Assessing Penalty Strokes After The Fact

Every competitive golfer has been assessed penalty strokes at one time or another. I definitely have collected my share penalty strokes, but never any after my round was completed. Over the past decade, many professional golfers were assessed penalty strokes after their round was completed by the PGA Tour Officials. They have reexamined a situation and deemed that the player committed a rules infraction and as a result awarded extra strokes prior to the start of the next round. Cam Smith experienced this calamity last weekend during the St Jude Classic.

Prior to the third round on the weekend, Cam Smith was assessed a two-stroke penalty for not taking full relief. His ball was touching the hazard line and hence did not take full relief. Here is what the PGA Tour released:

https://twitter.com/PGATOURComms/status/1558865010071322625

I am not challenging the fact that Cam Smith broke the rule, but how the strokes were administered. If this situation was an issue, were was the on course official or Smith’s playing partner. They should have noticed the issue right there and then and made the call. An after the fact call is not acceptable is my opinion. This is one of the specific instances where I believe that the PGA Tour is failing.

Once the scorecard is signed and the PGA Tour feels that Cam Smith intentionally broke the rule, then he should be DQ’d. I know this sounds harsh, but that is the way the rule was originally written when someone signs an incorrect score card. Tiger Woods changed that rule, but that is a different story. Cam Smith dropped six positions on the last day; he may not have won even without the two-stroke penalty, but I would venture to say that mentally he was gutted after being assessed the penalty on the first tee before round four.

I am not a supporter of “after the fact” assessing of penalties. I perceive it as bad form and should not be part of golfer. Assess the penalty before the end of the round or let it go. Thoughts?

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

9 thoughts on “Assessing Penalty Strokes After The Fact

  1. I have to agree with David here. Whether an opponent you’re playing against called the violation or not it’s still a violation. And a 2 stroke penalty is still better than a DQ for signing a card with the wrong score. I call it a happy middle ground. But then I wasn’t assessed the strokes. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As USGA Rules Official, I do not fully agree. Smith did not know he committed a Rules breach because he did not know the rule (his fault) and maybe his fellow competitors also did not. One of players responsibilities is to fully know the rules. Unless you are going to have a referee present at all times with each group you will occasionally have an after the fact penalty assessed. If not, dishonest players could purposely breach the rules without knowledge of fellow competitors, without any possibility of a penalty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David,

      Thanks for an answer from an expert. Your logic makes sense. One assumption I did make is that all professionals know the rules; I am a bit surprised that some might not. That is not knowing your trade craft.

      One other point is that this application of the rules rarely happens to players wayndown the leaderboard as they are not on TV as often. Regardless, I appreciate your point of view. Thanks for the comment.

      Cheers Jim

      Like

      • Jim, totally agree with you. The rules should be applied equally to all in the field. We should not be calling rules violations on television observations. I thought that was squashed after some TV viewer called Craig Stadler for building a stance when kneeling on a towel. Apparently they’re still using it selectively. Violations should be called by the players, playing partners, or referees. If it’s not done by the time the scorecard is signed, it should be final. It may not be perfect, but it is equitable.

        Thanks,

        Brian

        Liked by 1 person

      • Brian,

        There is definitely two sides to this situation. I agree with you that equity is important. I always felt that players like Tiger Woods had 1000 would be referees watching his game. That had to add an additional amount of pressure. However, I do think that the professionals and their caddies should know the rules better than the average golfer.

        Cheers Jim

        Liked by 1 person

      • Brian, I agree if there were a Rules Official with every group but unfortunately there is not. Your proposal has some flaws and not perfect. Allow for TV by Rules Officials only also has some flaws and not perfect. However, using technology to help get the rules correct is a growing trend in sport and in golf it helps to protect the field.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim, I agree that how PGA etc handles these situations is not perfect. Certainly if you are a highly rated player that is almost always on TV, you are more likely to have this issue. Tiger has said this for years. However, once officials become aware of potential rules breach they cannot ignore it. There are 2 things that should have/could have been done. (1) Cam Smith and/or his caddie should have known the rules. (2) Cam could have asked for an official ruling from PGA Rules Official. Either one of these things would have saved him from 2 shot penalty.

        Liked by 1 person

      • David,

        I concur with your two options. Specifically, the first point. As a professional, one would think that Cam Smith would have a deeper understanding of the rules. I am not trying to throw stones at Smith and his caddie, but it is a great teaching moment for all golfers. Knowing the rules is important to playing great golf.

        Cheers Jim

        Like

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