Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ask Linda #286-Touching reeds in hazard

Dear Linda,

Can you clarify what is the situation allowable with touching reeds in a water hazard? Recently my ball found its way into a water hazard, but I was able to enter the hazard as the water levels were low. I could see my ball amongst some reeds which were about a foot tall. I felt that I could actually get my club onto the ball but was unsure to what degree my club could touch the reeds as a result of taking my stance and/or on the backswing.

I think there was an incident at the Hilton Head tournament last year which had this situation arise and I wonder if you could clarify this situation in regard to what is and isn't allowable. You may well have dealt with this previously in all likelihood.


Dear Lulu,

I have dealt with a similar problem in a previous column, but a little repetition, when it comes to the Rules of Golf, is rarely harmful.

The golfer is not permitted to touch the ground in a hazard with his hand or a club [Rule 13-4b]. The Note at the end of that rule adds that you may touch anything growing in the hazard when you address the ball or on your backswing. Reeds would qualify as “a growing thing.”

You may also brush the tops of the reeds (or any grasses) while taking practice swings in a hazard. But you must be careful that such swings do not touch the ground, and that you don’t improve your lie. Should that happen, the penalty is two strokes (loss of hole in match play).

When you take your stance amongst the reeds, place your feet naturally. If you maneuver your feet in order to hold down reeds that will be in the way on your swing, you are improving your lie, which would result in that two-stroke/loss of hole penalty.

Don’t confuse reeds or grasses with loose impediments. Reeds are natural, growing things, and you are permitted to touch them during your backswing. However, if you move loose impediments on your backswing (e.g., pine cones, twigs, leaves), you would be penalized for improving your lie.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ask Linda #285–Provisional misunderstanding

Hi Linda,
Could you please clarify a rule for me regarding provisional balls as there was a disagreement this weekend in our friendly competition.

A player hit a ball from the tee that rolled just off the fairway into the rough. Confident it could be found the player went and looked for it.

After a couple of minutes looking for it, the player dropped a ball around the spot where he thought the ball had been lost. He took a one shot penalty and said: “I will play a provisional ball, but I will continue to walk towards the hole and if I find my original ball I will play it.”

He hit the provisional onto the green and then proceeded to walk towards the green along the edge of the rough. After about 10 paces he found his original ball and said: “I have found it, I will play my original ball”. He then played his 2nd shot from there and finished the hole with his original ball.

He then picked up the provisional he had hit when he got to the green and put it in his pocket

So my question is: Is a player able to play his original ball after taking a provisional or should he have taken the penalty for the lost ball and continued to play the provisional ?

I hope this is clear…
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
Sit down, take a deep breath, and pay close attention, Lou, because every procedure you describe in your letter is incorrect.

Your friend was not entitled to drop what he mistakenly called a “provisional ball” in the area where he thought his ball was lost. If he suspected his tee shot might be lost, he would have had to hit a second ball from the tee before going forward to search for his original ball. Once he goes forward to search, he loses the option to hit a provisional ball [Rule 27-2a]. If he has to return to the tee to hit a second ball, that second ball becomes the ball in play under stroke and distance and the original ball, even if found, is officially lost [Rule 27-1a].

When your friend dropped and played another ball, it became the ball in play. Unfortunately, the new ball was now an incorrectly substituted ball played from a wrong place. Ordinarily, the penalty for playing an incorrectly substituted ball would be two strokes [Rule 15-2]. However, since this ball was also played from the wrong place, that rule takes precedence [Rule 20-7c]. The player is not penalized for both violations.

The penalty for hitting from the wrong place is two strokes. That would be the end of the story except for the fact that your friend committed what is known as a “serious breach.” This is because the place where he hit that substituted ball was considerably closer to the hole than the tee box, which is where he was required to hit the substituted ball.

This situation must be corrected. If the player returns to the tee to play a second ball in accordance with the rules before he tees off on the next hole, then he is still in the game – his penalty is two strokes and the score with this second ball is the one that will count. Otherwise, he is disqualified [Rule 27-c].

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rules Clinic

Hi readers–

I will be giving a rules clinic at Bensalem Country Club in Bensalem, Pennsylvania this Thursday, March 24, at 7 p.m. My goal is to give the audience a good understanding of the basics of the rules of golf. I will explain, for example, what to do when your ball is in a water hazard, lost or out of bounds; how to find relief from interference by immovable obstructions such as cart paths; how to play a provisional ball; how to proceed when your ball is unplayable; how and where to correctly drop a ball, etc.

There is no charge to attend the clinic, and it is open to all interested golfers. Please feel free to stop by.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ask Linda #284–Five good questions

1. Is a scorecard required in match play?
2. If I start a round with 15 clubs declaring one of them out of play, is this legal?
3. Can a player take free relief from an out of bounds stake?
4. Can a player take free relief from a water hazard stake?
5. Is Amateur status forfeited if I gamble with a group of friends?

Dear Lou Lou,

These are all excellent questions. I am going to give you a brief answer to each one. If you (or any of my readers) need further clarification, please let me know.

1. You are not required to turn in a scorecard in match play. All that is required is that you and your opponent agree on the result of the match and communicate that result to the official in charge (e.g., “Jack won, 2 up”).

2. A player is not permitted to start a round with 15 clubs and declare the extra club out of play. He will incur a two-stroke penalty for doing so [Decision 4-4c/1].

3. There is no free relief from out-of-bounds stakes. Objects defining out of bounds (walls, fences, stakes, railings, etc.) are not obstructions; they are deemed to be fixed [Definition of Out of Bounds]. If your ball is unplayable, you must choose one of the relief options under Rule 28, all of which carry a one-stroke penalty.

4. Water hazard stakes are obstructions [Definition of Water Hazard]. If your ball does not lie in the water hazard, you are entitled to free relief (see Rule 24-1 for relief from movable obstructions or 24-2 for relief from immovable obstructions). If your ball is in the water hazard, you may not move the ball. If the stake is movable, you may remove it. If it is immovable, you may either play the ball as it lies or use any of the relief options under Rule 26-1, all of which will add a one-stroke penalty to your score.

5. Gambling will not affect your Amateur Status if all the players know each other, the gambling is optional and is limited to just the players, the amount of money is not excessive, and all money won or lost is provided by the actual players. Your primary purpose in playing must be the enjoyment of the game, not how much money you may win [Appendix–Policy on Gambling, Acceptable Forms of Gambling].
    A player may endanger his Amateur Status if he competes in tournaments that (1) require wagering, (2) may involve considerable amounts of money, such as Calcuttas, or (3) permit non-players to make bets [Appendix–Policy on Gambling, Unacceptable Forms of Gambling].

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ask Linda #283–Line-of-sight relief for GUR

We read your opinion of line of sight from an obstruction.
Are you able to get relief if you must hit your shot over or through ground under repair to reach a green?
Lou Lou

Dear Lou,
The rule is the same in both cases, Lou. You are not entitled to relief from ground under repair (GUR) simply because it interferes with your line of play [Rule 25-1a]. If your ball is lying in GUR, you are of course entitled to free relief (drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief that is no closer to the hole). If your ball is not lying in GUR, you must play the ball as it lies.

This is a good time to remind everyone not to lift the ball out of the GUR until you assess your relief options. The nearest point of relief may put you in a worse predicament than the GUR. Of course, it may also occur that your free drop incidentally improves your line of play, in which case feel free to grin at your good luck.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ask Linda #282–Handicap for extra holes

Good afternoon Linda,
Another dilemma....

Player A has a 40 handicap. Player B has a 23 handicap.  Difference: 17 strokes
17 strokes were given to player A. After 18 holes, the match was even.
The two players played additional holes until one would win, but there was no mention of handicaps at that time.
During play of the additional holes no strokes were given to player A, and on the 4th additional hole player B won.
Both players signed the scorecard as is.

1-Was player B obliged to give strokes to player A, as she did on the first 18 holes?
2- If yes, do they have to replay the match or does the fact that the score card was signed mean that the issue is sealed?
Thank you,

Dear Lulu,
When players are competing in a match with full handicap, the player with the lower handicap plays at scratch and the other player receives the difference in the two handicaps. In your situation, the difference was 17 strokes. The player with the higher handicap correctly received a stroke on every hole except the #18 handicap hole.

When a match extends to extra holes to determine a winner, the player with the higher handicap will receive strokes on the same holes she did the first time around. However, it is the player’s responsibility to know this. Since neither player understood that the player with the higher handicap was entitled to her handicap strokes during the play of extra holes, there is no penalty to either one and the match stands. Player B is the winner.

The player with the higher handicap could have filed a claim before teeing off on the second hole of extra play. She would have had to tell her opponent that she was entitled to receive her handicap strokes, and that she wanted a ruling. The matter would have been resolved by the Committee. In all likelihood, Player A would have been declared the winner – she halved the first three holes of sudden death without her handicap strokes. With those strokes, she would have won at least two of those three holes.

This match was over when the players agreed on the result of the match and reported it to the official in charge.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.