Interesting occurrence from a hazard

Just yesterday (21 December 2016), I was playing in a group when a very unusual play happened.

It took place on the 5th hole at Pelican Waters, which for those who know it, is a hole featuring a water crossing (burn) about 65 metres from the green.  It is a hole where many people come to grief as they often hit their second (or sometimes 3rd) shot into the water.  It is a risk/reward hole if you are more than 140 metres from the pin, so many players take the option of laying up.  At the moment, the water crossing is dry and you are able to walk across it.

Back to the incident in hand – one of the players in our group had a second shot of about 160 metres to the back pin, but pulled his shot to the lift and it crossed over the water crossing, hit the bank and rolled down into the hazard, sitting on top of the muddy surface.  It was quite playable so he proceeded to play it like a bunker shot, taking a heap of dirt as he swung hard at it.  His ball ballooned into the air, landed on the green and finished about 7 metres away from the pin.  The rest of the group applauded the shot, but were then surprised when the next minute the player hit another ball from the same area and it skidded across the green and ended up in front of one of our players who casually knocked it away off the green.  The player who hit the ball called out “What are you doing?”, and the reply was along the lines of why did you hit this second ball?

It transpired that the player did not realise that his first ball had actually landed on the green, but after he hit it, another ball appeared half a metre in front of him and he thought it was his original ball, so he played it.  This second ball must have been buried underneath his first ball and popped out as he hit it.

Not being 100% certain as to how to proceed, I suggested that he be penalised for practising on the course, penalised 2 strokes and to play his original ball, which he subsequently one putted.

What would your decision have been?

Post script:  some good discussion resulted from this post, and thanks for the comments.  I received a succinct reply from Barry Rhodes, the Rules guru, who agreed with Roger that it was a simple case of hitting a wrong ball, which is a 2 shot penalty, and play should proceed with the original ball.

I just want to add that it all happened so quickly, with the player originally identifying the ball as his, playing at it, then thinking that he only moved his ball a short way, so he then immediately played at that ball, which we then realised was not his.  He did not know at this stage, and that is why we asked why he had played the other ball when his first ball was already on the green, which he did not know.

No further discussion needed.  However, here is a “spanner” to throw into the works.  Say a  player hits his ball into the same hazard, and it is playable and he intends to play it as it lies, since the water has receded.  Before playing his ball, he notices there are quite a few balls half buried that have been exposed by the water receding.  He proceeds to pick up some of these balls, digging them out of the dirt with his wedge and throwing them on the grass to pick up later.  He then plays his ball from within the hazard.

Any penalty apply here?



Relief from an Immovable Obstruction

Sign on 3rd hole
Direction of play

The photos accompanying this blog post are taken on the LHS of the 3rd hole at Pelican waters Golf Club.  One of the photos was an actual photo taken when I found myself near the sign, and I was able to take relief as the sign was immovable and it interfered with my swing.

My ball

The other photo was staged a few days later to provide a talking point about where to take relief.

Staged ball

I don’t intend to provide answers at this stage, except to say that it is VERY important to keep in mind that when taking relief from an immovable obstruction, there is ONE and only ONE, nearest point of relief.  On some occasions this may be in the middle of a bush, next to a tree, on a path.  Finally, remember, that you then have one club length from the nearest point of relief in which to drop the ball.  In measuring that club length, you should use the club you intend to use when you play your next shot.

(The nearest point of relief is obviously different for a left-handed player).

I look forward to any responses you might have and I will publish my thoughts in a week or so.


Taking a penalty drop when a path runs alongside a hazard

Well, the previous post aroused some “interesting” responses, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.  However, the most mentioned comment related to the “extra time” it would take per round if players followed the correct procedure when taking a drop, namely when dropping on a path, and then taking relief from the path.

I timed a couple of players who recently followed the correct procedure, and it took no more than 30 seconds in each instance.  Given that there are (hopefully) not many instances where you have to do this per round, it doesn’t really add up to much extra time.

I need to reiterate that if a player decides to take a penalty drop for a ball that has crossed the hazard, and the nearest point of relief within 2 club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the hazard is on a path, the player MUST drop the ball on the path.  If the player simply moves away from the path and drops on the fairway, they are in breach of the rules and incur a penalty of 2 strokes if they play the ball from that spot.  If they become aware of dropping in the wrong spot before they play the ball, they are allowed to pick the ball up without penalty and drop it in the correct spot.

I would respectfully suggest that players should make others aware of the need to follow the correct procedure, in order that a competition is not compromised.  This is particularly pertinent at the moment as the club championships are about to get under way.

Taking a penalty drop when a path lies adjacent to a lateral hazard

Well, here we go with an extremely contentious issue, and one that I suspect will create a lot of discussion, especially after what I am about to say.  What would you think if I said that in probably every competition that is played at Pelican Waters, an incorrect interpretation of the Rules is made relating to taking a penalty drop from a hazard when a path lies adjacent to that hazard?  Further, what would you say if I said that players should be penalised and/or disqualified if they do not follow this particular rule to the letter of the law?  Below is a photo of a path adjacent to the lateral hazard on the left of the 9th fairway.

Path 1

Let’s work through a common scenario.  A player pulls his drive off the 9th tee and it crosses the path and goes into the hazard.  There are a couple of lucky players at Pelican I know whose ball almost always bounces back out, but in the scenario I am discussing, the ball remains in the hazard.  The player decides to takes his medicine and takes a penalty, which in this case should be within two club lengths of where it crossed the hazard line, no nearer the hole.  In the instance in the photo, taking a drop within two club lengths of the hazard line would mean dropping on the path.  It appears to have become common practice that players announce, or more often than not, are told by their playing partner(s) to not worry about dropping on the path, but simply take relief from the path and drop on the grass. The player then proceeds to take relief from the path, correctly dropping the ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief from the path.  They then proceed, believing all’s well with the world and life goes on.

But wait!  Here is the kicker.  The player should have been penalised (2 strokes) for playing from the wrong place.  The correct procedure is for the player to take a drop, within two club lengths of where his ball last crossed the hazard, which in this case is on the path.  Then, if he chooses, he may take relief from the cart path.  But hang on, I hear you exclaim!  Surely it is just saving time by moving straight to the grass, and the end result is the same.  Well, yes, it does probably save a few seconds, but there is nowhere in the rules that permits the action that most of us seem to have accepted as common practice. A committee is not allowed to make a Local Rule permitting this to occur.  Another point of interest in the photo above, is that some players may prefer to play off the path as the grass is quite thick and deep, and I have seen players struggle to move the ball more than a few metres after their ball sunk down deep in the grass.

I look forward to hearing and reading what people have to say.  In the meantime, how are you going to proceed in future, if you find yourself in this situation?

Good Golfing.



Relief from cart paths – the answer

Thanks to all those readers who contributed to the discussion about the previous post.  It also raised an extremely interesting (and controversial) topic, which will be dealt with in a future blog.

Well, here is the answer, and I am sure it will be debated long and loud, especially for one reason which will become clear.

The Rules are clear: there is no relief from the “overflow” or the badly worn areas to the side of the original path lines, apart from being able to move loose impediments from the area around where a ball lies. The problem is actually identifying the ORIGINAL path lines because over the years, the timber borders that were in place in some areas are no longer there, or have been covered over.  You may think that the Match Committee could introduce a Local Rule providing relief, but this is not permissible.  The Committee could mark these overflow areas as GUR, but that would be a huge task to mark those areas.

How, then should a player proceed if their ball is lying on the path but close to the edge and they are unsure if it is inside the original line of the path.  I believe that the player and their marker should attempt to positively identify where the original line of the path was/is, and if they are not able to do this, there is no relief available.

As I mentioned above, it is the ORIGINAL line of the path that is integral to this discussion.  However, the advice from Golf Queensland is that the Committee is able to change the line of the path, but how this could be done is problematic.  The only solution as I see it would be to lay down timber borders and repair the paths in the most pressing areas; that is, where the problem seems to arise the most.

It is interesting to note that some courses make artificial paths and roads an integral part of the course and players have to play their ball from where it lies. Of course, a player may always take a penalty stroke.  This might be OK on some of the paths at our course, but the paths which are composed of large pieces of gravel would not be very kind to your club face!

Relief from cart paths

IMG_20160622_155323 (Large)A contentious issue that often arises at my club relates to relief from cart paths, specifically in relation to the “overflow” of the aggregate that composes the cart paths.  As you can see from the photo, the paths are not the more common cement variety, but are composed of a dirt/gravel/crushed granite mix.  The problem that has developed over the years is that the paths have “expanded” well beyond their original width, for a number of reasons, the main one being torrential rain.  The ground-staff do a commendable job in attempting to maintain the paths after they have developed potholes, but even the act of running the scraper over the paths has the effect of pushing the aggregate out beyond the original width of the path.

The question that is regularly asked is: “Do I get relief if my ball is resting on the dirt/gravel that lies off the original line of the path?”  I can say categorically that you DO get relief if your ball is on the overflow, and not in a hazard AND your feet are on the original line of the path, as you take your normal stance.

BUT, do you get relief, if both your ball and your feet are on the overflow (but not in a hazard) as you take your normal stance?

Post your answers and comments below.

Golf Rules -some interesting scenarios

Because I have developed a keen interest in the Rules of Golf and have sat and passed a number of Club level exams as well as the R&A Level 1 exam, I am often asked for my opinion about a situation or situations that have arisen, often just that day, at my club.

It can often be daunting to be asked to give an answer on the spot, because quite often, a key piece of information might not be given, or the person making the query has used the wrong terminology. What I hope to do in this blog is over the next few months, deal with queries and questions that have arisen in the past, or will come up.  Hopefully, I will be able to add some photos to make the situation better to understand.

The first question is particularly relevant since the Men’s Foursomes is being played tomorrow at my Club.

Mike and Dave are partners in the Foursomes.  Mike tees off on the 5th hole and pulls his ball directly into the water in front of the tee.  They decide that their best option is to play another ball from the tee.  The question is: who has to play the ball, Mike or Dave?

The answer is Dave, and they are now playing their 3rd shot, with a penalty being applied. The general principle to keep in mind is that a penalty does not alter the order of play.

(An interesting aside to this question relates to what would happen if it was a Mixed Foursomes event, and Mike this time was partnered by Betty.  Mike again has teed off on the 5th and hit his ball into the water, so they decide to play again from the tee.  However, this time, it is Betty who has to play the shot, but because she is a woman, this does not mean she gets to play off the Ladies’ tees.)