Editors' BlogNovember 26, 2007

Rules Violation 2

In a previous post, we confessed to one misplay in the rules story in December: "Is it allowed?" Let this be our second.

Situation No. 4 in the story read:

"Your opponent uses a bottle cap as a tee."

We said, "Yes", this was allowed. Not so. Pebblepete in a comment on this blog was one of the readers who protested our answer. Warren Simmons in Scottsdale was another. Warren, a Golf Digest course rating panelist,  longtime USGA committeeman and former Chair of the Colorado Golf Association, rightly points out that the definition of "tee", on which the rule rests, came in 2004. The change outlawed, among other things, the use of a pencil as a tee, which Chi Chi Rodriguez had made famous. Warren cites the definition:

"A tee is a device designed to raise a ball off the ground" from the Definition your incorrect answer references).  So far as I know, a bottle cap is not designed to do that (it is designed to keep liquid in a bottle).  When the definition of a "tee" was added to the Rules book in 2004, teeing up a ball on a pencil was no longer permitted, for the same reason.  Use of a bottle cap went out that same year.

Rule 11-1, after saying one may hit a tee shot off of the teeing ground, "a tee placed in or on the surface of the teeing ground, or sand or other natural substance placed on the surface of the teeing ground," goes on to say:

In teeing, if a player uses a non-conforming tee or > any other object to raise the ball off the ground, he is disqualified.

Several others of you wrote in about this situation, but only Warren referenced the 2004 change. In short, it was the  designed to raise a ball off the ground clause in the definition and the *any other object *clause in the rule that proved us wrong. A call to the USGA rules department confirmed Warren's ruling.

I talked to a couple people who know the rules very well who were confused by this one, too. They remember Chi Chi's use of the pencil, but don't remember the 2004 change.

Thanks, Warren, and all of you who pointed this out.

One--well, me--can question the penalty, however. This merits disqualification but it's okay to play in six hours ?

Warren also questioned our answer to situation No. 8, wherein we "allowed" the use of a hat to mark the position of a lifted ball.  But he cut us a bit of slack.

I haven't checked with the USGA, but that's really stretching the Note to Rule 20-1, which suggests that "the position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball."   A hat is hardly "a small coin or other similar object."  Decision 20-1/16 discourages, but allows use of a tee, loose impediment or toe of a club.  Using a hat, jacket or golf bag would be pushing the envelope a bit far in my opinion.  On the other hand, if there is some distinctive feature of the hat that clearly identifies the spot from which the ball is lifted (a button on the edge, the seam in the back, etc.), then I suppose the hat may be used to mark its position.

--Bob Carney

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