• Alistair Tait

Meet the new golf rules boss Annika...


Of course the penalty shot wrongly applied to Annika Sorenstam couldn’t be rescinded. Not under the new, easier to read, simplified rules of golf that came into force 1 January 2019.


Meet the new golf rules boss Annika, same as the old golf rules boss.


Quick recap: Sorenstam hit her ball close to a fence on the fifth hole at Lake Nona in the opening round of the Gainsbridge LPGA. A gate in the fence meant Sorenstam would be able to hit the ball if she opened it, which she wanted to do. Rules official Dan Maselli told the 10-time major winner she wasn’t allowed to open the gate. Sorenstam took a penalty drop and made a triple bogey.


Lo and behold, turns out Sorenstam could have opened the gate and hit the ball. The LPGA later issued a statement that read:

"Per the 2021 LPGA Rules of Play Card, gates attached to objects defining out of bounds are integral objects. The official on scene misinterpreted the definition of integral object. While it is correct that there is no free relief provided from the gate, it could be moved to a different position under the Rules. The definition of integral object says in part, “If part of the integral object meets the definition of a moveable obstruction, that part is treated as a moveable obstruction.
"The option to rescind the penalty is not available under the Rules of Golf. The official met the player immediately following her second round to explain the mistake and apologize."

Thankfully the penalty drop did not stop Sorenstam from making the cut in her first LPGA start in 13 years. It might have, however, which would have been a travesty.


Quite why the penalty couldn’t have been rescinded will confuse many who don’t understand the weird and wonderful machinations of the laws that govern our game. It might even confuse many who do, since rewriting the rules of golf was supposed to stop this sort of thing from happening.


The irony is Sorenstam, unlike many of her peers, made the effort to know the rules when she was a player. She took a rules course to help her better understand the laws of the game.


The rules official was mortified by his mistake, and Sorenstam showed her class by telling him not to worry about it. While she accepted the penalty with good grace, she could be forgiven for wondering why she’s suffered a penalty shot because a rules official messed up.


The Sorenstam ruling is all the more baffling when you compare it to Lexi Thompson’s get out of jail free card in last year’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon. Thompson twice tried to improve her lie in what appeared a clear rules violation, yet no action was taken because rules officials deemed Thompson’s lie was not affected. In a statement the R&A said:

“It was determined that, although the player had moved a growing natural object behind her ball, it had returned to its original position. Therefore, the lie of the ball was not improved and there was no breach of Rule 8.1.”

Presumably equity came into play in Lexi’s case and no action was taken even though she made a deliberate act. So why didn’t equity come into play for Sorenstam? Couldn’t a case be made to say that since the rules official cost Sorenstam one shot then, in fairness, the shot should be taken off her scorecard? After all, weren’t the rules rewritten to make the game fairer and much less stringent?


Oh, and if you accidentally cause your ball to move on a putting green while addressing it you may replace the ball with no penalty. But if you do a Russell Knox and accidentally cause your ball to move while addressing it on the fairway there is a one-shot penalty, even if the referee tells you at the time there is no penalty.


Confused?


Me too, and I previously passed the R&A's Refereeing and Rules of Golf exam.


The easier to read, fairer, simpler rules of golf? Pull the other one!


#JustSaying: “You had one f------ job to do and you couldn’t even get that f------ right!” Ian Woosnam to caddie Myles Byrne after being told he had 15 clubs in the final round of the 2001 Open Championship

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