Q&A with USGA Senior Director of Rules
Thomas Pagel discusses the unique challenges Chambers Bay presents for rules officials
June 17, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- June 17, 2015
- USGA rules officials walk Chambers Bay on Tuesday prior to the start of the U.S. Open. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Chambers Bay is a unique U.S. Open course, and that means there will be unique local rules this week. Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, spoke with PGATOUR.COM about how putting surfaces are marked on a course where fairways and greens look the same and why players will be able to remove stones in sand bunkers. Read more below.
PGATOUR.COM: With greens and fairways being almost indistinguishable, how will players differentiate between the two?
Pagel: It’s a pretty simple solution. It’s the same thing we did in the 2010 U.S. Amateur (at Chambers Bay), same thing we’ve used when we’re at Bandon Dunes, when you have these golf courses where the turf is the same from putting surface to surrounds. We have a series of dots that goes around the putting green, so every 3 feet there’s a little white dot about the size of a nickel, and the outside edge of that dot delineates the putting surface.
PGATOUR.COM: How did the USGA determine where to put the dots?
Pagel: If you look at the putting greens, there is going to be no roundness to them because we are going dot-to-dot, so it’s a bunch of straight lines around. We have the contour maps, so we followed those in building the dots. We know what the architect intended. (USGA executive director) Mike (Davis) did that with the superintendents, because they know what the putting greens were intended to be. In fact, if you look around, there’s a lot of sprinkler heads around the golf course and the sprinkler heads are always right off the edge of the putting green, so they were able to use that as a guide.
PGATOUR.COM: The ground game is important this week. What happens when those sprinkler heads are in a player’s line?
Pagel: We used this at Pinehurst, we’ll use it again this year as well, the local rule for sprinkler heads close to the putting green. If it’s on the player’s line of play, he can drop it to his nearest point of relief. The thought is that we want the player to have options, and one of those options is to keep the ball on the ground, so if he has something on his line of play, we want to make sure he gets free relief from that.
It gets pretty specific. If there’s a sprinkler head within two club lengths of the edge of the putting green and within two club lengths of your ball, and on your line of play, you’re going to get free relief.
PGATOUR.COM: Players will be allowed to remove stones from bunkers. Explain why that is.
Pagel: The second local rule, one that I don’t recall us using in the recent past, is that we are allowing the players to remove stones in bunkers. That is primarily a safety deal. Being a former gravel pit and sand mine, there are big pebbles that will come up, significant ones. Whereas a player typically can’t move those, this week he will be able to. The test is if you can easily move it. Players can’t dig down and grab it, but if it’s on the top they can move it. If it leaves a little indentation, that’s OK, but we aren’t going to let them dig anything out.
PGATOUR.COM: What happens if a player’s ball is against a rock, and removing the rock would cause the ball to move?
Pagel: They’re actually classified as a movable obstruction, which is sort of contradictory because movable instructions are actually man-made, and rocks definitely aren’t. The key with the movable obstruction point is that if the ball is up against a rock, and the player wants to remove the rock, he can. If his ball moves, there is no penalty. It’s just like if your ball is up against a rake. If your ball moves, there’s no penalty and you put it back. It’s the same thing with these rocks.
PGATOUR.COM: Are there any other unique rules situations, outside of the greens?
Pagel: You go around and there’s not much going on from a rules perspective here, which is great. I always say quiet in my business is good, and I think it’s going to be a quiet week, knock on wood. There’s only two hazards and you have to hit a poor shot to hit either of them.
PGATOUR.COM: Where are those water hazards?
Pagel: Exactly, right? One is way right of the drive zone on No. 10. If you go over the hill by the corporate pavilions, there’s actually a big pond there, so far out of play. And then if you go well right of the 15th green, the par-3, there’s a pond down in the woods, but it’s marked down in the woods, so if a player hits it a little right and he’s in the trees, he just has to deal with it. (The course is) clean, and we like it that way. There’s not much going on.
PGATOUR.COM: Where is out-of-bounds?
Pagel: There’s out-of-bounds around the entire perimeter. The train tracks on 16 and 17, those are the ones that people are going to key in on. The permanent black fence is the boundary fence.
PGATOUR.COM: Is this the least amount of paint you’ve had to put on a golf course?
Pagel: By far. This is my fifth U.S. Open and this is by far the least amount of paint.
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