Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask Linda #241-Good drop, bad drop

Hi Linda,

I was wondering if you could help me with the following situation.

A player hits his tee shot into a lateral hazard located to the left of a dogleg par 5. The last point that the ball crossed the margin of the hazard is about 25 yards in front of the tee. The player goes to the last point the ball crossed the margin of the hazard and drops the ball within two club lengths of that spot. After dropping, another player in the group says that there is a drop zone located to the right of the fairway near the tee. Is the player permitted to lift the ball which has already been dropped and then use the drop area?

If the player lifts the ball and plays from the drop area, is there a penalty and how should the player proceed?

Thank you.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

My answer is going to make someone very unhappy, Lou.

When the player dropped a ball within two club-lengths of the lateral hazard the ball was in play. He should have played that ball and filed away the existence of a Dropping Zone in his head for future rounds.

When he picked up the ball that he had properly dropped, he incurred a one-stroke penalty for lifting a ball in play [Rule 18-2a]. Even if he realized he wasn’t permitted to do this, and immediately replaced the ball, he would still incur the penalty.

When the player dropped the ball in the Dropping Zone and played it, he was playing from a wrong place, which is a two-stroke penalty [Rule 20-7]. He has now accumulated three penalty strokes, but it could get worse. If the player tees off on the next hole, and it is determined that he gained a significant advantage by playing from the wrong place (the Dropping Zone), he is disqualified.

If the player was unsure whether he was permitted to use the Dropping Zone, he should have played two balls – the one he dropped next to the hazard, and another from the Dropping Zone. At the end of his round, the score he got with the ball he played from next to the hazard would be ruled the player’s score for the hole. There is no penalty for playing the second ball [Rule 3-3].

The only free way out of this mess would be if the Committee had a requirement that players use the Dropping Zone. This is a fairly rare requirement, since the USGA recommends that Dropping Zones be an additional relief option, rather than mandatory [Appendix I, Part B, 8].


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