Monday, November 13, 2017

Ask Linda #1644-Ball dropped under Unplayable Rule still unplayable

Hi Linda,
I have just come back from a golfing trip in Spain with 3 friends. Whilst there, a situation came up and we had a difference of opinion in the group to what the correct ruling is. Could you please help?

I hit a tee shot left of the fairway and found my ball in long grass/bushes that run the length of the fairway. I could not play the ball so deemed it unplayable and elected to take a penalty drop under Rule 28c. When the ball was dropped it rolled back into the bushes, due to a steep bank running along the side of the fairway, and was unplayable again. The ball was no nearer the hole and was within 2 club-lengths of its original position. I took another penalty drop and the same thing happened again. It was clear that each time the ball was dropped it would end up in an unplayable lie. As we were playing a Stableford, I pick up my ball, scored no points, and moved on to the next hole.

One player believed I could have re-dropped the ball under no penalty and then placed the ball at the point where the re-dropped ball first struck the course, since the ball came to rest in a position where there was interference by the condition from which relief was taken [Rule 20-2c (v)]. I think he is incorrect, as this Rule has conditions and my ball did not meet them. The ball was in bushes that were an integral part of the course and I deemed it unplayable.

Another player believed I could have taken a (double drop) 4 club-lengths for a penalty of 2 strokes. This would get the ball over the bank so it would not roll back into the bushes. I can’t see this in the rules and think that a 4 club-length drop has to be completed as two separate drops and therefore would not help.

Thinking about it after the game, I believe the only option I had was to go back to the tee and play another ball under Rule 28a. I couldn’t drop on the flag line, Rule 28b, as there was nowhere to drop the ball, as it was out of bounds on the other side of the bushes.

If I were playing in a medal competition and had taken a drop as detailed above and subsequently realised that every drop I made would roll back into the bushes, would I have been able to return to the tee after the first drop or would I have had to keep dropping the ball until I had some type of playable lie and hack the ball out of the bushes into play?
Lou from Manchester, England

Dear Lou,

You seem to really know your “stuff.” All of your understandings are correct.

(1) When you declare a ball “unplayable,” and you drop within two club-lengths, the ball is in play as soon as you drop it (unless it rolls into a hazard, onto a putting green, etc. – see Rule 20-2c). If it rolls back into the same or a different unplayable position, you would have to declare it “unplayable” a second time and take another drop, which would add a second penalty stroke to your score [Decision 28/3]. I always recommend that you assess your situation before choosing a relief option. It appears that your best option would have been to return to where you hit your previous shot and play another ball (stroke and distance).

(2) There is a one-stroke penalty each time you drop when you are taking relief from an unplayable situation. As you suggest, Rule 20-2c (v) does not apply when your ball is unplayable. The free drops under that Rule apply to relief from immovable obstructions, abnormal ground conditions, wrong putting greens, and embedded balls.

(3) You are not permitted to take one four-club-length drop for a two-stroke penalty. You must drop your ball within two club-lengths for a one-stroke penalty, and drop again for an additional penalty should that become necessary. In your situation, the re-drop would have clearly been useless.

(4) As you suggest, your best option would be to play under stroke and distance. The two-club-length drop rolled back into the same problem, and the flagline put you out of bounds.

In answer to your final question, if you concluded after your first drop that subsequent drops would prove futile, you could certainly return to the tee to play a ball under stroke and distance. The ball you dropped was in play. You would be entitled to declare that ball unplayable, add another penalty stroke to your score, and hit again from the tee [Decision 28/6.5].

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