Sign Up To Get Interesting Blog/News and Updates Delivered To Your Inbox     Sign Up today!

What We Learned From the ANA Inspiration Blue Wall Rules Incident

There has been much said in recent days about the “blue wall” set completely across the back of the 18th green at this past week’s ANA Inspiration.  By design, winner Mirim Lee used it as a backstop to prevent her second shot on the par-five from going into the lake behind the green, her caddy admitted.  She took her legal drop to make eagle, that shot getting her into a playoff, and then went on to win the traditional leap into Poppy’s Pond.

Pros tweeted and commentators decried the placement of such a large immovable obstruction behind the green where it took a penalty area, a pond, out of play.  Lee used the rules related to drops from immovable obstructions to her advantage.

She used the rules as she should have, as we all should use the rules to our advantage whenever we can, in my opinion.  The key: you’ve got to know the rules to properly evaluate your options.  Sadly, many golfers simply don’t, and cost themselves strokes as a result.

Let me give you a recent example.  A friend of mine hit a shot that stopped on the front bank of a greenside bunker in the grass and was held there because the ball was leaning against a rake.  Someone in their group who claimed they knew the rules said that when the rake was removed, it’s a movable obstruction, and the ball then rolled down into the bunker and against the lip, that it had to be played from the sand.  Not true.  It has to be replaced and played from its original spot. (See Rule 15.2a.)  My friend did not know the rule and took several attempts to get the ball out of the bunker.  She ended up with the dreaded BIG NUMBER.  If she had known the rules and if her competitor had known the rules, there would have been a better outcome, socially between friends playing against each other that day and as to score.  It was not a pretty scene when the mistake was discovered at the end of the round.

I am playing more and more in competition.  I find knowing the rules is an advantage.  It not only affects what I do after there is problem, but what I do when I am thinking through a situation where I am avoiding, say, a lake.  That’s what Mirim Lee and her caddy knew when she hit her shot to the 18th green and it ran long and up against the blue wall instead of into the pond.  She took her free drop, one club length from the point of nearest relief not nearer to the hole, and CHIPPED IN for an eagle.  Risking going over the green and into the back pond would not have been her choice if there was no possibility for her to drop away from the blue wall. Instead she likely would have laid up short of the pond fronting that island green.

Other than playing strategy, there are other benefits to learning the rules.  The USGA says “By knowing and adhering to the Rules, you receive an accurate picture of your skills and abilities.  You can compare your personal best against others.  When you finally break through your scoring barrier (e.g., breaking 100, 90 or 80 for the first time), you can take pride in knowing you did so in the same way as those with whom you are comparing your results.  The accomplishment can begin to lose its luster when the number of unaccounted-for Rules infractions rises.”

There are not many games that depend upon the honesty and integrity of the player.  In golf, it is normal for a player in breach of a rule to notify his opponent or fellow competitor of the penalty.  This type of behavior is expected on the course, whereas it may be the exception in other sports. Players who know the rules want to play by them and enforce them, even when it means they have to add a penalty stroke to their score.  The values that the rules instill will benefit players well beyond the golf course.

USGA Rules

I think it is important to keep in mind few players know all the rules.  Even rules officials at tournaments I play in sometimes need to consult with each other and look at the rule book—it’s 522 pages long after all.  However, players who familiarize themselves with the rules will quickly realize how important they are to golf and begin to reap the many benefits the rules offer.  If you want to get started on learning more about the rules, you can watch videos on the USGA website and tap into their other content here.  Who knows, maybe you’ll win a tournament thanks to the effort just as Mirim Lee did last week in Palm Springs.

Spread the love