Information on rules is not advice
I watched on television an excellent interaction relating to the Rules of Golf between Indian, Shubhankar Sharma and veteran, Phil Mickelson, last Sunday at 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.
Together with Tyrrell Hatton, as the three third-round leaders, they were in the final group to tee off.
Sharma’s ball flew the green at the fifth hole and he found it surrounded by television wires. It seems that Sharma, who currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, may not have been sure whether his relief was from a movable obstruction or an immovable obstruction. Mickelson had no such doubt and helpfully guided him through the process of taking relief from a movable obstruction.
Mickelson correctly recognised that the wires were easily movable and told Sharma to mark his ball, in case it moved while he was removing the wires, even directing him to move his marker closer so that the position would be more accurately marked.
In fact, it is not necessary to mark a ball while removing an obstruction as rule 24-2 only requires that if the ball moves while doing so, it must be replaced.
But marking the ball’s position in this situation is a good practice that all golfers should follow.
An important point here is that providing information on the rules does not incur the penalty for giving advice, Definition of Advice. But decision 8-1/16 provides;
- B’s ball was lying badly. B was deliberating what action to take when A, his fellow-competitor, said: “You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would deem the ball unplayable.” Was A giving advice, contrary to rule 8-1?
- Yes. A’s suggestion could have influenced B “in determining his play.” Thus, it constituted advice – see Definition of “Advice.” It did not constitute “information on the rules,” which is not advice.
I have no doubt that Mickelson was correct in identifying the interfering cable as a movable obstruction.
The definition states that an obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, which obviously applied to the cables in this incident even if they had been trodden down and were partially embedded in the soft earth.
Another example of a movable obstruction that is embedded is a water hazard stake, which may be inserted several inches into the ground, but is still easily removable and is therefore a movable obstruction.
Note: The author is a R&A Certified Tournament Administrator and Referee. He is also a Teaching Professional and Professional Golf Association of South Africa member.
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