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.


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