Friday, February 2, 2018

Ask Linda #1691-Two-club-length relief for unplayable ball provides no relief

Hello Linda,
During a recent match I hit my tee shot and it landed in the rough on the left side of the fairway. Unfortunately, it came to rest under the spread of a very large evergreen tree that bordered my fairway and the adjacent fairway.

The evergreen tree had been pruned to about 2 feet from the ground so I could clearly see my ball near the trunk of the tree. I announced to my group that my ball was unplayable. That is the point that a discussion began in our group as to how and where I should take my penalty drop.

Complicating the decision as to where I should take my drop involved the size of the evergreen tree circumference as well as the uneven nature of its branches.

One member of our group stated that I should begin measuring the placement of my drop beginning with one club length from where my ball had come to rest. I pointed out that if I did that I would still not be free of the spread of the branches of the tree. I believed that the measuring should begin with one club length from the edge of the tree branches.

It was decided that I should proceed with measuring the correct placement for my drop at the edge of the branches of the tree closest to the ground. But now "which branches" began the next discussion. Because of the uneven growth of the tree some of the branches extended further away from the tree and thus closer to the fairway. How was I to lay down my golf club to measure the correct location of my drop?

One member of the group said that I could take my drop in any direction as long as it was not closer to the hole. Another member said that I should measure my drop directly in back of the tree in line with the pin placement on our green.

Obviously, if I chose to go with the first interpretation of the rules I would be hitting my ball from a location very close to our fairway with an open shot to the green. If I had to go with the second interpretation I would have been limited to having to chip out to the fairway because the evergreen tree would have still blocked my shot to the green.

This is the decision that my group came to: it was decided that I should not begin with one club length from where my ball was at rest because I would still not be free of the branches of the tree. Next, I placed my golf club at the edge of the circumference of the tree and then I put one golf tee in the ground at the tip of my club. I then picked up my golf club and measured one more club length not directly back of the tree but towards the fairway and not closer to the hole. I then put another tee in the ground marking the end of my second club length. At that point I could still not hit directly toward to the green but I was able hit a longer iron, which brought me further down the fairway.

How did we do? The tree is not going anywhere and this question is sure to come up again.

Thank you so much,
Lou from Atlanta

Dear Lou,

Not well. What made you think that the two-club-length relief option [Rule 28c] entitled you to complete relief? Did you guys try reading the Rule? It would have taken you far less time than it took you to compose your question!

You have three relief choices when you decide to declare your ball unplayable. All of these choices include one penalty stroke:

1. Play a ball under stroke and distance. This may have been your best choice, under the circumstances.
2. Drop a ball on the flagline. This choice is not optimal, since the tree would be in your way no matter how far back you went.
3. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, no closer to the hole.

When you choose the third option, you must measure your two club-lengths from the spot under the tree where the ball lies, and then drop your ball (no closer to the hole). This drop includes a one-stroke penalty. After you drop the ball, if it is still unplayable, you may again declare it unplayable and repeat the process, adding a second penalty stroke to your score. If it takes you three drops to get clear of the tree, you will incur a three-stroke penalty.

You can see why I recommend the first choice.

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