Thursday, 21 June 2018


Phil Mickelson has certainly been the subject of a lot of discussion since his questionable actions at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday. He blatantly broke rule 14-5 by striking his putt more than once in order to prevent it from rolling down off the green. Rule 14-5 states a player must not make a stroke at his/her ball while it is moving. However, there is another rule which could have been used which was Rule 1-2 where a player must not (i) take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play or (ii) alter physical conditions with the intent of affecting the playing of a hole. I would say Phil certainly influenced the movement of his ball. The penalty for this misdemeanour is 2 strokes or if a player has gained a significant advantage then it is disqualification.

The key principle in golf is that you play the ball as it lies and you don’t do anything to improve your surroundings. For example, if your ball lands at the bottom of a bush or tree you must step in and fairly take your stance without bending, breaking the flora and fauna around you. Rule 13-2 states: A player must not improve or allow to be improved: 
·      the position or lie of his/her ball, 
·      the area of his/her intended stance or swing, 
·      his,her line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or 
·      the area in which he/she is to drop or place a ball, 
by any of the following actions: 
·      pressing a club on the ground, 
·      moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds),
·      creating or eliminating irregularities of surface, 
·      removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position, or 
·      removing dew, frost or water. 
It is also important to remember that if in the course of taking a practice swing you happen to knock down branches and leaves with your backswing you could be altering your area of your intended swing and you would be in breach of Rule 13-2 resulting in a penalty of two strokes in strokeplay and loss of hole in matchplay.
Sandy Bushby
R&A Rules Qualified