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Unknown Penalties  

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  1. 1. Read the first post, and answer this: Do you support the lack of any additional penalty strokes for penalties "unknown" to players, despite their responsibility to know, follow, and apply the Rules of Golf?

    • Yes, the USGA/R&A are right to reward ignorance and dishonesty.
      10
    • No, players are responsible for knowing the Rules of Golf, and are now being incentivized to be ignorant and/or dishonest.
      60


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PG2119_ROG_Players_Edition_sized.jpgI think the USGA/R&A got this one completely wrong, and it's one of the two rules changes for 2019 that I absolutely hate.

One of the great things about golf is that it's a self-policed game. At every level of the sport, we're supposed to call penalties on ourselves and know the rules.

Rule 6-1 - the first rule in "The Player" - is "The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules." In the 2019 Rules, that says "Players are responsible for applying the Rules to themselves:"

Except that they're not, really, because there's absolutely no further penalty to be had if they fail to play by and apply the Rules to themselves.

In 2019, all you have to do is claim ignorance of a rule, and if nobody catches you, you get away free and clear. Worst case scenario* - you're caught and the strokes you actually incur (but no additional strokes) are added to your score. Outside of not wanting to get a reputation as a cheater, there's no longer any incentive to apply the Rules of golf to yourself in 2019 and beyond.

Only a few short years ago, as you may know, failure to include a penalty stroke meant you posted a score for a hole lower than what you shot, and you were DQed. That rule still exists… so long as you don't claim that you didn't know you broke the rule. Only recently, the rule was changed to add two strokes additionally to each penalty you incurred. The rule got softer. It went from a DQ to an additional penalty. Fine - there's still incentive to know the Rules. Had Lexi brain farted and put her ball down nearly an inch from where it was a second prior, and added the two-stroke penalty to her score, she'd have likely won that major and been hailed as Bobby Jones was in 1925:

At the 1925 U.S. Open, Bobby Jones moved his ball slightly while setting up for a shot. No one saw it, but Jones was adamant that the ball had moved and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty, costing him the win, as he went on to lose in a playoff. Praised for his classy move, Jones quipped, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”

No, nowadays, we have Lexi Thompson playing the role of the victim, and the press willingly going along with it. Lexi did breach the rules. Did it suck that she gained no apparent advantage (though why did she move the ball so much? to avoid a spike mark or something we couldn't see?)? Yes.

But the Rules, except for a few instances, don't care about the "potential" advantage. Normally playing a ball from further away is a disadvantage, but when Tiger Woods dropped two yards back it was, to him in that moment, an advantage. The Rules can't (and thus rarely do) determine whether an "advantage" is gained - one man's advantage is another man's disadvantage. If you drop on a sideslope instead of a flat lie where you're supposed to drop, is that an advantage or a disadvantage? The Rules can't - and thus almost never do - decide. They simply say "you dropped and then played from a wrong place in breach of the Rules. That's a penalty."

The full (relevant) portion of the Rules is:


(3) Wrong Score for a Hole. If the player returns a scorecard with a wrong score for any hole:

  • Returned Score Higher Than Actual Score. The higher returned score for the hole stands.
  • Returned Score Lower Than Actual Score or No Score Returned. The player isdisqualified.

page19image9122176

Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty: If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard:

  • The player is not disqualified.
  • Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, theCommittee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules.

This exception does not apply:

  • When the excluded penalty is disqualification, or
  • When the player was told that a penalty might apply or was uncertain whether a penalty applied and did not raise this with the Committee before returning thescorecard.

The exception is the big thing here, the big change from even 2017. It says that, if you claim that you didn't know that hitting it OB was stroke and distance and you fail to include the "stroke part," no problem. It says that if you claim not to know that you couldn't hit a practice shot while playing a round after you flub an approach, no sweat. It says that if you drop a ball in a wrong place when dropping on the wrong side of a cart path and gaining a much better lie, or two club lengths from the edge of a yellow penalty area, or two yards back like Tiger did at the Masters… or anything else… that doesn't matter at all! You're all good! That part above about how players are responsible for knowing and applying the Rules? They didn't actually mean that.

There's no long any incentive, outside of perhaps not wanting to be seen as a serial cheater, to know the Rules of Golf. Not the ones that can penalize you, anyway. Sure, there are still incentives to know when you get free drops away from cart paths and things like that, but players are now actively incentivized to not only play ignorant, but to actually BE ignorant to the Rules of Golf. If they're not caught, they get away with it. If they are caught, why, they only get the penalty they actually incurred. Nothing more.

You're obligated to pay taxes. If you fail to pay, and you're caught three years later… you don't just pay what you originally owed. You owe what you originally owed, plus interest, plus additional penalties.

I get that the USGA/R&A are trying to treat players as honest, but in going to this length they've gone much too far. They're actually rewarding the dishonest players. They're rewarding the ignorant players.

This saddens me greatly. 😢

P.S. Yes, the poll choices are highly biased. Tough. It's my poll, and I don't think there's an argument to be made. 😄

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If a group of people want to get together and apply this way of thinking to their friendly competition, there's no harm in it. But during an official competition where all types of people are competing, there has to be an incentive to learn and play by the rules.

I wonder though how one could play the ignorance card if their competitor tells them they just broke a rule. 

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I can understand the old version where tournament committees had the option to instead give them the penalty plus 2 strokes for the lower score, but to make it no penalty at all is absurd.

The additional 2 stroke penalty before if they didn't know provided players with an incentive to know the rules and avoid dropping 2 extra strokes that could otherwise be avoided. This actively provides an incentive for players to NOT known the rules, which should never be the intent of the rules.

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I have to agree with @iacas here. What I actually think should happen is that all players in a tournament should have to sign an agreement prior to play that includes the rules and that they understand and agree to abide by them. If they are in question of any rule, they have the right to call an official for clarification. Failure to do so will result in the appropriate penalty for said breach. With this information posted we can kiss any chance of back stopping to stop.

For comparison only, we physicians are required to complete CME (Continuing Medical Education) constantly along with Board Certification exam every 10 years. I don't see it being too much to ask that in order to maintain ones PGA card a player must take a rules exam annually as a requirement. Claiming ignorance as an excuse to not be penalized seems completely unjust. 

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3 hours ago, Vinsk said:

For comparison only, we physicians are required to complete CME (Continuing Medical Education) constantly along with Board Certification exam every 10 years. I don't see it being too much to ask that in order to maintain ones PGA card a player must take a rules exam annually as a requirement. Claiming ignorance as an excuse to not be penalized seems completely unjust. 

Eh, I'd argue there's a bit of a difference between having someone's life potentially in your hands and playing by the rules in a golf tournament. A rules exam seems a little silly for the PGA Tour just because they're there because of skill at golf, not necessarily knowledge (they've got caddies to help them supplement their knowledge). Maybe a one time thing when they first get their card just to ensure they're not brain dead with regards to the rules.

That said I fully support them bearing the full penalty of their rules breaches instead of getting away with the, "I didn't know" excuse. It's literally their job, they should know the rules in the same way that a stock trader should know the laws surrounding shares and futures and they should bear the consequences of their actions in the same fashion.

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9 hours ago, iacas said:

P.S. Yes, the poll choices are highly biased. Tough. It's my poll, and I don't think there's an argument to be made. 😄

So why a poll? It makes it a ridiculous one. Ridiculous polls deserves ridiculous answers.

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On the whole I agree, although I'm somewhat more sympathetic to the change if applied in limited circumstances.

For professional golf, this should be a non starter - it's your Job to know the rules, simple. For elite level amateur comps, I'd say the same, since those players will have been competing for long enough to know. 

Where I can see more of a case for this is in circumstances applying to newer golfer, juniors and such who might not know all the rules well enough to avoid an honest mistake. Over here competition golf is predominately played by club members, so being dishonest is a big deal, and thus I don't see this rule change being so much of a problem - over your side of the pond where club membership isn't as much of a norm, maybe not. 

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1 hour ago, MacDutch said:

So why a poll? It makes it a ridiculous one. Ridiculous polls deserves ridiculous answers.

You can always make your own poll.;-)

I think could potentially get players to feign ignorance when caught. Imagine if Phil tried to pull it at the US Open?

"I forgot armed robbery was a crime!" - Steve Martin.

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4 hours ago, Pretzel said:

Eh, I'd argue there's a bit of a difference between having someone's life potentially in your hands and playing by the rules in a golf tournament

There’s no argument there. That’s obviously true.

 

4 hours ago, Pretzel said:

 

That said I fully support them bearing the full penalty of their rules breaches instead of getting away with the, "I didn't know" excuse. It's literally their job, 

Here is where you get my point.

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Isn't it possible that the "Failure to Include Unknown Penalty" Exception is really only a TV golf phenomenon?

I've been a referee (mercifully not on TV) for awhile and over the past ten years of 30 or so days working each season, I've never even once seen a "failure to include unknown penalty" situation arise.

The usual question in the scoring area is, "Any Rules problems out there today? Anyone play a second ball under 3-3?" Sometimes a player or marker will have something to clear up, but it gets done on the spot.

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I voted 'Players are responsible for knowing the rule'. The first one is funny/sarcastic/option 2 in disguise.. whatever.. but makes the point. It is ridiculous. 

2 hours ago, Asheville said:

 I've never even once seen a "failure to include unknown penalty" situation arise.

Yeah, so why bother? I guess your assumption seems right. This is designed to not have another Lexi event on TV.  

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Before I get into some responses, please note… This is the Rules of Golf. It affects far more than "golf on TV." It affects far more than professional golf.

11 hours ago, Vinsk said:

What I actually think should happen is that all players in a tournament should have to sign an agreement prior to play that includes the rules and that they understand and agree to abide by them.

There's no need for that - they're entering a golf tournament, and by entering, they've committed to playing by the Rules.

11 hours ago, Vinsk said:

I don't see it being too much to ask that in order to maintain ones PGA card a player must take a rules exam annually as a requirement.

I could support that, even if it's something like the first year and then every fifth year you have status after that (or in 2019 for everyone, given all of the changes). I mean… I'm not saying that they need a tough test, but enough to establish a baseline, maybe even with emphasis on things like #BackStopping. 😄

8 hours ago, Pretzel said:

Maybe a one time thing when they first get their card just to ensure they're not brain dead with regards to the rules.

And a lot of the caddies are brothers, or wives, or whatever, too. They're there not for their rules knowledge, too, but for their caddying abilities.

It's not like they don't have other obligations as PGA Tour members. Heck, let them out of one pro-am per year if they voluntarily take the test and I bet you'd have them signing up in droves. 😄

6 hours ago, ColinL said:

These are loaded questions designed to steer answers to a desired result.

Then post your comments in a comment, and choose the poll option based on the first word in the poll. Yes or No?

6 hours ago, Rulesman said:

He did warn you

Also, that.

But also, again, everyone gets to say whatever they want in a comment. So go for it, @ColinL. Please tell us all how the Rules are better this way, incentivizing people to be dishonest and/or ignorant.

5 hours ago, MacDutch said:

So why a poll? It makes it a ridiculous one. Ridiculous polls deserves ridiculous answers.

See above. Answer based on yes or no, and then post a comment with your thoughts, however ridiculous they may be.

4 hours ago, Moxley said:

For professional golf, this should be a non starter - it's your Job to know the rules, simple. For elite level amateur comps, I'd say the same, since those players will have been competing for long enough to know.

I'm fine with this rule being modified slightly for something like a US Kids Golf event for 12 year olds or younger. But… yeah, this rule applies to ALL of golf, and that's unfortunate. By the time you're in high school, competing for city, district, regional, and state titles… you should know the Rules. Or at least know enough to ask!

2 hours ago, Asheville said:

Isn't it possible that the "Failure to Include Unknown Penalty" Exception is really only a TV golf phenomenon?

I'm not sure what you mean. They've nixed the call-in stuff (though I think it still occurs), and they've said that if you can't see it with the naked eye, it didn't occur. Those are the two main TV-related things (HD/zoom and call-ins).

2 hours ago, Asheville said:

I've never even once seen a "failure to include unknown penalty" situation arise.

To be fair, if it's an unknown penalty, how would you know about it? 🙂 I know what you're saying, though, but it can happen. A few years ago in a college event a player moved a rock out of a bunker. Normally it's on our hard card that those are movable obstructions, but this was in a different conference's event. Anyway, just as he was about to turn his card in, his teammate in another group asked him what he was doing there by saying something like "I couldn't see it clearly but it looked like you were picking a rock out or something?" The player said "yeah, I did" and the other guy said something like "You know that rule isn't at this tournament." The player added the penalty.

That was an unknown penalty (the player was ignorant of the rules for that event), failed in his responsibility to do so, and would have been DQed or given two additional strokes not too long ago (when this occurred, two additional strokes).

14 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

I voted 'Players are responsible for knowing the rule'. The first one is funny/sarcastic/option 2 in disguise.. whatever.. but makes the point. It is ridiculous. 

Yeah, so why bother? I guess your assumption seems right. This is designed to not have another Lexi event on TV.  

Also, that… 😄

2 hours ago, Asheville said:

The usual question in the scoring area is, "Any Rules problems out there today? Anyone play a second ball under 3-3?" Sometimes a player or marker will have something to clear up, but it gets done on the spot.

Again, the thing is… if it's an unknown penalty, then it's unknown. Now, obviously, if it's unknown the odds of it being found out are small already, but this makes that more likely.

What this does is make it more likely that someone in a rules situation will not ask for help, because once they ask, they're no longer able to claim ignorance, while before there was incentive (no DQ/two strokes) to ask to get the rules right.

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Basically I view this as the Rules haters have won. Over the years on this site we have had more than a few occasions where people have argued about how unfair the Rules of Golf were, or about how it is not necessary to follow all the rules all the time. Those people, that way of thinking, has prevailed in changing the Rules of Golf. It's ridiculous, they are removing one of the very things that makes golf special. Integrity and calling rules infractions on yourself has successfully been replaced now by "I didn't know, it wasn't my fault."

Feigning ignorance should never allow someone to succeed. 

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Here on National tournaments it´s on the rules of the tournament that "Se juega el torneo en cumplimiento de las reglas de la AAG las cuales deben ser conocidas por el jugador".
Something like... "The tournament it´s play under the AAG rules of golf and every player MUST know them".

This really should stay that way. Generally players are honest but don´t let the few chetear take and advantange on this one.

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The one benefit to the change is it eliminates the "gotch'a" players who see a competitor breach a Rule but don't say anything until just after the card is handed in.  "Hey Harry, did you include a penalty stroke when you ..."  Yes, a competitor is supposed to say something at the time they note the possible breach but there are plausible excuses like "I assumed he knew and added a stroke" or "It did not register with me that it might have been a breach until just now."

At least now there is no "reward" for the sneaky S.O.B. to delay mentioning a possible breach.

Still, I agree with 95% of the respondents who feel the change makes ignorance of the Rules (real or feigned) a possible strategy for some.

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