R&A Provides Update on Club Competitions During Pandemic
In the wake of coronavirus, the status of competitive golf, at least at club level, has been obscure. But now the R&A and USGA have issued guidance on how club competitions should be run during this period and how the normal rules of golf will be affected.
The most important point to note is that the main Rules of Golf have not changed. There was some speculation that because many clubs have introduced shallower holes to try and prevent people touching flagsticks (and therefore risking transmitting Covid-19), rules around what counts as a holed shot might be different – for example, that putts that hit the cup but bounce out would be treated as holed. However, this is not the case.
Similarly, the R&A and USGA have also clarified that players cannot treat “a ball as holed or holed with the next stroke if it is within a certain distance of the hole” or have “the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treating a ball as holed if it strikes the liner” (in other words, though shallower holes have been encouraged, they must still be submerged).
On the issue of bunkers, for which rakes have generally been banned, the governing bodies grant clubs the power to treat particularly uneven bunkers as ‘ground under repair’. Alternatively, players may be allowed to use preferred lies in the traps, although the R&A and USGA have stressed that players cannot be allowed to lift their ball and then smooth the bunker before replacing it, thus artificially creating a perfect lie.
The final key update surrounds the issue of scorecards, which are feared to be a potential way of transmitting coronavirus. Because of the risk of disease transmission, the R&A and USGA are now allowing clubs to let players do their own scoring, remove the need for scorecards to be signed and even do away with the need to return a physical scorecard altogether if the scores can be inputted another way.
Full details of the governing bodies’ updated guidance for playing competitions during the Covid-19 pandemic are available on the R&A website: https://www.randa.org/en/news/2020/03/covid-19-related-guidance-on-the-rules-of-golf.
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