by Joyce McCann, 18ers Rules Chair.
Procedures for resolving Rules issues during a stroke play round (Rule 20.1c) are different than in match play (Rule 20.1b). In stroke play, you are playing against the entire field, whereas in match play you are only playing against your opponent. This difference has a couple of important consequences for how uncertainty in applying a Rule during play is handled. First, in stroke play, other players, whether they are in your foursome or another foursome, are encouraged to protect the entire field by offering help in correctly applying the Rules, or in pointing out when a Rule has been breached. But, in match play, each individual match is like a tournament unto itself. Opinions of players outside the match are irrelevant to the match. Second, if an uncertain Rules situation arises during match play, a player and opponent can agree on how to proceed, even if their decision does not accord with the Rules! However, if players in a stroke play foursome are not sure what the correct Rule is in a particular situation, they cannot simply proceed by agreeing on a procedure they are not sure is correct because how they proceed can affect the entire field.
Part I (see Rossmoor News, May 22nd), discussed Rules for handling uncertainty during match play. Part II discusses Rules for handling uncertainty during stroke play.
Example. During a recent 18er Thursday stroke play event, a player hit her tee shot on par 3 hole #14 into the penalty area in front of the tee. She was able to play her 2nd shot from within the penalty area, but it did not escape the penalty area and could not be found. There was disagreement in the foursome as to how she should then proceed. The foursome agreed that, because the ball was now lost, she should take stroke and distance penalty. But, they did not agree on whether it was permissible to drop a ball in the penalty area (i.e., should she drop a ball from where she hit her second shot in the penalty area, or should she go back to the teeing area to drop the ball?). The player decided to take stroke and distance penalty within the penalty area, but disagreement remained in the foursome as to whether that was allowed under the Rules.
How would this situation have been handled according to Rule 20.1c? Since there was uncertainty in this stroke play example, the player could have elected to complete the hole by playing 2 balls, and then asked the Committee to decide which ball should count after the round was completed. Before she played either of the 2 balls, she would have had to first announce that this was her intent, and she should also have said which of the two balls she wanted to count. In the example, had she elected this option, one of the two balls would probably have been played by dropping a ball under stroke and distance penalty in the penalty area, and the second ball would probably have been played from the teeing area under stroke and distance penalty.
What would have been the correct application of the Rules in this situation? Rule 17.2a (When ball played from penalty area comes to rest in same or another penalty area) indicates the player had 3 options, and an additional 4th option if her ball had last crossed the margin of the penalty area where it is marked with red stakes. These options would have applied whether or not her second shot hit from within the penalty area had been lost within the penalty area.
(1) She could have taken stroke and distance penalty inside the penalty area, dropping the ball within 1-club length from where the previous stroke was made in the penalty area (as suggested by one player in her foursome);
(2) She could have gone back to the teeing area and hit another shot (as suggested by another player in her foursome);
(3) She could have taken back-on-the-line relief, dropping the ball within one club-length of a reference point on a line extending from the hole through the point where the tee-shot last crossed into the penalty area (this option is not feasible on hole #14); or
(4) If the ball initially entered the penalty area marked by red stakes by bouncing off a tree across the creek back into the penalty area, she could have taken lateral relief from the point where the ball last crossed into the penalty area.( In this example, the ball crossed into the penalty area marked by yellow stakes, so this option did not apply).
Thus, when the player hit her 4th shot after taking stroke and distance penalty within the penalty area, she was not breeching a Rule. However, since there was uncertainty in the foursome about how to proceed, the best course of action would have been to play 2 balls.
Key points to remember in stroke play.
(1) Players are encouraged to help each other in applying the Rules correctly. If you see someone in your foursome, or in another foursome, who has, or is about to, breach a Rule, it is your obligation to say something, hopefully to prevent the breach. If they have already proceeded incorrectly, it is your obligation to tell them, their marker, or the Committee.
(2) If a player is uncertain how to proceed, they should announce they are going to play 2 balls to finish the hole, and say which ball they want to count. Then, the player should use their 2 best guesses of what the correct play should be, and finish the hole with the 2 balls. When they finish their round, and before their scorecard is turned in, they should ask the Committee to decide which ball should count and whether or not there is a penalty.
(3) For 18er regular Thursday play, the Committee is the Tournament Chair, the 18er Rules Chair, and Brent in the Pro Shop. First contact the Tournament Chair, and she will get a ruling from the Rules Chair or Brent in the pro-shop. Be sure to ask whoever gives the ruling to cite the correct Rule!