Friday, September 30, 2011

Ask Linda #355-More water hazard confusion

Linda, we have a par 3 with a significant water hazard that includes a large hill and trees which define the back side. A ball was hit into the deep tree portion of the hazard. It was seen to fly directly where no one thought there was any chance for the ball to exit the hazard but no ball was found given the density of the trees at the water. It was the player’s opinion to be virtually known to be lost inside the hazard.

In fact the ball had actually ricocheted out ending up outside the hazard behind and over the hill but there was no way for anyone to see this happen. The player took a drop and played 3 to the green under 26-1. Afterwards when walking around the hazard to the green the player found his original ball out of the hazard. Given his assertion from the evidence that the ball was virtually known to be in the hazard, the player continued to play, laying 3 on the green. Should the player been required to play stroke and distance instead of 26-1 options, therefore laying 5, which would have included a 2-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place?

Dear Lou,

I gather from your account that the player and his fellow competitors were all certain that the ball was in the hazard. When the whole group is virtually certain that a ball is in the hazard, the player is entitled to proceed under any of the relief options outlined in Rule 26-1 (Relief for Ball in Water Hazard). As soon as the player drops another ball, that ball is in play. Regardless of whether the original is later found outside the hazard, the player must continue play with the dropped ball. There is no penalty for playing from a wrong place; the ball on the green is lying 3 [Decision 26-1/3.5].

The ruling would be different if the player dropped and played a ball behind the hazard under Rule 26-1b when it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the hazard. In that case, the player’s ball is “lost” and he must play another under penalty of one stroke from the tee, which is where he hit his original ball [Rule 27-1, Stroke and Distance]. He incurs a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place [Rule 20-7c], and a stroke and distance penalty for the lost ball. His total penalty would be three strokes.

Additionally, if this player gained a significant advantage by playing from the wrong place, then he would be disqualified if he did not correct the error. What this means is that if the water hazard is near the teeing ground, and the drop behind the hazard is fairly close to the teeing ground, then there is no disqualification; if the hazard is near the green, then a drop behind the hazard will give the player a significant advantage and he will have to return to the tee to hit another ball to avoid the disqualification penalty.

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