If you watch enough golf on TV you will eventually see a rules situation come up that you have never witnessed before. For most golf fans that was the case on Sunday on the final hole of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Even the LPGA rules official who was involved in the situation called it “a tricky one.” One of the veteran broadcasters for Golf Channel said on air that he had never seen it before.
“Tricky” Rules Situation
The situation involved Jessica Korda, the eventual winner of the tournament, on her next-to-last shot from just off the 18th green. Her approach shot to the hole had run past the green and nestled among some TV cables close to the wall of a spectator viewing stand. She was far enough away from the wall so that she could putt the ball onto the green, but five TV cables surrounded her ball.
At first Korda, her caddie, and LPGA Rules official Dan Maselli tried to pick up the cables and move them out of the way. That’s usually what is done in that situation. But in this case there wasn’t enough slack in the cables to move them far enough away, so Maselli and one of the Golf Channel broadcasters held up the cables. Korda then putted her ball under the cable “bridge.” It was a very good shot and got her close enough to the cup to make her next putt which turned out to be the winning shot of the event and gave her the championship.
Some people have raised questions about the way the situation was resolved and how it is addressed in the official Rules of Golf. One veteran pro caddie wondered, for example, who would be allowed to lift the cables out of the way. He said he has been told by tour officials in past tournaments that a player’s caddie or marshalls can’t hold a gallery rope out of the way of a player’s swing or intended ball flight. His understanding was that the rope and posts must be taken down and placed on the ground.
Dan Maselli, the official who made the decision in Sunday’s situation, said anyone, including the player’s own caddie, can hold a cable or rope out of the way without incurring a penalty. But Maselli also says he understands why there might be some confusion… “This is a tricky one because you won’t find anything in the Rules that specifically allows it, nor will you find anything that specifically precludes it.”
Maselli went on to explain… “A player is not allowed to accept assistance in playing a shot but that refers to protection from the elements or using devices to help with a swing. This, in my opinion, falls under Rule 1-4, Points not covered by Rules. A player is allowed relief from obstructions, movable and immovable. To me, the obstruction was movable but would not stay out of the way of the player’s stance, lie of ball or area of intended swing. Because the cables are not normally there, just there for the tournament, I felt that holding them up to allow the player to hit her desired shot, in equity, was ok. I know it’s been done before and so I decided to proceed that way. That in a nutshell is and was my thinking.”
Jessica Korda certainly was not given any advantage in the way she was allowed to play her shot. In fact, she may have been a little distracted having to putt under the cable “bridge.” The “spirit of the game” seems to have been well protected by the way the situation was handled.
Still, to the average golf fan it is more proof that the Rules of Golf are not as clear and as easily understood as they might be. Even the experts realize there can be some “tricky ones.”
About the Author: Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. Dave is an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour. He is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on the women’s tour. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood.