Monday, September 19, 2016
Ask Linda #1382-Player with clear shot to green chooses to hit sideways to get relief from immovable obstruction
Today during competition a player drove to a short-ish par 4 and found his ball in a totally playable position a few metres off the fairway. He was approximately 30m from the pin. However, there was a tree 2 metres directly in front of him preventing him playing straight to the pin. For reference there was also a cart path just behind him. For his second shot he could have played to the right side of the green, even though the pin was on the left side, quite freely without the path affecting his swing or stance. If he did, a fair shot would have seen him with a 60-foot putt. He decided that he wanted to play sideways back to the fairway, which would have kept him 30m from the pin, but in doing so it meant his footing was going to be on the cart path. With that in mind he asked for relief from the cart path and promptly dropped at the NPR. Having dropped at the NPR the result was he now had a clear sight of the pin and promptly played to the pin and finished with a birdie.
Playing back to the fairway wasn't his real objective, gaining relief was.
I'm sure it's his prerogative to play his own game, and if he chooses to play back to the fairway he can. No one can dictate what shot or approach he must play. Therefore, I see this as the player taking advantage of knowing the rules.
Would my assumption be correct?
All the best
Lou from Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Not necessarily. I’m inclined to think that if the cart path weren’t there the player wouldn’t consider punching out to the side, as this would cost him an extra shot. I suspect he would prefer to take his chances with two-putting from 60 feet. The sideways punch would be an abnormal direction of play under the circumstances and, as such, he would not be entitled to free relief [Exception to Rule 24-2b].
I discussed your question with two reliable officials. One agreed completely with my answer, stating: “If a player is able to play to the green, even though it is to the side of the green away from the pin, he would always take that option over chipping to the fairway. In this case, chipping to the fairway would be an "unnecessarily abnormal direction of play" (wording from the Exception to Rule 24-2b).”
The other, an experienced official from the UK, basically agreed, but offered a sliver of hope to your player. His answer will give you some insight into officiating, so I am printing it below, with his permission:
Thank you for asking, but please don't take my opinion as gospel. I shall work backwards on this one. If a player is entitled to relief from an IO [immovable obstruction] for a particular shot, once that relief is taken he can reassess and play a different shot. The question in this scenario is whether he is allowed relief in the first place. The Exception (b) to 24-2 states that relief is not available if interference would result from "a clearly unreasonable stroke". Thus, was the shot onto the fairway, rather than onto the wrong side of the green, "clearly unreasonable?” This is a judgment issue.
I would look the player in the eye and ask, "if the cart path from which you are seeking relief was not there, what shot would you play?" If the player, hand on heart and with a clear conscience, said that he would play the shot to the fairway, then I would allow relief. If I thought that the player was choosing to play the shot purely to obtain relief, then I would judge it unreasonable and not allow relief.
Bit long winded but hope it helps.
As you can see, in all likelihood the player would be denied relief. Claiming that he wants to hit in an abnormal direction for the sole purpose of getting relief is not using the Rules to your advantage; it is circumventing the Rules, and is not permitted.
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