Rose's Game Fan Friendly at Olympics October 31, 2016 By Ben Schade, USGA

Justin Rose ran into an interesting situation during the Olympics, but it didn't stop him from taking home the gold medal. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

After a 112-year absence, golf returned to the Olympic Games this summer. Of the estimated 60 million golfers in the world, 60 of the best men and 60 of the best women in the world represented their country in Rio de Janeiro, with a much different format than what was employed the last time golf was a part of the Games.

In 1904, competitors were put through a vigorous test, playing 36 holes of match play for five days. In 2016, the players were put through a test that they have experienced many times - a 72-hole stroke play competition. The 2016 Olympians navigated a brand-new golf course, and encountered many critters along the way. There were crocodiles patrolling the water hazards, monkeys watching their every move, owls playing in the bunkers and capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, strolling around the course looking for food.    

From a Rules perspective, golf’s return to the Olympics was a relatively smooth one outside of a few minor incidents, like the one gold medal-winner Justin Rose experienced during the final round.


After a wayward tee shot on the second hole, Rose’s ball found its way “outside the ropes,” but still in play. However, the ball did not come to rest on its own – it was deliberately picked up by a spectator wanting to take home a souvenir from the historic event. 

Fortunately, the Rules of Golf cover this unusual occurrence, under Rule 19-1 (Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped). With the help of a referee, Rose was required to estimate the spot where the ball would have come to rest and drop the ball as near as possible to that spot – see the Note to Rule 19-1. However, if the ball had been accidentally deflected off the spectator’s foot, the result would have been different. The Rules refer to this as a “rub of the green” situation, and the ball is simply played from where it comes to rest. The Rules of Golf distinguish between these two situations based on the basic principle that a ball should typically be played as it lies, unless its path is deliberately changed by a person in its way.

Proceeding under the Rules, Rose placed a tee at the estimated spot and properly dropped the ball. Rose dropped the ball as near as possible to that spot, almost striking his tee. So, what would happen if the dropped ball struck the tee? Would Rose have been required to re-drop the ball? 

Rule 20-2a requires a dropped ball to be re-dropped if it touches any player’s equipment before it comes to rest. However, the Definition of Equipment clarifies that a tee is not considered the player’s equipment when used to mark the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Therefore, unless another Rule applied, the ball would be played from where it came to rest.

While in this instance, a Rule wasn’t broken by a competitor, the lesson to be learned is that it’s beneficial, even as a spectator, to improve your knowledge of the Rules. 

Ben Schade is a Rules of Golf Associate for the USGA. Email him at

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