Archive for the ‘Rules’ Category

Fewer Rules Issues. Knock on wood…

August 28, 2012

We are most of the way through this season, but have some terrific events to go. The Georgia Senior Championship is being contested at Reynolds Plantation – Great Waters, which is one of our best facilities in the state. I have not run a Championship there since 1999, when Rick Cloninger won the Championship over Carter Mize.

This year seems to be a fairly moderate year as far as rules situations go. I believe that players are becoming more knowledgeable with the rules, and therefore, fewer issues arise.

I did have an interesting issue at Ansley Golf Club – Settindown Creek during the Georgia Amateur Championship. This was good old Rule 18-2b, Ball Moving After Address. This concerned the change where the exception was added that says, “If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.” This change does not mean that after the player has addressed the ball, he is not deemed to have moved it, unless it is known or virtually certain that something else caused the ball to move. In this case, the player thought that he had done nothing to cause his ball to move, however, nothing else caused it to move either, therefore his act of addressing the ball is all we had.

The penalty had to be applied.

The question that I am being asked the most this year is what is going to happen with the long/anchored putter. I don’t know if anybody knows right now. I have no problem with the maximum length of a golf club. I personally do not like the “anchoring” because I don’t think that is a stroke. You may think differently, and that is fine. We will leave this decision up to the powers at be, and will rule on their decision.

I would like to congratulate senior player Doug Hanzel from The Landings in Savannah. Not only did he make the cut and finish low amateur in the US Senior Open, he qualified for match play, and won his first match at the US Amateur at Cherry Hills in Denver. He lost his second match to Steven Fox, the eventual champion, on the 18th hole. I was fortunate to be at Cherry Hills and Doug was the “talk of the town.” Great going!

Last thought for Rules – Stroke play, two strokes; match play, loss of hole.

Layne Williams
Senior Director, Rules & Competitions


The Changes Work…

February 14, 2012

I was fortunate enough to be invited to work The Jones Cup at Ocean Forest on Sea Island. This has become one of the most prestigious amateur events in the world. We had players from all over the world including France, Germany, Hong Kong, Wales, Scotland, England, and of course the USA. Justin Thomas, a freshman at the University of Alabama from Goshen, Kentucky, was the only player in the field to match par and won the event by two strokes. Jay Seawell, the coach at Alabama, just keeps getting great players as five of his team members finished in the top 18.

2012 is a rules change year, so a month after the changes went into effect the changed versions were used, or almost used.

During the first round on Friday, the winds began to blow. We were expecting 20 – 30 mph winds. At Ocean Forest, the putting greens on numbers 5, 12, and 13 are right on the Hampton River, and numbers 17 and 18 greens are on the Atlantic Ocean. The forecast was for 30 mph winds, but it felt more like 50 on these greens. Balls were oscillating on these greens, but luckily were not moving. One of the principle changes to the rules this year concerns Rule 18-2b, ‘Ball Moving After Address.’

Now the player is not penalized after he has addressed the ball if it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move. There would be pretty solid certainty that had a ball moved after address, and the player had done nothing to move it, the wind did. The player did nothing wrong, why should he be penalized?

During the second round on Saturday, I received a call over the radio that a players’ caddie had raked a bunker before the player had played his stroke. I asked Richard Wilson of Country Club of Columbus, who was on the Rules Committee, to check it out because he was in the area. There were 2 balls in the bunker. Player A’s ball was closer to the hole. Player B played first, and A’s caddie raked the area where B had played. The caddie was caring for the course and did not help or aid player A in any fashion. This is no longer a penalty under Rule 13-4, and is covered in Exception 2 under the Rule. This only makes sense.

I applaud the USGA and the R&A for the changes they have made this year. The playing of the game has not been changed, and reasonable solutions to situations prevail.

The changes work.

C. Layne Williams
Senior Director, Rules & Competitions

The Ever-Changing Game…

November 15, 2011

Golf seems like it is always evolving. Every year there are tweaks here and there aimed at appealing to a new crowd, or to make it more enjoyable to those who already play.

The game is in a constant struggle to hold on to its traditions while also trying to embrace the modern technology. For people who have played golf their entire lives, one of the most charming things about the game are its traditions. Golf has to try to embrace those traditions while also being open to changes that could bring new people to the game. An example of this is the use of motorized carts. Some traditionalists feel that part of playing the game is walking the course, but if carts weren’t allowed, many people would not want to play.

Another topic that sparks debate amongst golfers is the equipment they use. In 2011, the belly putter became point of discussion because of how many PGA Tour players switched to it and saw quick, positive results. Many think the belly putter should be outlawed because it makes putting, maybe the most difficult aspect of the game, too easy. Despite this belief, belly putters remain conforming clubs under the Rules of Golf.

Golf also has some issues that it must face if it wants to continue to grow, and pace of play might be the most glaring. It has become a major problem. It is taking longer and longer to play 18 holes, which deters many golfers from playing more often. In response to this issue, the USGA created its “Tee It Forward” program to discourage slow play and make each round more enjoyable. “Tee It Forward” encourages golfers to play from a set of tees that aligns with their normal driving distance and skill level, rather than from tees that are too difficult.

Jack Nicklaus took a crack at improving pace of play at his course by conducting a tournament in which the size of the hole was doubled and the round was 12 holes rather than the traditional 18. Nicklaus’ approach was more unconventional, but at least he’s trying to fix the problem. Wouldn’t you play more golf if you made more putts and there was less of a time commitment? I know I would.

If you could change one thing about the game of golf, what would it be? Visit our Facebook page at the link below, or leave a comment on this blog, and share your thoughts!

Richard Adams
Coordinator, Rules and Competitions

2012 – Time To Change, Again…

November 3, 2011

The Rules of Golf will change again on January 1, 2012. The USGA and R&A do this every four years because the Rules of Golf are constantly going through an evolution. Our playing field is very large, and as equipment, agronomy, player ability, and other factors change the game, the rules need to stay in step.

The USGA governs the game in the United States and Mexico. The R&A governs the game in the rest of the world. Even though the rules have been similar, they have never been the same. That changes this year. There will now be one book which covers the entire world. This is an excellent change by the two governing bodies to make the rules of the game the same regardless where you may be playing.

The 34 playing Rules have gone through a four-year exhaustive review and the Rules remain basically the same. The changes are modest.

The three most significant changes are as follows:

1. Rule 6-3a – Time of Starting: For years we, along with most other golf associations, have had in the Conditions of the Competition is what is called the five minute Rule. This allowed a player who was late to the tee, but within five minutes, to play with a two-stroke penalty in Stroke Play or loss of hole in Match Play, rather than getting disqualified. The Rule said the player was disqualified, but now the statement will be taken out of the Conditions and put in the Rule.

2. Rule 13-4 – Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions: This change amends Exception 2 to this Rule by allowing a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, even before playing from the hazard, as long as the player is caring for or tidying up the course, and he does not improve the lie, his area of intended swing, or his line of play, which would be a breach of Rule 13-2. This should help with pace of play and is consistent with the Etiquette Section of the Rule Book. Remember, testing is still not allowed.

3. Rule-18-2b – Ball Moving After Address: This may be the most visible of the changes. Ask Webb Simpson in New Orleans or Rory McIlroy at the Open Championship. If it is known or virtually certain that the ball was moved by something other than the player after it has been addressed, the player will no longer be penalized. Before this change, when a player addressed the ball and it moved for whatever reason, the player was penalized one stroke and the ball had to be replaced. Now, for example, if the player addresses the ball and a gust of wind causes it to move, he is not penalized and plays the ball from its new position. Why should a player be penalized if he has done nothing wrong?

The changes for 2012 seem to be player friendly. I know that seems to be hard to believe, but remember that the Rules are there are to help you, and to make sure that if you are 8 or 80, we all play by the same Rules.

C. Layne Williams
Senior Director, Rules & Competitions

A Rookie’s Perspective…The Flip Side.

October 13, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of serving on the rules committee for the USGA Women’s State Team Championship.  It was truly an honor to be invited to work this national championship which was played in our home state of Georgia at The Landings Club in Savannah. 

Despite being in the Rules & Competitions Department here at GSGA for almost nine years now, this was the first opportunity I had to work a USGA championship.  Let it be known and truth be told, I was really excited and probably a little nervous too.

Normally, GSGA members playing in our competitions might see me as the Official in Charge running the show on a state level.  However, for this championship I got to see it all take place on a national level from the ground level, a regular rules committee volunteer.  It provided a different perspective which I thought wound up being much needed and very appreciated. 

The first two rounds of the 54 hole event I worked individual holes on The Landings Club-Palmetto course.  Hole #15 was a short 123 yard par 3 on the marsh with a strong breeze and plenty of trouble for such a short hole.  Ten hours later and after 153 players came through I was exhausted!  Round 2 took me to hole #8, a par 4 which the USGA shortened that day to 260 yards to entice players to try and drive a heavily guarded green.  Out of 153 players, roughly a half dozen got as close as the front bunkers, with only 2 or 3 making birdie. 

I put my skills to work a few times, most notably having to get out my string and dental floss to stretch between two out of bounds posts to determine if a ball was out of bounds or safe.  As they say, it is a game of inches and this ball was out by two inches.  Another ten hours and another tired volunteer at the end of the day.

The final round took me to the scoring table for #18 which meant I was going to be scoring the eventual national champions and all of the teams within striking distance.  Seeing that it had been 20 years since my last math class in college, and since computers and calculators do all the math for us these days, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned my addition skills would fail me on such a grand stage.  Well, thankfully they didn’t and I scored the champions correctly. 

Who were the champions you may wonder?  None other than our home team of Georgia, who successfully defended their victory from 2009.  That makes three victories in nine times this championship has been held.  Oh, but that is not all.  Rachel Dai, the reigning Georgia Girls’ Champion won the individual title as well with stellar rounds of 75-67-72, tying the single round low score in championship history with her second round 67.

It was simply an amazing week.  I worked my first USGA Championship and met some wonderful people along the way.  I observed how a national championship was run as low man on the totem pole.  Last but not least, Georgia won on home turf and were able to celebrate with numerous family and friends.  A good time had by all.  Congrats to our winning team of Captain Sissi Gann, Laura Coble, Rachel Dai and Amira Alexander.

(L-R):  Amira Alexander, Rachel Dai, Laura Coble, Captain Sissi Gann
(L-R): Amira Alexander, Rachel Dai, Laura Coble, Captain Sissi Gann

Jeff Fages
Director, Rules & Competitions

Can red and yellow be the same thing?

May 31, 2011

We conducted our 30th Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship last weekend at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta. It was a terrific Championship, even though it was 100 degrees in the shade. Kinderlou did a fantastic job with the Championship, and the players I talked to really knew that they had been tested. We set the course up at about 7300 yards, but could have gone back to about 7800, so it was all the course you wanted. Lewis, Steve, Bill, Heath, and their staffs were terrific to work with, and we look forward to going back.

Mark Strickland from Pinetree Country Club won the Championship by three strokes with a terrific score of 6-under-par. Only two players broke par for the 54 holes and two others matched par. This was Mark’s second Georgia Mid-Amateur title, having won in 2006 at Cartersville Country Club. Congratulations go to Mark.

During Saturday’s round I was called over the radio about a player who wanted to take relief from an unplayable lie in the quarry, which is on the fourth hole, and is marked as a lateral water hazard. I explained to him that that was not allowed under the rules of golf, but could tell that my explanation did not sink in.

Later that day I walked into the headquarters room and there he was, rule book in hand, asking for an explanation. I referred him to the second paragraph of “Rule 28. Ball Unplayable,” which states “The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.”

I thought that was the end of it, but then found out his confusion. A water hazard is defined by yellow stakes or lines. A lateral water hazard is defined by red stakes or lines. The unplayable rule talks about a water hazard (yellow), but his ball was in a lateral water hazard (red), so he did not believe the rule prevented him from taking relief from an unplayable lie in a red hazard. You know what – he had a point.

I then asked him to read the definition of a lateral water hazard. The first sentence of that definition cleared up his confusion. It says, “A “lateral water hazard” is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible, or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable, to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-1b.”

Bottom line – A lateral water hazard is a water hazard. The reason that they are marked either yellow or red is to define what options are available to a player in a relief situation. So yes, red is yellow if you want to take relief from an unplayable lie.

Layne Williams
Senior Director, Rules and Competitions

Random Thoughts from R & C

May 12, 2011

Things are picking up in the R & C Department lately.  USGA qualifying is kicking into gear and last night the Amateur Championship qualifying window closed at 11:59 p.m.  So as I laid my head down to sleep last night close to midnight (why was I up that late, playing TW 2012: The Masters of course, see previous posts)  some random thoughts and tidbits of information kept popping up into my head.  Well, let’s get started:

  • The last entry to be processed for the Amateur Championship was received at 11:46 p.m., just 13 short minutes before the deadline.  I would say that is cutting it close.  The last e-mail requesting assistance with online registration before the deadline was received at 11:51 p.m.  No comment…
  • For those players that tried without success to register on the last day I leave you with this piece of information: The online registration legal disclaimer states, “Entries should be submitted early to allow for ample time for delay or error in transmission.  The risk of delay or error in transmission lies solely with the entrant and the GSGA will have no liability with respect to any such delay or error and the consequences, including rejection of the entry.”  (In layman’s terms, NO entries are accepted after the deadline, period!)
  • It is amazing how many players remain inactive with their GHIN #’s as of May 11 or don’t even know they are inactive or what a GHIN # is.
  • It is mind-boggling how illiteracy is running rampant across America.  Does anyone read instructions anymore?  Even I am occasionally guilty as charged.  Who needs instructions???
  • I am the official in charge for U.S. Women’s Open Sectional Qualifying this coming Monday, May 16, at Druid Hills GC.  64 players for 3 qualifying spots.  3 spots, REALLY?  Better have your A+++ game for 36 holes on Monday.
  • While the beauty of online registration for the player is that you CAN wait until the last minute to sign-up for a competition, the horror of online registration from an administration standpoint is that the player still CAN wait until the last minute to sign-up for a competition.  Worrying about the number of entries has taken on a new meaning.
  • Word to the “wise:”  If your handicap index is a + number and you go out and display skills which lead to a score of more than a 90 on your scorecard, you are probably NOT a + handicapper.
  • We’re not just simply out to “get” you and want to see high scores at qualifiers or competitions.  Remember the goal is to present a strong test of golf skill to determine the best players.
  • Despite what may be considered a rant above, I am really excited that things are kicking into high gear and I will start seeing wonderful golf, beautiful golf courses and fabulous friends really soon.

Jeff Fages
Director, Rules and Competitions

Mike’s Masters Musings…

April 12, 2011

I think about different things than most people when it comes to golf tournaments. Like…

…No, they don’t mark the Cabins to the left of Hole 10 at Augusta National, where Rory McElroy’s tee shot wound up on Sunday, as out of bounds. When I worked on the Rules Committee at the Masters in 1996-1999, I helped mark water hazards so I’ve put some paint on those hallowed grounds, but never pounded a white stake anywhere. The only places you can hit your ball out of bounds are over the bamboo shoots and over the fence to the right of Hole 4 and over the boundary fence behind the green of Hole 12 (and onto the ninth fairway of Augusta Country Club), both highly unlikely.

 …They can now park 7,000 cars (according to a local Augusta radio station) for the Patrons in the new free Berckmans Road lots across from the club, and the Masters participants can practice in an area that now matches up with the rest of the magnificence of the surroundings. These two things went hand-in-hand, because the new practice facility is on a corner of the club property that used to serve as parking.

 …Our friend Tenia Workman spent the week on the grounds crew. She said they arrived at the course around 5:30 on Tuesday, with the overnight storm having almost passed through, and that they HAND RAKED many of the fairways of debris to get them ready for 8:45 practice round starts. Not much damage to bunkers, because there was only 6/10 of an inch of rain, but the wind played havoc.

 …On Sunday, McElroy was finally paired with someone (Angel Cabrera) his own speed. Too bad they had to wait all day. Speaking of all day, there may be a new “All Day” nickname out on tour. It used to be Glen “All” Day, for obvious reasons. Now, I think McElroy’s fellow competitor the first three days, Jason Day, may just claim the new “All Day” moniker. If this had been an NBC telecast team at a “regular” tour event instead of the CBS team at the Masters (where they don’t comment on things other than the play and the beauty of the course) you’d have heard more about Jason than his good play.

Mike Waldron
Executive Director

Ball Unplayable……Really Anywhere on the Course (except Water Hazard)?

April 4, 2011

Rivermont's 13th Green

Let’s set the stage.  I make a stroke at a ball from the putting green and, well, it wasn’t my best effort.  It runs past the hole, down a steep false front and ends up about 10 feet off the front of the green.

Now I am faced with a very tricky chip back up a steep slope to a hole location that is hanging on the front of this false front.  I really don’t like my chances.  I am envisioning chipping more than once from this spot.

Remembering that the rules are my friend, I decide to deem my ball unplayable and place my ball back on the spot from where I last played from on the putting green with a one stroke penalty.  Can I really do this?

This is the question I asked the Rivermont Ladies Golf Association during their Opening Luncheon.  There were “No’s” coming from all sides of the room.  I was in the middle of a rules seminar and I had a slide on the screen that stated, “A player may deem his ball unplayable anywhere on the golf course, except in a water hazard.”  We read the slide again and then I asked the question again.  Silence.

Rivermont's 13th Green

The Rivermont ladies understood my scenario, but could this really be true?  Many of them have suffered through watching their ball race down the slope on the 13th green.  What they couldn’t believe, was that with a one-stroke penalty they were putting again.  Knowing the rules truly can work to your advantage.

Click the link below to link over to the USGA’s website and read more about Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.  You will be able to learn all three options available in this rule, including when to drop and when to place the ball.

Stacy Easley
Director, Membership/Rules & Competitions

2011 GSGA Competitions Undergo Some Exciting Changes

December 16, 2010

Well, the offseason for the Rules and Competitions Department has arrived and while one might think we can just kick back and take a four-month vacation until we ramp things up again at the end of March, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth.   This offseason has been especially busy to date and it appears we will keep up this frenetic pace until the first competition of 2011.  There are some very new and exciting changes to our competitions and competitions calendar for 2011 that I will preview right here and now.  So why wait any longer and let’s get to it.

The Four-Ball Tournament is our first competition of the year and it also happens to be the first with a slightly different format to it for next year.  Instead of playing two rounds at a so-called “home course” and another round at a different course, all three rounds will be played at the same course.  The following year the flights will flip-flop so all players get to play the two courses for three rounds over the two year rotation at the same courses.  This new format is similar to our existing Senior Four-Ball Championship.  We made the switch there a few years ago and it has been met with rave reviews by the players.

We are introducing a new women’s competition for 2011…the Senior Women’s Match Play Championship is taking the place of the discontinued Greater Atlanta Women’s Amateur Championship.  This will be played April 4-6 at Doublegate Country Club in Albany and will have a similar format to our Women’s Match Play Championship.  There has long been a calling for more competitions for senior women and we expect this to be wildly popular.  It is flighted so come one, come all and experience the fun and exciting nature of the match play format.

To follow-up on our women’s competitions, the Women’s Match Play Championship is undergoing a complete renovation.  Not only is it being moved to the summer months (June 14-17) to allow for the top players in the state to all compete for the Louise Suggs Trophy, but the format has been overhauled to present a more competitive match play experience.  There will be an 18-hole stroke play qualifier that will determine seeding in each of two, 32 person match play brackets.  I am really looking forward to this one!!

The grandaddy of them all, the Amateur Championship will be played for the 90th time, July 7-10 at Cherokee Town & Country Club in Atlanta.  What an amazing site that will be sure to draw a huge number of entries.  However, the top amateurs must have their “A” games in place during qualifying because the size of the field has been reduced in the Championship from 156 to 144 players.  That boils down to about one less qualifying spot per qualifying site.  There were several administrative factors that led the Championship Committee to make this decision, but from a staff standpoint I can assure you that for the players it will run very smoothly this way.

On a side note, whether you are a competitive player, a casual player or a volunteer rules official, be sure to mark your calendars for March 1 when we will be hosting the GSGA-GPGA Rules of Golf & Tournament Administration Workshop.  Registration information will be available in January at  Get familiar or refreshed with the rules and learn how rules officials handle on-course tournament administration.  It is going to be a fun day!

In summary, GSGA staff and members have a very exciting season to look forward to with great competition, excellent camaraderie and fabulous venues.  Don’t forget, you don’t have to be a scratch golfer to participate and enjoy all that GSGA competitions have to offer.  There are several competitions that are flighted and allow you to compete against players with similar skill levels for prizes.  Check out the calendar of competitions and description page at to see what might interest you.  Hopefully, this bitter cold spell will end soon and you can get your games in shape for an eventful and thrilling 2011.

Jeff Fages
Director, Rules and Competitions