By Clyde Luther
At the recent East Tennessee State Invitational an interesting situation arose that few players are aware of yet it is important and something that occurs in almost every competition.
A player from Virginia Tech hit a shot to the green just about a foot and a half behind the hole and I observed that he had not marked and lifted his ball, and at that time I realized that another player, from UNC, was about to play a pitch shot from just off of the green. At that point I approached the green and almost simultaneously, both the player from UNC and me, said “mark your ball please.” Why would I as a Rules Official intervene in a situation such as this? Let’s look at Rule 22 “Ball Assisting or Interfering With Play.”
Rule 22-1 states that “Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player he may lift the ball if it is his ball or have any other ball lifted.” In this case with the UNC player it was very evident that the VT player’s ball could have easily assisted his play since the VT player’s ball was directly behind the hole.
Let’s look at a couple of Decisions in the Rules of Golf that also cover this matter. In Decision 22/6 a competitor asks that a ball in a position to assist him not be lifted. Is such a request proper? The answer is no! If the two players were to agree not to lift the ball both players would be disqualified.
At the recent Middle Atlantic Amateur a player requested a player not to lift his ball as he was about to putt from off of the green and the his fellow competitor agreed and fortunately the Rules Official happened on the scene and prevented a potential disqualification. In short the Rules Official was protecting the field. He was acting in accordance with Decision 22/7 that directs him to intervene if such a situation arises.
Several years ago at the US Women’s Open, Patty Hurst was about to play a ball from just off the green and I asked her fellow competitor to lift her ball which was only a foot behind the hole. Patty Hurst said, “I never heard of that Rule.” It seems as if not many players are aware of the Rule since many, or might I say most, are not but they automatically lift the ball out of habit not wanting their ball to be moved.
This Rule is violated many times over the course of a season. I was first introduced to this Rule at the Cavalier Classic back in the early 1990’s by a well-known USGA Rules Official, Dr. Lew Blakey. The players he was involved with back then were equally surprised. Yours truly was also confronted by a similar situation at a recent American Junior Golf Association event and, as usual, the player said “I never heard of that.”
Please read Rule 22 Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play. It just might help you avoid an embarrassing situation.