RULES CORNER


Multiple Penalties and Rule 3-3

Multiple Penalties and Rule 3-3

The last Rules Corner article (Rossmoor News, Oct 18th; http://www.rossmoorgolf.com/?page_id=1644) discussed an incident where a player searching for her ball accidentally caused it to move (Rule 18-2). The article discussed how this incident would have played out had the Rules been followed. The player would have had to take 1 penalty stroke and replace the ball.

This Rules Corner article deals with what actually happened. The player (who shall remain anonymous) did not replace the ball. Instead, she hit it from where it had come to rest after she had caused it to move. By doing that, she also breached Rule 20-7 (Playing from Wrong Place), which specifies 2 penalty strokes for hitting a ball from the wrong place.

Should the player then have taken 3 penalty strokes – 1 for causing the ball to move (Rule 18) and 2 additional penalty strokes for playing it from the wrong place (Rule (20-7)?

Simple logic would suggest that yes, 3 penalty strokes should be taken. However, in the Rules of Golf, there are special cases involving multiple penalties where the total penalty is not the sum of the separate infractions. In general, in these cases, an upper limit of 2 penalty strokes is applied. The situation discussed here happens to be one of those cases, and the total penalty is not 1 + 2 = 3, but 1 + 2 = 2!

The problem for those of us who are not rules experts is to know whether our particular situation falls into this special category. The Decisions on the Rules of Golf rather vaguely defines these cases as follows: “Situations arise prior to or as a result of a stroke in which a player breaches a single Rule more than once, or breaches separate Rules, in a single act or in different but sequential acts” (Decision 1-4/12).

It is fairly easy to see that this example (causing a ball to move (1-stroke penalty) and then hitting it from the wrong place (2-stroke penalty), falls within this special class of multiple penalties. The player breached 2 rules in sequential acts – causing the ball to move (Rule 18), and then instead of replacing it, hitting it from its new position (Rule 20-7).

However, there are many cases where it may not be clear whether this multiple penalty limitation should be applied. There may also be many other situations not involving multiple penalties where you are uncertain how to proceed according to the Rules.  If you’re playing in a stroke-play tournament, the best thing to do if in doubt about any Rules situation is to follow Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure). This is an important Rule to know (it may not be used in match play). In fact, you will notice that, whenever you turn in your scorecard to the officials at the end of a stroke play round, a question they always ask is whether you used Rule 3-3. Rule 3-3 allows you to play out the hole with 2 balls, and then the Committee will decide which ball will count.  If you do this, you must first let your fellow competitors know you are playing a second ball, and you should also say which of the two balls you would like to count.

The take-home message is: a) It’s important to know Rule 3-3; and b) When in doubt, report concerns to Rules Officials.

Searching – Where Oh Where Is My Ball?

Searching – Where Oh Where Is My Ball?

Recently, an 18er was playing at a nearby club. Her shot on a par 3 landed in a bunker just short of the green and bounced up into grass overhanging the bunker (p31) (see picture). As she was searching for her ball, it rolled down into the bunker. What to do? Should she replace the ball? Should she play it from the bunker? Does she have to take a penalty stroke?

The first thing in deciding what to do in this situation is to know that the grass overhanging the bunker is not part of the bunker; it is through the green (p44) – i.e., it is just like everything else on the course except the teeing ground, the putting green, and the hazards.

Thus, the Rules question is, what are the consequences if a player accidentally causes her ball to move while searching for it through the green. The two rules that come into play in this incident are Rule 12 (Searching for and Identifying Ball) and Rule 18 (Ball at Rest Moved).

Under Rule 12, it was fine for the player to probe the overhanging grass with her club to try to find her ball. But, as soon as the ball became dislodged and rolled back into the bunker, Rule 12 no longer applied, and Rule 18 took over.

Under Rule 18, because the player caused the ball to move during her search, she would have had to take a penalty stroke. And, she would then have had to replace the ball as close as possible to its original position in the overhanging grass, and attempt what looks like an impossible shot. Note that, If the player’s fellow competitor (or opponent) had been helping in the search and caused the ball to move, there would have been no penalty, but the ball would still have had to be replaced.

Once the ball had been replaced in the overhanging grass, if the player then decided the shot was indeed impossible, she could have declared the ball unplayable. She would then, by Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable), have had to take another penalty stroke. But, one of her options under Rule 28 would have been to drop the ball as far as she wished behind where it lay in that impossible position (i.e., behind the bunker). Hopefully, she then would have then hit the ball up on the green for a 1-putt.

Equipment and the Rules of Golf

Equipment and the Rules of Golf

News flash – from the viewpoint of the Rules, it’s not just us playing golf, it’s also our “equipment” (p33). Equipment includes anything we, our fellow competitors in stroke play (p34) or opponents (p40) in match play (p34) use, wear, hold, or carry (e.g., a golf cart, bag, or club). The Rules Corner recently reported an incident where the golf cart driven by a player at a team match play event accidentally moved her ball by running over it.

There have been two recent incidents that both also involved equipment behaving badly.

It is important to note that both of these recent incidents, unlike the previous example, occurred during stroke play – rulings might be different had they occurred during match play. One incident occurred during a friendly game of skins on the 15th hole on Dollar when a player’s fairway wood shot took an unexpected turn to the right and ended up lodged in the seat of the stationary golf cart (equipment) of a fellow competitor, who narrowly avoided a direct hit by diving out of her cart at the last second (see picture: golf cart). The second incident occurred during the final round of the 18er stroke play Championship tournament. In that incident, a player hit her tee shot on #10 and it landed on the green, but was deflected off the green by a club (equipment) a fellow competitor in the group ahead of her had forgotten to pick up (see picture: forgotten club).

Even though both of these incidents involved the equipment of a fellow competitor interfering with a ball struck by a player, a different rule applies in each case.

The stationary golf cart is a movable obstruction on which the ball came to rest. Thus, Rule 24-1 (Movable Obstruction) applies, and free relief can be taken by simply moving the cart and dropping the ball on the ground as close as possible to the point below where it lay in the cart. [As an aside for Rules Nuts, if the cart had been moving when the incident occurred, the cart would instead be considered an outside agency, and a different rule would apply (Rule 19-4), fortunately with a similar outcome.]

The forgotten club, while also a stationary piece of equipment, instead of a movable obstruction, is considered an outside agency because it deflected the ball. Thus, instead of Rule 24, this situation is covered by Rule 19 (Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; specifically Rule 19-4). In contrast to the ball lodged in the golf cart, the ball deflected by the golf club has to be played as it lies – i.e., no relief – and the player who hit her ball on the green must now play it from the rough.

Thus, two different Rules must be invoked to deal with these two incidents, both of which involve the equipment of a fellow competitor interfering with a ball struck by a player.

What a relief, or not!  

What a relief, or not!  

A basic principle of golf is that we play the ball as it lies. However, there are times where we find our ball in positions that seem unfair (e.g., in casual water (p32) or ground under repair (p35), or blocked by obstructions, such as a cart path or an irrigation box (p39). Thankfully, in those situations, the Rules grant us relief without penalty. Relief is taken by first finding the nearest point of relief no closer to the hole, and then dropping the ball within one club length of that position, also no closer to the hole.

However, such a simple solution can become complicated, as recently illustrated by a ball coming to rest on the cart path next to the lateral hazard on the left side of the fairway on Dollar hole #7 (see picture). In this case, the nearest point of relief was in the hazard. But, the Rules have thoughtfully foreseen that possibility (Rule 24-2b), and stipulate that relief cannot be taken in a hazard (or on a putting green). So, in this case, the player, gratefully, could take relief in the fairway on the other side of the cart path, and she hit the ball up on the apron of the green.

The interesting thing, however, is that, had the nearest point of relief from the cart path been in the middle of a thicket, a large tree, or down a cliff, the Rules do not make an exception (Decision 24-2b/3). In those cases, the player must drop the ball within one club length of the estimated position of the relief point in the middle of the large tree, the thicket, or on the cliff, and she must then do the best she can. The alternative options she always has (which are good to remember) is that she can either hit the ball off the cart path or go back and hit her next shot from where the original shot was hit. Of course, in the latter case, she both loses a stroke and distance, and in the former case she may have to buy a new club. All this simply as a result of her ball coming to rest on a cart path, some might say through no fault of her own! So, when we aim for cart paths, of which there are many on Dollar, be aware of the possible consequences!

Relief from staked tree

Relief from staked tree

So you thought you could take relief from a staked tree at Rossmoor – yes, sort of …

During a recent 18ers Thursday play day, a player found her ball behind a staked tree in the right rough on hole 13. How should she proceed? Does she get relief?

The first step is to know how the Rules designate a tree. Whether or not a tree is staked, it is just a part of the course that we have to try to avoid. Trees are not obstructions (p39) because only artificial things are obstructions (e.g., irrigation boxes, sprinkler heads). Happily, the stake and any protective fencing around the tree are obstructions, and the rule that applies is Rule 24-2, that deals with immovable obstructions. [Relief can be taken from an immovable obstruction only if it interferes with the player’s stance or swing (NOT if it just interferes with the line of play). Relief is taken by finding the nearest point of relief no nearer the hole, and dropping the ball within 1 club length.]

In the case of staked trees, it is important to keep in mind that relief can only be taken if the stake or protective fencing around the tree interfere with the player’s stance or swing, NOT if just the tree interferes. Many staked trees on our Rossmoor courses not only are staked, but are fully protected by fencing around the tree (e.g., hole 13). However, some trees (e.g., to the right of the green on hole 15) are staked, but with limited or no fencing. If you find yourself behind a staked tree with limited or no fencing, remember that you can only take relief if the stake or fencing interfere with your stance or swing, not if the tree itself interferes. Some clubs adopt a local rule that requires relief from a staked tree even if the stake or protective fencing is not in the way, but that local rule is not in effect at Rossmoor.

As it happened in the case on hole 13 on Dollar, the stake and protective fencing around the tree blocked the line of play of the player’s next shot, but did not interfere directly with her stance or swing. She therefore could not take relief and had to pitch out to the side.

Ball at Rest Moved – stroke play vs. match play

Ball at Rest Moved – stroke play vs. match play

Rules may be applied differently in stroke play and match play – an example involving an errant drive and a careening golf cart at a team match play event.

As interesting rules situations arise during our weekly play days, we will be adding these to the regular Rossmoor Women’s 18ers News reports. (Page numbers cited below indicate where definitions or rules can be found in the USGA Rules of Golf or Decisions on the Rules of Golf).

In a recent Rossmoor team play four ball match (p34) at Crow Canyon Country Club, a player hooked her drive into the rough. Driving the golf cart towards her ball with her partner as passenger, she needed to quickly move the cart out of the line of play of another player. In the process, she inadvertently ran over her ball with the golf cart. The result was that the ball was moved. How does she proceed?

There is an entire rule in the Rules of Golf devoted to “Ball at Rest Moved” (Rule 18). As the application of rules in many situations can be different in stroke (p34-35) vs match (p34) play, the first step in deciding how to proceed in this (or any) situation is to understand that this incident occurred during match play. The second step is to understand that it was the golf cart, defined in the Rules of Golf as “equipment” (p33), that moved the ball.

If this incident had occurred during stroke play (Rule 3), the golf cart is defined as the equipment of the individual player driving it (Decision 18/8), and that player and the cart are a unit. Thus, if the golf cart being driven by a player moves a ball she hit, the ball must be replaced, and the player takes a 1-stroke penalty. However, if a “fellow competitor” (p33) was driving the cart and sharing it with the player who hit the ball, the ball is replaced and the neither the player nor the fellow competitor incur a penalty (Rule 18-4).

In four-ball match play (p34) it’s a different story. In that case, a player and her partner are playing against an opponent team, and now the “unit” is not just the player and her equipment, but the player and her partner and their collective equipment. Thus, if the player and her partner are sharing the golf cart, it doesn’t matter who is driving; the cart is the “equipment” of the team.  And, as the ball was moved by the collective equipment of the player and her partner, Rule 18-2 specifies that the ball should be replaced, and the player who hit the ball incurs a 1-stroke penalty, even if her partner was the one driving the cart.

In general, different applications of the Rules to situations in stroke and match play can be boiled down to the difference in defining the “unit”, as either a single player playing against the entire field (stroke play), or, depending on the type of match play, a player vs her opponent, or in this example a player and her partner vs an opponent team.

“Known or Virtually Certain”

“Known or Virtually Certain”

As interesting rules situations arise during our weekly play days, we will be adding these to the regular Rossmoor Women’s 18ers News reports. (Page numbers cited below indicate where definitions or rules can be found in the USGA Rules of Golf or Decisions on the Rules of Golf).

Two incidents occurred recently on hole #14 that highlight the importance of the phrase “known or virtually certain”. This phrase, and the similar phrase “knowledge of virtual certainty”, are not listed in the Definitions of the Rules of Golf, but they occur multiple times in the Rules of Golf and the Decisions of the Rules of Golf relative to water hazards, casual water, obstructions, and certain other situations.

The first incident occurred when a player hit her tee shot on #14 (a big slice). Another player in the group said she saw it go into the water hazard right of the fairway. The player who hit the ball was concerned she would not be able to find her ball, and announced she was going to hit a provisional (p41; Rule 27-2). [The provisional option is intended to speed up play if players aren’t sure whether their ball might be lost or out of bounds.]  At that point, two other players in the group spoke up and said that she could not hit a provisional because her ball was “known or virtually certain” to have gone into the water hazard.

The second incident on #14 involved a player who also hit a tee shot that clearly went into the water hazard. She then went forward to try to find the ball but was unsuccessful. She was not clear whether she should treat the ball as a “lost ball” (p38; Rule 27) – i.e., she would then be required to hit again from the tee with a stroke and distance penalty – or whether she could consider one of the other options available under the water hazard rule (Rule 26).

The key point in deciding what to do in both incidents was that both balls were “known or virtually certain” to have gone into the water hazard.

Even if the ball was searched for and not found, the players had the full range of options available to them for relief under the water hazard rule (Rule 26). If they chose an option requiring that they identify the point where the ball last crossed into the hazard, they could estimate that point (26-1).

Thus, neither hitting a provisional nor treating the ball as lost were appropriate in either of these cases because the balls were “known or virtually certain” to have gone into the water hazard, and the water hazard rule (Rule 26) was operative. As noted above, since the phrase “known or virtually certain” appears multiple times in the Rules of Golf, it’s a good phrase to keep in mind! [Note, however, that the requirements for concluding that “known or virtually certain” applies in any given situation are fairly stringent (see Decision 26-1/1)].

Sprinkler head on the apron of the green

Sprinkler head on the apron of the green

As interesting rules situations arise during our weekly play days, we will be adding these to the regular 18ers Rossmoor News reports. (Page numbers cited below indicate where definitions and rules can be found in the USGA Rules of Golf book).

Recently, during the 18ers 4th of July Shotgun, a player found herself on the apron of the 17th green with her line of play (p37) blocked by a sprinkler head. Does she get relief, and if so how does she take relief? If she was strictly applying the Rules of Golf, she would not be able to take relief. This is because the sprinkler head is an immovable obstruction (p39/40) and the apron is through the green (p44); in which case, relief can only be taken if the sprinkler head interferes with her stance (p43) or stroke (p43), but not if it just interferes with her line of play (Rule 24-2b). However, players often wish to putt from the apron, and Appendix I in the Rules of Golf (p146) gives clubs the option of adopting a Local Rule that gives the player the option of taking relief if an immovable obstruction on the apron interferes with the line of play. Rossmoor has adopted this Local Rule (see the back of the Dollar scorecard).

So, the answer to the first question is: Yes, she can take relief. What about the second question – how does she take relief? Again, strict application of the Rules of Golf for immovable obstructions would require that she drop the ball within 1 club length of the nearest point of relief. However, the Local Rule (p146) says that, in this case, the ball should be dropped as close as possible to the nearest point of relief. Thus, the player on the apron of the 17th green may take relief, and if she elects to do that, she should drop the ball as close as possible to the nearest point of relief from interference of the sprinkler head with her line of play.