Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ask Linda #304–Stakes defining hazards and OB

Dear Linda,

I would appreciate your comments on the definitions of Lateral Water Hazard (LWH) and Out of Bounds (OB), as per the rules of golf, which states:
(a) Lateral Water Hazard (LWH)
When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level.
(b) Out of Bounds
When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the stakes or fence posts (excluding angled supports).

While I understand the meaning of what are outside points or inside points, I feel the definition statements are not explicit enough to avoid ambiguity. For example, if I am standing in a LWH next to a few LWH stakes, the nearest outside points with respect to where I am standing would be the boundary between the fairway/rough and the LWH. But, if I am standing just outside the same LWH, the boundary between the fairway/rough and the LWH would be the nearest inside points with respect to where I am standing. The same applies to OB.

It is my understanding that the definition of LWH is with respect to the LWH or WH concerned while the definition of OB is with respect to through the green. I feel the definition statements should specify the nearest outside or inside points with respect to the WH or through the green respectively. Then, it would be more explicit. Otherwise, one may argue which is the correct boundary for WH or OB. Your thoughts and comments please.

Thank you and best regards,
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

I don’t agree that the definitions are ambiguous. I will concede, however, that reading and understanding the rules as written is not a task for the faint of heart.

Rather than argue semantics, I will attempt to clarify the meaning of the two definitions.

Stakes in Water Hazards
The definition of Water Hazards (and Lateral Water Hazards) states that when stakes define the margin of the hazards, the stakes are considered to be in the hazard. The side of the stake that is facing away from the hazard is the side that determines the boundary of the hazard.

Out-of-Bounds Stakes
When stakes are used to define out of bounds, the boundary line is determined by the side of the stake facing the golf course. If you were to tie an imaginary string from one out-of-bounds stake to another, you would rap it around the two stakes so that the string lies on the side toward the golf course. Every area on the golf course side of the string is in bounds. A ball is not out of bounds unless the entire ball lies out of bounds. If any part of the ball is touching your imaginary string, the ball is in bounds and you may play it.

While we’re on the topic of stakes, I would like to remind everyone that out-of-bounds stakes are “fixed.” This means that if the stake interferes with your stance or swing, there is no free relief. If you cannot hit a ball lying near an out-of-bounds stake, you must declare it unplayable and proceed under one of the relief options in Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable). Never attempt to remove these stakes – it is not permitted.

Stakes defining or identifying water hazards, on the other hand, are defined as “obstructions.” If they are movable, you may remove them, regardless of where your ball lies. If they are immovable, then you are entitled to free relief for your stance and swing if your ball is not in the hazard. There is no relief from an immovable obstruction for a ball that lies in a water hazard.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.