Rules of Golf Review: Can I be penalized for delaying play if I stop for a hot dog?
While there's little question that the turn at a golf course is often a spot where traffic jams occur, does stopping to grab some lunch or a cocktail—or both—constitute an "unreasonable delay" in play during a competition as outlined by under Rule 5.6 in the Rules of Golf?
When you consider that it might take several minutes for the halfway house to grill a burger, make a sandwich, etc., and your opponent might be coming off a string of good holes and feel like the momentum is in his or her corner, can an argument be made that a 15-minute break between No. 9 and No. 10 negatively impacted a match? It's a reasonable question. How many times have you holed out on the front nine only to see two or three groups waiting to tee off on the back? It's a dejecting feeling, for sure.
OK, so what's the recourse when your opponent wants to stop at the turn? The Rules of Golf clarifies that "brief delays that are a result of normal events that happen during a round or are outside the player’s control are generally treated as 'reasonable'." Among those things considered reasonable are stopping by the clubhouse or halfway house to get food or drink. To be clear, the action needs to be "brief." You can't sit down at a table, tuck a napkin into your golf shirt and start to peruse a menu while you decide on a chardonnay or a pinot. Keep the word "brief" in mind as you call timeout.
Interestingly, the same goes for a sudden illness (think emergency bathroom situation). You're supposed to get 15 minutes to get the issue under control. That includes injury recovery such as a bee sting, etc.
If for whatever reason your delay is considered "unreasonable," such as taking a call on your cell from the boss to go over the quarterly financial statement, the Rules say it's a one-stroke penalty for your first violation, a two-stroke penalty (or loss of hole in match play) for your second and a disqualification for the third.
If the violation occurs between two holes, the penalty should apply on the next hole.
Albeit rare, violations of Rule 5.6 do occur among pros. At the 2021 PGA Championship, John Catlin was hit with a one-stroke penalty for taking more than 60 seconds to play a shot. It was the second time in the round he did so.
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