Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ask Linda #277-Ball trapped by rake


This one has been driving the boys crazy. We play at a course where rakes are both left in and out of the traps on a daily basis. We all agree our dilemma comes down to rules interpretation, but with that said… well…here we go. A trap wall is at about a 35 degree angle, the land above the wall is at the same steep angle. A rake lies completely in or half in said trap. If completely in the trap…the rake lies east to west. If half in…the rake lies north to south. A player’s shot/ball comes to rest and is being pinched by said rake at the highest point of the trap wall. Without the rake being present the ball would roll down the trap wall but remain in the bunker. We all agree the rake is an artificial moveable object [obstruction]. What we can't agree upon is whether the ball is "in or on" the moveable object. Because the rules take the time to talk about moveable objects and differentiate between just being able to move an object out of the way without moving the ball, many of us think that if the rake’s prongs (north to south) or handle (east to west) is holding the ball in place (90% of the ball’s weight is on the rake), the ball is in fact "in or on" the rake. Thus a drop is allowed at the point where the ball was picked up and then the resulting drop rules apply. If the artificial object can't be removed without affecting the lie of the ball, doesn't one have to come to the conclusion that the ball is again "in or on" the moveable object?  

Others believe the ball, in this instance, isn't "in or on" the rake, but up against it. That even if the object is holding the weight of the ball, the ball would have to be balancing on the rake, completely, in order for it to be considered "in or on" the rake. They further believe the ball is then to be placed in the exact spot it was removed from, even if this means digging a hole at the apex of the wall of the trap (that wasn't there to begin with) and indenting the ball into the sand so it doesn't roll down the wall of the trap again and again. Some then believe that if this step is taken one might or might not be improving his or her lie in the trap by making a perfect little indentation in the sand to hold the ball.

Your thoughts and/or exact way rules apply would be appreciated.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou,

Assuming the ball is touching some sand, it is not “in or on” the rake; it is leaning against it. It is not possible for a ball to be “in” a rake (“in” would apply to such obstructions as open trash receptacles); it is unlikely that a ball would be sitting on top of a rake, not touching the sand. Here is the proper relief procedure for a ball that is resting against a rake:

1. Mark the spot where the ball lies, and then lift the rake.
2. If the ball moves (and we both know that it will), you must try to replace it.
3. If the ball will not remain in place, you must place it in the hazard at the nearest spot where it will stay put that is no closer to the hole [Rule 20-3d, ii]. You are not permitted to press it into the sand to keep it from rolling away [Decision 20-3d/2].

This is the entire answer to your dilemma. It seems obvious to me that this is a hole where players should be instructed to place the rakes outside the bunker. A simple way to get this message across is to tape a “Please place rakes outside the bunker” notice on the handles of the rakes.

Here are two similar situations and their corresponding relief procedures:

1. Suppose that the ball is caught behind a rake in the very back of a bunker where it slopes down. When the rake is lifted, the ball rolls forward. The slope is so severe and the sand is so firm that the ball rolls closer to the hole when it is replaced. There is no spot behind where the ball lay where it will remain at rest. In this situation, the only choices would be to hit the ball from where you hit your previous shot or drop it outside the bunker on the line-of-sight to the hole. Either choice will add a one-stroke penalty to your score, since you are taking the ball out of the bunker. This seemingly unfair but inescapable penalty could be avoided if players were instructed to place rakes outside bunkers.

2. Suppose that the wall of the bunker is not part of the bunker. Sometimes bunker walls are covered in grass or consist of stacked turf. A bunker wall that is not covered by sand (or a similar added material) is not in the bunker [Definition of Bunker].
Let’s revisit the situation you described, only this time the ball will be stopped by a rake that is lying on a grass-covered wall surrounding the hazard. After you mark the ball and lift the rake, the ball rolls away. When you attempt to replace it (remember, you are not permitted to push it down into the ground to try to keep it from rolling), it rolls again. Since you are not in a bunker, you are now required to place the ball on the nearest spot where it will remain at rest that is not in the bunker and no closer to the hole. Note that this new spot may significantly improve your lie, as the nearest relief may turn out to be on level ground alongside or behind the bunker.

Sometimes relief procedures will give you grief (Situation #1), and sometimes they will bring you joy (Situation #2). Such is golf.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.