Every year, thousands of people write into the USGA and request a ruling on something they just can't figure out with the little rule book alone. (And for those of you who haven't been paying attention to the "groove talk" - a new one is out this year.) The questions that require an interpretation -- and which are deemed worthy of publication -- get included in a much large "Decisions" book gets published simultaneously.
Tournament Committeemen (and women) everywhere might still be seen carrying these big books around (it does make one look "official") but for the rest of us - there's an app for that! That's right, the USGA's 2010-2011 Rules of Golf including the Decisions is available for download for the very reasonable price of $3.95. It's a snappy little application that I recommend highly, if nothing more than for the entertainment of some of the decisions. Ironically, the only flaw that I see with the app is with the main menu - to find the new decisions you first have to click on "Principle Changes" (I'm a computer guy and it took me a while to figure that out).
Here are a few that I found, well, pretty weird:
1.) For those tough days in the desert:
Q: A player's ball lies near a cactus, and to play the ball the player would have to stand with his legs touching the cactus. To protect himself from the cactus needles, the player wraps a towel around his legs before taking his stance. He then plays the ball. What is the ruling.
A: Provided the player does not breach Rule 13-2 (i.e., he takes his stance fairly), there is no breach of the Rules. However, if the player were to place the towel on the cactus, in equity (Rule 1-4), the player loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play.
2.) And in case you forgot your rain suit:
Q: A player playing in the rain holds an umbrella over his head with one hand while holing a short putt, gripping the putter with the other hand. Is this - permissible?
A: Yes. Rule 14-2 prohibits a player, while making a stroke, from accepting protection from the elements from someone other than himself. However, it does not prohibit him from protecting himself.
3.) And finally, as long as you don't mind breaking a club, and maybe your wrists, you can try and save a stroke this way:
Q: A player's ball lies against a board at the base of an out of bounds fence. He swings a club from the out of bounds side of the fence against the board, i.e., swings at the ball with the board intervening between the club and the ball. The stroke moves the board which causes the ball to move away from the fence. Is such a stroke permissible?
A: Yes. The player fairly struck at the ball even though other material intervened between the club and the ball. The Definition of "out of bounds" allows a player to "stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds."
And there you have it. Some of the decisions, new and old, may leave you shaking your head. But downloading a portable, searchable, application for your phone or iPod touch that you can carry with you anywhere? That's a no-brainer.
To download the application, visit the USGA's website by clicking here>