After a brief hiatus (having a newborn son will do that to you), one of my favorite segments is back! It’s called Diary of a USGA Rules Official, and it’s a by-product of Dr. Robin Farran.
Dr. Farran teaches Advanced Rules at the Golf Academy of America in Phoenix and is one of the USGA’s top Rules Officials. The man helps write the book! Several times each month, Dr. Farran emails out different Rules scenarios and anecdotes as well as actual rulings. In this month’s installment, the good doctor is back with a few clarifications for us:
Is the Player’s Original Ball Lost?
1. Player A’s second shot from the fairway might be lost or out of bounds. Player A goes forward to the search area, then returns to where the previous shot was played after informing fellow-competitors that he will go back and play a provisional ball. After another ball is dropped and played, a fellow-competitor calls to Player A informing him that his original ball has been found. The five-minute search-time has not expired.
** Player A must continue play with the substituted ball. Player A is not permitted to play a provisional ball after searching for his original ball. Although the substituted ball was dropped under an inapplicable Rule, when Player A played the dropped ball, the original ball became a “lost ball”. The Committee must determine an applicable Rule which would be Rule 27-1a. See Decision 27-2a/1.5 and Decision 34-3/6. Item “e” in the Definition of “Lost Ball” is also relevant.
2. Player B’s second shot from the fairway might be lost or out of bounds. Player B goes forward to the search area, then returns to where the previous shot was played after informing fellow-competitors that he will go back and play a provisional ball. After another ball is dropped, a fellow-competitor calls to Player B informing him that his original ball has been found. The five-minute search-time has not expired.
**The ball was dropped under an inapplicable Rule. Player B is not permitted to play a provisional ball after searching for his original ball. Player B may pick up (or abandon) the dropped ball under Rule 20-6 and continue play with the original ball. See Decision 27-2a/1.5. Decision 26-1/3.7 provides some insight to a player dropping a ball under an inapplicable Rule.
3. Player C’s ball heads towards a LWH. Player C thinks his ball could be/may be in the LWH, makes an estimate of where the ball entered the hazard and drops a substituted ball. Player C then sees his original ball outside the hazard in a playable location.
**Player C’s original ball is Player C’s ball in play. The dropped ball was not dropped under an applicable Rule. There was not virtual certainty that the original ball was in the LWH. Rule 20-6, the “eraser Rule”, permits Player C to lift the dropped ball (or abandon the dropped ball) and proceed correctly by continuing play with the original ball. See Decision 26-1/3.7.
Score for Hole #X?
On a par-3 hole, Player A’s tee shot heads left towards a lateral water hazard near the green. Player A announces his intent to play a provisional ball, stating that the ball might be in the hazard but might be in the bushes or trees outside the hazard. Player B, a fellow-competitor, states that he thinks the ball is probably in the hazard. Player A’s provisional ball comes to rest just short of the green.
Player A, without searching for his original ball or having any discussions with the fellow-competitors, picks up the provisional ball and drops the ball adjacent to the lateral water hazard and completes the hole in 4 additional strokes. At Scoring, an official is brought in to rule on the incident at the request of Player B.
**Player A was entitled to play a provisional ball since Player A believed that his original ball might be in the hazard but also might be lost outside the hazard – see Rule 27-2a and Decision 27-2a/2.5. Player A is not required to search for his original ball and there is no certainty that the original ball is in the lateral water hazard.
When Player A lifted the provisional ball, the ball in play due to the original ball not being found or the location known to be in the lateral water hazard, Player A incurred a one-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 18-2. When the ball was not replaced, Player A incurred the general penalty for a breach of Rule 18, but not the one-stroke penalty – see the Penalty Statement under Rule 18 (when a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 18, there is no additional penalty under Rule 18).
Player A lay 3 with the provisional ball, a two-stroke penalty under Rule 18 for lifting his ball in play and playing from a wrong place. Player A then played 4 additional strokes with his ball to complete the hole for a total score of 9. [In match play, Player A would lose the hole for playing from a wrong place; general penalty for a breach of Rule 18.]
Scoring in Four Ball
The format in the following incidents is four-ball stroke play. Unless noted otherwise, each score card was signed by both players and a marker and no penalty strokes affected the accuracy of the recorded scores.
1. The score card returned for Side A/B has a 3 for Player A and a 4 for Player B on hole #6. Prior to the close of competition, it was determined that Player A scored 4 on hole #6.
**Side A/B is disqualified. The score to count, Player A’s recorded score of 3, was lower than Player A’s correct score of 4.
2. The score card returned for Side C/D has a 3 for Player C and a 4 for Player D on hole #8. Prior to the close of competition, it was determined that Player D scored 5 on hole #8.
**The score for Player C was correct. The score for Player D does not affect Side C/D’s score for the hole. Side A/B’s score for the hole was 3.
3. The score card returned for Side E/F has a 3 for Player F and no score for Player E on hole #5. Prior to the close of competition, it was determined that both Player E and Player F scored 4 on the hole.
**Side G/H is disqualified. The score to count, Player F’s recorded score of 3, was lower than Player F’s correct score of 4.
4. The score card returned for Side G/H has a 3 for Player H and no score for Player G on hole #8. Prior to the close of competition, it was determined that Player G scored a 3 and Player H scored 4 on the hole.
**Side G/H is disqualified. The score to count was incorrectly attributed to Player H. Player G scored 3, not Player H.
5. The score card returned for Side I/J has scores for both players in the first three holes. Beginning with the fourth hole, all scores are identified with Player J. There are no more scores associated with Player I. Someone dropped off the score card at scoring without any discussion with the Committee and neither Player I nor Player J or the marker could be found.
**The score card is acceptable as returned (assuming the score card was signed by the marker and Side I/J). The scores were individually identifiable and, frequently, one player may have most of the scores to count for the side.
6. The score card returned for Side X/Z had a single row of scores midway between the two player’s names and a notation on the bottom of the card indicating that the hole scores that were underlined were for Player X and the scores not underlined were for Player Z. Only Player X and the marker had signed the score card.
**The score card is acceptable as returned. The recorded scores were individually identifiable as required by Rule 31-3 and, as noted in Rule 31-3, only one player is required to comply with Rule 6-6b. The marker and only one player of the side is required to sign the score card.
In each situation below, what was the player’s score for the hole?
1. Player A’s ball played from the teeing ground is embedded in a cactus. Realizing that he would need to proceed under a procedure for a ball unplayable, without any announcements or marking the position of his ball, Player A digs the ball out of the cactus, walks behind the cactus on a line with the flagstick, drops the ball on a patch of grass and plays the ball onto the green and completes the hole in 2 additional strokes.
**Player A scored 5 on the hole. Rule 28 requires a player to deem the ball unplayable prior to proceeding under the Rule, but does not require a verbal statement or the ball to be marked. Player A played 4 strokes with the ball and an additional penalty stroke for relief under Rule 28. As an additional resource, see Decision 18-2/12.5.
2. Player B’s tee shot comes to rest very close to a wall that defines out of bounds. Player B announces to his fellow competitors that he will take “free relief” from the obstruction and picks up his ball. A fellow-competitor informs Player B that relief without penalty is not available under the Rules. The fellow-competitor offers to assist with the procedure for a ball that is unplayable. Player B proceeds correctly under Rule 28b and after the drop completes the hole in 4 additional strokes.
**Player B scored 7 on the hole. Player B had no authority under the Rules to take relief without penalty from a boundary wall (see Definition of “Out of Bounds) and incurred a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2. Player B incurred an additional one-stroke penalty under Rule 28. See Decision 18-2/12.5. Five talent strokes and two penalty strokes.
3. Player C’s ball played from the teeing ground comes to rest on a paved cart path (an obstruction). Without any announcements or marking the position of the ball, Player C lifts the ball, determines the nearest point of relief and drops the ball in accordance with Rule 24-2. After the drop, Player C completes the hole in 3 additional strokes.
**Rule 24-2 does not require a statement of intent, nor does the ball need to be marked before it is lifted. As long as the ball is dropped in accordance with the Rule and is properly in play after the drop, the player has proceeded correctly. Player C scored 4 on the hole. See Rule 24-2 and Rule 20-1.
4. Player D’s tee shot is somewhere in “bad country”. Without any comments or announcements, Player D plays a second ball from the teeing ground. Player D finds his original ball in a playable location, informs his fellow-competitors that he will abandon his provisional ball and continue play with his original ball. Player D completes the hole in 5 additional strokes (and continues the round).
**Player D is disqualified. Player D’s second ball played from the teeing ground was the ball in play and the first ball played was lost (forever). For a ball to be a provisional ball, Rule 27-2a requires an announcement of intent to marker, fellow competitor or opponent prior to playing the ball. Also, see items “c” and “e” in the Definition of “Lost Ball”.
If Player D had realized before starting the next hole that he had played a wrong ball when he played his first ball played from the teeing ground and corrected his error, Player D would not be disqualified and would have a score for the hole – lay 3 with second ball played from tee, plus 2p for play of wrong ball plus the strokes to complete the hole.
1. In single match play, Player A vs. Player B, both players teed off on the wrong hole. Player B, who teed off after Player A, realized the error and suggested to Player A that they better fix their mistake. After the match had concluded, a player in another match asked Player A and Player B what they were doing. Both stated that they had made a mistake and knew they had to correct the error or incur a penalty. Now what?
**The match stands as played. Player A and Player B did not knowingly agree to proceed other than prescribed in the Rules and agreed on a procedure. See Decisions 1-3/2, 1-3/5, 2-1/1 and 2-5/8.5.
2. In single match play, Player C vs. Player D, Player C lies in the fairway 150 yards from the hole. Player D’s ball is embedded in a cactus in “bad country”, 120 yards from the hole. Prior to Player C’s play from the fairway, Player D informs Player C that he, Player D, will return to the tee to replay the stroke. Whose turn is it to play?
**It is Player C’s turn to play. Order of play during play of a hole is determined by the locations of the original balls prior to proceeding under a relief option. See Rule 10-1b and Decisions 10/1 and 10/2.
3. In four-ball match play, Player E and Player F vs. Player G and Player H. During hole #2, Player E discovers that he has a 15th club in his bag. Now what?
**After completion of hole #2, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting two holes for side E/F for a breach of Rule 4-4a on holes #1 and hole #2. See Rule 30-3d and Decision 30-3/2.
1. Just as Player A completed play of the 4th hole, play was suspended for a dangerous situation. Prior to the restart and prior to an announcement that players could practice, a member of the Committee sees Player A putting on the practice putting green.
**The appropriate action by the Committee depends on what was stated on the Notice to Players. The current USGA Hard Card contains the following statement:
Discontinuance of Play — Optional Condition as prescribed in Appendix I is in effect. All practice areas are closed during suspension for a dangerous situation until the Committee has declared them open. Players who practice on closed practice areas will be asked to cease doing so; failure to comply may result in revocation of entry.
A former version, years ago, imposed DQ for practice during a suspension for a dangerous situation. The Committee needs to provide a statement on the Notice; the current USGA version is a perfect statement.
2. Player B’s second shot on hole #14 goes way right and enters a water hazard (marked yellow) in front of #15 green. Remembering that there is a DZ on the front tee pad of #15, Player B goes forward about 50 yards from where the ball crossed the yellow line, drops a ball in the DZ and plays the ball onto #14 green.
**If the Committee clarified on the Notice that the DZ on the front tee pad of #15 is an additional option for a ball coming to rest in the water hazard (marked yellow) during play of hole #15, Player B played from a wrong place, likely a serious breach. If the Committee was not specific with specifying when the DZ could be used, Player B received a lucky break.
3. Player C’s ball lies in the rough within two club-lengths of a sprinkler head that is close to the putting green and on Player C’s line of play. Player C drops the ball at the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole which is on the fringe of the green and plays the ball.
**The ruling depends on whether the Local Rule for “Immovable Obstructions Close to Putting Green” is in effect (see 4a in Part A of Appendix I) and, if so, whether the Note to the Local Rule has been adopted that restricts relief to a ball lying in a closely-mown area.
Another Trouble Hole!
Player X lies 1 at Point A in the fairway. Player X’s next stroke crosses an area marked with a yellow stake next to a white stake and lands on the turf beyond a line of yellow stakes and white stakes. Seeing his ball on the turf and believing that he is entitled to proceed under Rule 26-1, Player X drops and plays a substituted ball at Point B under Rule 26-1b.
As Player X walked toward the green, Player X became concerned over whether he had proceeded correctly. Player X retrieved the ball played from Point B and returned to Point A, dropped the ball and completed the hole in 3 additional strokes. The distance between Point A and Point B is about 100 yards.
**The score for Player X on the hole is 8.
Player X’s second shot on the hole, played from Point A was out of bounds, requiring replay of the stroke from Point A under penalty of stroke and distance.
The stroke played from Point B was from a wrong place and a serious breach of Rule 27-1 for playing from a wrong place. A correction of the error is required to avoid DQ.
Player X lay 5 after the drop at Point A and completed the hole in 3 additional strokes.
It is always a “best practice” to create a diagram of complex incidents and tally the strokes and penalty strokes as shown above.
A Key Concept
During a stroke-play tournament, Player A comes to an official with an incident that occurred several holes before.
Player A describes the incident to the official – “My tee shot went into the desert on the right side of the fairway. I found a ball that I believed was my ball near a burrowing animal hole. I lifted and dropped the ball to take relief and played the ball onto the green.
As I walked toward the putting green I saw my ball that I played from the tee and realized that I had just played a wrong ball. My ball played from the tee was in another burrowing animal hole so I lifted and dropped the ball and completed the hole with the ball I played from the tee.” Now what?
**Player A is disqualified. When Player A dropped and played a substituted ball near where Player A expected the original ball to be, the substituted ball became the ball in play and, since the location of the original ball was not known, the applicable Rule was Rule 27-1.
The dropped ball was played a significant distance closer to the hole than the teeing ground and therefore Player A had committed a serious breach of Rule 27-1 and was required to correct the error. Since Player A did not correct the serious breach of Rule 27-1, the penalty is disqualification. When the stroke was made with the substituted ball, the original ball became a “Lost Ball” – see item “e” in the Definition of “Lost Ball”. Also, see Decision 15/14 for additional relevant information.