Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ask Linda #292-Relief from cart path is in hazard

At my home course there is a cart path that has a creek running adjacent to it on the right. If a tee shot comes to rest on the right half of the cart path, the nearest point of relief normally would put a right-handed golfer’s drop in the hazard (it is possible that a left-handed golfer could take a stance in the hazard if his drop stayed in the small area of grass between the path & hazard line) My question is: Am I correct that the options are: 1. Play the ball from the path. 2. Take a drop from the other side of the creek, (further right), and if so must the ball be dropped first between the path and hazard or can that be eliminated when it is seen that stance & relief will cause that drop to be in the hazard? 3. Is there an option to take relief to the left of the cart path?

Also if the ball lies virtually dead center on the cart path, does the player get to decide which side of the path to take relief or does it take a consensus of the group?

One more question: While it is nice to know as much as possible about the rules and how to apply them in significant competitions (Tournaments), wouldn't it lend itself to faster play and a more enjoyable experience in a friendly weekly game if a group dispensed with all the discussion & actions that this situation entails and simply tell the player to drop left of the path & move on? I myself feel that double digit handicap players (of which my group is comprised) would not score significantly different in doing so and also players of our ability very likely find ourselves in tricky situations far more often in a round than better players.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

If I am reading your question correctly, a player seeking the nearest point of relief for a ball on the cart path will be dropping his ball in the hazard. If that is the case, then I have good news for you. A player is not permitted to drop a ball in a hazard when he is taking relief from an immovable obstruction, such as a cart path [Rule 24-2i].

The nearest point of relief from the cart path must be the point closest to where the ball lies on the cart path that (a) gives the player complete relief for his stance and his swing, (b) is not closer to the hole, and (c) is not in a hazard or on a putting green. You always have the option to play the ball on the cart path. You do not have the option to play the ball from the opposite side of the creek, since that will not be the nearest point of relief.

In your situation, I suspect that the nearest point of relief for all players will be to the left of the cart path, so you can dispense with the time-consuming discussions, drop on the left, enjoy your round with your friends, and still be playing by the rules.

Bear in mind, however, that sometimes the nearest point of relief for a ball lying on a cart path will be in a virtually unplayable lie. Let’s consider the case of a cart path that is running along the left side of a hole. To the left of the path is densely packed fescue; to the right of the path is closely mown grass (fairway). If the nearest point of relief for a ball lying on the path is in the fescue, then that is where the player must drop his ball. He may not choose to drop on the fairway. This is why I always remind players to assess their options before they lift the ball. The player whose nearest point of relief is in the fescue will be better off hitting the ball as it lies on the cart path. However, once he lifts the ball, if he then decides to replace it on the path, rather than drop in the unplayable fescue, he will incur a one-stroke penalty for lifting his ball in play.

Now let’s take a look at your question about a ball lying dead center in the middle of a cart path. This is an easy one. Without even viewing the situation, I can tell you that the nearest point of relief for a right-handed player will be on the left side of the path; the left-handed player will find his nearest relief on the right side. No doubt about it.

In order not to leave any stone unturned, let’s consider the situation of a right-handed player whose ball lies on the cart path closer to the right side of the path than the left. This is a situation where he may have to do some actual measuring. His nearest point of relief on the left side will be fairly close to the path, and his nearest point of relief on the right side will be a full stance away from the path. Since his ball lies nearer the right side of the path, his nearest point of relief may be on the left or the right, or the two spots (left and right) may be equidistant from the ball. If the distance is the same, he may choose one or the other. If the spot on one side is closer, he must drop there.

One more point: In determining the nearest point of relief, the player should use the club he would use to play the shot if there were no interference from the obstruction. In other words, if he would choose a pitching wedge to hit that shot, he should use a pitching wedge to determine where his stance would have to be to find complete relief. Once that spot is determined, he may use any club (usually his longest club) to measure the one-club area in which he will drop the ball.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.