Penalties That Cost Major Golf Championships

By Richard Friedkin
Failure to sign a correct scorecard has caused most of the pro tour disqualifications.
Failure to sign a correct scorecard has caused most of the pro tour disqualifications.

Golf is a game of many rules, the violation of some of which has a minor effect on play but a major effect on your score. Failure to follow every rule to the letter has produced some tragic and -- some believe -- inappropriate results. But in golf, it doesn’t matter if the rule violation has no practical consequences. The only thing that matters is that the rule was violated.

Scorecard Score Higher Than Actual Score

In any golf tournament, a competitor is required to sign his scorecard, attesting that it is correct. In the 1968 Masters, Roberto De Vicenzo signed a scorecard that showed a higher score than he actually shot. He had to accept that score and missed tying for the lead by one stroke. If the scorecard had reflected a score lower than his actual score, he would have been disqualified.

Grounding the Club In A Hazard

If a golfer is in a bunker or any other hazard, he is not allowed to ground his club before hitting his shot. In the 2010 PGA Championship, Dustin Johnson grounded his club as the prepared to hit the ball from a bare patch of ground. It was later determined that the ground from which Johnson had hit was actually a bunker, and the grounding of his club resulted in a two-shot penalty, knocking him out of a tie for the championship.

Building A Stance

Golf rules prohibit doing anything to your surroundings to improve your footing before hitting the ball. In the 1987 Andy Williams Open, Craig Stadler’s ball was under the branches of a tree. He had to hit the ball from his knees. To avoid getting his pants wet, Stadler placed a towel on the ground. He knelt on the towel and made the shot. It was later determined that he had “built a stance.” He should have been assessed a penalty stroke, but he did not add it to his signed scorecard. Because he had signed a scorecard that reflected a score lower than his actual score, he was disqualified. If he had added the penalty stroke to his score, he would have finished second in the tournament.

Unrecognized Penalties

Most of the disqualifications from professional golf tournaments stem from submitting incorrect scorecards for a variety of reasons, mainly for the failure to recognize penalty strokes for rules infractions. If the infraction is recognized during play, the penalty may be limited to adding strokes to the player's score, but if the penalty is not recognized until after a scorecard is submitted, it is too late to avoid disqualification.

About the Author

Richard Friedkin has many years of experience as a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Financial Planner and a corporate CEO. He has been a writer for more than 30 years, writing everything from dense technical memos to whimsical children's stories. Friedkin's work has been published locally and performed on stage.

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