Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ask Linda #212-Line-of-sight relief

Linda, I had a disagreement with 2 veteran golfers that insisted that ‘line of sight relief’ was warranted because of an irrigation box that was between the green and the ball. They also believe that they are entitled to ‘line of sight relief’ for interior fences. I have been unable to find anything that will help to dispel the myth regarding line of sight relief.

Do you have anything that I could forward to them?

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Lucky for you, there just happens to be a Decision that deals with this exact situation. Decision 33-8/17* asks whether a Committee is allowed to adopt a Local Rule to provide for line-of-sight relief for irrigation-control boxes. The answer given by the USGA is “no.” A Local Rule to provide line-of-sight relief from permanent immovable obstructions is only permitted in “very unusual circumstances.” Since it is not unusual to find irrigation-control boxes on golf courses, there can be no free relief from them. The same would hold true for water coolers, interior fences, and other permanent objects that are normally found on a golf course.

An irrigation-control box would be categorized as an immovable obstruction. Rule 24-2a explains that “intervention on the line of play is not…interference under this Rule.” “Line of play” means the same as “line of sight.” So the Rules of Golf actually specify that a player is not entitled to line-of-sight relief from an immovable obstruction.

If the box interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, his relief is a free drop within one club-length and no closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief. “Nearest point of relief” means precisely that–the player must find the spot nearest to where his ball lies where there will be no interference from the box when he takes his stance and swings his club. If that spot happens to also give him line-of-sight relief, then he’s a lucky fellow. And if there are two points of relief that are equidistant from where his ball lies, he may choose the more advantageous spot to drop his ball. However, the Rules do not permit a player to search for a spot that provides line-of-sight relief.

I suspect that golfers become confused about this issue because they see officials giving players line-of-sight relief when they watch golf tournaments. The Rules of Golf provide for line-of-sight relief from a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO). Some examples would be tents, scoreboards, grandstands, and televisions towers. Since such obstructions are not normally found on a golf course, Committees are authorized to establish a Local Rule to provide relief. That Local Rule can be found in Appendix I, Part B, #7.

Lou, Rule 24-2a specifies that there is no relief for intervention on the line of play, and Decision 33-8/17 explains that there can be no free relief from irrigation-control boxes. I hope this is enough ammunition to help your veteran golfer friends understand that they are not entitled to line-of-sight relief from common immovable obstructions.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

*33-8/17 Local Rule Providing Line-of-Sight Relief from Irrigation-Control Boxes

Q. Irrigation-control boxes, which are about two feet wide and four feet high, have been installed near a number of fairways. Would it be appropriate for a Committee to adopt a Local Rule under which relief would be provided from such boxes when they intervene on the line of play, i.e., line-of-sight relief?

A. No. Providing line-of-sight relief from permanent immovable obstructions is not authorized, except in very unusual circumstances. It is not unusual for irrigation-control boxes to be located near fairways.

United States Golf Association and R&A Rules Limited, Decisions on The Rules of Golf, 2008-2009 (© 2007), 474.