Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ask Linda #194-Ball “lost” in casual water?

Hi Linda,

A couple of questions came up during our tournament today at a course in South Jersey that probably should not have been open due to due to all the rain we have had recently.

Both questions involve casual water.

1- A ball is hit and the player is unsure where it has landed. His playing partner indicates that it went into a bunker. When the group reaches the bunker it is partially flooded. The player takes relief from the water in the bunker and drops a ball in the bunker. He plays his next shot onto the green. Then it is discovered that the player's ball is actually in another bunker that is dry. Has the player played from the wrong place? What is the ruling?

2- A player is playing a dogleg left, downhill par 4. The player hits his second shot to the left of the green. Fearing the ball may be lost, he hits a provisional. When he arrives at the area to the left of the green, he thinks that the ball may be in a flooded area. Can he assume that the ball is in the flooded area, even though no one in the group saw the ball enter the flooded area? Does he get relief from this flooded area as casual water, or is the ball lost because no one saw it enter the flooded area?

Thank you.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

In order for a ball to be treated as lost in casual water, it must be “known or virtually certain” that the ball is there. A player may not decide his ball is lost in casual water simply because it might possibly be there. Unless there is almost no doubt that the ball is there, the player must assume his ball is lost and proceed under “stroke and distance” for a lost ball [Rule 27-1]. (For a full explanation of the meaning of “known or virtually certain,” please read Decision 26-1/1.)

From your explanation, Lou, it does not seem to me that it was known or virtually certain that the player’s ball was lost in casual water in either situation.

Situation #1

The player was uncertain where his ball was, and it sounds like his partner was making what you might call a “wishful guess.” The player was entitled to search for his ball for five minutes. If he did not find it within that time period, he was required to play another ball from the spot where his original ball was last played, and assess himself a penalty stroke [Rule 27-1: Stroke and Distance].

When the player dropped another ball in the bunker, it became the ball “in play” and the original was lost. However, he was not allowed to take relief for a ball lost in casual water [Rule 25-1c] because it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was there. Therefore, when he played the ball that he dropped in the bunker, he was playing from a wrong place.

If this were a match play competition, he would lose the hole.

In stroke play, he incurred the stroke and distance penalty for a lost ball, and an additional two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place [Rule 20-7c]. He might be subject to disqualification for a serious breach of the rule, since it would seem that he gained a significant distance advantage by playing from a wrong place [Decision 25-1c/2].

When a player in a stroke play competition believes he may have played from a wrong place, he may play a second ball in accordance with the rules, provided he has not yet hit his tee shot on the next hole. He must report the facts of the situation to the Committee before he turns in his score card. The Committee will then decide which ball was played correctly under the rules and assess any appropriate penalties.

Since you make no mention of the player in question playing a second ball, I suspect he would be disqualified from the tournament.

Situation #2

I think you already know the answer to this one. In a nutshell, since it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in a flooded area, the player is not entitled to relief. He must play another ball under stroke and distance.

When tournaments are played under extremely wet conditions, the tournament director should take the responsibility of reviewing the pertinent rules for abnormal ground conditions such as pervasive casual water. Just between you and me, Lou, it sounds like this is a tournament that should have been rescheduled.


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