A leisurely pursuit, except when you’re on the clock
Playing golf has a beautiful way of warping time. You start out on the first tee, and next thing you know, you’re walking off the 18th green and four hours have magically elapsed. Though time is often forgotten when we’re on the course, the game and its rules are filled with all manner of time implications.
You have five minutes to find a lost ball (rule 271c). The clock begins ticking when you, your side or your caddie(s) arrive at the area where the ball is likely to be. During the final round of the 1998 US Open at the Olympic Club, Lee Janzen’s drive on the par-4 fifth hole appeared to disappear in a cypress tree. After searching for about three minutes, Janzen was convinced the ball had vanished. He trudged back to the tee. Within the five-minute time frame, wind dislodged the ball from the branches. Janzen resumed play with the ball, made par, and went on to win by one stroke.
Starting times are sacred (rule 6-3). If you show up more than five minutes late, the penalty is disqualification (although the committee could waive the penalty in very rare cases such as serious medical emergencies). If you’re less than five minutes late, it’s a two-shot penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. The model for all of us: Arnold Palmer says he never missed a starting time in almost six decades as a pro.
If your ball hangs on the hole’s edge, you have 10 seconds for it to drop (rule 16-2). Timing starts the moment you arrive at the ball. (You can writhe in disbelief before approaching the cup, and the clock won’t start. But don’t be unreasonable about it.) There is no advantage to waiting longer than the allotted 10 seconds; if the ball falls in after that, you must add a stroke to your score, the same as if you’d tapped it in.
Then there’s the issue of slow play (rule 6-7). If you exceed a predetermined time limit defined by the committee, the penalties escalate for each infraction up to disqualification. Only an official can determine if a golfer’s play is unduly slow.
If darkness falls during a round, don’t finish the next day for handicap purposes (handicap manual). The SAGA and Handicaps Network Africa say you must enter your 9-hole score for incomplete 18-hole rounds. Fewer than 9 holes must be captured as N/R. –GuyYocom