Lexi Thompson and Golf Rules

Rules of Golf

Lexi Thompson made the news again on the weekend by being awarded a two-stroke penalty for moving a sign that was considered an immovable object. This seems rather strange that someone of her calibre and knowledge would make such a rookie mistake.

It just goes to show you that knowing the rules of golf are critical to being successful on the links. Unfortunately for Thompson. this mistake has garnered more media attention and I am not sure it is entirely her fault this time.

Lets discuss the rule breach that cost her 2 strokes. For the rules officials out there, I believe her assessed penalty is rooted in 3 rules: 13-2. Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play; 24-1. Movable Obstruction; and 24-2. Immovable Obstruction. 

Thompson’s ball came to rest where a temporary sign interfered with her swing. Thinking it was a movable object, she rightly removed the sign and carried on with her swing. If it was a movable object, she was able to remove it without penalty. However, she was penalized because the tournament committee deemed the sign as an immovable object.

According to the rules of golf:

An “obstruction’’ is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

a.   Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;
b.   Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and
c.   Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of
the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without
unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing
damage. Otherwise, it is an immovable obstruction.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable
obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.

Because the tournament committee made the local rule, Thompson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving her line of play. Instead of taking a free drop, she pulled the sign out of the ground. This really is a bit of rookie mistake, but I can see how mistakes (Dustin Johnson grounding his club in a sand trap during 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits) happen, especially for a local rule.

Many of us have played a friendly on new courses and ignored local rules unless they would worked in our benefit. During a tournament, it is obvious after examining Thompson’s situation, local rules are very important. We have them at my local course and could easily cost a player 2 strokes if they do not pay attention to them.

It is unfortunate that Lexi Thompson was assessed 2 strokes for a mental error, but I have to wonder where her caddie was during this entire affair. Surely, as a team they would have discussed the situation and for both not realize she was entitled to a free drop seems strange.

To be fair, I have not played in a tournament of the LPGA calibre, but have played in 2 national military competitions. One of the first things I was taught was to read the local rules and make sure I understood how they might apply to my game. The immense pressure of a LPGA event, especially because she was playing well, must have contributed to her mental lapse. It is a great teaching lesson for amateur golfers, but a bitter pill to swallow as a professional.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

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