July 12, 2009
Playoff Preparations

The final round is unfolding with a tightly packed leaderboard.  I happened to overhear Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of Rules and Competitions, on the radio asking our starter, Women’s Committee member Stacia Collins, if she would be available to work as the starter should we need one for the three-hole aggregate playoff.

Collins replied with yes.  Davis then continued to cover some other details with the members of the staff so that we will be prepared and ready to go should and when the time comes.

Planning for a playoff happens early.  Prior to the championship, the playoff procedure is printed on the entry form for the U. S. Women’s Open to explain how we break ties.  The U.S. Women’s Open uses a three-hole aggregate which will begin as soon as the fourth round concludes.

The holes will be 16, 17 and 18.  The player with the lowest agregate score wins. If the players are still tied after three holes, play will continue on a hole-by-hole basis until a champion is determined.


Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 12, 2009
Prepping For Final Day

The third round of the U.S. Women’s Open, as expected, had fewer rulings.  This is for the obvious reasons of fewer players and better quality of play by the players still in the field. 

The rules that continue to be applied have been the same ones we’ve had since the first round.  The Water Hazard rule and the Obstruction rule.  Today, however, I suspect we may see some action from our Abnormal Ground Condition, Embedded Ball rule.

That’s because immediately after play was completed for the third round, the heavens opened up.  Thunderstorms overnight doused the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club with more than an inch of rain.  But the sun returned this morning and it looks to be a beautiful day.  The rain probably softened up the golf course, leaving open the possibility for a ball to become embedded in low lying areas.

Therefore, reviewing the Abnormal Ground Condition/Embedded Ball rule might be prudent prior to watching today’s 3 p.m. EDT broadcast at NBC.

And if you wish to test your rules knowledge before network coverage, the USGA’s Web site offers our popular Rules of Golf Online Quiz.   For coaches and program organizers, a “printable” version is available and is a great teaching tool.

Link for both = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14302

Rules quiz link = http://www.usga.org/RulesQuiz/rules_quizzes.html

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 11, 2009
Basket Catch

During the third round of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, Laura Davies’ ball found a peculiar spot on the 15th hole when it landed in the basket of one of the many mobility scooters the USGA makes available for our spectators who need assistance getting around the golf course. 

Under the Rules, the scooter is a movable obstruction.  The Obstruction Rule tells us that when a ball is in or on a movable obstruction the ball is to be lifted, the obstruction removed and the ball dropped over the spot from where the ball lay in or on the obstruction.

A similar situation happened in the 1949 British Open championship to Harry Bradshaw when his ball landed inside of a broken bottle.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know he could get relief from the situation!  Here is the video clip of Harry’s situation.

Knowing the Rules can help your game.

Obstruction rule = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14300

Video clip = http://www.usga.org/Album.aspx?id=24017#show=7831

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 11, 2009
Getting It Right

The Rules of Golf are unique to other sports in the manner in which they are administered.  Unlike other sports where decisions must be made in a matter of seconds, golf allows the referee some time to do research and gather information.  While a ruling should be made in a timely manner, it is acceptable and in fact encouraged to get testimony from others who may have witnessed what happened in order to answer any questions of fact. 

For example, in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open, a player’s ball at rest had been moved by another player’s ball that was in motion. Nobody in the group saw what happened because the green was elevated.  The marshals up at the green informed the players and referee that the ball was moved and helped them get it back to the place where it was moved as required by the Ball At Rest Moved rule. 

Many of you do not have the luxury of marshals and other resources we have at a U.S. Women’s Open. Spectators, the referee, the standard bearer, or for that matter, television all help. Once in awhile we ask our friends at NBC Sports to replay an incident they have on tape so we may review it. They are always very helpful to us. 

The resolution of the questions of fact is most important when working to apply the rules correctly.  For more information about this, I highly recommend reviewing our Decision 34-3/9 Resolution of Questions of Fact; Referee and Committee Responsibility

Ball At Rest Moved = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14288

Decision 34-3/9 = http://www.usga.org/bookdecision.aspx?id=14321#34-3/9

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 11, 2009
Round Two Summary

There were a total of 56 rulings from the second round.  Most of those came from the difficult third hole, which had a milder hole location. But the hole’s layout evidently still has some bite.  The 14th hole, with the lateral water hazard going along the side of it, also offered up a similar number of rulings.  Between the two holes there were a total of 19.

We did have a couple interesting rules situations.  On No. 11, which is purposely slower than the other greens because of the severity of the green, Nicole Castrale ran into an issue when she tried to replace her ball on the green after marking and lifting it.  The ball had difficulty staying at rest when she tried to replace it.   There is a rule called " Ball Fails to Come to Rest on Spot" that covers this exact situation.

   Under this rule, Nicole was required to find a spot that was not closer to the hole or in a hazard where the ball could be placed at rest.  She did manage to find a nearby spot before putting her ball back in play. 

Another situation involved two young amateur players, Kimberly Kim and Alexis Thompson. Both hit into a bunker on No. 8.  Their balls were close together. In fact, they interfered with each other. The player who was away was entitled to have the other ball marked and lifted under the Ball Interfering with Play rule.  It is important to note that under this rule the ball cannot be cleaned when lifted.  The lie for the second ball to be played had been altered when the first ball was played out of the bunker.  Never fear, we have a rule for this as well – Lie of Ball to Be Placed or Replaced Altered.  Since they were in a bunker, the player was allowed to recreate as nearly as possible the original lie and place the ball in that lie.  This may include raking before the player hits her shot since this rule for recreating her lie overrides the Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions rule. 

There’s going to be some great golf played today!  I look forward to seeing the play on the 253-yard 10th hole. The tee was moved forward, making it possible to reach the green with tee shots.  Maria Jose Uribe already has accomplished this. Fun!

Ball fails to come to rest on spot = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14292#20-3

Ball Interfering with Play = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14296#22-2

Lie of Ball to Be Placed or Replaced Altered = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14292#20-3

Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions = http://www.usga.org/bookrule.aspx?id=14278#13-4

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 10, 2009
Tseng's 'Get Out Of Jail' Card

Yani Tseng was on the broadcast dropping her ball in a bunker on the 15th hole. The  ball was found to be in an unplayable situation, buried  in the lip of the bunker.   She decided to employ the Unplayable Ball rule and take one penalty stroke.  Tseng used the option of keeping the point where the ball was unplayable between her and the hole and dropping along that line (option b below).  The catch is that her ball was in the bunker and therefore she had to drop the ball in the bunker.   Also, because her ball was in the bunker, she was not allowed to rake the mess that was made while searching for her ball (Rule 13-4 and also see Decision 13-4/11 for additional reference).   

The Unplayable Ball rule is, what I consider, the “get out of jail” rule. It makes it possible for players to continue on with their round.  It will cost one penalty stroke but sometimes, when you look at the situation your ball is in, you may realize it could take you more than one stroke to extricate it.

The unplayable ball rule is a great one to get to know and says the following:

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

Penalty for Breach of Rule:

Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.

The key points to this rule are that you cannot use it if your ball is in the water hazard (you can only use the water hazard rule if your ball is in a water hazard) and the player is sole judge as to whether the ball is unplayable. 

Tseng ended up with a double bogey on the hole, which could have been a lot higher had she not used the Unplayable Ball rule.

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 10, 2009
Round One Rulings

Round one didn’t have an excessive number of rulings for a U.S. Women’s Open. In all, there were 60 rulings on Thursday.  In summary this is what we saw:

The holes with the most rulings:   No. 3 with 19 rulings and No. 14 with 9. 

The most active rulesWater hazard rule with 25 rulings; Obstruction rule with 13 rulings; and

                                     Unplayable Ball rule with 4 rulings. 

It's no surprise that the par-4 third hole would have the most rulings, and that the water hazard rule would be involved. With a creek running in front of the green, No. 3 played as the most difficult hole on the course Thursday, to a stroke average of 4.806. There is also water in front of the 14th green.

I’ve discussed the relief options for the Water Hazard rule and gave you a link to the video for finding the nearest point of relief when taking relief from an immovable obstruction.  Here is a video of Aree Song (twin sister Naree was one of the players who withdrew yesterday) in the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open taking relief from a drain and demonstrating the proper method to take relief from an immovable obstruction. 

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 9, 2009
Withdrawals Everywhere

They were dropping like flies!  The U.S. Women’s Open had several players withdraw after they had begun. First there was Martina Eberl who withdrew after nine holes due to a sore wrist. Then there was Seon Hwa Lee who withdrew due to a sore back after she completed her round. Then Brandie Burton pulled out after her round due to throwing her back out. Naree Song, after playing 14 holes due to a sore hip, withdrew.

A unique aspect to golf is that the player keeps score for another member of her group and not for herself.  If a player leaves in the middle of her round, such as what happened in Eberl and Song’s case, they must first sign for the holes in which they were the markers before they leave the course.   The rules that cover the player responsibilities is called “The Player” (Rule 6) and specifically Rule 6-6 covers scoring in stroke play. 

Rule 6-6a states the following:

After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round, the marker must sign the score card and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible.

This is exactly what Martina and Naree did for their fellow competitor whose score they were keeping.  They signed for their part then gave the card to the third player in the group since she would become the marker for the rest of the round. 

Ironically, Eberl and Lee were playing in the same group as Christina Kim. Since Lee withdrew after her round, that left Kim without a marker for her round tomorrow. We have remedied that situation by moving Ji Young Oh from the group in front of Kim into Kim's group.  Therefore, Helen Alfredsson and Brittany Lang will now be in a group of two tomorrow when they tee off at 12:52 p.m. Ji Young Oh and Kim will tee off at 1:03 p.m. 

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 9, 2009
Some Rules More Equal Than Others

Each golf course has its own characteristics that make certain rules come into play more than others.

During the U.S. Open, the tall fescue grass lent itself to the applications of the “Searching for and Identifying Ball” rule.  Also, the elements that Mother Nature brought us during the U.S. Open caused us to employ the Abnormal Ground Condition rule on many occasions.

This week we happen to have (knock on wood) pristine weather conditions, a golf course with little to no fescue grass areas and a creek that wanders throughout.  As expected, a few players are hitting their balls into the water hazard on various holes.  The front right hole location on No. 3 has made that hole, thus far, the most difficult one, according to scoring.  I know a few balls have ended up in the water hazard in front of the green, and based on the putting average on that hole,  many players are playing it safe and taking their two putts. 

Overall, there haven’t been too many rulings.  When you look at the rulings we’ve had this early into the championship,  if they are not about the water hazards then they have to do with getting relief from obstructions such as sprinkler heads.  And even then, there haven’t been many rulings for obstructions.

The USGA’s Web site has a very good animation about determining your nearest point of relief when taking relief from something such as a sprinkler head or ground under repair.  I highly recommend viewing it!

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 9, 2009
Play Begins

At 7 a.m. today, the players in the first group were announced by our starters  - Laura Davies, off the first tee, and Irene Cho, off No. 10, put the first balls in the air for the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open. 

We have a referee with each group this week to assist the players with any questions they may have regarding the Rules of Golf.  The referees are people who have scored at least 92 out of 100 on our Rules of Golf exam, which is administered in our PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshops.  They are also people on USGA Committees and/or are invited guests from all around the world. 

This year we have 49 referees that include members of the PGA of America’s Rules Committee, the Mexican Golf Federation, the Ladies Golf Union, the Royal Canadian Golf Association and officials from the LPGA Tour

On the Wednesday evening prior to the championship beginning, the USGA hosts a meeting with the referees to get them acquainted with the markings on the golf course. They also acquaint them with some explanations of items, such as the location of the scoring area when a player finishes their round on the 18th hole (it’s a bit of a ways away from the 18th green).  We do this to ensure the championship runs smoothly for everyone.

After the meeting we have a nice dinner to thank the referees, who are volunteers, for giving us their time and expertise to assist us with the championship.  

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 8, 2009
Traffic Control

Creating the traffic patterns for spectators is a major undertaking at any of our Open Championships.   The operations staff plans the locations of the stakes and ropes around a hole and then on some holes there will be spectator cross walks to allow the gallery to get around the golf course a little easier.

I’ll bet you never thought very hard about the exact location of a cross walk but our operations and Rules staff do.  The idea is to have a cross walk in an area where there is 1) a need for the crowd to get across and 2) is not in an area that will interfere with the players and their shots.

I’m sure that sounds easy.  It’s simple to understand why you will not need a cross walk to an area that is a dead end for the spectators on the golf course.  However, figuring out landing zones can sometimes be a different matter.  One of my co-workers mentioned to me that she spent an hour watching action at the 16th hole during the practice rounds before she could determine the best spot to place a much-needed cross walk on the downhill hole.


Once the cross walks are determined and cut into the ropes, a member of the Rules committee is assigned the duty of painting the outside lines of the cross walk in the fairway prior to the championship beginning.  Even with careful planning we most likely will have an occasional ball or two find the area of a cross walk.  Therefore, we designate these areas where players have the option to obtain relief without penalty under the Abnormal Ground Condition Rule.  This is because these areas will be heavily worn out by the spectators crossing the fairway and it is unfair for a player to have to hit out of an area like that after finding the fairway.   Marking this area and designating it as ground under repair remedies this situation.

You can try looking for the lines on television but I guarantee you’ll have a difficult time.  This is because we purposely use green paint to make them less visible and less of an eye-sore when television cameras show the hole. 

And you can be sure that we have this noted on our Notice to Players for the U.S. Women’s Open Championship.  It reads like this:  Cross walks:  defined by green lines on closely mown areas are ground under repair

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 7, 2009
A Creek Runs Through It

The Saucon Creek is a beautiful stream that runs through the property of Saucon Valley Country Club.  It winds and meanders throughout the course and adds a great natural element to the design of the Old Course. 

I was examining a draft copy of the “hole-by-hole notes” the Rules staff compiles for our referees which notes the creek throughout. Our hole-by-hole notes clarify many items found on a hole as you walk from tee to green. We list the item and then we describe its status under the Rules of Golf.  Here’s an example:

Hole 13, Par 4 (433 yds)

  • Shelter – Immovable Obstruction
  • Kids Club Tent & Bleachers – Temporary Immovable Obstruction
  • Rock wall on creek bank & around No. 15 tee – Integral Part of the Course
  • Spectator Xing in front of tee
  • Crossing creek – Water Hazard
  • Grace Course on the right – Through The Green
  • Concession tent – Temporary Immovable Obstruction
  • Portalets – Temporary Immovable Obstruction
  • AED sign & box on tree – Integral Part of the Course
  • Creek on left of hole – Lateral Water Hazard
  • Leaderboard/Thruboard – Temporary Immovable Obstruction, no drop zone
  • TV Tower behind putting green – Temporary Immovable Obstruction, one drop zone
  • Generators – Temporary Immovable Obstruction, no drop zone
  • Score card/pencil box attached to tree – Integral Part of the Course

We have notes like this for all 18 holes.  What I noticed when glancing through the notes was the number of water hazards and lateral water hazards on the course.  Eight of the 18 holes feature either a water hazard or lateral water hazard.  Some holes have both!  That’s due to the winding nature of Saucon Creek. On some of the holes, such as the third, you can see that it will have great influence on the player’s strategy.

So I felt that on this practice round day, we should take the time to review the Water Hazard Rule and the options a player has when their ball is in one. The USGA’s Web site has some terrific Rules Animations which explain the options when a ball is in a water hazard as well as one for when a ball is in a lateral water hazard.  Be sure to click on the links to view the animations. I have a feeling we will see the Water Hazard Rule put into action on more than one occasion.

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 7, 2009
Fine Tuning

It’s Tuesday morning of U.S. Women’s Open week at Saucon Valley Country Club.  The course is already humming with activity at 5:30 a.m.  The grounds crew is diligently preparing the course for the day.  You see teams of individuals mowing fairways and greens, raking bunkers and rolling greens. At the end of that parade of maintenance workers are the USGA officials setting the tee markers and setting the hole location for the day.


Everything is carefully orchestrated so the course is ready for the first group of players starting 7 a.m. from the first and 10th tees.

During this time, the USGA Green Section staffers are using Stimpmeters to test green speeds while also using a device called TruFirm that measures the firmness of the putting surface. The USGA wants to maintain consistency with both speed and firmness from the practice rounds through the last championship round on Sunday.

From a Rules of Golf perspective, we continue to look at and review our Notice To Players to be sure that no potential Rules situation is left uncovered.  It’s a time-consuming process, but there are situations that seem to pop up such as television cameras, microphones, wires and tripods that are used to broadcast the championship.  All of these need to be covered and identified so we are able to apply the Rules equitably to all 156 players.


It’s all a part of what the USGA does to conduct a successful national championship.

Wendy Uzelac, USGA

July 6, 2009
How the Course Sets Up

I was reading the U.S. Women’s Open Fact Sheet, which gave me some interesting facts about the championship this week. 

The U.S. Women’s Open Championship, held this year at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course is set up at a whopping 6,740 yards, par 36-35 – 71.  It’s not the longest course for the Women’s Open Championship.  That honor goes to the 2008 championship held at Interlachen Country Club, but it sure is one of the longer ones! 

The yardage information made me curious about scoring and the USGA Handicap System’s determination of the expert (or what we call “scratch”) golfer’s score.  More commonly, this is referred to as the USGA Course Rating.  The USGA defines the USGA Course Rating as the following: 

USGACourse Rating: A USGA Course Rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal place (72.5), and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of the scratch golfer.

Saucon Valley’s Old Course, with the U. S. Women’s Open course setup of fast greens, narrow fairways and thick lush rough, comes out with a USGA Course Rating of 79.8!  In laymen’s terms, this means the female scratch golfer will shoot an 80.  Wow.  It’ll be interesting to see how the best female players in the world score this week.  They are the absolute best of the best so I’m sure many of them will have scores below 80, but this Course Rating sure does give you a good idea of how difficult the course is set up to play.

If you wish to learn more about Course Rating and even learn about SLOPE, I recommend you check out this page on the USGA’s Web site.

By Wendy Uzelac, USGA

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