Monday, August 16, 2010

Ask Linda #230-Relief problems


Here a couple of rules violations that I noticed during our local club championship. I will not say which club to protect the guilty.

First, when determining if a cart path was in the golfer’s stance the one caddie suggested that a golfer can “say” he would be hitting a punch shot from that spot which would then place the golfer’s foot onto the cart path. However, clearly from that position the golfer would have to be hitting a high shot in order to get over bunkers that are next to the green. Is this allowed?

Second, when taking a drop from a hazard the drop was onto a cart path. The golfer then took two club-lengths from the cart path. I think this was not correct. Would this disqualify him from competition or what is the penalty?

Thanks for your help with the rules!

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Your first question is a tough one, as it hinges on the honesty of the golfer. Since most golf is played without the supervision of a referee, it is every golfer’s responsibility to abide by the rules.

In determining whether a player is entitled to relief for his stance from an immovable obstruction such as a paved cart path, the player should take his normal stance for the shot he is planning to try with the club he expects to use. The player is not permitted to take an abnormal stance in an effort to gain relief to which he is not entitled. The Exception to Rule 24-2b states that a player is not permitted to take relief if “interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.” The penalty for a breach of Rule 24 is two strokes in stroke play (loss of hole in match play). Here are two Decisions you might want to read: 24-2b/1 (explains which club to use in determining the nearest point of relief); 24-2b/18 (explains that a player may not simulate an abnormal stroke to find relief if it is not justified).

Your narrative would seem to indicate that the player’s caddie was encouraging him to cheat. If this player were my fellow competitor, I would ask what type of shot he planned to try to get over the bunkers, and what was his normal stance for that shot. These two questions should be sufficient to encourage honest play. If he insists that his normal stroke would be a punch shot, and that his normal stance for that shot would place his feet on the cart path, then you might try to get a ruling from an official or bring up the matter with the Committee before you sign his scorecard. You probably have a legitimate complaint if (1) the caddie clearly suggested that the player circumvent the rules, and (2) the player dropped the ball and proceeded to hit a high shot to clear the bunker.

If the player waits for a ruling from the Committee before he signs his scorecard, and it rules that he was not entitled to take relief, two strokes would be added to his score for the hole and he could then sign a correct scorecard. If the player signs his scorecard without adding the two-stroke penalty, and the Committee subsequently rules he was not entitled to the drop, then the player would be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Clearly, you should be up front with the player regarding your intention to discuss this issue with the Committee, and he should await a ruling before signing his card.

Now let’s take a look at your second question. In taking relief from a cart path, a player is entitled to complete relief for his stance and swing plus one club-length. In determining the relief for his stance and swing, he must use the club that he would ordinarily use to hit the shot if the cart path weren’t there. He may then use any club in his bag (including a driver or a long putter) to measure the one club-length of relief.

The player in your narrative measured two club-lengths from the cart path. Technically, this is incorrect. However, if it turns out that the player dropped the ball in an area that would satisfy the requirements of the rule, then it is a good drop. So, if he measured the two club-lengths with his driver, and then dropped the ball nearer to where the first club-length was measured, then he probably dropped in a permissible spot. But if he dropped all the way at the end of the second club-length, he would most likely have dropped in a wrong spot and would be penalized two strokes for playing from a wrong place [Decision 24-2b/2]. The player would be disqualified from the tournament only if he did not add the two strokes to his score prior to signing his scorecard.

Advice to everyone:

1. When you are playing in a tournament, and you find yourself in a situation where you have to lift your ball and drop or place it elsewhere, I would recommend that you explain and discuss your proposed procedure with at least one of your fellow competitors. If there is disagreement on how to proceed, then the cautious player will play two balls under Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure) and let the Committee sort out which ball to count at the end of the round.

2. When you witness a fellow competitor following what you believe to be an incorrect procedure, share your opinion with him. This will give him the option to correct his mistake if he realizes he is wrong, or play two balls if he is uncertain. By speaking up, you may save him from a two-stroke penalty and possible disqualification.


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