Cut! Rulings Hollywood Got Wrong
One of the great things about a movie can be its ability to suspend time, imagination and belief, all for the sake of our entertainment. But even the movies wouldn’t do that to the Rules of Golf, would they? Sadly, yes. Below are the top three rulings that Hollywood got wrong. Disclaimer: Each of these movies are better because they got the ruling wrong, but if we want to get technical, well, here we go.
Coming in at number three is the concept of playing the ball as it lies — NO MATTER WHAT! — in Happy Gilmore. On two occasions, tour commissioner “Doug” makes a wrong ruling by insisting that the ball be played as it lies. First, Shooter McGavin’s ball comes to rest on a heckling spectator’s foot (remember the big guy?), which Doug claims must be played as it lies. Rule 11.1b (Exception 1) states that when a ball comes to rest on a person, it must be dropped within one club length of the reference point directly below where the ball came to rest on the person. Fast forwarding to the final putt of the movie, Gilmore is confronted with a TV tower that has fallen onto the putting green directly between his ball and the hole. The rules will of course grant free relief when the ball is on the putting green and an obstruction on the putting green intervenes on the player’s line of play (Rule 16.1). However, Doug once again insists the ball be played as it lies, which sets up the dramatic winning “putt” of the movie.
In the second spot is Roy McAvoy on the 18th hole in Tin Cup. After hitting numerous balls into the water, Roy stubbornly invokes stroke and distance each time to prove he can in fact hit the shot. Roy’s caddie and the commentators set up the scene by warning Roy that he’s down to his final ball in the bag, and should he not finish the hole with this ball, he’ll be disqualified. In the ultimate display of no guts-no glory, Roy not only succeeds in clearing the water, but he holes the shot for one of the great finishes in golf movie history. That said, the scene is fully based on the idea — and reinforces one of the legendary golf myths — that you are restricted to only the balls in your own bag. In fact, “Tin-Cupping-It” has become a verb! Truth be told, players may share golf balls with one another or acquire another ball at any time during the round (Rule 4.2a). In the rare instance that the “One-Ball Rule” is in effect, the player must play the same make and model as he or she began the round with, but again, this could be accomplished by borrowing or acquiring the proper type of ball.
Claiming the spot of Hollywood’s worst ruling is none other than Danny Noonan’s final putt in the classic Caddyshack. With a putt to win the match against Judge Smails, Noonan appears to come up just short, with the ball coming to rest overhanging the hole. After the disappointing effort, explosions erupt throughout the course in an effort by Carl Spackler to destroy the club’s elusive gopher. Meanwhile, the caddie master/referee intently watches to determine if the ball will fall into the hole, which it eventually does … after 52 seconds. Of course the rules allow Noonan a reasonable time to reach the hole and 10 more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole. While we never see him approach the hole from this short distance, 52 seconds is clearly too much time. Had the rules been properly applied, Noonan would have incurred a penalty stroke under Rule 13.3a, presumably lost the match and the balance of good vs. evil in our great game would have never been the same.