Rules of Golf Officiating

Because these rocks are arranged to form
Because these rocks are arranged to form a drainage ditch, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 24-2.

If you’re like me, the Rules of Golf really come alive when you can go out onto the golf course and see the different scenarios for yourself. I believe that’s the thinking behind the Advanced Rules of Golf officiating assignment we all have to take this semester.

In addition to serving as Rules Officials for at least one of our Monday tournaments, we also have to take (and pass) an on-course assignment. PGA Professional and noted Rules expert Ed Ekis puts your golf ball in different situations, and then it’s up to you to navigate the Rules and relief procedures if applicable. The on-course assignment is really eye-opening, and I’m convinced it’s something you should do for your membership, quarterly if not monthly.

According to Ed, golfers have the most trouble with Rules 24-28. So naturally, he put my ball in several of those Rules situations. Here’s a sampling:

The Rule: Rule 24-2. Immovable Obstruction
Interference by an immovable obstruction occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing.

The Situation
Today, we were out at Kokopelli Golf Club in Gilbert. Off the right side of the path on the Par 4 3rd hole, Ed put my ball in some rocks embedded in the ground after being arranged in an orderly fashion to form a drainage ditch. Those rocks touch the cart path and are therefore part of the path. Immovable Obstruction. I was instructed to take relief under Rule 24-2. The first thing you have to determine is your nearest point of relief (ball, stance, and swing).

Most players struggle finding the nearest point of relief (NPR). It is defined as the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies: (i) that is not nearer the hole; and (ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.

Casual water is an abnormal ground condition
Casual water is an abnormal ground condition under Rule 25-1.

Note: In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke. Most people think you can use your longest club when beginning to take relief, when in reality, you have to use the club you would have made the stroke with to properly determine the nearest point.

For the shot at hand, I would have used a pitching wedge, so I used that club to determine the NPR. Then, after marking that position with a tee, I was then able to use my driver (the longest club in my bag) to find the one club-length half circle no nearer the hole where I could drop my ball. Your drop has to strike that part of the course within the one club-length first. It took me 15 minutes to talk through all of my options, and I thought I knew the Rules.

The Rule: Rule 25-1. Abnormal Ground Conditions
Interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or area of his intended swing. Sound familiar?

The Situation
Near the green on the Par 3 2nd hole, Ed put my ball in a puddle just off the cart path. You could argue that this is a standard course playing condition out at Kokopelli, but I was still tasked with completing the relief procedure under Rule 25.

An abnormal ground condition is: any casual water, ground under repair or hole; or cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird.

Once you determine your nearest point of relief (using the club you would have made the stroke with), it’s pretty easy. Put a tee in the ground to mark the position of the ball, and then pull out your driver to determine the one club-length relief to which you’re entitled. As long as the ball first strikes part of the course not nearer the hole and not more than two club-lengths from where it first struck part of the course, the ball is now in play.

A ball embedded in the rough has to be played as it lies unless embedded by an outside agency like a cart.
A ball embedded in the rough has to be played as it lies unless embedded by an outside agency like a cart.

The Rule: Rule 25-2. Embedded Ball
A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.

The Situation
Ed embedded my ball in the rough off of the 9th fairway. Because the ball was embedded in the rough, by USGA Rule, that’s a “play it as it lies” scenario because it’s not a closely mown area. Interesting side note: the ball was embedded in what appeared to be the tire rut of a pull cart or a golf cart.

Had I known or been virtually certain that the ball was embedded by the pull cart or golf cart, I would have been allowed to replace the ball without penalty under Rule 18-1 Ball at Rest Moved By Outside Agency. Had the ball been embedded by the cart which I was driving, which is considered equipment, I would have been penalized one stroke and again, would have had to replace the ball.

Another option worth considering, if the lie is just awful, is Rule 28 Ball Unplayable. The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard, and move it under penalty of one stroke.

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