Rules Corner

Ball At Rest Moved By Another Ball

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OMAHA, Neb. – During the 2013 U.S. Senior Open, two incidents occurred where a player’s ball at rest was moved by another player’s ball in motion. In both cases the ball in motion was played as it lies (Rule 19-5a, Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; By Another Ball At Rest). In the cases of the balls at rest that were moved, they were both replaced (Rule 18-5, Ball at Rest Moved; By Another Ball).

In the first round, Mark O’Meara’s tee shot to the par-3 16th green struck Mark Calcavecchia’s ball, which was already on the green and at rest. The collision moved Calcavecchia’s ball more than 20 feet. Rule 18-5 (Ball at Rest Moved; By Another Ball) says, “If a ball in play and at rest is moved by another ball in motion after a stroke, the moved ball must be replaced.” If you are wondering if there was a penalty, the answer is no. In order for there to be a penalty, the Rule would have to specifically say there was one, and the language in Rule 18-5 does not include any reference to a penalty.

However, in replacing his ball, Calcavecchia had a little problem. Since he was more than 200 yards from his ball when it was moved and because the collision with O’Meara’s ball had not left any noticeable mark on the putting green, he didn’t know exactly where to replace his ball. Rule 20-3c (Placing and Replacing; Spot Not Determinable) provided the help Calcavecchia needed.  It says, “If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be … replaced…on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard.” With the help of spectators, Calcavecchia estimated where his ball had been when O’Meara’s tee shot moved it, and he placed the ball on that spot.

In the third round, Lance Ten Broeck’s tee shot on the par-4 15th hole struck and moved the ball of Jay Haas already in the fairway. Haas had the same problem Calcavecchia had in the first round, he didn’t know exactly where he was supposed to replace his ball. Again, Rule 20-3c (Placing and Replacing; Spot Not Determinable) provided the procedure that Haas should follow to replace his ball. “If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be … replaced…through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard or on a putting green.” Haas estimated where his ball had been when Ten Broeck’s tee shot hit and moved it and dropped the ball as near as possible to that spot, not nearer the hole.

Why did Calcavecchia get to place his ball and Haas have to drop his? The answers are different because of where the balls were on the course when they were moved. When a ball is dropped, it usually comes to rest somewhere other than where it first strikes the course. On putting greens, where there is little or no difference between the lie of a ball in one position or another, the Rule-makers want the ball to be located as near as possible to where it was estimated to have been when it was moved. Therefore on putting greens, balls are placed. Everywhere else on the course, when a ball at rest is moved and the original position of the ball is not known, another thing that is also not known is what the lie of that ball was like before it was moved. Therefore, the Rules require such a ball to be replaced by estimating the spot where it had been and then dropping it so the resulting lie of the ball will be determined by chance, just as it is when it comes to rest after a stroke.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

Playing Ball From A Water Hazard

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OMAHA, Neb. – During the first two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club, three players tried to play balls from inside water hazards and failed to get them out.  One of those players even made a second stroke and still didn’t get it out.  When you’ve made a stroke at a ball from inside a water hazard without getting the ball out and then you either can’t or don’t want to try to make another stroke from the hazard, what do the Rules allow you to do?

Rule 26-1, Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards), tells you what you can do if your ball is in a water hazard and you want to take a one-stroke penalty to get it out. 

b_LukeDonaldOpen --- Luke Donald plays from the creek on the fourth hole during  
Luke Donald was able to extract his ball from a hazard on Merion's fourth hole during last month's U.S. Open. (USGA/Hunter Martin)  
The USGA has a video in its Rules of Golf Explained series that demonstrates the two one-stroke penalty relief options you have when your ball is in a water hazard marked yellow and the four options you have when the hazard is marked red (click here to see that video). However, neither Rule 26-1 nor the video tells you what the relief options are if you try to play your ball from a water hazard and fail to get it out, as happened to three players this week.

Rule 26-2 (Ball Played Within Water Hazard) explains those options, and they are quite simple. All the original one-stroke penalty options available before a player plays a ball from a water hazard are still available after that player plays and fails to extricate the ball, plus one more option.

For a ball not extricated from a water hazard marked yellow, players have their two original options: 1) Go back to the spot of the previous stroke played from outside the water hazard, and 2) drop a ball behind the hazard anywhere on a straight line drawn from the hole through the spot where the ball last crossed the hazard’s yellow margin as it went in. The additional option is to drop a ball in the water hazard at the spot where the unsuccessful stroke was just made (based on the previous lack of success, this is usually not an option that players choose).

For a ball not extricated from a lateral water hazard (one marked red), players have their four original options: 1) Go back to the spot of the previous stroke played from outside the water hazard, 2) drop a ball behind the hazard anywhere on a straight line drawn from the hole through the spot where the ball last crossed the hazard’s red margin as it went in, 3) drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than where the ball last crossed the red margin as it went into the hazard, and 4) find a spot the same distance from the hole as where the ball went into the lateral water hazard that is on the hazard’s opposite margin and drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than that spot. The additional option is to drop a ball in the water hazard at the spot where the unsuccessful stroke was just made.

Remember, if you try to play a ball from a water hazard and don’t get it out, you still have all of your original water hazard one-stroke penalty options, plus the added option of dropping right back at the spot where you just played from within the hazard.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

Wrong Putting Green, Almost

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OMAHA, Neb. – David Frost’s first swing of the 2013 U.S. Senior Open wasn’t what he had in mind. Starting on the 494-yard, par-4 10th hole, Frost hooked his drive sharply left toward the adjacent  11th hole.  When he reached the ball, he realized it had come to rest on the fringe of the 11th green. 

b_FrostDivot  
David Frost left a small divot on the fringe of the 11th green while playing a shot to No. 10 on Thursday. (USGA/David Staebler)  

The Rules of Golf define a Wrong Putting Green as “any putting green other than that of the hole being played” and Rule 25-3b (Wrong Putting Green) says in part, “If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief…”  A long time ago, the golf Rule-makers decided it was a bad idea to have divots taken from putting greens. This Rule is one of the very few in golf in which a player is penalized for playing the ball as it lies.

In Frost’s case, however, his ball wasn’t on the putting green; it was on the fringe of the putting green. He asked the referee walking with his group, David Decker, a member of the USGA Regional Affairs Committee from Bethlehem, Pa., with more than a decade of officiating experience, if he could play his ball as it lies. Decker replied, “Yes.” Frost then observed that he would have to stand on the green to play the shot. Decker let him know that standing on a wrong putting green was not considered interference by the Rules.

Rule 25-3a defines interference from a wrong putting green as, “when a ball is on the wrong putting green,” and goes on to clarify that “interference to a player’s stance … is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.”

Frost stood on the putting green and played the ball from the fringe, taking a divot in the process, which broke into pieces and was not able to be replaced. Before leaving the area, Frost carefully filled the divot hole with some sand from the bunker pictured in the photograph below. Though his first two shots of the championship were quite out of the ordinary, he went on to par the holeFor more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

Immovable Obstructions, Temporary Immovable Obstructions

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OMAHA, Neb. – On just about every golf course you will find artificial objects that could interfere with your play.  The Rules of Golf classify such objects as obstructions (see Definition of Obstruction).

Immovable Obstruction Senior Open Rules Blog  
Several obstructions come into view near the eighth tee at Omaha C.C. (USGA/David Staebler)  

In this picture taken near the eighth tee at Omaha Country Club, the site of the 34th U.S. Senior Open, there are several obstructions in view: three cart paths, an irrigation system control box and a building.  All of them are permanent and immovable. The Rules of Golf grant relief without penalty from immovable obstructions (see Rule 24-2, Immovable Obstruction Relief) when there is direct interference with a golfer’s:

1.) lie,
2.) stance or
3.) area of intended swing. 

However, what the Rules do not provide is free relief when an immovable obstruction intervenes only on a player’s line for a shot to be played.  The reason for this is the direction a golfer plays is a choice and that choice can easily be manipulated to create interference.  Also, obstructions like sprinkler heads and cart paths are so pervasive on most courses that there is always the opportunity for one of them to intervene on a player’s line for just about any stroke played from the teeing ground to the green. 

Golf is a game of playing the course as you find it.  While the Rule-makers do not think it is fair to make you hit your ball off an obstruction, to stand on one to hit a ball or for one to interfere with your swing, they do think it is fair to require you to play the course as you find it and figure out how to avoid immovable obstructions when there is no direct interference while playing your way from the teeing ground to the hole. This is no different than the challenge of avoiding trees, punishing rough, hazards and other obstacles.

Also shown in the photograph is a structure which was specifically built for the Senior Open. It is a wire-mesh fence covered with a green screening material surrounding several portalets. This will be removed at the championship’s conclusion. These kinds of structures also meet the definition of obstructions and are immovable like those previously discussed, but are different in that they are not permanent fixtures on the course.  For this reason, the Rules allow them to be treated slightly differently from the ordinary immovable obstructions previously discussed.

The Rules allow the Committee to put a Local Rule into effect which classifies such structures as temporary immovable obstructions (see Appendix I-B-7a for the Local Rule on temporary removable obstructions, TIOs).  When used, as it is during this week’s championship, players are allowed free relief from such temporary structures when they directly interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing, and also when there is intervention directly between a player’s ball and the hole as long as the player could reasonable play toward the hole if the TIO wasn’t there.  The reason for this additional relief is because these structures are not permanent fixtures on the course. Under normal playing conditions, they wouldn’t exist.  In other words, a player whose ball lies behind one of them would have had a clear shot to the hole any other time they played except during the specific competition they were erected to support. 

The Champions Tour uses the TIO Local Rule in all of their events, as does the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.  There is a misperception that players are permitted “line-of-sight” relief from all obstructions.  This is not true.  At regular tour events as well as this week’s U.S. Senior Open, players will not get “line-of-sight” relief from ordinary immovable obstructions, just free relief for direct interference with their lie, stance or area of intended swing.  They will have to deal with ordinary immovable obstructions just as all other golfers do throughout the world.  They will, however, get free relief for “line-of-sight” intervention from the temporary immovable obstructions built specifically for the staging of the competition.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

David Staebler is the director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

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