A “penalty point” is a point added to the score of a player or a group of players according to certain rules. In a group of 3 or a foursome, a penalty stroke does not affect the order of play.

This definition is the one that has always been in the Book of Rules of Golf, but let us see what these words represent when the course is penalising.

A player slices his ball, follows its track going towards its estimated landing spot : several options present themselves – with and without penalties.

  1. A player finds his ball playable, considers his options, plays the ball : no penalty and no doubts;
  2. A player looks for his ball for a short time, finds it unplayable, recovers quickly, takes a correct drop and plays a shot : one penalty point, the rule is applied, the rhythm does not change, a few seconds to catch up…… classical;
  3. The player looks for his ball, cannot find it, is helped in the search by his two partners. It is finally found in the middle of some aggressiveplants. He recovers with difficulty, damages his clothes, drops and plays : one penalty point plus the penalties incurred by a loss of rhythm, irritation and the feeling that he has been a nuisance to his partners. The rest of the hole will be difficult.
  4. The player looks for his ball, cannot find it despite help from his partners, “forgot” to play a provisional ball, runs back to the tee, hits another ball which will almost certainly be worse than the first, rejoins his partners who by this time are worried about the delay : forget the scorecard, rule 6,7 not applied, the player has lost his bearings and will take one or two holes to recover.

Question : Why can balls be lost on the course? Some bigwigs claim that it is an integral part of the game : out of bounds or in the water, surely; but not on the course itself. It is rare to see a golfer who has experienced this unpleasant event and gone on to win a competition, or even to return to the clubhouse happy.

If you take players from Categories 3 and 4, they experience this situation with a sense of injustice. The rule of golf is fair but tough and should not be aggravated by the bad maintenance of the course. These players accept the penalty point but not the repercussions, which means their play is affected for the rest of the round.

There are never double or triple penalty points when the ball is in water or a bunker : the rule is applied without losing time in the first case and the ball is visible in the second.

These obstacles are known and are visible, they form part of the game. The sanction is known to the player, he has his regrets and wonders why he made such a mistake, but he plays without interrupting the rhythm of play, perhaps complaining a bit – which often does him good.

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