Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ask Linda #1607-Player claims abnormal direction of play to get relief from abnormal ground condition near tree

Hi Linda,
This is an oft debated ruling at our golf club, which I don't think has ever been resolved there – too many opinions, not enough knowledge. I was playing yesterday in a friendly match. My opponent’s ball landed in light rough about 6" directly behind a small tree (say 3"diameter). He had no direct shot to the green in a forward direction, but could have played sideways or away from the tree. He took his stance as if to hit the ball forward towards the green, and then said: “My left foot is in a rabbit scraping. I'm entitled to relief from it.” In taking a club-length relief from the rabbit scraping he also then avoided the tree on his direct line to the green. I know this doesn't seem reasonable or fair, but is it within the Rules of Golf?
Best Regards
Lou from Bangor, Northern Ireland

Dear Lou,

Since the ball lies directly behind the tree –a normal, living, expected inhabitant on a golf course– the only reasonable shot is sideways. The player apparently had no interference from the rabbit scrape for a sideways shot. A shot toward the green, with a tree six inches in front of the ball, is not a normal direction of play.

The player is not entitled to claim free relief from an abnormal ground condition (such as a rabbit scrape) when the only way it will interfere with his stance is if he chooses to play in an unnecessarily abnormal direction. Please read the Exception to Rule 25-1 and Decision 25-1b/21.

Copyright © 2017 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ask Linda #1604a-A reader’s response to #1604

There have been instances when a player would incur a penalty for practice swings in a hazard that went through the grass but did not involve grounding the club. The player might have been considered to have tested the hazard if, for example, the grass is long and the practice swings would give him information about how well the club could get through the grass. This is obviously an infrequent event but the USGA has ruled this way on occasion.
Lou, a rules official from Austin, Texas

Ask Linda #1606-Stone on bridge over hazard interferes with swing

Hi Linda,
Again playing golf with my wife, her ball came to a stop on a bridge spanning a water hazard. The bridge is not defined as an integral part of the course. I believe that the bridge is an immovable obstruction in a water hazard. If I read the rules right you can ground you club but you can’t take free relief from it. (Is this right?)

But! a stone was near her ball, close enough that she could not hit her ball without striking the stone. Are you entitled to remove this stone, as the stone was on the bridge? Or would this be moving something in a hazard?
Lou from Gravesend, Kent, England

Dear Lou,

Your understanding regarding your rights on a bridge over a hazard is correct, Pete. Any part of a bridge that is within the margins of a water hazard is in the water hazard. Since you are permitted to touch an obstruction in a water hazard, you may ground your club on the bridge [Rule 13-4, Note]. You may not take free relief from the bridge; a player is not entitled to free relief from an immovable obstruction in a water hazard [Rule 24-2b].

The stone on the bridge is a loose impediment in a water hazard. Players are not permitted to touch or move loose impediments in a hazard [Rule 13-4c]. If your wife had moved the stone, she would incur a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play).

Copyright © 2017 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ask Linda #1605-Sprinkler head interferes for putt from fringe

Hi Linda,
Thank you for all that you do for all of us duffers.

My question is, I was just off the green and would have liked to putt my ball instead of chipping it. However, in my line there was a sprinkler head, which would have interfered. I did choose to chip the ball. Could I have elected to take relief and move my ball so that I wouldn't have had to putt over a sprinkler head?

Thank you,
Lulu from New Jersey

Dear Lulu,

Under Rule 24-2, the player is not entitled to free relief from an immovable obstruction (such as a sprinkler head) on her line of play, unless her ball lies on the putting green. However, the Rules do permit Committees to adopt a Local Rule providing relief from an immovable obstruction on the line of play for a very specific situation. (This Local Rule is found in Appendix I, Part A, #4a, “Obstructions.”) If the Committee adopts this Local Rule, a player is entitled to free relief from an immovable obstruction that is situated within two club-lengths of the putting green, provided her ball lies within two club-lengths of the obstruction and the obstruction intervenes on her line of play to the hole. The player must drop the ball at the nearest point that avoids the intervention and is not nearer the hole; she may not drop on the green or in a hazard.

Talk to a Committee member or the golf course manager about adopting this Local Rule for your course. It makes good sense for courses that mow the aprons around the greens very short and have sprinkler heads installed on the aprons.

Copyright © 2017 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Ask Linda #1604-Player takes relief after practice swings in hazard

Hello Linda,
I tell all my golfing friends to subscribe. You have a following near Vancouver, B.C.

We have a water hazard - a drainage ditch with grassy sloping banks. The margin of the hazard is where the ground begins to slope downward. A player's ball lies in the grassy part of the hazard. She enters the hazard, takes a few practice swings near her ball (but not in the area of intended swing), touching the grass but not touching the ground in the hazard. After the practice swings in the hazard, she decides to take relief from the hazard. One of her fellow competitors says she should be penalized for testing the condition of the hazard while her ball was in the hazard and before she decided to take relief.

Question: With respect to the timing of the decision to take relief - Did the player breach Rule 13-4 by entering the hazard and taking swings that gave her information about the hazard before she decided to take relief? If the player had touched the ground in the hazard while taking a practice swing away from the ball but while her ball was still in the hazard and then decided to take relief, would the total penalty be 3 strokes - 2 for breach of 13-4 and one for penalty under 26?

Sometimes we overthink the Rules of Golf.
Best wishes to you,
Lulu from British Columbia

Dear Lulu,

These are excellent questions. I don’t believe you’re overthinking the Rules at all.

The player is permitted to touch the grass when she takes her practice swings in the hazard, provided she does not touch the ground and does not improve her the area of her intended swing. The player in your narrative did not violate any Rule of Golf. She will not incur a penalty if she decides to take relief from the hazard after her practice swings.

The answer is not the same for a player who touches the ground (or moves a loose impediment) in a hazard. She incurs the two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) for a violation of Rule 13-4 regardless of a future decision to take relief [Decision 13-4/17]. She violated the Rule while her ball was in play in the hazard. In stroke play, after she adds the two-stroke penalty, she may either play from the hazard with no additional penalty, or choose one of the relief options in Rule 26-1, adding another penalty stroke to her score.

If the player were to declare, prior to entering the hazard, that she was going to take relief, she would not incur a penalty for any subsequent violations in the hazard.  

Copyright © 2017 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.