Protecting the Field in a Golf Tournament

The rules of golf have two distinct reasons for existence. The first is to level the playing field by requiring players to follow a standard set of rules applied equally across the board. The second is to allow playing partners to monitor and correct a breach if required. During a golf tournament, the second reason is called protecting the field. And that is exactly what Joel Dahmen did at the Quicken Loans tournament when he challenged Sung Kang’s interpretation of the rules. Dahmen was protecting the field!

On the 10th hole, Kang’s ball found the hazard. His interpretation of the ball flight was that it flew over the hazard, but drew back into danger at the end of the stroke. If this was the case, the point of entry would be where Kang’s ball entered the hazard on the second time. If it did not clear the hazard, he would have to play the ball from where it entered the hazard the first time. In this case, it would be a significantly larger distance from the green.

Joel Dahmen contended that the ball did not leave the hazard and reenter. He stated that Kang needed to play his ball from the first location that it entered the hazard. A disagreement ensued. At this point, I would assess that the process followed by both players is correct. Dahmen was protecting the field by challenging Kang’s interpretation.

Their disagreement continued for about 25 minutes until the PGA Rules Official arrived on the scene. After talking to the players, caddies and other officials in the area, the PGA Rules Official sided with Kang. Kang received a favourable drop and saved par after applying all penalty strokes. To this point, all parties involved followed the proper process and the official made a ruling. I believe the field was protected. As far as I am concerned, there is no controversy.

Where the controversy reared its ugly head is when Dahmen called Kang a cheat on twitter.

I realize that Dahmen was upset, but the PGA Rules Official made the call and that should have ended of the discussion. Calling Kang names after the fact is not helpful for anyone involved. Personally, I call it the ‘rub of the green’.

What I do like about the situation is that Dahmen did the right thing. He tried to protect the field by not allowing another player to breach the rules to their advantage. Well done, Joel.

I also believe that all professional golfers should show the same tenacity by standing up and challenging other professionals who unintentionally (or intentionally) break the rules.

My last thoughts for today are for all amateurs. It is our responsibility to protect the field in golf tournaments. Allowing someone to take advantage of the rules by giving them a favourable drop or turning a blind eye to rules infractions without saying anything (because it is your friend or a more skilled golfer) destroys the second reason for golf rules. It is important that we protect the field and it starts with us politely challenging a player who breaks the rules.

Have you ever challenged a player because you thought they were breaking the rules?

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

6 thoughts on “Protecting the Field in a Golf Tournament

  1. Pingback: Turning A Blind Eye To Rules Infractions | The Grateful Golfer

  2. Pingback: Badges, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges! | The Grateful Golfer

  3. Your question does not differentiate between a friendly game and a tournament situation. In a friendly game, I not only won’t call out a break of the rules, I might even at times suggest them to help keep the pace of play. If I saw one in a charity best ball type tournament, which is the only kind I’ve played in, I would call it.


    • Kevin,

      My post was directed towards tournament play. During regular play, I do not really care if someone is “stretching the rules” unless they are bragging about their handicap or sand bagging. During tournaments, I usually all business.



  4. Jim, here’s a weird one. One year while playing in my club championship (stroke play event), I had to protect a fellow competitor against himself. He was off the green chipping his third shot on a par-five and asked me to attend the flag stick. But he also requested that if the shot was coming in hot to leave the stick in the hole. I knew that if the ball struck the attended flag stick he’d incur a two stroke penalty (17-3) and we got into an argument when I told him I was going to pull it after he struck the shot. He played the shot thinking I would leave it in and I knew I was going to pull it as soon as he played, and did. As it turns out, it wouldn’t have hit the hole, but his game took an unfortunate turn for the worst after the disagreement. Didn’t affect me because I was comfortable that I had the correct understanding and had proceeded accordingly. Still, you feel bad when you get into these little spats.

    Obviously, the argument didn’t affect Kang on Sunday; he ripped it up.




    • Brian,

      You are exactly right. Your competitor obviously did not know the rules. Tending means pull once the ball is contacted. You absolutely did the right thing. Unfortunately, your competitor may never see it that way. I have encountered several situations like that before, except once I explained the rules, my competitor did not fire back. Good on you for protecting the player and field by following the rules.


      Liked by 1 person

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