Dustin Johnson’s recent bunker blunder during the PGA Championship has opened the doors here for some great learning opportunities about The Rules of Golf. Because that event will go down in the golf history books and the decision will be debated for many years to come, many people right now are scoffing at the game’s Rules and crying about injustice and lack of fairness. When ultimately, if you know the Rules, not only will you not break them but also you can use them to your advantage. Here are few instances where a PGA Tour player knew the Rules, knew his options, and made a decision that many golfers would not have thought of at the time.
2010 PGA Championship
Yes, Dustin Johnson again, and yes, on that second shot on hole 18 from the same sand bunker that resulted in a 2 stroke penalty. One of things he did do right in that situation, according to the Rules, was when he was assessing his shot there were many spectators standing around him and there was a little light shining on his ball. So he asked some of the spectators to move so they created more of a shadow. What he did there was not breaking the Rules.
Rule 14-2: This rule basically covers Assistance while hitting the ball. You cannot place a person or an object to block light from shining on your ball. But……
Decision 14-2/2.5: This does allow a player to ask someone to move who was already in position to either block or allow light near the ball.
The difference between these two situations is really where The Rules of Golf are always consistent with fair play. You cannot purposely help your shot by placing something or someone there while hitting the ball. But, you can ask someone who was already there to move. The first one is intentionally altering the situation; the second one is giving you a fair chance from a situation that already exists.
2010 Byron Nelson Championship
Jason Day won this tournament and part of the reason was because of a great decision he made on his final hole when his 2nd shot landed in a Lateral Water Hazard. The Rules allow for five options when your ball lands in a Lateral Hazard. Day chose the option that most tour players forget about and most recreational golfers do not even know about. He chose to take a drop on the other side of the hazard, which gave him a better lie and a good solid shot with his wedge.
Rule 26-1c: This is the rule that allows for two additional options for a Lateral Hazard after the three options given for a Regular Water Hazard. The point where the ball crosses into the hazard is always a key point to remember. This rule allows you to take 2 club lengths from that point on either side of the hazard.
(See all available options & diagrams in the article, Golf Rules: Water hazard options)
1999 Phoenix Open
Tiger Woods’ drive on the 13th hole of his final round landed behind a boulder about three feet high by 2 feet wide. Woods called over a Rules Official to see if this boulder was considered a loose impediment. Since it was not embedded in the ground, the official did declare it a loose impediment and Woods enlisted the help of a few spectators to move it for him. This was not breaking the Rules.
Rule 23-1: This rule covers relief from loose impediments. You can remove them from near your ball as long as it does not cause your ball to move. The impediment cannot be fixed, embedded, or sticking to your ball.
Decision 23-1/3: This rule allows you get help from anyone in order to move the loose impediment.
Just like all other sports, The Rules of Golf are part of the game for a reason. They are designed to be fair to all players and to adapt to the ever-changing conditions that exist on all the different golf courses, since the game is not being played on one set playing field like other sports. Know what you can do, what you cannot do, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Golf rules: Water hazard options
Grounding a club in a hazard: Dustin Johnson and The Rules of Golf
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