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Wrong Ball Law Trial

[<<] [>>] by Bill Arliss
25 Mar 2013 (GC)

Update 2014: trial ended.

On Sat 23 March 2013, CA Council approved a trial Wrong Ball Law be used in the CA Domain for the 2013 season with some limitations on its use. Whilst we agree this is rather late in the day to introduce such a move, the reasons for such a late introduction and the need for such a trial are explained below. Emails are being sent to all Club Secretaries, all qualified GC Referees, Managers of all level play competitions and Federation Secretaries, fully explaining the situation and providing a copy of the introductory document and asking for their cooperation in running the trial. The copy below is provided for all players not in receipt of their own copy. Update: flowchart diagram available. to aid understanding

As most GC players are aware, a complete revision of the GC Laws is underway and hopefully this trial is one way in which the body of our GC players can influence the wording of our future wrong ball law.

Bill Arliss

GC Laws Committee

The Wrong Ball Law and the CA 2013 Season


As many of you will know, the WCF GC Rules Committee started reviewing their GC Rules during last season with the intent of issuing a complete new edition early in 2013. Unfortunately the progress has not been sufficient to meet this target and it now appears that no new edition will be available for discussion until much later this year and we will therefore play the 2013 CA season will have to be based on the present laws.

Whilst we have discovered quite a number of weakness in the present laws in the last four years which we have solved by the use of official rulings, there have not been many cases where the general intent of the law has been badly criticised other than the Wrong Ball Law. Because of this factor, the CA's own GC Laws Committee started to look at potential new wrong ball laws in the middle of last season. with the intent of submitting a proposal to the WCF Committee. The task proved far from simple and we went through many possible variations. The main problem was the very unfair situations that could occur when it was discovered that play had been out of sequence for several shots. It was not until late in 2012 that we eventually produced a draft that all the committee agreed was simple enough for general usage but at the same time covered the large majority of unfair situations. It also solved another major criticism by treating singles and doubles in the same manner. A further change was that it presented the law in a different manner such that no action was considered until play has actually been stopped. This follows the same route as is used in the "Idiot's Guide to the Wrong Ball Law' which has been used by many clubs.

This draft was then submitted to the WCF Committee but was rejected by Australia and New Zealand on the grounds of complication. These two countries wanted to keep the intent of the present law. As own laws committee felt very strongly that the present law was not sufficient and could lead to totally unacceptable situations, they felt that the decision should be put in the hands of our players by using a trial law for our 2013 season and Council have approved this course of action. As will be explained in the following text, feedback from players, referees and managers will be essential if we are to make best use of this trial and the normal email should be used

I have to sincerely apologise for the very late introduction of this trial. To keep within the requirements of our Constitution we have to get any temporary law approved by Council and unfortunately due to bad weather the January Council had to be cancelled hence the necessary rush.

The Problem with the Present Law

Playing experience has shown that the only major area for change has to be in the procedures for out of sequence play. In situations where either play has just carried on in sequence after the last ball played or where a full penalty has been awarded, they are adequately dealt with under the intent of the present law and will not be changed.

The present law states that if it is discovered a player, when it is his turn to play, plays his partner ball rather than the next in sequence, the ball that has been played is put back and the correct ball played. Very simple and the ideal solution if it is the first ball that has been played out of sequence as it mimics what would happen if no mistake had been made. The problem comes when several balls have been played out of sequence. I am sure all regular GC players have seen this happen very many times with both players using the sequence B, Y, Bk and R several times over. With a full out of sequence, just imagine the following scenario, R runs hoop 1, B takes very good position in front of hoop 2; Y follows suit and also takes good position, Bk tries to clear Y and misses. Someone realises play is out of sequence and stops play. Under the present laws, Bk is put back and B is played giving a certain hoop to B which the opponent can do nothing about. Both players have been in error so it would appear grossly unfair that B should be rewarded. It depends so much on exactly when play is stopped. Certainly R/Y would have no incentive to stop play at this stage even if they realised it was out of sequence. Much better to play R and then stop play. It may not even be one of the player that has stopped play but a loud talking spectator. In fact this is exactly what happened in a game during the World Championships last year.

To overcome this problem, the trial law introduces an option for the opponent which allows the last shot to stand but at the same time swapping the position of the balls of the other side. This gives the opponent the chance to stop an almost certain hoop score.

Without further ado let us look at the trial Law

11. Playing a Wrong Ball

(a) Definitions
Law 1(a) defines which ball belongs to each player and Law 1(e) defines the correct sequence in which the balls should be played. If any player (or Referee in Charge) believes that
(1) a ball has been played out of sequence, or
(2) a player has played a ball that does not belong to him, or
(3) a player has played when he was not entitled to play
then he shall stop play immediately so that the matter may be investigated and play continued in accordance with the relevant remedy set out in paragraphs (b) to (d) below. In those paragraphs, the "last player" is the player who played the stroke immediately before play was stopped and "last stroke" and "last ball" refer to that stroke and the ball played therein. The "opposing side" refers to the side opposing the last player. The "previous stroke" refers to the stroke immediately preceding the last stroke and the "previous ball" refers to the ball played in the previous stroke.

(b) Continuation without penalty
If the last player played a ball that belongs to him and the previous stroke was played by the opposing side and either
(1) the last ball followed in sequence from the previous ball, or
(2) the previous ball did not belong to the player who played it
then the last stroke condones the previous stroke and any prior occurrences of wrong ball play. Any points scored in the previous stroke are valid, subject to Rule 13. Play then continues by the opposing side playing the ball that follows in sequence from the last ball.

(c) Replay or exchange
If the last player played a ball that belongs to him and the previous stroke was played by the opposing side and
(1) the last ball did not follow in sequence from the previous ball, and
(2) the previous ball belongs to the player who played it
then, at the option of the opposing side, either
(i) no points are scored as a result of the last stroke, any striking fault committed in the last stroke is ignored, all balls moved in the last stroke are replaced in the position they occupied before the last stroke and play then continues by the side of the last player playing the ball that follows the previous ball in sequence, or
(ii) the last stroke is not replayed, any points scored are counted, the positions of the last ball played and its partner ball are exchanged and play then continues by the opposing side playing the ball that follows in sequence from that partner ball.

(d) Full penalty
In all other cases, no points are scored as a result of the last stroke, any striking fault committed in the last stroke is ignored and the opposing side decides
(1) whether the balls moved in the last stroke are all left where they lie or are all replaced in the positions they occupied before the last stroke
(2) with which of its balls it will play next.
Play then continues by the opposing side playing the ball that it has chosen under (2).

(e) A player (or a Referee in Charge) shall forestall an opponent if he believes that the opponent is about to play a stroke to which (c) will apply. He shall not forestall in any other circumstances.

The Differences

Of course the wording of this law looks much different to present law but to those who have been using 'The Idiots Guide to the Wrong Ball' it will be quite familiar as it starts with play being stopped and looks back. The only differences in intent from the present law are as follows.

(1) The exchange clause (shown in red) has been added as an option to clause (c)

(2) We have added a second clause to the continuation without penalty to include what happens after a player follows his opponent who has just played a ball he is not allowed to play, eg his opponent's ball. In the present law a player in singles would have been given the full penalty for not noticing his opponent had played a very wrong ball. This was considered very unfair and now makes singles and doubles treated equally.

(3) Because of the way clause (c) starts "If the last player played a ball that belongs to him and the previous stroke was played by the opposing side and" it allows the clause to be applied to both singles and doubles. Thus if the owner of Bk plays his ball in doubles when it should have been B's turn, the same rectification procedure applies to both singles and doubles/ If however the owner of B plays Bk, then he is fully penalized as previously for playing a ball he is no entitled to play.

The Benefits of the New Wording

We believe that one of the major improvements in the wording of the trial law is that we do not use the terms "Striker's Ball" but use terms such as "play a ball that belongs to the player" or "plays when it is not his turn" This should make it far easier for the club player to understand and thus easier to use. These latter two terms are fully explanatory in them selves and do not require the rather complex definition of striker's ball as given in law 1(e) to be applied before you can understand the law itself. Please remember that if an opponent plays a ball he is not entitled to play in singles, it is just not possible to make the definition of striker's ball work.

A further benefit is that the trial law is that it never requires anyone to go back more than the last two shots, i.e. who played them and which balls were played. All kinds of mayhem may have taken place three or more shots before play was stopped but it is of no consequence and completely forgotten. .

The way the trial law is worded makes the process of sorting out wrong ball problems identical in every case. When play is stopped:

1. A simple two stage check to see if play can be continued in the same sequence

2. Another two stage check to see if either of the rectification processes for out of sequence apply

3. All other situations; full penalty

Application of the Trial Law

The approval by Council has confirmed that the trial law will have mandatory use in the following events:
English National GC Singles Championship (Ascot Cup) (Hurlingham)
The Musk's Cup (GC First Six) (Ryde)
The Kate Jones Memorial (GC Second Six) (Hamptworth)
The Golf Croquet Inter-County Championship (Sussex County)
The GC Veterans' Championship (Sussex County)
The English National GC Doubles Championship 'Ranelagh Cups' (Cheltenham)

But has allowed its use for all other calendar events except those listed below to be optional at the discretion of the host club

In the Inter Club and the Murphy Shield it may be used with the agreement of both teams but its use in the All England, Grass Roots and Centre Stage is not allowed.

Another major user is of course the Federations and it will be entirely up to the Federations to take a stance on this issue.


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