While watching The Masters on the weekend, it was very obvious that caddies make a concerted effort not to leave the players bags anywhere in their line of sight. Originally, I thought it was a mental thing, but there appears to be a practical reason for their efforts.
According to the RCGA, rule 19-2. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment states:
If a player’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by himself, his partner or either of their caddies or equipment, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be played as it lies, except when it comes to rest in or on the player’s, his partner’s or either of their caddies’ clothes or equipment, in which case the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the article, but not nearer the hole.
After reading this rule, golfers will receive a one-stroke penalty for saving steps. I knew the rule (actually thought it was a two-stroke penalty) and never paid attention during my regular games. How many golfers leave their bag in the field of play, then grab a driver and walk to the tee? How many golfers hit out of the woods or a hazard towards the general direction of their equipment because they were saving time and steps? If you are like me, I do this every round. At the Laurentide Golf Course in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, Canada, it is easy to leave your bag in the next holes fairway.
I was told a funny story many years back by a friend in this similar situation. He was in a foursome playing their Saturday morning game and the leader of that game was up to hit. Of course the jokes were flying and they were pestering each other as all good friends do. Well, the leader of the group hit a line drive off the tee towards all their bags (about 75 yards out). As the ball made contact, each of the players looked at each other with concern because they could not determine whose bag it actually hit. After the others hit with no incident, the four friends walked towards their equipment. The first guy there started to laugh out loud. As the others approached, he pointed to the leaders bag and showed him a hole in the side of his bag of where the ball went right through. To make it more painful, the group assessed him a two-stroke penalty instead of one. The leader was obviously upset and went on to lose their Saturday’s game. Talk about putting salt in one’s wounds! I am not sure if that extra penalty stroked caused him to loose the match, but if it did, this situation would be a great reason to read the rules of golf every year!
I have left my bag in the field of play for years and never came close to hitting it. However, while playing in a tournament I can honestly tell you that my friends story 20 years ago has prompted me to I make sure my equipment is brought to every tee, place my bag well away from the green, and not is any where close when hitting out of the woods. I am not sure if it ever saved me strokes, however I can tell you for certain it has never cost me any.
Reading the rules is important every year. Already I have saved myself a one-penalty stroke by reading rule 19-2. Anybody out there ever hit their golf equipment?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!