Rules Corner

Rules Blog: Floating Golf Ball

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Toledo, Ohio – On the par-3 12th hole during the first round of the U.S. Senior Open Championship at Inverness Club, Gary Sowinski’s tee shot found the bunker to the left of the green. His second shot ran across the green and into the pond that borders the right of the green. The ball came to rest above water on a patch of algae.

Sowinski wanted to play the ball from there, but there was a microphone cable directly behind the ball. Cables such as this are movable obstructions, so under Rule 24-1, he was allowed to move the obstruction.  When he moved the cable, his ball moved and sank to the bottom of the pond.

There is no penalty if a ball moves when a movable obstruction is moved and the ball is to be replaced. But, there was now a hole in the algae where the ball had been sitting. Since the lie of the ball that was to be replaced had been altered, Rule 20-3b requires the player to find the nearest most similar lie within a club-length in the hazard and not nearer the hole where the ball will stay at rest. After a few attempts, Sowinski was able to get the ball to stay on another piece of algae. The ball was bobbing up and down in the water and Sowinksi was concerned that it was moving, but his referee informed him that since it wasn’t moving in relation to the algae that it was resting on, it was not considered to be moving.

At the point where the ball had originally come to rest, the bank of the hazard was quite low, but where he was able to get it to come to rest after moving the cable, the bank was high enough that he no longer felt he could play it. In the end, Sowinski decided to play under Rule 26-1a, playing his ball under stroke and distance. He returned to the bunker and dropped the ball there. He eventually had to settle for a triple-bogey 6.

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA.


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