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?
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].
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