Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ask Linda #1224-Ball deflected by clubs

Good morning Linda.
I have a situation that occurred this afternoon and I hope you can provide some clarification. It is like this. My 3rd shot on a par 5 ended in a green side bunker. It is quite a steep one. On approaching the green, I brought along my putter, pitching wedge and sand wedge. I went into the bunker and placed the pitching wedge and the putter off my line of play on the slope of the bunker before making the bunker shot. It was a bad lie. Ball was in a footprint. But I was quite certain I could get it up at least to the apron. It did not make it. The ball landed just off the apron and started trickling back into the bunker, but due to its contour, it rolled toward the left where my two clubs were. The ball grazed the edge of my putter, deflected by less than a centimeter, and continued its journey back into the bunker. At that point, I told my opponent that I have just incurred a penalty stroke. I anyway had a better lie after that, played the ball 6 feet from the pin, holed out with one putt. On completion of that hole, I told my opponent that I made a mistake when I penalized myself and that I actually did not incur a penalty stroke, considering the fact that my ball was not stopped by my clubs. It was already on its way into the bunker. But back home, I thought otherwise. My club had actually influenced the path of the ball and I lost the hole. Please let me know if this is correct.

I have been debating with myself on this incident because I am still not certain if I should or should not be penalized. Everyone within my group insist that there is a one-stroke penalty. I re-checked the rules and it says the same. But I was the nearest person to my clubs and I could have rushed toward my clubs to remove them from the path of my ball, but by so doing I am actually influencing the movement of my ball and that action too is subject to a penalty. It's like being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Please let me know what the ruling is under the given circumstances.

I have another question that is closely related to this situation. As you would know, some golfers will ask their caddies to wait somewhere in the fairway when they tee off. Now assuming that a particular golfer slices his shot and the ball heads for his own caddie, the caddie will naturally take the necessary action to duck the ball. If he fails to get out of the way, that particular player will incur a penalty of one stroke.

But if the ball appears to be heading towards that particular golfer's bag, will the removal of the bag by his caddie to avoid contact with the ball constitute a violation of the rule that is subject to a two-stroke penalty/loss of hole played in match play?

Hope you could clear my doubt on all these matters and thank you once again for all the help you have rendered.

Best regards,
Lou from Johore, Malaysia

Dear Lou,

To summarize, you want to know whether there is a penalty when your ball in motion contacts your clubs, whether you could have removed those clubs before the ball hit them, and whether a caddie could move your bag out of the path of an errant shot.

Rule 19-2 addresses the situation of a ball in motion contacting your clubs: “If a player’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by…his equipment, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.” After your ball rolls back into the bunker and is deflected by your clubs, you must play the ball as it lies and add one penalty stroke to your score.

Now let’s look into the possibility of moving your clubs out of the path of your ball. When your ball is in motion, you are not permitted to move an obstruction that lies in its path. However, equipment (such as golf clubs) is exempted from this prohibition in the last paragraph of Rule 24-1. (An attended flagstick is also included in this exemption.) Thus, when your ball is in motion, you are permitted to move clubs that lie in its path. If you had removed the clubs before the ball got there, you would not have incurred a penalty.

This same ruling applies to your caddie. While the ball is in motion, he is permitted to move your bag out of the way of your shot.

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