Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ask Linda #1045-NPR in unplayable area

Your stance is impacted or the ball is impacted by a cart path. The ball is on the right side of the path (but the available space on the right of the path isn’t wide enough to accommodate the ball and your stance), and the hole is on the left side of the path. Would taking relief on the left side of the path be considered “closer to the hole” and, therefore, a penalty? Or is it OK to drop on the left side as long as it is the same distance to the hole as the original spot?
Lulu from New Jersey

My response to Lulu:
Lulu, why is there not enough space on the right side to accommodate the player's stance and ball? For example, is there a tree in the way, dense bushes, an out-of-bounds wall?

Lulu’s answer:
Dense bushes, trees… I see it quite often on the public courses I play, and ran into the situation yesterday that I could not hit towards the green because there wasn’t enough space. The only thing I could do was turn sideways and punch into the fairway. I was working under the assumption that your lie when you drop should be similar to what it would be if the cart path was not there, not dropping and hitting out of knee-high brush.

Dear Lulu,

Your assumption that the lie where you drop should be similar to the lie you would have had if the cart path magically disappeared is wishful thinking. The Rules of Golf provide no guarantee of a similar lie. Nearest point of relief means precisely that – the point that is nearest to where your ball lies where you will get complete relief from the obstruction. If that point happens to be in knee-high brush, that is where you will drop your ball if you choose to take relief. 

There is no option to drop on the other side of the cart path unless the NPR’s on both sides of the path are the same distance from your ball (not likely in the situation you describe). Most of the time you have no choice in the matter of where to drop. The NPR may at times allow you to improve your situation, moving from the rough onto the fairway. You have to accept the bad along with the good [Decision 25-1b/2].

I constantly caution readers to assess their relief options before proceeding. The place where you will have to drop may put you in a worse predicament than the one you are already in. If I were facing your particular problem, I would more than likely choose to hit the ball as it lies on the cart path. A more reasonable option might be to deem the ball unplayable, accept the one-stroke penalty, and choose one of the options for relief in Rule 28.

Make your decision before you lift your ball. Should you lift it and later decide you want to replace it on the cart path, you will incur a one-stroke penalty for lifting your ball in play.

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