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The Worst Q School DQ You Have Ever Heard (So Far)

Gavin Hall was undone by a little-known rule and the curious behavior of a caddie in his group

By Ryan French

An hour after shooting 66 in the first round of Korn Ferry Tour Q school, Gavin Hall received a phone call that he had been DQ’d. A caddie in Hall’s  group had reached out to a rules official well after the round was over, sealing Hall’s fate. Players get DQ’d all the time, but something about this story stinks.

Hall had a very good career at the University of Texas, including making multiple All-Big 12 teams. As a senior, he earned All-American honorable mention after finishing outside the top 22 just once. But after turning pro in 2017, Hall has battled injuries and the driver yips. He seemed to have turned a corner recently, with a stretch of good play that included finishing 17th on the Order of Merit on PGA Tour Canada, exempting him into second stage of Q School.

The 6th hole at the Plantation Preserve Golf Club in Plantation, Fla., is a 375-yard par-4, dogleg left, with water up the entire left side. According to Brett Graf, tournament director for the South Florida PGA, Hall hit a ball up the left that all three players in the group saw splash in the water. With nowhere down the fairway to drop, he then hit a second ball off the tee that landed in play.

According to Rule 18.3(a), when the only two outcomes for a shot are that the ball is in the penalty area or in play, a provisional is not allowed. When Hall hit his second tee shot, he was effectively declaring that his first was in the penalty area; therefore, he had to play his second ball, even if the first one was found. But nobody knew that. Or so it seemed. (Update: A player and the caddie in question say that the player did in fact bring this up to Hall. While walking to the green, the player asked, “Are you sure you can play that?”

As the group approached their tee shots, Hall’s caddie located his original ball on the bank of the penalty area. Hall hacked it out onto the fairway, essentially playing the wrong ball. He chipped onto the green and made the putt for what would have been a par.

According to sources, on the next tee a caddie in the group muttered something about a possible rule’s infraction on the next hole. It was said so softly the source doesn’t think Hall heard it. If Hall had been made aware of the rules infraction before teeing off, he could have returned to the previous fairway, taken a penalty for playing the wrong (or second) ball and completed the hole, likely making a triple or quadruple bogey. Once he teed off on the 7th hole, Hall was destined for a DQ.

(Update: According to a player in the group, Hall called for a rules official on the 7th green, when his ball was touching the hazard line. He didn’t call for a rules official on 6.)

Hall birdied his last three holes and signed for what he thought was a 66. Nothing was said in scoring about the possible rules violation, to Hall or his caddie or any other player in the group. Only when the caddie in question called the rules official nearly an hour after the round did Hall learn his fate. (Update: The caddie in question said he did say something to a play in the group on 18, prior to going into scoring, but nothing was said in scoring. The player and caddie then went to practice for a few hours, went home to check the rules, and the caddie made the call to the rules official)

That’s a tough pill to swallow.

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45 thoughts on “The Worst Q School DQ You Have Ever Heard (So Far)”

    1. Learn the rules if you want to play pro golf. This was a basic non-obscure rule. 100% on the player. Blaming someone else for protecting the field when the player is the one ultimately responsible is the ultimate bitch out. Integrity still matters in golf. So does personal responsibility.

      1. Shut the f¥ck up, you donkey. Go out and shoot your 103 and putt everything out, you moron. The caddie obviously could have said something. He’s a bitch, which is what you are. I’m ALL for integrity and the rules, but this is punk territory. I caddied for my friend in the US Women’s Amateur a couple of years ago & we caught Paris Hilinski cheating FOUR times. She wound up finishing DFL in stroke play—-karma, but this is a COMPLETELY different scenario. Gavin is a nice kid too, who I’m certain plays by the rules and would have played a provisional if it had been allowed under the rules, which it seemingly was not, given the fact that ALL of the players/caddies saw the ball splash. Stick to video games, bozo.

        1. Calm down buddy. Golf isn’t a tough guy sport and it’s not personal. This isn’t a grey area issue. It 100% sucks for the player who was DQd. Everyone agrees with that.

      2. Garrett Browning

        Taking personal shots at someone that isn’t even quoted in a story based entirely on second-hand info is actually the ultimate bitch out.

    2. I feel bad for the player but I also love golf and the rules of golf. I grew up learning to play and studying the rules. I find the subtlety of rule interpretation enjoyable and thought provoking. Let’s suppose the splash was from either the penalty area (hazard) or casual water (in play) and although all 3 players saw the splash, the final outcome was still unclear. If the probability was 75% penalty area, 25% casual water (still in play, but only if found), then is a provisional ball acceptable? Where do you draw the line for provisional ball to be acceptable? I like the idea of seeking acknowledgement or approval from majority of fellow players when making less than black and white calls. In this case, the players saw the splash. In my view, the player should have asked if a provisional ball was acceptable, given the uncertainly of the outcome and received either acknowledgement or then called a marshal once the first ball was found and “playable”

  1. “According to Rule 18.3(a), when the only two outcomes for a shot are that the ball is in the penalty area or in play, a provisional is not allowed.”

    No, a provisional is allowed if one outcomes is the ball could be in play. He just didn’t DECLARE it a provisional. He just hit a second shot/ball. That’s the crux. DECLARE it a provisional loud and clear to your players.

    1. I’m sorry, I believe you are mistaken. Only when a ball is potentially lost or o.b. may you hit a provisional. If you are virtually certain, the ball is in the penalty area as in this case (all 3 players saw a splash), the player is not entitled to a provisional (unless a local rule is in play allowing them to do so….which it was not in this case).

      Therefore, in this particular case, it wouldn’t have mattered if he declared his second ball a provisional or not. That ball is now in play.

      However, you are correct that if you ever intend on hitting a provisional, you should inform another competitor in your group.

      I still feel bad for the guy!!

  2. If a hit ball is clearly lost into penalty area and the only other place it could be is in play, then there is no provisional allowed. Only when the ball could either be in a penalty area, OR somewhere else is a provisional allowed. The rule is very clear.

    1. That is not very clear, the rule is written like a riddle. However just hearing the sequence of events, hitting a second tee shot after a splash ball and then playing that splash ball does sound off.

  3. While I feel bad for Gavin, competitive high school players and up should know this rule. Part of the grind. Keep pounding Gavin!

  4. Why do we continue to allow rules infractions after the fact? No other sport does this. This is insane and wrong. If it is not pointed out during the course of play, then too bad. And don’t even get me started on allowing TV viewers to call it in?! Are you serious? Golf has many, many flaws. This is one of them and it is stupid, sad, and disappointing that it is never addressed. You all just keep on like it is normal when it is not in the least.

  5. Chris , the first sensible post, if you don’t call it in real time then it’s done. I don’t believe any pro golfer is intent on taking unfair advantage and if they fo then if yhe others playing with them or the attending scorers or refs don’t call it then that’s it its done. This chap of calling in from yourctv to call an infringement is just plain crazy.

  6. Awfully written rule and a ridiculous rule at that too. What is the harm in playing a provisional regardless of whether you are sure or unsure that the ball is in a penalty area and if you find the original ball then you must play it. This gives no advantage to anyone but helps keep up the pace of play and makes the most sense.

    Also strongly agree with Chris, calling a rules infraction so long after the fact is unique to golf and one of the numerous outdated issues with the sport. If a player commits a rule infraction then he should either be given a chance to rectify it or be penalised on the spot. After the next shot is made no further rulings should be allowed.

    1. While I agree that the post round DQ is bogus, I’d argue that a challenge should be made before the next hole begins.

    2. The harm is that a player should never have a “choice” about which of two balls to play. Let’s play it out – player thinks he rinsed one, hits a “provisional” – then finds the first ball, somewhat playable. Does he have to play it? Could he choose his “provisional” lying 3? What if the ball in the penalty area is in a very difficult position, but in play. Must he play it? What if its at the bottom of a creek, but identified as his? If the player must play the “provisional” regardless of the status of the first ball, then it is no longer a provisional, it’s his only ball, lying 3.

      As to waiting to call this on him after the round…I think we would all agree that is chicken shit.

  7. Always surprised how many pro golfers do not actually know the rules inside out. And I include many household names in that. It is your job to know

  8. Fully agree with commenters who subscribe to the “what’s done is done” theory, and that call-in rulings after the fact are silly. BUT … at the same time, because of the lasting stigma that gets attached to players accused of any impropriety, it’s equally silly to suggest a rule change would let any of these people off the hook in the court of public opinion.

    Let’s say the rules were different and Gavin wasn’t DQ’d after the infraction came to light. And then — GOD FORBID — he went on to win. There would forever be an asterisk on both the win and his reputation. Once a rule-breaker, always a rule-breaker. (See: Reed, Patrick and Singh, Vijay, et al.)

    Which is why, despite the silliness, maybe it’s better this way.

  9. There is an obvious reason for the rule. You can’t give a player a choice between playing one of two balls. If the player stripes his “provisional” 350 down the middle, he may elect not to play the ball in the hazard, if he hits the second tee shot in the woods, he’ll do anything he can to play the ball in the hazard.

    It is a common sense rule that I was aware of, and I’m just a casual golfer.

    1. Steve, I believe you are wrong. If the player is permitted to play a provisional ball and the original ball is then found within the three-minute search time, the player must continue play with the original ball. There is no choice. Rule 18

      1. What if he finds his ball and it is “playable ” but in the hazard. Does the player get a choice in which ball to play?

  10. Gavin Hall is one of the kindest, most genuine human beings I have ever come across in 24 years of teaching, coaching school sports and being on planet earth for 49 years. Initially I felt bad as Gavin has been grinding for years and has endured his fair share of obstacles/injuries/hard luck. After hearing about this situation only an hour ago from his former HS coach, I now have a different perspective. Knowing Gavin’s true character, this incident will only add to the fuel of motivation that he will use to find success/happiness in golf as well as life.
    Much Love G-Hall!
    Keep your eyes on the PRIZE!
    My definition of PRIZE= Joyful/Purposeful Life!

    1. The same logic would apply to the situations where one IS allowed to hit a provisional under the Rules. When you play a provisional thinking the ball may be lost or OB and you find the original ball in play, you must play the original ball (or declare it unplayable) and not play the provisional–there is no choice. Don’t see why there should be a difference in the rule
      when you think (or are “sure” ) original ball is in a penalty area.

  11. Just so I am clear as to how he should have proceeded, this is what I understand the facts to be. Gavin teed off on a hole with water up the entire left side. Hall hit a ball up the left that all three players in the group saw splash in the water. According to the article, he had nowhere down the fairway to drop, which says to me that the point the ball crossed the hazard line was back by the tee and was over water the whole way. So if it was in the water, the tee was both a proper place and perhaps the only place to play his 3rd shot from.

    So my take on this is that the mistake Gavin and his caddie made was that they should have walked up and looked for the ball first, then not finding it, walk back and hit the third shot from the tee. Of course, we now know they would have found it, as they did. So the rules mistake is he played the wrong ball, but the practical mistake was not looking first.

    I am appalled if the other caddy actually did say something on the next tee but not directly to Gavin and his caddy.

    As for the rules, he violated them as written and he has to be DQ’d. But this is foolish and a problem with the game, not with Gavin Hall. Forcing a player to walk up 300 yards to look for a ball, and then walk back 300 yards to hit his shot is ludicrous. Had he walked up and found it before he hit the offending “provisional”, the ball he played and made par with would have been the proper ball.

    The field was not protected here. The DQ was the correct ruling as the rule is drafted, but it was not the right result.

  12. Seems silly to encourage anyone with a splash ball that might possibly reach land to always have to march up the fairway to check before coming back to the tee.

  13. Part 1 – I see nothing where Gavin stated his 2nd ball was a “provisional”. Given that, his 2nd tee shot lays 3 in the fairway and his original ball has no status. The end.

    Part 2 – Could he have hit a provisional ? Yes, IF he believes the ball MIGHT be lost outside of a PA or OB. 18.3(a) “If a ball might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally”. Key word “might”.

    The term “splash” is interesting. A ball coming down in the middle of a pond splashes. A ball hit very low, especially one hitting near the far edge of a PA, will quite often skip out and may not be seen afterward. A ball somewhere in between, “kicking up” water near an edge ? Hmmmmm. Could be in, MIGHT be out. Didn’t see the end result ? It MIGHT be outside the PA out of sight.

    I’m guessing I see it (line drive near the far edge) happen at least 2 or 3 times a month. That makes it fairly routine in my eyes.

    Further, as mentioned above, the provisional is simply to save time. The player has no choice. In this case he’d have had to play the ball he found in the water, either as his 2nd stroke, or take a penalty drop. The provisional would have had no status.

    And frankly, to protect the field the other 2 players should have spoken up and questioned gavin’s actions right then and there. Then the “play 2 balls” option would have saved him.

    As for the rest, call-ins have no/limited status anymore on Tour, and “What’s done is done” can’t work in golf. All the other sports use “Instant” replay, the keyword being “instant”. Most of them also have incidents that CAN’T be overturned. Other than Tour players, very few golf events are televised, and never are ALL the players/shots covered and few events even have officials on site.

  14. “I don’t believe any pro golfer is intent on taking unfair advantage”
    With the exception of Patrick Reed

  15. Michael Bamberger in To The Linksland writes of a time when Seve his a ball into a man made lake which bounced off the bottom of the lake back into play. There would simultaneously be a splash and an opportunity for the ball to be lost outside of the then named hazard.

    Why can’t Gavin ball hit a provisional. Sure they saw a splash. But so what. The ball could literally be anywhere.

  16. “The fault, dear Brutus” lies with the Tournament Committee for not anticipating an obvious slowing play possibly caused by competitors walking up to assure themselves their ball is playable or not.

  17. There is nothing wrong with the rules except over the years (particularly the last few revisions) we’ve tried to dumb them down for various reasons.
    Golf is played outdoors on a natural surface all over the world in a variety of different geographical situations. The prime rule “play the ball as it lies” is still the driving force. There are a multitude of things that can happen to a golf ball over a vast natural area. The rules do an excellent job of providing direction in almost all scenarios.

    The second part is the player is responsible for knowing the rules. Just like driving a car you are responsible for knowing the laws in the highway traffic act. The golfer must know the rules, he/she is responsible for any infraction. If an infraction comes to the light at any time it is on the golfer, not the person who reported it. Stand up and take responsibility for your own actions. (Including ignorance of the rules)
    I would hate to be the player who abided by the rules and finished second, only to find out that the winner violated the rules, but because his playing partners didn’t say anything and it wasn’t reported at that moment (as many have suggested) that I lost a tournament that I really would have won if we were in fact playing by the rules.

    Golf is fine as it is. I’m sure Gavin wasn’t intentionally violating the rules, but he did so unintentionally. That’s fine, he was dealt with appropriately and the real winner won that tournament. Gavin will no doubt grow from this and comeback better.

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