a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play
b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
c. That might assist him in gripping the club, except that:
(i) gloves may be worn provided that they are plain gloves
(ii) resin, powder and drying or moisturizing agents may be used; and
(iii) a towel or handkerchief may be wrapped around the grip.
#4: Advice and showing Line of Play
For many of us, this is a welcome rule. We all have those braggy friends who see some success on the golf course and feel obliged to tell everybody how to get their game right. Well, it’s forbidden. Rule 8 of USGA Rule book says so:
Rule 8-1. Advice
During a stipulated round, a player must not:
a. give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner, or
b. ask for advice from anyone other than his partner or either of their caddies.
Rule 8-2. Indicating Line of Play
a. Other Than on Putting Green
Except on the putting green, a player may have the line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player for that purpose on or close to the line or an extension of the line beyond the hole while the stroke is being made. Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge, for the purpose of indicating the line of play, must be removed before the stroke is made.
b. On the Putting Green
When the player's ball is on the putting green, the line of putt may be indicated before, but not during, the stroke by the player, his partner or either of their caddies; in doing so the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere for the purpose of indicating a line of putt.