Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ask Linda #1199-Mark private property “lateral hazard”

Dear Linda,
I played in a three day, two-man tournament last weekend, each round of which was at a different course. Friday's round was on a course where the backyards of many homes intrude fairly close to the line of play. All the backyards are marked as lateral hazards, and many homeowners have signs in their yards asking golfers to refrain from playing from the yard. The local rules for the round included the following sentence: “All private yards are played as hazards requiring a mandatory drop under penalty of one shot.” I know that Rule 33-1 says that the Committee can't waive a rule of golf, but is it allowable for them to amend one, as they seem to have done? Or should the course have been setup so as to make the yards out of bounds?
Lou from Panama City Beach, Florida

Dear Lou,

The backyards of private homes are private property. Any area that is beyond the boundaries of the golf course is out of bounds [Definition of “Out of Bounds”] and should be marked as such.

I understand that some golf courses mark problem areas as “lateral hazards” in an effort to speed up play, but I do not approve. The way to speed up play in such situations is to remind players to hit a provisional for any ball they suspect might be lost or out of bounds.

During a tournament, when players should be especially careful to observe the Rules of Golf, it is unacceptable to label private yards off the golf course as “lateral hazards.” There is no Local Rule in Appendix I that permits a Committee to mark a course incorrectly.

The Committee should point out in the Conditions of the Competition that there is private property adjacent to the golf course. Players should be instructed to not enter someone’s yard to retrieve a ball. They should be reminded that all private property is out of bounds, and to follow the provisions of Rule 27 regarding out of bounds and provisional balls.

Copyright © 2015 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Response from reader:

It may be worth pointing out a couple of things
1) The USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating are based on the assumption that players observe and courses are marked under the Rules of Golf. Any local rules must conform with the spirit of the Rules of Golf and USGA policy. 
2) This may have an effect on handicaps. Each time a player drops by the LWH with a penalty, they are reducing their ‘correct’ score by one. ie playing 3 where they now lie rather than 4 where their provisional or second ball finishes.
Of course the player has no option other than to follow the competition rules.

Lou from England