Golf’s most bizarre rules controversies of the year, ranked!

December 18, 2018

As 2018 concludes, it’s time to reflect on the year that was in golf. There were plenty of great shots, landmark victories and young stars on the rise — and we’ll get to those. But this piece is about appreciating the game’s spicier moments, especially when it comes to the rules.

Golf’s “controversies” are often borne of small issues — perceived slights, arcane rulings, over-served fans — but that just serves to make them more entertaining. So here, as determined by a GOLF panel (of one), are GOLF’s Bizarre Rules Controversies of the Year. (You can read the rest of the year’s controversies HERE.)


The integrity of the game persists, thanks to rules officials (and occasionally vigilantes) stamping out these menaces to society. We know, the Rules are “simplifying” come 2019. Yeah, okay. We’ll believe it when we see it.

The finalists:

4. LEXI vs. LOCAL RULES – You have to feel for Lexi , who seems to keep running afoul of the rules. In this case she went to take a preferred lie from the fairway on a soggy lift-clean-place day. Only problem? It wasn’t her fairway! That’s a one-shot penalty. But there’s a (semi-)happy ending to this one: A savvy rules official stopped her before she played from the wrong spot, saving her an additional penalty — and she went on to save par.

Lexi Thompson rules penalty, 2018 LPGA Indy Women in Tech Championship.
A rules official alerts Lexi Thompson to a rules violation Saturday at the 2018 LPGA Indy Women in Tech Championship.
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3. BRYSON’S COMPASS vs. PGA TOUR – Bryson DeChambeau’s subtle (or not-so-subtle) digs tend to fan the flames in these spats. “The pin locations are a little bit off every once in a while, so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot,” he said, taking a clear shot at the Tour. He added this: “It’s funny, people take notice when you start playing well.”

Bryson Compass
Bryson DeChambeau used a compass to measure pin positions…and to prove a point.
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2. SUNG KANG vs. JOEL DAHMEN — After hitting his approach shot in a hazard at the Quicken Loans, Kang took a drop that was…pick your word. Ambitious. Optimistic. Generous. Dahmen, his playing partner, put it a different way: “He cheated.” You don’t hear the C-word dropped often on Tour.

Sung Kang cheating incident
The shot that launched a thousand tweets.

And the winner is…

1. MOM’S FOOT vs. NOSY NEIGHBOR — Every golfer is looking for an edge at Q-School, and Doris Chen appeared to get exactly that when her ball was discovered in bounds after a wayward tee shot. But then a local homeowner reported that Chen’s mother had kicked the ball back into play! On some level, I guess you have to respect the loyalty — but in golf, subtlety is key. Chen was DQ’ed.

Doris Chen was disqualified from the LPGA Q-Series after her mother committed a rules infraction.
Doris Chen was disqualified from the LPGA Q-Series after her mother committed a rules infraction.
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