Ask the Rules Guy: Casual water and bunker badlands

Ask the Rules Guy: Casual water and bunker badlands

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Hey, Rules Guy:
After a recent overabundance of rain,
our course’s 'ditches' have become lakes.
The lateral hazard markers, which normally
span a five-foot ditch, are in the middle
of what has become a 30-yard-wide
casual-water obstacle. On one hole my
tee shot went into the water and landed
with a visible splash. We could not be
'virtually certain' whether the ball
landed in the hazard or casual water.
I didn’t feel like taking a swim to find
my ball, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed
and whether I had to take a penalty.

K.B., via e-mail

If you knew that your ball stopped
outside the normal boundaries of
the water hazard, you could proceed
under Decision 25/2, taking a free drop
in a safe location no nearer the hole.
Since you admit that you can’t be sure,
however, you have to assume that your
ball landed in the hazard itself (Decision 1-4/7). Take one stroke and a drop (Rule 26-1c) — and if dropping your ball within
two club-lengths of where it entered the
hazard is still too wet, drop it no nearer
to the hole at the nearest point of relief.
Sure you’ll still have to take a penalty,
but at least your shoes should stay dry.

Emperor of Rules:
Late in the round, my friend
had a long birdie putt on a
green filled with small leaves.
Instead of picking the leaves
up, he took a golf towel and
swung it like a helicopter,
smacking the green clear.
While he didn’t do any damage,
I told him there’s no way that
was legal. Was I right?

Ben Sykes, Charlottesville, Va.

As you know, the
Rules allow you to
remove loose impediments
on the putting green without
penalty, but they provide
no preferred method to do
so. According to Decision
16-1a/8, a player may use his
towel, cap, or any reasonable
object to clear a path to the
hole, as long as he doesn’t
“press down” the grass in
his line of putt. And that
includes swinging your
towel around like a high
school kid in a locker room.

Rules Replier:
I hit into a par 5 and found my ball in a bunker in
front of the green. In the middle of the bunker was
a 'Ground Under Repair' sign. The bunker was in
total disarray and there was no obvious place to
drop my ball in the hazard because the entire bunker
appeared to be 'under repair.' My opponent told
me I had to drop it in the bunker. After debating this
issue I did just that and blasted it over the green,
chunked two more shots and eventually took a 9 on
the hole. Please give me peace of mind that I had
other options under the wonderful Rules of Golf!

Josh Croston, Canton, Ohio

While your buddy was correct
that you were not entitled to drop your
ball outside the bunker without penalty,
that does not mean that staying in the sand
was your only option. Rule 25-1b gives you
the option of dropping your ball outside the
bunker, keeping the point where your ball
originally sat between your drop and the hole.
It would’ve cost you a penalty stroke,
but considering the fiasco that ensued,
I think you’d agree that it probably
would have been a small price to pay.