Monday, November 23, 2009

Ask Linda #173-Bunkers and rakes

Hi Linda,

I do appreciate what you do. It's wonderful to have a clearer understanding of the rules.

My question concerns Ask Linda #134 - Ball won't stay put in bunker.

It dealt with a ball resting against a rake in the bunker where there's a slope. When the rake is lifted the ball moved and couldn't be replaced. What if you mark, pick up your ball, lift the rake and are able to replace the ball where it won't move. Is this without penalty?

Our golf course, like many others, wants the rakes in the bunkers so they are out of the way of the mowers. Since the course requires the rakes in bunkers, could it be a local rule that there is no penalty?

As always thanks for your help.


Dear Lulu,

Here is the correct procedure for taking relief when your ball is leaning against a rake in a bunker. First, lift the rake. If your ball does not move, simply play your next shot.

You may mark the ball before you lift the rake to remember the correct spot to replace the ball should it move, but you may not lift the ball before you lift the rake.

If the ball moves when you lift the rake, you must replace it. Most of the time this is not a problem, but if you are in the back of the bunker where it slopes toward the hole, and the sand is firm, you may find that your ball rolls closer to the hole when you try to replace it. You must try to replace it two times. If it rolls closer to the hole the second time, you must try to replace it at the nearest spot in the bunker, no closer to the hole, where it will stay put [Rule 20-3d, ii].

If there is no place in the bunker that is no closer to the hole where you can place your ball and get it to sit still (you may not press it into the sand to keep it from rolling forward), then you’re out of luck. You will have to take it out of the bunker, which will result in a one-stroke penalty. Your two choices are to play the ball under stroke and distance (hit it from where you hit your previous shot), or drop the ball on the imaginary line that starts at the hole and goes straight through where your ball lay in the bunker.

It is because of this unfortunate scenario that the USGA recommends that rakes be placed outside bunkers. However, it is not against the rules for a course to require that rakes be placed in the bunkers, so let’s consider what you as a golfer can do to help prevent ball-leaning-against-rake disasters such as the one described in Ask Linda #134.

You asked if the course could establish a local rule permitting players to take the ball out of the bunker without penalty. The answer to that is “no.” Golf courses are not permitted to write local rules that violate the rules of golf. In fact, golf courses are not permitted to write any local rule that is not described in Appendix I in the back of your rule book. There is a misconception that “local rule” means the course managers have the right to make up any rule they would like. That could not be further from the truth. If a course wishes to establish a local rule that is not described in Appendix I, or it wishes to modify a rule of golf because of unusual conditions, it must receive express authorization from the USGA.

Without the option of writing a local rule to relieve you of that one-stroke penalty, what other recourse does the golfer have on a course that requires that rakes be placed in bunkers? My suggestion would be to print a request on the scorecard that players replace rakes only in the front half of the bunkers. That would give everyone plenty of room to find a legal spot in the bunker to place a ball that moves when you lift the rake.


Copyright © 2009 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winter Scores Posting Reminder

For those of you living in the northern states in the U.S.A., the season for posting scores is either over or soon to draw to a close. It’s time to bundle up and head out to the links for just plain fun, practice, and exercise. Most of you will not resume posting scores until March or April of 2010.

However, those of you who migrate south and play golf in states that are “in-season” must post those scores. You may post them on your local GHIN computer, if that is available to you. You may also post them via the Internet. If neither of these methods are options for you, keep a record of your rounds that includes the date, slope, rating, ESC score, and name of golf course. Post those rounds when your home state is back “in season.”

A number of northern golf associations are now revising handicaps throughout the winter months for those members who post scores from areas that are “in season,” so you may still have the opportunity to track your handicap even though you’re far from home.

The reason you are not allowed to post in the northern regions is that the playing characteristics of golf courses change during the winter. While it’s fun to watch your ball skate across a frozen water hazard, or bound for miles over hard fairways, courses are not rated for such conditions, and your handicap cannot be measured accurately.

You can see when your state is in- or out-of-season, and also find out the handicap revision schedule, by visiting the following link:

Below is a chart telling you when each state is “in season” for posting:

Active Season for the United States and Puerto Rico

States that are active year round:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Southern Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, southern Utah

States that are active seasonally:

Alaska: May 1–Sept. 30

Colorado: March 15–October 31

Connecticut: April 1–November 10

Delaware: April 1–October 31

Idaho: March 1–November 14

Illinois: April 2–October 28 (Chicago) or March 9–October 25 (southern)

Indiana: February 18–November 10

Iowa: April 1–October 27

Kansas: March 1 or 15–October 31

Kentucky: March 4–October 20

Maine: April 14–October 27

Maryland: March 15– November 15

Massachusetts: April 1–November 10

Michigan: March 29–November 8

Missouri: March 4–November 15

Montana: April 1–October 31

Nebraska: March 18–November 10

New Hampshire: April 1–November 10

New Jersey: April 1–October 27

New York: April 1–October 27 (NYC); April 10–November 1 (NYS); April 22–October 20 (Rochester District)

Nevada (northern section): March 3–December 1

North Dakota: March 25–October 13

Ohio: March 18 or 25 or April 1–October 31

Oregon: March 1–November 30

Pennsylvania: April 1–October 27 or 31

Rhode Island: April 1–November 10

South Dakota: April 3–October 27

Utah (northern section): March 15–October 31

Vermont: April 15–October 27

Virginia: March 1–November 15

Washington: March 1–November 15

West Virginia: March 11–October 27

Wisconsin: April 1–October 31

Wyoming: April 1–October 27

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ask Linda #172-Nearest point of relief

Linda, I love your web site and I read all of your replies. Don't ever stop what you are doing. You are doing a great service by keeping us amateurs up to date. I have a question.

I was recently playing here in Florida with a fellow and he pulled out this little folded pamphlet put out by the USGA. In it was a rule and a diagram showing the dropping of a ball from a cart path. It showed that if you are a right-handed golfer, you must drop the ball on the left side of the cart path {assuming you were looking in the direction of the hole} and you must drop it from the right side if you were left-handed golfer.

I had never heard of this. Could this be a possible rule?

Thank you, Lou.

Dear Lou,

The issue here is simply how to find the nearest point of relief, a search that seems to baffle many golfers. I am happy you posed this question, and I will do my best to enlighten everyone.

Players are entitled to free relief if their ball settles on a paved cart path or other immovable obstruction, such as roads, steps, fences protecting young trees, etc. They may also take free relief from abnormal ground conditions, which are defined as casual water, ground under repair, or a hole made by a burrowing animal. If they choose to take this free relief, they must drop the ball within one club-length and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.

“Nearest point of relief” means exactly that. A player may not choose on which side of the cart path, other immovable obstruction, or abnormal ground condition he will drop the ball, unless two points of relief are the same distance from his ball. If, for example, a player wants to take relief from a paved cart path, and one side of the cart path is fairway while the other side is fescue, if the nearest relief is in the fescue then that is where he must drop his ball, even though it may be unplayable when he drops in the fescue. This is why you should always consider carefully where you will have to drop your ball before you lift it. It might turn out to be to your advantage to play your ball from the cart path rather than drop it into an unplayable condition. Once you lift that ball, you cannot replace it without incurring a one-stroke penalty for lifting your ball in play [Decision 18-2a/12].

Now back to your question. Let’s consider the ball of a right-handed golfer that has settled more or less in the middle of the cart path. He is entitled to what is commonly referred to as “stance plus a club-length.” If he takes his stance on the left side of the cart path, the head of his club will be very close to the path. After he measures a club-length from that point, he will be a little over a club-length away from the edge of the cart path.

Now let’s see what happens if he tries to find relief on the right side of the cart path. When he takes his stance off the path, the head of the club will touch the ground approximately three feet away from the cart path. After he measures a club-length from that point, he will be just under three feet further from the cart path than he was when he sought relief on the left side of the path.

Since the nearest point of relief for this right-handed golfer with the ball in the middle of the cart path is on the left side, that is where he must take his relief. If you are a left-handed golfer in the same situation, your nearest point of relief would be on the right side of the path.

Of course, the ball does not always settle precisely in the middle of the path. Depending on the width of the path, and how close your ball is to one side or the other, the nearest point of relief for the right-handed golfer could turn out to be on the right side of the path. If it is not obvious which side will comply with the requirement to find the nearest point of relief, you will have to measure the distance from where your ball lay on the path to the relief point on both sides to determine where to drop.

There is no rule that states that a right-handed golfer is required to drop on the left side of a path. The rule is that he must find the nearest point of relief to drop his ball. In most cases, the nearest point of relief for a right-handed golfer taking relief from a ball on a cart path will be on the left side.

The pamphlet you saw, Lou, was probably trying to point out that the left side of the cart path provided the nearest point of relief for a ball that was positioned in their diagram somewhere between the center and left side of the path. As the player is required to drop at the nearest point of relief, the information in the pamphlet indicated that the player was required to drop his ball on that left side.

There are excellent diagrams and an explanation of how to find the nearest point of relief in the Decisions book. Visit this link:

Click on Rule 25 on the left-hand side, and then find “Decisions” on the right-hand side and scroll down to and click on 25-1b/2.

Remember that you are obligated to find the nearest point of relief when you are entitled to free relief. Check to see that the area where you will have to drop your ball is actually preferable to your original predicament. If it is, lift and drop your ball within one club-length and no closer to the hole than that point.


Copyright © 2009 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.