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.


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