A few issues have arisen recently which highlight a need to have a look at the “Rules” (the Rules of Golf and the Local Rules), especially as they apply here at Springwood, day in and day out. We have all had the experience of playing in a group, or watching another group, where there is ‘uncertainty’ (or misplaced certainty) about how to proceed in a given situation. And that ‘uncertainty’ can lead to some ‘unusual’ actions!

There is that lovely quote on the inside cover of the Rules of Golf: Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf.

So we thought we would look at some of those situations, on our own course, that require us to ‘do what is fair’. We have some in mind, but would love to hear of any of your “favourites” or “pet hates” or “observations”. Talk to us, or better still, put it in writing: on paper (pop it on the desk in the meeting room next to the office), or in a text or email (details below). We will maintain as much anonymity as you are comfortable with!

Scenario 1. A player’s ball ends up near the new brick walls, part of the drainage works, between the 2nd and 5th fairways. The player asks for a free drop and is told no, partly because there is no free drop from the old stone wall in front of the 6th green.

The rules tell us that these walls are obstructions (see page 39), and as they can’t be easily moved, are immovable obstructions. Now, Rule 24-2 on page 106 helps us to work out if we are entitled to relief and how to take it. In our scenario, if your stance or swing is interfered with, then you may take relief (there is no line-sight-relief of course). Mark your ball, find your nearest point of relief (NPR), mark it, and drop your ball within 1 club-length of the NPR, and it can roll up to 2 club-lengths. You’re not nearer the hole….you’re clear of the wall… on with no penalty.

Reflection: the confusion may have arisen because the stone wall on the 6th hole used to be inside a water hazard, marked with red stakes. This meant that you didn’t get relief from the wall, as Rule 24-2 makes it clear that relief from immovable instructions is not available in a water hazard. But recently that area has had its hazard status removed, meaning that you do get relief.

Scenario 2. In the previous scenario, there was no line-of-sight relief and your ball had to finish no nearer the hole – a mantra for golfers. But in two major pennant matches on Sunday, both of these came into question! The two players drove to the fence protecting the 16th tee. One got relief from the immovable instruction as it was interfering with his swing; the other was back enough to have a swing. Now, both used the Local Rule to get line-of sight relief and went to one of the drop zones! So far, so good. They dropped into these small drop zones, one rolling just out of the marked area, the other rolling forward towards the hole. They re-dropped and both ended up with ordinary lies in old divots! Unnecessarily!

The rules tell us (Rule 20-2 on page 96; Appendix I on page 152) that the dropped ball must hit the ground in the drop zone, and can roll 2 club-lengths in any direction and can finish outside the drop zone and/or closer to the hole! The rules can be our friends!

So, if you have a scenario to share, please let us know and we will discuss it in a future RULES CORNER.

Richard Best       mobile: 0403 285 403   email:
Mark Smith          mobile: 0408 461 807   email:


Our first Rules Corner last month generated some interest, and some suggestions for future articles; namely, problems in and around trees and bushes, options when you find yourself in a water hazard, options when you’re not sure if you’ve hit into a water hazard, what happens when your ball is resting against red peg, issues around “preferring your lie”. So, keep those cards and letters coming, we would love to know what gets up your nose!

The rules have been evolving over hundreds of years, and are being revised as we speak. If you don’t like historical anecdotes, then skip this paragraph. In 1912, the great Ivo Whitton won the first of his 5 Australian Open titles. A few days later, the AGU (Aust Golf Union) investigated claims that he had breached the rules in Round 3. According to spectators (things haven’t changed much, have they!), he hit into a bush and declared it unplayable. A rules official said he could take a 2 shot penalty and drop away (harsh). He did and took a triple bogey. The spectators argued he should have gone back to where he hit from (harsher). The AGU ruled in his favour but the case was referred to the R&A in Scotland, who ruled he should have been disqualified (harshest). The AGU ignored the advice! The message is that the rules need to give clear guidance to players and officials alike, guidance that is acceptable and reliable. So, keep away from the trees! And if you can’t, know the rules! Hence the next two scenarios.

Scenario 3. Ted Hobson pushes his drive on the 4th into those big conifers up the left, between the fairway and Hawkesbury Road. He finds his ball and declares it unplayable. What are his options, apart from projecting his club towards his cart!

The rules tell us (Rule 28 on page 118) that, with a one stroke penalty, Ted has 3 options: go back to the tee and replay his shot; OR drop within 2 club-lengths of where his ball lies, not nearer the hole (knowing of course that it can roll up to another 2 club-lengths and that there is no guarantee he will have a swing); OR drop anywhere on the line from the pin to the ball, going back as far as he likes.

Scenario 4. Phil Horton is playing with Ted and they drive off the 5th. Phil pulls his tee shot into the small gums up on the left. His ball is under the branches and he doesn’t have a full swing. He takes a practice swing and accidentally hits a branch, breaking off some leaves, etc. Ted smiles mischievously! Phil, knowing the rules, penalises himself 2 shots in stroke play (or loses the hole in match play).

The rules tell us (Rule 13-2 on page 78) that a player must not improve the area of his intended stance/swing, by moving/bending/breaking anything growing. We need to be very careful when we’re near trees and taking practice swings!

If you have a scenario to share, please let us know and we will discuss it in a future RULES CORNER.

Richard Best       mobile: 0403 285 403   email:
Mark Smith          mobile: 0408 461 807   email: