At LIV event, Cam Smith gets into rules dispute, and PGA Tour pro weighs in

Cam Smith

Cam Smith, his caddie and a rules official on Friday on the 12th hole at Mayakoba.


Cam Smith’s 12th hole on Friday, during LIV Golf’s season-opening event, was wild, though the question is: What was the wildest part? 

Was it that Smith hit his tee shot into a bush, atop a rocky cliff, and the ball was about 10 feet above ground? 

Or that Smith, from the cliff, went back and forth with a LIV Golf rules official, on the ground, over the definition of a rule?

Or that Smith hit from the cliff?

Or was it that a PGA Tour pro weighed in on Twitter, saying that when the Tour played the course, he once was in a similar spot, and he got a different ruling?  

You could make a case for all of the above, and then there’s the fact that the moments came back to back to back to back at Mayakoba. Wild indeed. Let’s start from the top, and Smith went right off the tee, and his ball disappeared atop the cliff about 25 yards right of the fairway. Smith and his caddie scaled it, they found his ball stuck in a bush, and Smith’s caddie climbed back down. (From the LIV broadcast, we screen-grabbed the moment below.)

Cam Smith
Cam Smith and his caddie on Friday on the 12th hole at Mayakoba. CW

Smith was tossed an iron from the ground — “any time your caddie throws you a club, you know it can’t be good,” analyst David Feherty said on the broadcast — and he was going to take an unplayable. Under the the rules, Smith had three options, all with a penalty stroke: going back to the tee (stroke-and-distance relief); going back on a line from the hole through the spot where the ball was (back-on-the-line relief); and going two club lengths to the left or right (lateral relief). 

Smith wondered about the latter and going left, though, and he called for a rules official. Below is a part of the conversation (and another screen grab). 

Official: “How you doing, mate?”

Smith: “Good, mate.” 

Official: “Where’s the ball?”

Smith: “It’s up in this tree here. I’m going to take an unplayable. My question is …” 

Official: “Are you going to ask me about vertical?”

Caddie: “Yeah, he is.”

Cam Smith
Cam Smith, his caddie and a rules official on Friday on the 12th hole at Mayakoba. CW

Official: “It’s got to be two club lengths. Right there.” (He pointed at a spot in the middle of the cliff.) 

Smith: “And if I drop it and it stays within one, I can play it right?”

Official: “Correct. But if it doesn’t, we’re going to end up placing it at the nearest point where it stays at rest.” 

Caddie: “So it could be here?” (He pointed at a spot on the cliff.) 

Official: “Possible, or it could be — (he pointed at the bush) or it could be either way. … If you took your second club length, it would probably be in here somewhere. If you drop it here, it’s going to go outside the area. And we’re going to have to place the ball that’s at rest where it hit — very good chance it’s either going to be here (he pointed at the middle of the rocks) or up there.” 

Smith: “But it’s not up and down, it’s …” 

Official: “No, no. It’s not like two club lengths out and straight down.” 

Smith: “Yeah, so if I drop it here, the closest point is going to be down there.” 

Official: “Well, what’s going to happen is, is it’s going to roll outside the two club lengths, so we’re going to have to place it where it hit the ground. And it won’t stay there. So we’re going to have to work with that point. It’s an awful good chance it’s going to be where your feet are. I’m guessing. I don’t know. It has to be closer than down here.”

They continued for a short while longer. In short, the official told Smith that his lateral relief was two club lengths, and that included going downward. Theoretically, Smith could have placed his ball in the middle of the cliff, but eventually he opted for back-on-the-line and dropped behind the bush. 

From that spot, Smith punched out to the fairway, he scaled back down the cliff and walked to what would be his fourth stroke. (Below is a video.)

“Well, that was interesting,” Feherty said on the broadcast, “where if he had dropped it out laterally, there was a little ledge there where he might have actually had to place it halfway up the cliff, or closer back up on top. Most unusual situation.” 

“Yeah, you don’t see that very often,” analyst Jerry Foltz said. “Much less see a player go cliff jumping to get back on the course.”

From there, Smith bogeyed, with an iron to 6 feet and a putt. But there’s more. 

During the cliff moment, GOLF’s Sean Zak tweeted three pictures and wrote: “Wild ruling request happening here with Cam Smith. He was hoping he could get two club-lengths laterally and then just drop into play off the side of the rock.”

To which Zac Blair, who is playing this week’s Honda Classic on the PGA Tour, replied

“I had that happen on that exact hole and the rules official accidentally let me do that.”

The Tour had played at Mayakoba for 16 years, and Blair was in the field six times, most recently last fall. 

But the course is now hosting LIV, and the Tour’s relationship with the course is over.  

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at

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