Psst! Please switch off your phone

Thursday March 3 2016

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa plays off the second tee during the first round of the 2016 Maybank Malaysia Championship golf tournament in Kuala Lumpur on February 18, 2016. PHOTO | MOHD RASFAN |

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa plays off the second tee during the first round of the 2016 Maybank Malaysia Championship golf tournament in Kuala Lumpur on February 18, 2016. PHOTO | MOHD RASFAN |  AFP

By VINCENT WANG'OMBE
More by this Author

Each year, after the “cut” and the top players at the Barclays Kenya Open enter the final two days, you often hear the question, “Are we going to see some of these players here on the European Tour soon?” History has demonstrated that the correct answer is yes.

The Kenya Open Golf Limited and the European Challenge Tour have arrived at the right formula for setting up the Barclays Kenya Open as one of the most attractive Challenge Tour events. It was at the 2011 Barclays Kenya Open that we watched Branden Grace play.

Even though he did not win the event, he is currently ranked 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking, well ahead of his countryman, another golfing great “King” Louis Oosthuizen (who incidentally holds the course record for Karen Country Club).

Last year’s Barclays Kenya Open came to a nail-biting conclusion with a play-off between Brandon Stone and Porteous Haydn.

Haydn went on to win but Stone is now ranked 113th, which puts him ahead of other, golfing greats like Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. This is why golf enthusiasts from all over Kenya come to watch the rising stars of golf. While we watch these budding stars, it is important that we understand the Rules of Golf in as far as spectators are concerned.

Q: Can a player be allowed to replay his stroke if a phone rang in his backswing causing him to top his shot?

A: No. The Rules of Golf don’t allow such a golfer to get another go even though it is evident that the ringing phone startled him. It is important therefore that spectators switch off the ringers on their phones and avoid doing anything that would distract the players. Young children, who are bound to get bored watching golf, can try their hand at the many activities that will be available at the village and will not be cause for distress to the players.

Q: What recourse does a player have if a spectator inadvertently kicked his ball or stepped on it?

A: A well-meaning spectator may step on a ball while helping to look for it. This can also happen when one is walking. The resulting lie of the ball after being stepped on will most likely be worse. The player is entitled to the original lie that the ball had. Since this may not be possible, the player is allowed to drop the ball as near as possible as where the ball lies. In the event that the ball has been kicked and has come to rest in a different spot, the player is allowed to drop the ball as near as possible as where it was before. It is important that spectators inform the players, observers or referees if they happen to interfere with a player’s ball in any way. This can make a lot of difference for the player.

Q: What happens if the ball ends up on a spectator or on an item they are carrying e.g. a bag?

A: It is important for such a player to remain in the same spot and not to move until the player retrieves his ball. The player will identify the spot below the point where the ball came to rest and will be allowed to drop the ball in the area.

Q: What if a ball hits the spectator and the ball is deflected?

A: This is what is known in golf lingo as a “rub of the green”. This happens when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped. The player will have to play the ball as it lies.

On the final day of last year’s Barclays Kenya Open, Porteous Haydn, the eventual winner, hit a tee shot on the 15th hole that hit a young spectator.

There is a possibility that the ball would have ended up out of bounds on the hole had it not been for the deflection. The only downside was that the young man who was hit got some injuries, which he thankfully recovered from. This caused a lot of distress on the part of the player as he kept thinking of the young spectator. It is important that the spectators stay vigilant to avoid such injuries.

Q: What would happen should a spectator intentionally stop a ball from rolling out of bounds?

A: The 12th hole of Karen Country Club may sometimes give the spectators the temptation to intentionally stop an errant shot. Being a short par 4, some players choose to play for the green and it is not uncommon for some to overshoot the hole. A few metres beyond the putting green is the boundary of the out of bounds. If a spectator intentionally stops a ball, the place where the ball would have stopped will be estimated and the ball will be placed there.

If the ball was headed out of bounds, then the player will have to proceed as though the ball was out of bounds.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

My father to this day talks of the day he watched Vijay Singh playing here in Kenya many years ago. Especially if we happen to watch a PGA event where he is participating. I may one day tell my son about giving a ruling to Porteous Haydn. This year when you come to watch the Barclays Kenya Open let your account be pleasant and not one where you caused a player distress.