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COVID-19 Temporary Modifications to the Rules of Golf

COVID-19 Temporary Modifications to the Rules of Golf

TEMPORARY MODIFICATIONS TO THE RULES OF GOLF (announced on 19/3/2020, updated 24/6/20 with advice that these temporary rules MAY continue to be utilised as a part of a Club’s COVID Safe Plan, but are not compulsory) 

On 19/3/2020, the R&A announced a series of temporary measures to combat the hygiene implications associated with some of the requirements of the Rules of Golf. These temporary measures allow the Rules of Golf, and Model Local Rules, to be modified as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Various examples are described below. When operating these new options, clubs should be mindful of the following:

•             In order to take advantage of the new Local Rule options, your club will need to announce which options it is bringing into effect for play at your facility – these options do not automatically come into effect at your facility as a result of the R&A announcement.

•             Scores returned from competitions with any of the new Local Rules in effect must be processed through GOLF Link unless your club has been instructed otherwise by Golf Australia or your State Association.

•             These Local Rule options are temporary and are related to COVID-19 concerns. They are optional and are to be utilised at the discretion of each Club.

•             Please email us if you have a query about any of the below Local Rule options, or if there are any other Local Rules you believe should be introduced at your club to manage concerns around COVID-19.

EXAMPLES OF NEW LOCAL RULE OPTIONS Scoring in Stroke Play, Stableford, Par, and Maximum Score In view of concerns about handling and exchanging scorecards, on a temporary basis, Committees MAY CHOOSE to allow methods of scoring in stroke play, Stableford, Par, and Maximum Score that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b. For example:

1.            Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is not necessary for a marker to do it).

2.            It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place.

3.            It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.

Flagsticks Committees MAY CHOOSE to adopt the following policies:

1.            Requiring players to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by Local Rule and provides a penalty for a breach of the Local Rule.

2.            Not have flagsticks at all.

Hole Committees MAY CHOOSE to adopt the following policies:

1.            Have course staff position the hole liner at a very shallow level so that a ball can easily be extracted without touching the sides. A ball at rest in the hole will be considered to be holed even if it is not entirely below the level of the hole. [Extra GA guidance added in April 2020: Rather than positioning the hole liner at a shallow level, many clubs are achieving the same outcome of a shallow hole by positioning a small pool noodle at the bottom of each flagstick. Whether a pool noodle is used, or the hole liner is set at a very shallow level, it has become common for a player’s ball to bounce out of the hole when it would normally have come to rest in the bottom of the cup. To cater for this, clubs may introduce a local rule treating a ball as holed if it hits the pool noodle or the hole liner, regardless of whether it comes to rest in the hole.]

2.            Whilst discouraged, it would also be permissible for course staff to position the hole liner upside down in the hole so that a part of the liner is above the surface of the hole. The ball would be considered to be holed if it hits the liner (we emphasise that whilst this second option is permissible, it should only be pursued as a last resort).

Bunkers If rakes have been removed from the course, or if the Committee has requested that rakes not be used, it is recognised that bunkers may not be smoothed as effectively as when rakes are on the course. But it is recommended that no modification be made to the Rules of Golf in such circumstances, and that players be requested to smooth bunkers using their feet or a club. However, if this guidance to your members does not prove to be effective, Committees MAY CHOOSE to introduce either of the following Local Rule options:

1.            Treat all bunkers as ground under repair and in the general area, or

2.            Allow preferred lies in bunkers.

TEMPORARY MEASURES FOR SAND GREEN GOLF

In March, temporary measures were announced, which were designed to enable clubs to remove any hygiene implications related to complying with the Rules of Golf (see Section above for the details of the announcement). These measures allow the Rules of Golf, and Model Local Rules, to be modified as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of these options have now been widely adopted by Australian clubs. This announcement prompted some sand green clubs to reach out to Golf Australia and State Associations on some of the contact-management implications of playing sand-green golf. Guidance has been sought, for example, on the hygienic use by a person of a smoother/scraper, and on the normal practice by players of regularly removing sand from the hole. Here are some measures currently being used at some sand green facilities. We encourage each club to choose the measures that will best fit their own local circumstances and member preferences. Flagsticks An option is to remove flagsticks from all holes as most sand greens are very small with the hole positioned in the centre (or the players are locals who know where the hole is). (When flagsticks have been removed permanently from holes by a club, consider securing a flagstick directly behind the middle of each green so players can easily get a distance on a range finder.) Making it easier to remove the ball from the hole without touching the sides

1.            Partially fill each hole with sand to reduce its depth. When a hole does need to be emptied, this action should be performed with a gloved hand (or with a towel wrapped around the fingers). Or;

2.            Alternatively, place a towel/rag in the hole (just below the level of the lip) to reduce its depth. When extracting sand, you may also need to remove and then reposition the rag. The rag should be handled with a gloved hand. A ball at rest in the hole will be considered to be holed even if it is not entirely below the level of the hole.

Removing sand from the hole

1.            Place a towel/rag in the hole when smoothing (up to the level of the lip) to prevent sand from entering during the smoothing process. Or;

2.            When a hole does need to be emptied, this action should be performed with a gloved hand (or with a towel wrapped around the fingers).

Removing the need for players to come in direct contact with the smoother/scraper

1.            Each group appoint one player to perform all smoothing requirements for that group. Use a towel/glove when operating a smoother/scraper supplied at each hole by the club. Or;

2.            If a suitable item can be obtained, one person in each group be tasked with carrying a cheap and lightweight item to be used to smooth instead of a heavy smoother/scraper (provided the nature of the surface will be responsive to something light). Only that person to use this device – no other person in the group touch this device throughout the round. Or;

3.            Position the hole liner upside down in the hole so that a part of the liner is above the surface of the hole. The ball would be considered to be holed if it hits the liner (we emphasise that whilst this option is permissible, it should only be pursued as a last resort).

4.            Some clubs may have very few players and may even be able to remove the smoother/scraper from the course altogether and may use their foot or putter to smooth imperfections in their line. This would also be encouraged if practical at your club.

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