Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ask Linda #1384-Player retrieves and plays different ball from hazard

This question has created quite a difference of opinion. We are most interested in the correct ruling. Our group is divided in half, with one group saying golfer A should be penalized for hitting the wrong ball. The other half saying that since Player A was penalized for pulling the ball out of the hazard, she could put any ball in play without additional penalty.

Here is the situation:
Player A hits her Titleist NXT Tour golf ball into a red-staked lateral hazard.

Player B locates the Titleist NXT Tour golf ball at the point where Player A's ball entered the hazard.

Player A retrieves the Titleist NXT Tour ball. She takes her penalty, drops the ball within 2 club-lengths from the red line and continues the hole.

Upon reaching the green and marking her ball, Player A notices that this is not the same Titleist that she hit in the hazard. (Both balls are the same make and number. Missing from the ball on the green was the logo that was Player A's identifying mark.)

Has player A hit the wrong ball? Or, since she was putting a ball in play after taking the hazard penalty stroke, does it make any difference what ball she plays?

Thank you very much. My group has learned a lot from your rulings.
Lulu from Ovilla, Texas (Dallas area)

Dear Lulu,

It makes no difference what ball a player drops when she takes relief from a water hazard.

The Rules are very specific in their use of vocabulary. When a Rule makes reference to “a” ball, the player may use any ball; when a Rule refers to “the” ball, the player must use her original ball.

If you look at the relief options in Rule 26-1 for a ball in a water hazard, you will notice that all of them refer to a ball:

26-1a: “playing a ball”
26-1b: “drop a ball”
26-1c: “drop a ball”

Similarly, if you look at Rule 28, “Ball Unplayable,” you will notice the same use of the word “a.” A player who takes relief from an unplayable condition may drop any ball; she is not required to continue play with the original ball, even if it is possible to retrieve it.

On the other hand, if you look at Rule 24, “Obstructions,” you will see that the relief options in 24-1 and 24-2 refer to “the” ball; you must proceed with the original ball. You do, however, get to substitute a ball under this Rule if it is not possible to retrieve the original ball.

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