Rules: Fairly Taking a Stance
Resident rules expert, Barry Rhodes offers some advice on Rule 13-2 which focuses on playing the ball as it lies and fairly taking a stance without lie, line of play and the area of the stand and swing.
Most golfers have been faced with a situation where we find our ball lying in an area of thick undergrowth, under low-hanging branches of a tree or a bush. Rule 13-2 requires that we must not improve the area of our intended stance or swing by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, but that no penalty is incurred if we do so in ‘fairly taking a stance’.
In order to fairly take their stance the player is required to prepare for their stroke in the least intrusive manner that results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play. Decision 13-2/1 provides a detailed explanation of how to interpret ‘fairly’ in this context;
Without "fairly," the exception would permit improvement of position or lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play by anything that could be said to be taking a stance. The use of "fairly" is intended to limit the player to what is reasonably necessary to take a stance for the selected stroke without unduly improving the position of the ball, his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Thus, in taking his stance for the selected stroke, the player should select the least intrusive course of action which results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. The player is not entitled to a normal stance or swing. He must accommodate the situation in which the ball is found and take a stance as normal as the circumstances permit. What is fair must be determined in the light of all the circumstances.
Examples of actions which do constitute fairly taking a stance are:
- backing into a branch or young sapling if that is the only way to take a stance for the selected stroke, even if this causes the branch to move out of the way or the sapling to bend or break.
- bending a branch of a tree with the hands in order to get under the tree to play a ball.
Examples of actions which do not constitute fairly taking a stance are:
- deliberately moving, bending or breaking branches with the hands, a leg or the body to get them out of the way of the backswing or stroke.
- standing on a branch to prevent it interfering with the backswing or stroke.
- hooking one branch on another or braiding two weeds for the same purpose.
- bending with a hand a branch obscuring the ball after the stance has been taken.
- bending an interfering branch with the hands, a leg or the body in taking a stance when the stance could have been taken without bending the branch.
A related question, which is frequently misunderstood by golfers, is whether a player is penalised for dislodging leaves while taking their stance, or making practice swings. The answer depends on whether the resulting area of the intended swing has factually been improved. In some cases, the knocking down of a number of leaves would not improve the area of the intended swing, as the player still has to swing through a number of remaining leaves when making their stroke. In such circumstances, there would be no breach of the Rules. In other cases, the knocking down of a single leaf might improve the area of the intended swing, in which case there has been a breach of Rule 13-2. The determination as to whether a player has created a potential advantage by their actions is made by reference to all the circumstances immediately prior to their stroke, including how they approached their ball, how they took their stance and any practice swings they may have made.
No Rules, no knowledge; know Rules, know knowledge.
As always, good golfing,
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Article from Barry Rhodes author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’
Barry is author of the book, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015' and writes a regular blog of miscellaneous content on the rules of Golf at www.barryrhodes.comLatest Articles
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