by Joyce McCann, 18ers Rules Chair.

East Bay Team Play (EBTP) is beginning in March. The game we play in EBTP is called “Four-Ball” (Rule 23). This term is pretty vague, but Four-Ball means that two partners compete together as a side, with each partner playing her own ball. The side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole.  Four-Ball can be played as either stroke or match play. In EBTP, Four-Ball is played as match play (Rule 3.2). In this article, we’ll explore some of what it means, vis a vis the Rules, to have a partner in match play – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, let’s look at the “good”. A great advantage of having a partner is that you two can strategize and give advice to each other, such as deciding what club to use, etc. (Rule 23.5). You can also decide which of you will play first on any particular shot. For example, on the putting green, if your partner is in a better position to win the hole than you are, but her ball is further from the hole than yours, you and she can decide that you will putt first to give information to your partner about the line of her putt (Rule 23.6).  You can also do this when you’re in the general area (the new term for through the green). In addition, your partner can help you line up your putt (as long as she’s not behind you when you take your stance!), and under the new Rules, she can even touch the green with her club or the flagstick to point out where you should aim your putt, as long as she removes the club or flagstick before you take your stroke [Rule 10.2b(2)]. Under the old Rules, touching the green was not allowed.

Under the old rules, if you accidentally moved your partner’s ball during search, or accidentally hit your partner’s equipment (e.g., cart)  with your ball, you would have received a penalty, whereas if you accidentally moved your opponent’s ball during search, or your shot bounced off your opponent’s golf cart, there would be no penalty.  Under the new Rules, the distinction between partner and opponent when the action is accidental no longer exists, and there is no penalty regardless of whose ball you accidentally move during search or whose equipment your ball accidentally hits  (Rule 7.4).

Now, let’s look at the “bad’.  Since you and your partner are, in a way, joined at the hip, if your partner does something that violates the Rules with respect to your ball, you will be penalized! For example, If you’re on the green, the Rules allow your partner to lift your ball for you. But, if she fails to mark the ball properly before lifting it, YOU will get the one stroke penalty (Rule 23.5b).

An important responsibility of every player is to provide the correct answer if asked by an opponent how many strokes you have taken at any time during play of a hole. If you answer this question incorrectly, you have a chance to correct the wrong information before your opponent makes her next stroke or takes a similar action like conceding the hole. If you do not correct the wrong information in time, you will get the “general penalty”, which in match play means you will lose the hole. However, if the wrong information you gave, hurt your opponent’s play (e.g., caused them to change their strategy for the hole based on that wrong information), BOTH YOU AND YOUR PARTNER will lose the hole!

And finally, the “ugly”.  Under the Old Rules, the use of equipment was included in Rule 14 (Striking the Ball). But, in the New Rules, there is an entire Rule devoted to “The Player’s Equipment” (Rule 4). Rule 4.3 details allowed and prohibited uses of equipment, and it’s useful to note the severe impacts prohibited uses of equipment can have on your EBTB team. The bottom line is that the first prohibited use of equipment by you or your partner will result in the offender losing the hole, and the second prohibited use by the same player will result in your team’s disqualification!

Here’s an example. Let’s say you draw the partner from hell. When you try to introduce yourself to her on the 1st tee, she can’t hear you until she takes out her ear-phones. She says she likes to listen to music while she plays because it helps with her swing tempo. You, knowing the Rules, let her know that if she does this while you’re playing a hole, she will have to take the “general penalty” – i.e., she will lose the hole [Rule 4.3a(4)] and you’ll have to count your score. So, you cut this potential problem off at the pass before she tees off. It’s a windy day, and now you find yourselves in the fairway ready to hit your second shots. Your partner, trying to gauge the direction and strength of the wind, holds out her handkerchief to help. Unfortunately, you didn’t know this wasn’t OK, but your opponents do [Rule 4.3a(2)) and call her on it, thus resulting in her first prohibited use of equipment, causing her to get the general penalty, and leaving you to carry the hole.

Then, on to the next hole. Your partner gets ready to hit her drive. She begins to set down a club to help align her feet correctly. Under the old Rules, this was OK as long as she removed the club before she took her swing. However, under the New Rules [New Rule 4.3a(6)), this is no longer permitted. You are aware of this change in the Rules, and alert her to this before she sets the club down, thereby averting yet another penalty. So, time passes, and after several shots, your team finally makes it to the green. Your partner has been sipping a soda-pop bottle, and she sets it on the green to help her judge the break. This is a violation [Rule 4.3a(1)). Your opponent team knows this, and they call her on it. Because this is your partner’s second prohibited use of equipment, your team is now disqualified and your round is over.