The USGA, in conjunction with The R&A in St. Andrews, Scotland, writes, interprets and maintains the Rules of Golf to guard the tradition and integrity of the game.
By: Reed McGregor, UGA President and Chairman of the UGA Rules Committee
I have been asked what is the most common Rule error that I see players make. That one is easy. The most common error that I run into, especially with junior golfers, has to do with Rule 3-3, Doubt as to Procedure. The following is a perfect example of what occurs far too often:
A player finds his ball in a bad lie in an unmarked area through the green that he thinks the committee might deem ground under repair. He announces his intent to play two balls under Rule 3-3 to his marker, but fails to announce that he wants the ball dropped away from the condition to count. He scores 6 with the original ball played from the bad lie. He scores a 4 with the ball dropped away from the condition under Rule 25-1 (ground under repair). He reports his procedure to the committee and the area is subsequently deemed to be ground under repair. What is the player’s score for the hole?
There are three required steps when proceeding under Rule 3-3.
1. Announce to marker or fellow-competitor your intention to play two balls.
2. Announce which ball you want to count if the Rules permit.
3. Report the facts of the situation to the committee.
It is my experience that most players know that it is necessary to announce their intention to play two balls and that in most cases they are reporting their procedure to the committee (especially since 2004 when the penalty for not reporting was changed to disqualification, even if he scores the same with both balls). However, I am amazed how many good players do not know that it is necessary to state which ball they want to count when proceeding under this Rule. If you fail to announce which ball you want to count, the Rules of Golf will make that decision for you.
Rule 3-3b(ii) states: “If the competitor fails to announce in advance his decision to complete the hole with two balls, or which ball he wishes to count, the score with the original ball counts, provided it has been played in accordance with the Rules”. “Otherwise, the score with the other ball counts if the Rules allow the procedure adopted for that ball”.
In the above example the player scores a 6 for the hole. Because he failed to announce which ball he wished to count, the score with the original ball is his score for the hole since it was played in accordance with the rules (a player is allowed to play a ball from an area of ground under repair).