Last week we had a Presentation Evening and it was lovely to catch up with the ladies who play in the morning. After the worthy winners received their cups and vouchers we brushed up on our knowledge of the Rules of Golf. Whilst it’s good to go through the rule book, it’s more meaningful to discuss situations that you or others have encountered on your own course and so we heard lots of interesting situations.
Rule 13.1d(1) was mentioned –
When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green
There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green. The player must:
- Replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), or
- Place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.
Exception – Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When Ball Begins to Move During Backswing or Stroke and Stroke Is Made (see Rule 9.1b). If the player or opponent deliberately lifts the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green, see Rule 9.4 or Rule 9.5 to find out if there is a penalty.
Did you see Thomas Pieters use this rule at the Open De France last weekend? The Belgian was on the third green at Le Golf National and was about to attempt a 40 foot birdie putt. He made a few practice swings and then addressed the ball, took his putter back and began his stroke, however someone in the audience coughed loudly, distracting him, and so he tried to stop his putter. He failed and the ball dribbled a few feet forward.
Watch what happened… (sorry about the poor grammar in the video title!)
Pieters immediately called over the Referee and explained that he had not meant to hit the ball as he’d been distracted. He called over a second referee and Pieters was told that as it had not been his intention to strike the ball he was entitled to replace the ball without penalty.
Mark Litton, Chief Referee on the DP World Tour, was made aware of this issue and quickly studied footage of it in the TV “truck”, however by this time Pieters had moved on to the next hole. He was concerned that the wrong ruling had been given and so he phoned Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A (you may recall his “Rules from the Garden” videos during the first lockdown) for advice. Moir explained,
“Under the definition of “stroke”, a stroke is made when the player has begun the forward movement of the club to strike the ball. But, if the player decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball, then a stroke has not been made. In Pieters’ case, while he had tried to stop making the stroke, by hitting the ball he had failed to do so, and therefore a stroke had been made.”
So, it was clear that Pieters had been given the wrong ruling, but should that ruling stand or should he be given a penalty at the end of the round? Moir consulted the Official Guide, and found the part of Section 6C(11) which deals with the situation where a player in stroke play is incorrectly advised that a stroke does not count. This guidance provides that where a referee in stroke play incorrectly advises a player that their stroke does not count and to play again without penalty, the ruling stands and the player’s score with the replayed stroke is the player’s score for the hole. Strictly speaking the Referee didn’t say the stroke didn’t count, but that a stroke had not been made, however this was the closest guidance available. Therefore Pieters’ score stood, in other words he was not penalised.
Although the score didn’t need to be changed, the Chief Referee met Pieters at the end of the round to explain the situation, to make sure that he would know what the correct outcome should have been, in case a similar situation arose in the future.
Here is Thomas Pieters’ succinct version of events! #Luckyidiot
So kid coughed in my backstroke. I tried to stop…didn’t ?♂️ Called a local referee who called another referee who both deemed it not a penalty. That decision is final. Got told after I finished it should have been a penalty but original ruling stands. #Luckyidiot ? pic.twitter.com/ifRofhmmMq
— Thomas Pieters (@Thomas_Pieters) September 23, 2022
Pieters went on to finish in joint third place. He wasn’t as consistent this weekend…
— Thomas Pieters (@Thomas_Pieters) October 1, 2022
I appreciate his self-deprecating humour… we’ve all been there, although the numbers might be slightly higher!!!
He didn’t do too badly though as his other rounds were 65 and 70 and he finished in 28th place.