Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ask Linda #1710-Practice swing in hazard touches top of grass

Linda – 
Thank you for the time you take to answer these questions. It is very much appreciated.

In a recent four-ball match (Players A and B vs. C and D), Player A hit his ball and it bounced into a marked lateral hazard. There was no water in this hazard area but there was deep thick grass. The ball was about 8 inches into this grass. Player A stepped back from his ball and took two practice swings in the hazard. He did not ground his club, but he did swing through the grass, causing blades of grass to fly. This did not have any impact on his ball nor did it improve his intended swing path. 

Player C objected, stating that A was not allowed to take practice swings in a hazard and should be penalized. Player A stated that taking a practice swing in a bunker is allowed as long as you don't ground your club, which I believe is correct. 

The question is that since Player A did not just touch the top of the grass but actually swung through the grass would that be considered "testing the condition" of the hazard?

If that is the case, would the penalty be that Player A would be eliminated from the hole but Player B would be allowed to continue?

Thanks in advance for your answer.
Lou from Kansas

Dear Lou,

A player may touch the grass in a hazard with a practice swing, provided he does not ground his club; does nothing to improve his lie, the area of his intended swing, or his line of play; and does not test the condition of the hazard [Decision 13-4/4].

If I understand your narrative, this player met the first two requirements. Without witnessing his actions, however, it is difficult to determine whether he tested the condition of the hazard. It would be easier to answer your question definitively if he had merely brushed the top of the grass with his practice swings, an action that does not incur a penalty. However, if it were his intention to find out whether he could successfully swing his club through the long grasses, he would incur the loss-of-hole penalty for testing the condition of the hazard. Any doubt would be resolved against the player.

In a four-ball (better-ball) match, if one player incurs a loss-of-hole penalty for testing the condition of a hazard, his partner is permitted to continue play of the hole.

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