Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Ask Linda #1050-Relief from sprinkler head
In a recent match play tournament an opponent's ball landed near a sprinkler head two feet from the putting surface of the green.
The sprinkler head was on the fringe of the green but the grass around the sprinkler head, where the ball was sitting, had not been cut as short as the fringe grass. If the sprinkler head were a clock and 12 o'clock was toward the flagstick, the ball was sitting at the 3 o'clock position. A practice stroke on the inside of the ball would not have been possible because his club would have hit the sprinkler head; but clearly, the ball could have been chipped from the grass. The sprinkler head was not between his ball and the putting surface. Putting the ball was not practical in that there was grass behind the ball.
I was not sure, so I agreed to go along with the other three players and that he could take relief from chipping the ball and drop his ball on the fringe area and that after taking relief he could then switch to a putter.
What is the proper ruling here? Perhaps the question is who gets to determine what is free relief from an immovable object?
(In this case it did not affect the outcome of the game.)
Lou from Collierville, Tennessee
A player is only entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction (IO) if the IO interferes with his stance or swing, or the ball lies on the obstruction [Rule 24a]. Your narrative suggests that there was no interference. As such, the player should not have been granted relief.
Once it is established that there is no interference, anyone who knows the Rule may explain to the player why he is not entitled to relief. In stroke play, if the player is unsure of his rights, he may play two balls under Rule 3-3 and settle the matter with a Committee member.
In match play, if the opponents have agreed on the procedure, it will stand even if it is incorrect. If the player disagrees, and decides to take relief, his opponent can immediately file a claim [Rule 2-5].
There is a Local Rule that may be adopted for relief from immovable obstructions (such as sprinkler heads) on the fringe [Appendix I, Part B, #6]. However, had that Rule been in effect, this player would still not have been entitled to relief. Local Rule #6 requires that the obstruction intervene on the line of play to the hole, which was not the case in your narrative.
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