What’s your pre-shot routine? Does it involve a lot of fiddling about, twitching, tapping the ground with your club, removing distracting blades of grass?
If it does you’d better beware the rules police aren’t watching!
And I don’t mean getting penalised because of time – we’re talking Rule 13.2 here, which states that "a player shall not improve ... his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by ... creating or eliminating irregularities of surface."
It cost the US PGA Tour’s most inelegant dresser, Mr Duffy Waldorf, $150,000 and sole possession of second place in the Capital Open.
Addressing his second shot on the 12th fairway at TPC at Avenel on Monday – the fourth round was delayed because of rain - Waldorf was distracted by a noisy golf buggy. He re-composed himself backed off for a moment, tapped a patch of grass with his club as he re-grouped and re-addressed his shot.
Unfortunately a rules junkie was watching on TV and reported him to the USGA who passed on the message to the tournament referee.
"I kind of tapped the ground just to have something to do, just to reset. I didn't do it with intent," said Waldorf who was given a two-stroke penalty which dropped him to four shots behind eventual winner Rory Sabbatini and his prize money from $486,000 to $336,000.
According to officials Waldorf improved his line of play by cleaning up a "pitch mark" about three feet to his front and right and although the divot was not directly in line with his next shot, it was close enough to fall within the "reasonable extension" criteria established by the Rules of Golf.
Waldorf tried to argue his way out of it but, still shaken, said he ‘didn't do a very good job of it. Perhaps we should have a rules lawyer out here who can defend us at the end of a round."
"We looked at every way we could to get Duffy out of this," said one Tour official "but looking at the TV replay he physically stepped up and eliminated the irregularity in front of his ball."
So remember next time you’re distracted before a shot and, like a batsmen between balls at the cricket crease, you consider dabbing down a little imperfection (known as ‘gardening’ in cricket parlance) in front of you before re-taking your stance. DON’T DO IT!
You could be breaking the rules. And though it might not cost you the price of a small terraced house in Hertfordshire, if some one picks you up on it - it’s bloody annoying.