Monday, May 31, 2010

Ask Linda #208-Is it a hazard?


You state over and over that a course cannot create a rule that alters the rules of golf. But I can't seem to answer this question.

Can a course designate a certain area a "hazard" or "lateral hazard" even though it does not have any water (e.g., prairie grass, fescue, etc)? I am not asking about sensitive environmental areas, but areas that would permit you to drop in accordance with the rules or play from within the hazard (and would also serve to prevent you from taking nearest point of relief in the long grass).

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

A water hazard is defined in the Rules of Golf as “any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water)…” (The italics are mine.)

As you can see, it is not a requirement that a water hazard contain water. However, it is a requirement that it be an area that does now or at some time during its existence contained water or was designed to contain water.

If the prairie grass or fescue is growing in a ditch, for example, then it would be properly designated a water hazard. If it is growing in an area that does not meet the definition of a water hazard, then the golf course may not arbitrarily call it a water hazard.

I have encountered courses that designate wooded areas alongside a fairway as lateral hazards so that golfers who lose a ball will be able to drop within two club-lengths of the “hazard” rather than delay play by having to return to the area where they hit their previous shot. Such courses are not following the Rules of Golf. Instead, golfers should be encouraged to hit a provisional when their ball enters such wooded areas, so that there will be no need for a long trip back should the ball not be found.

Labeling hazards on a golf course is not an exercise in imagination. Hazards are specifically defined in the Rules of Golf, and the people responsible for labeling hazards must abide by the rules.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ask Linda #207-Another ESC question

Dear Linda,

I recently played in our league which is held once every week on a nine-hole course. On a par 5 hole I made a double par 10 and shot a gross score of 40. At the clubhouse my playing partner informed me that I should post a score of 37 in the computer, not 40, as I should not take a double par 10 on a par 5. He said that based on my handicap, which is 4, I should only take a maximum of double bogey on a par 5 hole. Could you shed some light on this because this is now becoming an issue.

Also, our league rule allows you to post a maximum of double par per hole. So which one should I follow then.

Thanks and regards,

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Please read Ask Linda #197–Reason for ESC, which I posted on April 26. That column explains why you are not permitted to post unusually high scores on individual holes.

Your partner was correct. Players whose handicap is under 10 may not post higher than a double bogey for any given hole. Your score of 10 on a par 5 hole must be reduced to 7 before you total and post your score.

Your league is not permitted to make up its own rules about posting scores; it is obligated to follow the procedures established by the USGA as spelled out in a manual entitled The USGA Handicap System. Your Handicap Committee should have a copy of that manual and should advise players regarding the rules about posting scores.

According to the USGA, players may not post scores higher than they are entitled to under ESC (Equitable Stroke Control), which is based on a player’s Course Handicap®. Neither may a player be limited to posting a 6 on a par 3, for example, if his handicap permits him to post a higher score.

Players whose Course Handicap (C.H.) is 9 or less may post no higher than a double bogey on any given hole. For a C.H. between 10 and 19, the maximum number is 7; between 20 and 29, the max is 8; between 30 and 39, the max is 9; and for 40 or more, the max is 10. This policy is written in Section 4-3 of The USGA Handicap System. It might be helpful to post an ESC chart next to the computer where players post their scores.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ask Linda #206-What disqualification means

Dear Linda,

We had a player not sign her card. We know it is disqualification but what is the meaning of disqualification?

They are disqualified from winning the day, but are they still eligible for eclectic? It was also a stroke round – does it count for our honour board?

Can't find anything that actually stipulates rulings on disqualification.

Thanks, Lulu

Dear Lulu,

For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with the term “eclectic,” it refers to a tournament of several rounds where a player’s lowest score on each hole is counted. Another term for this type of tournament is “ringers.” The player would not be disqualified from the entire eclectic tournament; only her scores from the round in which she was disqualified would not count.

The answer to the question of whether a player is obligated to post a score when she has been disqualified under Rule 6-6b for not signing a scorecard is “yes.” Such a score is acceptable for handicap purposes, and should be posted. This information can be found in Section 5-1e of The USGA Handicap System.

I am not familiar with the term “honour board.” However, generally speaking, disqualification means just that. The player is obligated to post her score, but she is not eligible for any tournament recognition.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ask Linda #205 –Is the ball in the hazard?

Hello Linda,

Lou Lou from Atlanta here.

May I vent? Well, I'm going to anyway. What I say may be heresy but here goes.

I think that the new "virtually certain" clause as it specifically applies to 26-1, Relief for Ball in Water Hazard, is a gross waste of time and only serves to slow down the game. Here is an example:

While playing in a tournament, my cart-mate hooked a ball toward a very large water hazard (you cannot see the boundary of the hazard from the tee box because it is well below the edge of the fairway). As we approached the hazard, he said that he hopes he finds it outside of the hazard because if he does not, under the new "virtually certain" rule, he must go back and hit another ball. In this circumstance, we both saw the ball soaring toward the water and heading downward. However we could not actually see the ball enter the hazard. Unfortunately, we could not find the ball. Believe me, without going into a lot of detail on the topography of this hole, if we could not find that ball outside of the hazard, it was wet. He then proceeded back to the tee box, and hit another ball. I stayed back to watch this one which, fortunately, landed safely.

When they implemented the "virtually certain" clause, they took "common sense" out of this rule and added time. I know this is only one anecdotal example, but anything that adds time to the game is not good.

Thanks for the vent. I feel better now!

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

I’m not going to argue the merits of the rules, Lou. However, you may be surprised to learn that your cart-mate was probably entitled to conclude that his ball was in the water hazard.

The stipulation that it must be “known or virtually certain” does not require that you see the ball enter the hazard. If a ball is heading towards a water hazard, and the ground adjacent to the water hazard is fairway, for example, then a player would be permitted to assume his ball is in the water if he doesn’t find it. A ball lying on a fairway would be easy to find; if it’s not there, then it is reasonable to be certain that it is “wet.”

However, if the area adjacent to the hazard is covered with dense undergrowth, then it would not be fair to assume that a ball that is not found is in the water. In that case, the player would have to treat it as a lost ball.

From your description of the incident and your reference to the topography, I’m guessing that it would be easy to find the ball if it were on dry land. If that is the case, and the ball is not found, then it would be permissible to conclude that the ball is in the hazard.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ask Linda #204-Pressing down a ball marker

Dear Linda,

Is it permissible to 'tamp down' your ball marker after you have marked the position of your ball on the green?

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Yes. In fact, your opponent would also be permitted to press down your marker [Decision 20-1/6.5].

Should you press it down with your putter and find, after you walk away, that the marker stuck to the bottom of your putter, you incur no penalty and must replace your marker. This is because pressing down your marker right after you mark and lift the ball is considered to be part of the process of marking your ball [Decision 20-1/6].


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ask Linda #203-Water hazard confusion

Hi Linda….On the attached diagram …the ball is struck from A and bounces off the tree and enters water hazard at B….X is within 2 club lengths from the point of entry and is no nearer the hole…..Is it OK to take a drop at X….with the appropriate penalty……..Thanking you……..Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Since I am unable to import your diagram into the blog, I am going to describe the situation for my readers.

The ball is hit over a yellow-staked water hazard. It hits a tree on the far side, and ricochets into the hazard. Lou wants to know whether he can take relief on the green side of the hazard, since there exists a spot within two club-lengths that is no closer to the hole.

The answer, Lou, is an unequivocal “no.” You need to ask yourself: Where is the ball? The answer is that it is in the water hazard. You must proceed under one of the relief options under the water hazard rule [26-1]. If you choose the line-of-sight option, remember that your reference point is where the ball LAST crossed the margin of the hazard. In this case, it last crossed at a point on the far side of the hazard. Look at the hole, draw a line through that point, continue that line straight across the hazard and drop somewhere along an extension of that line.

REMEMBER: If your ball is in a water hazard (yellow stakes), and you are taking relief, your next shot will have to be hit OVER the water. The only time you may not have to hit over the water when taking relief is if your ball is in a lateral hazard (red stakes).

Readers, this particular question comes up frequently. There are golfers who mistakenly believe that since their ball hit on the other side of the hazard before it rolled or ricocheted back in, they are therefore entitled to hit from the green side of the hazard. Once again, this is not the case. The Rules of Golf explain how to proceed from where your ball has come to rest–they care not for how it arrived there.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ask Linda #202-Relief procedures on putting green

Hi Linda,

I was the marker for a player whose ball was on the green. She indicated that she was taking relief as there was a metal plate on her line of putt. She intended to move her ball to the left.

She then proceeded to measure a hand span with her right hand, the ball resting in front of her little finger and her thumb marking the intended spot to replace her ball.

She then raised all of her hand except the thumb, then picked up the ball with her left hand and placed it in front of her thumb.

I questioned her method and the fact that the ball was lifted without a marker being in place.

What would the ruling be and would there be any penalty?


Dear Lulu,

The player did nothing wrong, and therefore did not incur any penalty whatsoever.

Rule 24-2b(iii) states that if a player’s ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction (the metal plate you described) intervenes on her line of putt, then “the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief [NPR] that is not in a hazard.” Note that the NPR must be no closer to the hole, and that it might very well be off the green.

The rule does not require the player to mark the ball before moving it. That being said, the recommended procedure for a careful player would be as follows:

(1) Mark the position of the ball.

(2) Find the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole, where the immovable obstruction (or ground under repair) would not interfere with the line on which the player plans to putt her ball.

(3) Place a marker at the new spot.

(4) Verify with another golfer that the spot is correct.

(5) Pick up the ball and place it in front of the marker.

The “pinky to thumb” measuring procedure that the player used is acceptable, even though a bit unconventional. As long as the spot to which she moved her ball is the nearest spot that will provide complete relief from the metal place and is no closer to the hole, then she has met the requirements of the Rule and has incurred no penalty.

Players who use no marking procedure and simply lift the ball and place it elsewhere have proceeded correctly, as long as the spot they choose is the

nearest one that gives them complete relief and is no closer to the hole. This is fine for casual play, but I would recommend the marking method described above for tournament play.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ask Linda #201-Ball hits rake placed in bunker

Dear Linda,

I placed a rake in the bunker. I then hit my shot, it bounced back and hit the rake. This was match play. What is the penalty?


Dear Lulu,

There is no penalty for hitting the rake. There is never a penalty for a ball hitting an obstruction. The fact that you had placed the rake in the bunker is irrelevant. The only situation I can imagine where you would be penalized for your ball hitting a rake would be if you hit your ball, see it roll towards the rake, and run forward to pick up the rake before your ball has the chance to hit it. In that unlikely situation, the player would be penalized for moving an object that might influence the movement of the ball [Rule 24-1].

Think about this: If players were penalized for a ball hitting a rake they had placed in a bunker, players would hesitate to bring a rake into the bunker with them and pace of play would suffer.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ask Linda #200-Relief from aerated fairways

Dear Linda,

Greetings from cool and rainy Ireland! And thank you for a really informative website.

Our Ladies Club had their yearly outing at a local golf club. When we arrived, we were advised that their 14th and 15th fairways had been hollow cored and were under repair. We were advised that we were to tee up for all shots that landed on the fairway, within one club length. Our handicap committee questioned whether this would disallow the competition from being qualifying, as not only were we allowed the advantage of the tee, we were also allowed the advantage of one club length (no closer to the hole). This allowed all golfers to drive down the fairway with their drivers. We could not find any ruling that specifically covered this. Can you advise the proper ruling for this?

Thank you.


Dear Lulu,

For those of you who may be unaware, when a fairway is “hollow-cored” it has been aerated and good-sized plugs of dirt have been pulled out of the ground and are lying everywhere. A shot that lands in such an area will not roll forward, and a golfer has to sweep plugs out of the way to get a stance and a swing.

There are several relief possibilities, Lulu, none of which involved teeing your ball up in the fairway.

1. Technically, dirt plugs are loose impediments. Golfers are entitled to brush them away. Since conditions are the same for all players, your best choice is to proceed under the rules and remind players that they may move the plugs out of their way.

2. If conditions are so poor that a player could not find a reasonable stance, the Committee may declare such areas as Ground Under Repair. Players would then be entitled to a free drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole. That point may not be in a hazard or on a putting green, but it could certainly be off the fairway.

3. If conditions are not conducive to play at all, the Committee could eliminate the affected holes from the competition. The stipulated round, in your case, would consist of 16 holes. Any decision to shorten the round must be made prior to the start of the competition.

A Committee does not have the right to make a Local Rule that waives the Rules of Golf. The Rules do not permit players to tee the ball up other than when they are putting the ball in play from the teeing ground. Your Committee erred in allowing players to tee the ball up in the fairway, and also in allowing players to move one club-length away, since one club-length would not necessarily lead a player to complete relief.

My best advice, since the round was already played, would be to subtract the score of each player for the two holes that were hollow-cored, since those holes were not played under the Rules of Golf. You must then enter a score of par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to receive on those two holes, add that total to the other 16 holes, and then post that score [Section 4-2, The USGA Handicap System].


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.