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Confirm it’s 14 clubs or pay dearly

Many golfers love a good duel on the golf course.

Is the fact that there are so many informal match play competitions being organised by groups of friends an indicator that clubs are not organising enough such competitions?

A member of one such group recently asked me what the penalty for having 15 clubs in one’s bag is. The Rules of Golf are clear on the fact that a player must not start a round with more than 14 clubs. The members of the group had unanimously decided that the penalty should be disqualification.

This is, however, not the correct position. An extra club would earn the player a loss of hole penalty for each hole where the breach occurred with the maximum deduction per round being two holes. The penalty in stroke play is two stroke penalty for each hole where the breach occurred. The maximum penalty for a round in stroke play is four strokes. These will be applied on the first holes at which the breach occurred.

There was a twist, however, to the issue with the group. The player who had 15 clubs only discovered the error a few days after the competition. The results of the match had already been posted. In such a case, the match will not be adjusted as the match was already completed.

The next question that I was then asked was one that I have answered on this column before; “why was John Karichu then disqualified for carrying 15 clubs during the 2014 Barclays Kenya Open?”

The breach was discovered on the second day and since he had the same number of clubs on the first day, he was disqualified for signing for the wrong score on the first day. That was under the previous version of Rules that provided only for disqualification in such a case.

There are, however, two players that I know of who often carry a 15th club when playing four ball match play. The perennial partners from Limuru Country Club, Tom “Mufasa” Simba and Chege Muchiru are known to carry the dreaded “tongue” wedge.

This unfortunately does not earn them any penalties and they use them effectively to scare their opponents. They were recently overheard arguing before a match on whose name would appear first after they beat their opponents. Their opponents dismissed them as being cocky but the two are valiant match play competitors.

I enjoy the good humoured banter that Mufasa and Chege bring to match play competitions. What I have a problem with are people who get their panties in a twist over issues to do with interpretations of Rules of Golf while playing a competition.

Golf should be played by ladies and gentlemen. If the players don’t have Rules of Golf book to refer to when playing, they can defer the decision on the issue until the end of the round. There is no need for animosity on the golf course. That is definitely the wrong way to spend time while playing this beautiful game.

When playing in a match play competition, if a player disagrees with the opinion of the opponent, instead of spoiling their round, the ruling can be referred to the competition committee after the round. So if for example a player reckons that they are entitled to relief for “tyre marks” on the fairway, and the opponent disagrees, the player can choose to take the relief and then refer the matter to the committee.

If the player is wrong about deserving relief for “tyre marks”, then he/she will lose the hole for playing from the wrong place. The match should then be adjusted to reflect the loss. There is, however, no Rule that requires a player to get permission to get relief from the opponent contrary to popular belief.

In stroke play, there is the option to play a second ball when there is doubt on how to apply a procedure.

So if we use the same example of a “tyre mark”, the player must first announce to his marker or a fellow-competitor that he/she intends to play two balls and which ball they wish to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.

The competitor must then inform the committee of the facts before they return their card. If they don’t inform the committee, they will be disqualified.

In golf, just like in the just concluded elections, midnight petitions are preferred to heckling and exaggerated machismo. Let us not lose our cool over Rules of Golf on the course. If we don’t have Rules of Golf books in our bags, we can refer the issues to the “supreme” golf committees.

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