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Wrong Ball Penalty in Match Play


chspeed
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Played a friendly four-ball the other day. Me and my partner were 3 up after 6 holes. On the next hole, I hit a good drive, as did my opponent. This is the same foursome we play every week, and I'm almost always the only one who plays a Taylor Made. Lost story short, I checked my ball, saw Taylor Made, didn't check closely enough, and hit his ball, which he switched to on this hole. My partner was in trouble, so we essentially lost the hole right there.

This got me thinking about this rule. Why the loss of hole in match play? Why not just a 2-stroke penalty for the hole, at least giving me the chance to recover from my mistake?

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33 minutes ago, chspeed said:

Played a friendly four-ball the other day. Me and my partner were 3 up after 6 holes. On the next hole, I hit a good drive, as did my opponent. This is the same foursome we play every week, and I'm almost always the only one who plays a Taylor Made. Lost story short, I checked my ball, saw Taylor Made, didn't check closely enough, and hit his ball, which he switched to on this hole. My partner was in trouble, so we essentially lost the hole right there.

This got me thinking about this rule. Why the loss of hole in match play? Why not just a 2-stroke penalty for the hole, at least giving me the chance to recover from my mistake?


Because stupid should hurt.  :-D

It’s worth noting that in your 4-ball, the loss of hole only means that your score can’t contribute to your team score for the hole.  Your partner could still win or halve the hole on his own ball.

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51 minutes ago, chspeed said:

This got me thinking about this rule. Why the loss of hole in match play? Why not just a 2-stroke penalty for the hole, at least giving me the chance to recover from my mistake?

The Rules have basically 3 types of penalties:  1-stroke, when the situation can be essentially corrected before playing onward from that spot, the General Penalty when the situation really cannot be corrected, and Disqualification.  In Match play, the General Penalty has been loss of hole for as long as I am aware.  Introduction of an additional "type" of penalty would add complication to the Rules, which isn't really desirable.

And as @David in FL so eloquently stated, hitting a wrong ball is just dumb.  Not that I haven't done it once or twice myself, but its just a foolish thing to do.  It deserves more than a 1-stroke penalty, and the next increment is loss of hole (or DQ of the offender for that hole in fourball).    

Dave

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20 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

And as @David in FL so eloquently stated, hitting a wrong ball is just dumb.  Not that I haven't done it once or twice myself, but its just a foolish thing to do.  It deserves more than a 1-stroke penalty, and the next increment is loss of hole (or DQ of the offender for that hole in fourball).   

I’m not defending the mistake, it was dumb. And yes, a clear mark would have avoided the issue.

I’m just wondering why rule makers would consider this only somewhat egregious (2 stroke penalty) in stroke play while at least IMO, worthy of an arguably harsher penalty during match play.

It’s an avoidable mistake no doubt, but in my mind, the loss-of-hole penalty doesn’t seem to fit the crime.

 

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3 minutes ago, chspeed said:

I’m not defending the mistake, it was dumb. And yes, a clear mark would have avoided the issue.

I’m just wondering why rule makers would consider this only somewhat egregious (2 stroke penalty) in stroke play while at least IMO, worthy of an arguably harsher penalty during match play.

It’s an avoidable mistake no doubt, but in my mind, the loss-of-hole penalty doesn’t seem to fit the crime.

I see a 2-stroke penalty as pretty egregious, the only greater penalty allowed under the rules is DQ.  Every other infraction that gets a 2-stroke penalty (General Penalty) in Stroke Play also receives the Loss of Hole penalty in Match Play.  So to be clear, you would suggest to the Ruling Bodies that they establish a new classification of penalty, a 2-stroke match play penalty.  Are there any other infractions that currently merit the General Penalty that you would put into the same classification as the wrong ball?  Would you propose eliminating Loss of Hole penalties completely, in favor of a 2-stroke General Penalty whether playing match or stroke?

Dave

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1 minute ago, DaveP043 said:

Would you propose eliminating Loss of Hole penalties completely, in favor of a 2-stroke General Penalty whether playing match or stroke?

I kinda of see where @chspeed is coming from. Why isn't it still a 2 stroke penalty in match play instead of loss of hole? Let's say your opponent hit his tee shot OB and is now playing 4 into the green when you screw up and play the wrong ball. You would both be playing 4 into the green, so game on. It would be rare to overcome a 2 stroke penalty in match play, but it's possible.

- Shane

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5 minutes ago, CarlSpackler said:

I kinda of see where @chspeed is coming from. Why isn't it still a 2 stroke penalty in match play instead of loss of hole? Let's say your opponent hit his tee shot OB and is now playing 4 into the green when you screw up and play the wrong ball. You would both be playing 4 into the green, so game on. It would be rare to overcome a 2 stroke penalty in match play, but it's possible.

I took a quick look to see which other infractions merit the General Penalty in Match Play.  Here's a partial list, we can all research the details:

Playing a wrong ball

Improving your lie

Playing from the wrong place

Playing an incorrectly substituted ball

Playing a moving ball

Advice rule (various)

Intentionally stopping or deflecting a ball in motion

Bunker infractions

Testing the putting green

Certain flagstick infractions

You could make the argument that some of these are similar in severity to the Wrong Ball.  For instance, as long as I go back and play from the correct place, why isn't a 2-stroke penalty enough punishment for making a stroke from a Wrong Place?  Why should I lose a hole for a simple mistake?  Yet the Ruling Bodies have chosen to lump them all together as infractions that essentially cannot be corrected, infractions that have the potential to gain the player more than a 1-stroke advantage.  Again, to establish a (brand new) 2-stroke penalty for Match Play infractions would add further complexity to the rules.  To completely remove the Lost Hole penalty from match play would remove a significant deterrent to certain actions that could be taken intentionally.

 

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Dave

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40 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

You could make the argument that some of these are similar in severity to the Wrong Ball.  For instance, as long as I go back and play from the correct place, why isn't a 2-stroke penalty enough punishment for making a stroke from a Wrong Place?  Why should I lose a hole for a simple mistake?  Yet the Ruling Bodies have chosen to lump them all together as infractions that essentially cannot be corrected, infractions that have the potential to gain the player more than a 1-stroke advantage.  Again, to establish a (brand new) 2-stroke penalty for Match Play infractions would add further complexity to the rules.  To completely remove the Lost Hole penalty from match play would remove a significant deterrent to certain actions that could be taken intentionally.

 

Thanks for looking those up. I think you hit the nail on the head.

I think it would be ideal to separate what are essentially "harmless" and/or correctable mistakes from ones that are more likely to be taken intentionally to gain an advantage* or are not correctable. I do think there should be a less severe penalty for accidentally playing the wrong ball then for Intentionally stopping or deflecting a ball in motion.

There is precedent for these types of changes. For example, accidentally moving your ball is now no longer a penalty.

I agree, however, that this would complicate the rules further and add more confusion. Given that, and the fact that this is a relatively rare and avoidable violation, probably not worth the pain of the rule change.

*One could argue that I hit the wrong ball intentionally, to see how strong the wind is for instance. But that type of reasoning can be used for virtually every rule violation. For instance one can argue that I intentionally bumped my ball on the green to see how it would roll. But this reasoning didn't stop the rules committees from removing the penalty for an accidentally moved ball.

4 minutes ago, chspeed said:

 

I think it would be ideal to separate what are essentially "harmless" and/or correctable mistakes

I do see a few more issues with my argument.

Hitting the wrong ball may not be an easily correctable mistake.

In the first place, if I hit your ball with a 3 wood, someone would have to go get your ball and bring it back, thus slowing down play. Second if I hit your ball out of bounds you would not be able to recover it and would have to play a new ball. Not really a disadvantage, but messy nonetheless.

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3 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

The Rules have basically 3 types of penalties:  1-stroke, when the situation can be essentially corrected before playing onward from that spot, the General Penalty when the situation really cannot be corrected, and Disqualification.  In Match play, the General Penalty has been loss of hole for as long as I am aware.  Introduction of an additional "type" of penalty would add complication to the Rules, which isn't really desirable.

This is the "base" argument: that there are three types of penalties, and this one falls under the General Penalty level, so it's a loss of hole for you.

2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

I took a quick look to see which other infractions merit the General Penalty in Match Play.  Here's a partial list, we can all research the details:

  • Playing a wrong ball
  • Improving your lie
  • Playing from the wrong place
  • Playing an incorrectly substituted ball
  • Playing a moving ball
  • Advice rule (various)
  • Intentionally stopping or deflecting a ball in motion
  • Bunker infractions
  • Testing the putting green
  • Certain flagstick infractions

The bold, I wanted to point out, are essentially the same thing practically speaking: if you've played a wrong ball you've also played from a wrong place almost every time. So if you don't have a problem with loss of hole for a wrong place, then you really shouldn't for wrong ball, either.

2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

For instance, as long as I go back and play from the correct place, why isn't a 2-stroke penalty enough punishment for making a stroke from a Wrong Place?  Why should I lose a hole for a simple mistake?

The second thing I wanted to point out is that when you play a wrong ball, several things are also true:

  • You can't truly "go back" and reset everything, because you've gained knowledge on how the shot plays. So you can't "correct" what you did in this sense. FWIW, hitting a practice shot on the course is also a General Penalty.
  • Others may have played subsequent shots as a reaction to your shot (maybe your opponent fires at a flag and goes in the water because you stuck your wrong ball close), and there's no realistic way to "rewind" those actions, too. You can't fully "correct" the mistake here, either.
  • What if the wrong ball you hit is your opponents? You're not going to be able to "correct" that either, because you can't guarantee them the exact same lie or distance or conditions for their shot.

So you're leaning maybe a little bit on this being "correctible" but it's often not - stuff has changed.

As Dave said, there are basically three levels, and so this one, IMO, is rightfully in Level 2.

1 hour ago, chspeed said:

I think it would be ideal to separate what are essentially "harmless" and/or correctable mistakes from ones that are more likely to be taken intentionally to gain an advantage* or are not correctable.

They do - and I disagree strongly that this is a "harmless" thing because, again, many times it's not "correctible."

DQ are often for the ones where you're intentionally trying to skirt the rules to gain an advantage. Otherwise, loss of hole is pretty bad. And since the Rules tend to try to avoid trying to figure out "why" someone did something, and focus mostly on what actually occurred, I'm glad there aren't many rules that focus on "intent" like you're suggesting: all someone would have to do in this case is say "I didn't do it on purpose" and they'd get to walk back hitting the wrong ball, when maybe they were doing it on purpose and hoping to get away with it.

But that's beside the point.

1 hour ago, chspeed said:

I do think there should be a less severe penalty for accidentally playing the wrong ball then for Intentionally stopping or deflecting a ball in motion.

You've yet to, IMO, support that with more than a "feels like" type statement.

The game of golf consists of playing your ball from the tee to the green. In this case you've not only not played your ball, but you've changed the dynamic of the match possibly.

And, even if you can say "nobody else hit another shot, I didn't hit my opponent's ball, etc. so it's truly still correctible" - again, playing from a wrong place, playing a practice swing, etc. are both still the General Penalty. And adding language like that would really muck up the Rules.

1 hour ago, chspeed said:

There is precedent for these types of changes. For example, accidentally moving your ball is now no longer a penalty.

Only on the putting green or while searching, basically. And those are actually "correctible" things.

1 hour ago, chspeed said:

Hitting the wrong ball may not be an easily correctable mistake.

See, I knew you'd get there! 🙂

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18 minutes ago, iacas said:

The second thing I wanted to point out is that when you play a wrong ball, several things are also true:

  • You can't truly "go back" and reset everything, because you've gained knowledge on how the shot plays. So you can't "correct" what you did in this sense. FWIW, hitting a practice shot on the course is also a General Penalty.
  • Others may have played subsequent shots as a reaction to your shot (maybe your opponent fires at a flag and goes in the water because you stuck your wrong ball close), and there's no realistic way to "rewind" those actions, too. You can't fully "correct" the mistake here, either.
  • What if the wrong ball you hit is your opponents? You're not going to be able to "correct" that either, because you can't guarantee them the exact same lie or distance or conditions for their shot.

So you're leaning maybe a little bit on this being "correctible" but it's often not - stuff has changed.

This answers my question above and makes sense.

Out of curiosity, let's you play your opponents ball, and then he plays yours without either noticing. You both stroll forward and then notice that you both played the wrong ball. Are both players out of the hole at that point or did the first one who played the wrong ball lose the hole?

- Shane

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  • iacas changed the title to Wrong Ball Penalty in Match Play
8 minutes ago, CarlSpackler said:

This answers my question above and makes sense.

Out of curiosity, let's you play your opponents ball, and then he plays yours without either noticing. You both stroll forward and then notice that you both played the wrong ball. Are both players out of the hole at that point or did the first one who played the wrong ball lose the hole?

Once the hole is over (the first player's error incurs the Loss of Hole), the hole is over.  There's an Interpretation of Rule 6.3 that discusses the ruling when two players finish with what appears to be the other player's ball, and they can't determine when the balls were switched.  Since its possible that they each played the same ball from tee to holing out, there's no penalty.

Dave

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Different slants.

1) Could it be that as matchplay was the standard form before strokeplay, the penalty of DQ for the hole was already established. That wouldn't translate for strokeplay as it wouldn't make sense. 

2) A 2 stoke penalty in a match would in all probability result in loss of the hole anyway. So the penalty is a handy way of saving the time taken to play the hole out..

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