Friday, June 9, 2017

Ask Linda #1549-Stroke from sand atop sprinkler head

Hi Linda,
Par 5, match play, my opponent sent his ball to the apron of the green. Upon reaching the green he found his ball sitting on a stack of sand. Not surprising, because the green was hollow-tined only recently and excess sand has probably migrated down during the occasional showers and accumulated at that particular spot. He asked me if he is entitled to a free drop and I ruled that he has to play the ball as it lies. He then speculated that there is a sprinkler head beneath the sand. I used my club to dig through the sand to see if there is indeed a sprinkler head and concluded that there isn't any. He accepted my decision and played a bad shot ending with a bogey for that hole. Not satisfied, he went back to the spot together with me and we dug deeper into the sand and we realised that there is indeed a sprinkler head buried deep beneath the sand – 4 inches. Questions:
1. Any recourse for him under the given circumstances? (My answer was, ball was played and holed so the result stays.) 
2. Assuming he went back to the disputed spot after playing the ball, dug up the sand, and found out that his ball was indeed sitting above a sprinkler head, what recourse would be available to him? (I actually told him that he is not entitled to re-play the ball from the original spot as it is already in play and that he would have to play the ball as it lies at its new spot).
Frankly, I was not very sure about my second ruling and I hope you could shed some light on it.
Kind regards,
Lou from Johore, Malaysia

Dear Lou,

In match play, once the player and his opponent agree on how to proceed, there is no option to replay the shot. Your opponent had every right to do his own digging to find out if there was a sprinkler head under the sand before he hit the ball. He did not, and he accepted the results of your probing. As soon as he hit the ball, it was in play. Both of your rulings were correct.

Incidentally, both rulings would also have been correct in a stroke play format. While stroke play, unlike match play, gives the player an option to play two balls when he is unsure how to proceed [Rule 3-3], the player must make that decision before he hits his shot.

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