When lines and pacesetters make all the difference in golf

By Vincent Wang’ombe: Friday, October 18th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Golf
Caddie assist player during the Magical Kenya Open on Thursday, March 14, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

As Eliud Kipchoge was running a sub-two-hour marathon, professional and amateur golfers gathered at the Royal Nairobi Golf Club to play in third leg of the Safari Tour pro-am.

As is the tradition, the Pro-Am is the precursor to the main event where the top amateur and professional golfers compete to help prepare them for the Magical Kenya Open.

Watching Kipchoge in Vienna, I realised that we have always had our version of pacesetters in golf. They are known as caddies. A good caddie will not only carry the golf clubs, they can also set up the golfer for success. The caddies may not use advanced technology such as the laser line that the pacesetters for Kipchoge used, but they do have lines of their own.

Take Wangarî foer example, who caddied for me at the last event I played in. Whenever I missed my target, she would be quick to encourage me.

“Good shot! Noo raini…” which sounds much better in Kikuyu as it means that if it wasn’t for the inadequacy in target seeking, it was a perfect shot. Essentially what Wangarî was telling me was I had “no line”.

Speaking of lines, there were two incidents at the just concluded Royal Nairobi Golf Club leg of the Safari Tour where keen caddies were absolutely necessary.

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The first incident was at the 11th hole where one player hit his tee shot to the right and the ball ended up in the ditch which is marked as a penalty area.

When the ball entered the ditch, it bounced on some stones and ran some few yards ahead. The player could not play the ball as it lay and it became necessary for him to take the penalty area relief. The question then was if where the ball lay had any bearing with where the relief would be taken.

The short answer was “no”. The point where the ball crossed the margin of the penalty area was what mattered when taking a lateral relief; that is where the player drops a ball within two-club-lengths of the point of entry with a one stroke penalty. The player had to use his best judgement to identify the line from the tee to the penalty that the ball took for him to identify the point where the ball crossed the margin of the penalty area.

The other incident involved a ball that got lost in a mound of black cotton soil on the 15th hole that was marked as ground under repair. The mound of soil is at the area where a dam is under construction and is marked as out-of-bounds.

The player and his fellow competitors who were at the tee all agreed that the ball was in bounds. The caddie who had walked ahead was in line with where the ball fell. However, when the player got there, the ball could not be found. Chances are that the ball embedded in the black cotton soil.

In this case, since the player and his fellow competitors were virtually certain that the ball was lost in the area marked as ground under repair, he was entitled to free relief. The player, with the help of his caddie, identified where the ball was likely to be lost and dropped another within one-club-length of the nearest point of relief.

These two incidents would have been harder to resolve had the caddies not been able to help with the lines. Caddies are more than cheerleaders; they are also important in resolving questions regarding the Rules of Golf.

 (Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited)

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