Calling A Penalty on Yourself

Calling a penalty on yourself is one of golf’s greatest attributes. Golf is designed to be self-monitoring with the its foundation built on the integrity of each player. It is expected that if we break the rules, we will graciously accept the penalty strokes and move on. Some do this willingly and others…well, we don’t need to talk about them. Russel Henley recently missed the cut because of PGA Tour rule that he could have ignored and no one would have been the wiser.

Russel Henley called an 8 stroke penalty on himself for violating the PGA Tour’s “one ball rule”. This act of integrity moved Henley from 6th to 2 strokes above the cut line at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He found his error while giving out balls to the fans after the round. The difference in the ball was so minuscule that he and his caddie missed it until after the fact.

The USGA describes the rule as follows:

“When changing balls, the player is permitted to substitute a ball of another brand or type unless the Committee has adopted the One Ball Condition of Competition (see Appendix I; Part C; Section 1c). This optional condition (usually referred to as ‘The One Ball Rule’) is generally adopted only in events that are limited to professional golfers or highly-skilled amateur golfers. Generally, this condition of competition is not adopted in club-level competitions.” (PGA TOUR NEWS)

After much discussion, Henley determined that he used a different ball for 4 holes during his second round. Each hole was a 2 stroke penalty and as such he was given an 8 stroke penalty and was sent packing on Friday.

This “one ball rule’ is not something that amateurs need to worry about because we never play at the level prescribed by the USGA. However, the point about today’s article is not about the rule, but how Henley conducted himself.

Personally, I applaud Henley’s action. It is what the founding inventors envisioned how golfers would conduct themselves. We all know that the measure of someone’s character is how they act when no one is watching. Well, Mr. Henley proved he has great character in his approach to golf. This is a perfect example of how all golfers should approach the game.

I call penalties on myself; whether in a competition or not, the rules are important because they level the playing field. It is not a maybe thing to call the penalty, it is an always thing. I am lucky that it has never cost me a tournament, but I am confident I would make the call regardless.

Have you ever called penalties on yourself when no one would have known?

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


4 thoughts on “Calling A Penalty on Yourself

  1. Yes, I can recall calling a “double hit” on myself a few times before the rule change.
    However on a bit of a side discussion. I will continue to post rounds I’ve played alone.
    If the USGA expects sportsmanship on my part to call penalties on myself, why can’t they allow the same kind of sportsmanship to post accurate and honest golf scores when playing alone.


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