Almost certainly one of the strangest stories you will hear this year in golf. It involves a kid who goes by the name of Blayne Barber, who did something that can only happen in this ridiculous game. The story begins six days after Barber advanced to the second stage of the PGA Tour’s Q-School, when he called the tour and disqualified himself because of a dubious incident with a leaf in a bunker. The event occurred when Barber was unsure whether or not he had brushed a leaf in the sand trap on the 13th hole at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. He played the final two rounds as his caddie was sure the leaf hadn’t moved. “I continued to pray about it and think about it, and I just did not have any peace about it,” Barber said. “I knew I needed to do the right thing. I knew it was going to be disqualification.”

What made this all the more interesting is that in doing so, Barber had thrown away the opportunity to earn a PGA Tour card, but on the other hand his honesty allowed six other players to advance to Q-School’s second stage. While this is a very big move for such a young man to make, everyone knows deep down in their gut when they do something wrong and Barber should be commended for his honesty and perhaps the karma gods will reward him someday.

Now on to four further interesting golf ruling decisions in professional golf…

Who doesn’t love the final scene of Caddyshack? When Danny Noonan and Al Czervick beat Judge Smails after Danny’s ball drops into the hole thanks to a small earthquake caused by Carl Spackler’s attempt to blow up the gopher, sports comedy at its best! However, unfortunately for Danny, according to USGA rule he should have added an extra stroke when the ball fell in. As there’s a rule that states you are only allowed to wait 10 seconds after the ball comes to rest, if the ball falls in after then you have to add a stroke. Unluckily for Lee Janzen (1998 NEC World Series of Golf) and Meg Mallon (1996 Jamie Farr Kroger Classic) they both got burned by this rule when they failed to add the penalty stroke when a putt fell in after the allotted 10 seconds had passed.

In the professional game, just as in your own weekly medal competitions, you do not record your own score; it’s your playing partner that does that. In the 1968 Masters Roberto De Vicenzo learned the hard way that you should always double check the scores on your card before you sign it at the end of a round. His playing partner Tommy Aaron had mistakenly recorded a par 4 on a hole which Roberto had in fact made a birdie 3. Since the error resulted in an extra stroke as opposed to one less stroke, he wasn’t automatically disqualified. But he did miss out on a chance at immortality… and a lot of money! This turn of events led to Vincenzo uttering one of the most well-known quotes in professional golf’s history “What a stupid am I!”

The world famous Augusta National is where Roberto De Vicenzo famously said the phrase “What a stupid am I!”

Craig Stadler (aka ‘The Walrus’) thought he had finished second at the 1987 San Diego Open; however he was later to learn that he had broken Rule 13-3. What had happened was his ball had landed in some mud up against a tree on the 4th hole and Stadler had to kneel down to be able to hit it. As he was wearing light coloured trousers he put down a towel on the wet ground and kneeled on it whilst taking the shot. Seems relatively innocent right? However an eagle-eyed viewer who had watched from the comfort of his armchair phoned in to complain to PGA Tour officials that ‘The Walrus’ had violated Rule 13-3 by “illegally building a stance”. Subsequently since he hadn’t added the two penalty strokes to his third round score he was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score. It turned out that this viewer cost Craig Stadler $37,000 in prize money.

Craig Stadler getting his own back on the tree which cost him $37,000.

Craig Stadler has not been the only professional to be stumped by an observant fan watching from home. In the 2010 PGA Championship Dustin Johnson was also caught out. After a wayward tee-shot right of the fairway the ball came to rest on a sandy patch of ground which had been trampled on by spectators. It turned out that Johnson had played his second from a bunker and he had grounded his club in the process, which of course resulted in a two stroke penalty and subsequently meant he missed out on the play-off. Whistling Straits has hundreds of small patches of sand in the rough and thanks to a local rule are deemed to be bunkers. Johnson was left somewhat confused as to why spectators were allowed to stand in these so called ‘bunkers’, which is perhaps why he assumed he was allowed to ground his club in the first place.

Whistling Straits is a beautiful course, but be sure not to ground your clubs in the many patches of sand surrounding the course.

After the tournament Stuart Appleby, a fellow PGA professional, tweeted:
“I think that they need to make significant changes to the course that has hundreds of pointless bunkers that patrons have to walk through to view players. The PGA says that they’re a part of the game and to be treated as hazards. Never seen patrons walking through bunkers in any other professional event (worldwide)…try that at Augusta!”

He may have had a point.