Monday, August 23, 2010

Ask Linda #232-Drop areas and lateral hazards

Hi Linda,

Thanks very much for the service you provide.
Your response to question#195 for a previous ball that lands in a yellow-staked water hazard and is deemed unplayable is as follows:

“The only relief options for a ball hit into a water hazard are to return to where you hit your original ball and hit another, or drop a ball behind the hazard on the line-of-sight to the hole [Rule 26-1a, b]. Both relief options require that you add a one-stroke penalty to your score. A player is never allowed a free lift over a hazard.”

My first question is: Is it permissible to use a designated drop area that is closer to the hole from where the ball entered the hazard or does the player have to proceed with the usual options?

Second, is the "drop area" required or optional? For example, if a ball entered the hazard much closer to the green, could the player proceed from that point - but still behind the hazard - rather than go to the designated drop area? Is "required" vs "optional" subject to local rule discretion?

Finally, suppose a red-staked hazard surrounds the green to the left, the front, and to the right with only a 3 to 8 foot margin of rough or fringe. Also suppose the hazard on the right is only a "finger" and is only 10 yards wide. Since it is a lateral hazard, could the player drop on the other side of the finger (i.e. over the finger and in the rough, the fringe or on the green) as long as that spot is equidistant (is it permissible for it to be further?) to the hole and within 2 club lengths of the hazard? Or is this a situation where the hazard should be a regular (yellow staked) rather than a lateral hazard?

Thanks again for your service and the clarity of your responses.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Question #1:

A Committee may not arbitrarily place a drop area (referred to as a “dropping zone” in the USGA rule book) closer to the hole. However, sometimes the configuration of a lateral hazard is such that there are areas where it is not possible to find a spot to drop your ball within two club-lengths that is not closer to the hole. When that situation exists, the Committee should mark those specific areas, establish one or more drop areas, and write a Local Rule allowing players to use the drop area if their ball enters the hazard in the marked area. If more than one drop area is provided, players should be instructed to use the nearest one [Decision 33-2a/9]. This problem is most commonly encountered when a lateral hazard is at the side of a putting green.

So, if there is a legitimate reason for a drop area to be established closer to the hole, you may use it. Otherwise, you may not.

Question #2:

A Committee may declare a dropping zone to be optional or required. It is recommended by the USGA that they be optional [Appendix I, Part B, 8]. It is better to provide a dropping zone as an additional relief option than to substitute one option for another. If a player’s ball, as you mentioned, entered the hazard in an area closer to the green than the dropping zone, and it is possible to drop a ball correctly under one of the relief options provided in the water hazard rule, it would be unfair to require a player to use a dropping zone that is further from the hole.

Question #3:

Players seeking relief from a lateral hazard have all the relief options for a water hazard available to them in addition to the option to drop within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard no closer to the hole. As such, there is no reason why a player cannot cross the lateral hazard and drop on the other side anywhere on a line that begins at the hole, passes through where the ball crossed into the hazard and extends back to infinity [Rule 26-1b]. If a player chooses the two club-length relief option for a lateral hazard, and would like to use this option to cross the hazard to play his next shot, then the reference point on the opposite bank from which he will drop within two club-lengths must be the same distance from the hole as the spot on the near side where his ball crossed the margin of the hazard [Rule 26-1c].


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