Monday, February 9, 2015

Ask Linda #994-Order of play when both balls lie in a water hazard

Dear Linda,

Thanks for your continued explanations.

In a recent match play, both of our balls went into a water hazard and we decided that the first one in the water (who was the furthest away from the green when the last shot was played) should have priority. Having looked at the Decisions book afterwards it only seems to mention a lateral water hazard and refers to the positions of the balls in the water. It also mentions if both balls are lost in the hazard you should decide by lot. This begs further questions: What happens if you can see the balls in the water but cannot identify them and what if only one ball is lost?

As you earn priority [honor] by winning the previous hole, and it is sometimes to your advantage to have priority, if you both went back to play from where the ball previously laid, would you still have priority? Should the only way to decide priority be by lot and is this in accordance with Rule 1 - Equity?

Lou from France 

P.S. I forgot to mention that the rules regarding water hazard refer to where the ball last passed the margin of the water hazard not to the position of the ball in the hazard.

Dear Lou,

Order of play is not nearly as complicated as you have made it out to be, Lou. The basic premise of the Rule [10-1] is that the ball farther from the hole is the ball that is played first. When you cannot determine which ball is farther, flip a coin.

So when two balls lies in a water hazard (regular or lateral), and you can see both of them, the player whose ball lies farther from the hole will play first. When neither ball can be seen, you have to flip a coin. When you can see only one ball, you have to flip a coin. (Where each ball last crossed the margin of the hazard is not relevant to this Rule.) Remember that when you cannot determine which ball is farther from the hole, the ball to be played first is decided by lot (Rulebook parlance for “flip a coin”).

Which relief option each player chooses for his ball in the hazard does not determine honor. In the event that one player, for example, decides to take relief within two club-lengths of the margin of a lateral hazard, and his opponent opts to return to where he hit his previous shot, the order of play is still determined by (1) which ball was farther from the hole in the hazard, or (2) the flip of a coin if distance cannot be determined. If the player who won the flip is the one who chooses the two-club-length relief, he will hit before the player who elects to return to where he hit his previous shot. If both players decide to return to the tee, the answer is still the same – the player who owns the ball that was farther from the hole after both players hit their first tee shot (whether known or determined by lot) will hit first from the tee the second time around.

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