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.  

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