Playing by the Rules - August 2012

Last month we gave you some information on Rules 23-25, this month we’ll check out Rules 26-28 and how knowing the relief procedures involved with them can benefit you.

As we said last month, you must know the definitions to understand the Rule being discussed. Take a moment to review the definitions, then go to the Rules listed below, and concentrate on the parts of each Rule dealing with the “Relief” procedures.

Again, I am not suggesting that you do not need to know all that is contained in each of the Rules to be able to make accurate, precise rulings, but knowing your available relief procedures will certainly help you when you are competing.

So let’s see if we can learn a few things that might help us in using the Rules 26-28 correctly and to our advantage.

Rule 26. Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)
26-1. Relief For Ball In Water Hazard
First realize that you must be “virtually certain” that your ball is in a water hazard to proceed under this Rule. What does “virtually certain” mean? You had better be VERY sure of your golf balls whereabouts, 99% seems like a good number.

As always you can proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1, or you can drop a ball behind the hazard keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is to be dropped, with no limit to how far behind the hazard the ball may be dropped.

In addition to those options, if the original ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, two additional options are available. One is dropping within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard and a second, which will often not be as readily available, dropping within two club-lengths at a point on the opposite margin of the hazard that is “equidistant” from the hole.
Please be aware of what “equidistant” means. It must be exactly the same yardage on the opposite margin to proceed under this option.

Rule 27. Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball
This is the situation we all hope to avoid; the dreaded return to where we last played a stroke from, having to put another ball into play. Nevertheless, without this form of relief being available to us, many of us would have a hard time finishing some of our rounds.

Remember no matter how bad a position or situation your last stroke has left you with, Rule 27-1 is always available to bail you out.

A couple of things while we are discussing this Rule, first, remember once we start searching for our ball we have FIVE minutes to locate it, not six or seven, FIVE.

Second, if you want to avoid that dreaded walk back, to where you last played from if you don’t find your ball or find it has come to rest out of bounds, play a provisional ball. Just PLEASE announce you are playing a “provisional” not “I’m going to reload” or “I’m hitting another,” that doesn’t tell us what we need to know. If we don’t make the “provisional” statement there is no need to look for or find your original ball because it is out of play and you will be preparing to play your next stroke from where that ball you just put into play has come to rest.

Rule 28. Ball Unplayable
For many players, especially those with less knowledge of the Rules, I find the relief options for an unplayable situation to be somewhat misunderstood.

Many of these players think their only option, other than proceeding under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 is to drop their ball within two club-lengths of where their ball lies unplayable. In fact, when I have told players they have another option, I have been told that they don’t think I know what I am talking about.
The second relief procedure listed in Rule 28, even before that two club-length option, tells us that we can drop a ball behind the point where the ball lies unplayable, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with NO LIMIT to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
Pay attention as to how your options are affected if your ball lies in a bunker when declared unplayable.

The last thing I will say about unplayable lies are YOU are the sole judge as to when your ball is unplayable. I have seen some players, especially those guys we watch on TV every week, who seem to be able to play shots from places that I am not capable of and should not even consider attempting. Be sure you know exactly where you will be dropping a ball and where it is most likely to come to rest after you drop it before you decide on the relief procedure you will proceed under. I have actually witnessed players drop from an unplayable lie into another unplayable lie. Some times taking “your medicine” leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but it can be the wiser course of action.

I hope looking at these Rules from this perspective has helped you. Granted some of the relief they provide comes at a cost, penalty strokes hurt, but the alternative is certainly worse. (Tiger Woods, British Open, Hole #6)
What would we do if we hit our ball into an unplayable situation on the second hole of our round and didn’t have Rule 28 to help us?
I guess we would end up playing a lot of very short rounds, I don’t think that is the way to solve the, “it takes too long to play a round” problem.

See you next month,