A 2019 Rule Revision for Local Scrambles

Scramble teams compete at Skyland Pines GC, Canton
These scramble teams would be a big bunch of cheaters under the USGA's 2019 Rule 10.2b(4).

In just a couple of weeks, the spring scramble season opens for the players of Northeast Ohio.

Scrambles and better balls are a great way for teams of amateurs — even pro-am teams — to get some competitive rust off their games heading into the summer months.

But first, a prickly Rule needs to be addressed and adjusted before these team tournaments start.

For 2019, the USGA added more conditions to Rule 10.2b(4), mostly to prevent a caddie from helping a player align prior to making a stroke. That new Rule caused so much confusion on the pro tours that the USGA had to issue a “clarification” to the rule, easing some of its most stringent initial requirements.

For the most part, Rule 10.2b(4) primarily affects players with caddies in a stroke play event. But not totally.

Sadly, for amateurs playing in a team event, the USGA missed some unintended consequences of the rule that still apply.

Three players watching the break of a putt from behind their partner in a 4-man scramble?

Illegal under Rule 10.2b(4).

One amateur standing behind another in a better ball tournament, even if neither player mentions anything about alignment?

Also illegal under Rule 10.2b(4). Because in a team event, this rule applies to a player’s caddie, teammates and the caddies of teammates.

The problem: as it’s written, Rule 10.2b(4) takes a whole bunch of fun out of a scramble or better ball. Much of the allure of a big team event is watching your teammate play a shot, seeing how that shot goes, then trying to better it. If teammates can’t stand behind each other to watch each shot, it removes one of the truly fun elements of the competition.

The solution: Tournament Directors should use a ‘Local Rule’ to revise Rule 10.2b(4) for amateur team events like scrambles and four balls (until the USGA figures it out and changes the rule directly).

Since Northeast Ohio Golf lives to make tournament golf more fun, the following is some suggested language for use on the Rules Sheet for local scrambles or better ball competitions:

REVISION TO RULE 10.2b(4): a teammate is permitted to stand directly behind another teammate before, during and after making a stroke. Outside of picking a target for play, no teammate may provide any comment, advice or indication whatsoever as to the player’s alignment, position, clubface aim, direction, etc. Providing such player alignment advice incurs a penalty of two shots.

Tournament Directors, please add the above paragraph to your Rules Sheet for every local scramble and better ball tournament. Let’s keep these team events fun, all right?

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