With sunny skies and a light breeze, there were fewer rulings on Saturday at the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes. However, a ruling that did arise today and during the previous rounds of the Championship, involved several players calling on a referee to establish if the ball was unfit for play.
Despite the advances in the design and technology of the golf ball, it is still possible to experience a cut or cracked golf ball.
A ball is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it. Equally, a ball is not unfit for play if its surface is scratched or scraped or its paint is damaged or discoloured. It must be visibly cut, cracked or out of shape to be considered unfit for play.
After playing out of a bunker at the 16th hole on Day 3 of The Open, Jeev Milkha Singh queried if his ball was unfit for play with the referee. When a player has reason to believe that his ball has become unfit for play during the play of a hole, he may lift the ball, without penalty, to determine if it is unfit.
Under Rule 5-3, the player must first announce his intention to lift and examine the ball to his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor. However, the referee may also fulfil the responsibility of the opponent, marker or fellow-competitor to observe and determine if a ball is unfit for play. The player must also mark the position of the ball under this Rule.
It is worth noting that if a player fails to comply with all or any part of the procedure in Rule 5-3, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.
Thereafter, if it is determined by the player and referee that the ball has become unfit for play, the player may substitute another ball, placing it on the spot where the original ball lay, without penalty. Otherwise, the player must replace the original ball.
The referee agreed with Singh that his ball was damaged to such a degree that it was unfit for play. Singh substituted another ball on the same spot, without penalty, and continued play of the hole.
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