I play out of a golf course in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Hole #4 is a 350 yard par 4. A tee shot of 275 yards will put you in a ravine. For balls hit in the ravine a drop area exists next to the green. Normally, a player's poor second shot hit into the ravine allows for a drop in the drop area next to the green with a one stroke penalty. My question is, does a player's tee ball hit into the ravine entitle him to the drop area next to the green, or must he play his third shot (one stroke penalty) over the ravine? The ravine is not a lateral hazard, your ball must cross it to get to the green. The drop area is next to the green. The ravine starts about 75 yards in front of the green.
Dear Lou Lou,
I’m afraid I have nothing but bad news for you, Lou. Establishing a drop area on the green side of a water hazard is not permitted under the Rules of Golf. Neither the players who dump their second shot into the ravine, nor you, when your drive lands in the ravine, may use a drop area that allows players to cross a hazard without hitting their balls over it [Decision 33-8/2].
The only relief options for a ball hit into a water hazard are to return to where you hit your original ball and hit another, or drop a ball behind the hazard on the line-of-sight to the hole [Rule 26-1a, b]. Both relief options require that you add a one-stroke penalty to your score. A player is never allowed a free lift over a hazard.
I am well aware that a number of golf courses establish “illegal” dropping zones to assist with pace of play. If you and your friends opt to use the drop zone, then you need to be aware that you are not playing under the Rules of Golf. In the case of your playing this “fun” round, the procedure would be the same for any ball hit into the hazard, whether on the first, second, or even fifth stroke. You would have the same opportunity to drop your ball in the drop area after reaching the ravine with your drive as your friends would when they plunk their second shot into the goo.
However, all of this dropping on the other side of the hazard is illegal. If you’re serious about your golf, you and friends should ignore the illegal drop area and drop your ball behind the hazard according to rule.
You might want to mention to a course official that this drop area does not conform to the Rules of Golf. There are situations where dropping zones need to be established, but there is no valid reason to place them on the wrong (green) side of the hazard and thereby encourage golfers to break the rules.
Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.