“There is no surer or more painful way to learn a rule than to be penalized once for breaking it.” — Tom Watson, golf professional

Tour pro Rory McIlroy survived a two-stroke penalty in last week’s FedEx tournament. Finding his ball in a bunker, McIlroy surveyed his shot and thought there was a stone behind his ball. With confidence in a new rule allowing players to remove “loose impediments,” he reached down to move the stone. When he touched it, he realized that it wasn't a stone but a clump of sand. He called for a rules official who relayed the situation to the USGA.

They deemed that he had broken the rule regarding “testing the ground.” McIlroy insisted that he did not improve his lie but took the two-stroke penalty and moved on. At the conclusion of the round, he went over the infraction with the lead rules official, who discussed it with others. It was determined the player did nothing to improve his lie and the penalty strokes were retracted.

This was a case of a player who knew the rules, didn't lose his cool and presented his case in an educated, respectful fashion. Golfers everywhere can learn from this incident. Knowing the rules can be a great help to a player. There are situations that are rarely seen on the course, but when that situation happens, do you know the rule?

Nobody wants to hit another player with a shot. However, if a player’s ball does strike another golfer, and the ball ricochets out of bounds, you get to place your ball where it went out and do not suffer the penalty. Just be sure that your playing companion is not lying on the ground before you cite the rule!

Water is found on most courses and can “sink” a good round. If you find your ball in water and the ball is moving with the flow, you can hit the ball while it is moving. This goes against the rule that penalizes a player for “hitting a moving ball.”

Knowing these rules might give you an opportunity to save some strokes, but it might be prudent to take an “unplayable.” What to do when, as you begin your swing, your club head snaps and falls off? You continue the swing with only the shaft in hand and miss the ball. You are deemed not to have made a stroke. However, if the club head snaps on the down swing, count it. You might also want to consider purchasing some new clubs.

These are extreme situations that a player may never encounter, but they have occurred.

In golf there is a rule book that guides play on the golf course. Interpretations of these rules are incorporated into The Decisions on the Rules of Golf. This book is published every two years by the USGA and the R&A. The purpose is to “clarify matters that may not be entirely clear from the Rules of Golf.”

I'm guessing the ruling bodies receive thousands of calls from players looking for guidance in interpreting the rules. We had a guy of whom it was jokingly said, “He has the USGA on speed dial” when a situation could not be determined or he thought the outcome incorrect.

To better inform players, the Decisions book should be accessible to players. It is also a resource for both the informed player and that individual who would like to be prepared for situations on the golf course. Knowing the rules and the decisions surrounding them might just save you a couple of strokes in your next match. Arnold Palmer once said, “The game is difficult enough, take advantage of every rule.” Play smart, know what you can and cannot do. Know what options will best serve you and your game.


North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: The Senior Championship was held last Saturday. In the Men's 50-59, division, the winner was Rob Brewster. For ages 60-69 it was Kurt Grahber, and in the 70+ it was Paul Harlow. The overall champion was Grahber. On the Women's side, it was Gay Folland taking the overall championship. The two division net champions were Kathy Sweeney and Jackie Gaudes. Sunday, the annual Pro/Member was held. Taking first gross was the team of Rob Brewster, Fred Sarro and Christine Endicott. Three teams tied for low net. Week 9 of Ledgeview League, saw the Rivers Edge team take first gross and the For Your Pars Only team got first net. Closest to the pin were Dom Jones and Julie Rivers.

Wentworth Golf Course, Route 16, Jackson (603) 383-9641: Keeping with tradition, the results of the final three weeks of Red Fox League are a tightly guarded secret. After eight weeks, the published standings have the Shanks-A-Lot team in first with 51 points. Stan & Dan's are in second with 45.5 points. Hot on their heels are the Pin Seekers with 45. The 2019 Club Championship is scheduled for Aug. 24-25. Sign up by Aug. 21 in the pro shop.

Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: The pro shop hours are 7 a.m- 6 p.m for tee times and information. When booking online, go to haleslocationgolf.com and click on Book a Tee Time. Payment does not include a cart. That can be added at the course. With one week of league play remaining, Denise Woodcock posted a +6 in the weekly quota game in Ladies League action. Closest to the pin winner was June Lundin. On the men's side, it was Dave Heffernan posting a +6. Dave Pierce got closest to the pin. Nine, Wine, and Dine continues on Sunday afternoons. Call the hotel (603) 356-7100 to make a reservation.

Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: Sunday, Aug. 25, the Eagle will host a Member and Friends Scramble. This will begin at 2 p.m. and you can sign up in the pro shop. The Fall Don Ho League will be starting in two weeks. To register a team or sign up as an individual, call or visit the pro shop. In the Thursday Eagle League, the team of Nicki Lynn, Terry Fitzgerald, Lori and Bob Babine took first place.

Lake Kezar Country Club, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-2462: The Tuesday Social League saw the team of Dick Trapani, Jim Stanford, Jim Stone and Harry Roberts take first place. Second place went to Dave Mills, Paul DeBrule, Ron Ela and Dick Day. This Sunday, LKCC will be hosting the 1st Annual No Kid Hungry Tournament. This is a great program and is being sponsored by the 302 West Restaurant. For more information, email clare@302west.com. On Sept. 6, Cross Insurance is presenting the “Load a Log-South Tournament.” The course will be closed to the public for this event. The 28th Annual Fryeburg Rec. Tournament will be held Sept. 7-8. Email bradandtina@roadrunner.com to sign up.


A couple of weeks ago, one of the guys in our weekend group showed up wearing a pair of sandals. He attached his bag to the cart and was ready to go. A number of guys made comments regarding his footwear. It was only then that he realized he had left his golf shoes at home. Leaving without telling anyone, he headed home to get his shoes. With tee time approaching, a call went out to him. He answered that he was three minutes away and would be there.

He got, and continues to get, abuse from his golfing friends. I want him to know that even the touring pros have a slip of the mind. Fred Couples showed up in Houston to play in the Houston Open. Waking up the next morning, he scanned the newspaper for his tee time. Not seeing his name, he called tournament officials only to find out he had not signed up that week’s event. I'm sure his friends reminded him of his errors. Enjoy the weekend.

Joe Soraghan may be reached at joesoraghan@yahoo.com.

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