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ledbetter10

Ball lost or in hazard behind green?

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Hey all -

First time poster and soon to be first time tournament player and I'm confused about a lost ball ruling and how to handle it.

I feel pretty confident that I know how to handle situations where my ball is OB or into a water hazard and how the rules apply, but I'm confused about rulings that involve a ball that is lost behind a green.

Let me give you a scenario that has happened to me a few times that I am always confused about:   I have a short pitch shot to the green.  I end up skulling the shot quite badly and send a low line drive into the trees behind the green.  The area where the ball lies is not marked as OB.  After searching around in the trees behind the green, I find my ball.  As long as it's not marked OB, I can attempt a shot, correct?

If I deem the ball to be unplayable, I know I have a few options.  However, since I am now behind the green and in the trees, how can I make a drop that is not closer to the hole?  Do I go two club lengths to the left or right of where the ball entered into the trees, providing that it is no closer to the pin?  Or do I need to go back and hit the shot again from the original spot?  Or is there something I need to be doing completely differently?  I can't pick a spot in a straight line further back from the pin as this would just take you deeper into the trees.

If I don't end up finding my ball at all, I would need to go back and hit a new ball correct?

This has always confused me when I get into situations like this and I'm looking for some guidance.  Rulings like this make me nervous to enter a tournament, so I figured you guys and gals could help...thanks!

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Originally Posted by ledbetter10

1)  After searching around in the trees behind the green, I find my ball.  As long as it's not marked OB, I can attempt a shot, correct?

2) If I deem the ball to be unplayable, I know I have a few options.  However, since I am now behind the green and in the trees, how can I make a drop that is not closer to the hole?  Do I go two club lengths to the left or right of where the ball entered into the trees, providing that it is no closer to the pin?

3) Or do I need to go back and hit the shot again from the original spot?  Or is there something I need to be doing completely differently?  I can't pick a spot in a straight line further back from the pin as this would just take you deeper into the trees.

4) If I don't end up finding my ball at all, I would need to go back and hit a new ball correct?

1) Correct

2) Yes, if you can find such a place

3) That may be your only option

See Rule 28

http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Rules-of-Golf/Rule-28/

4) Correct

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Originally Posted by ledbetter10

If I deem the ball to be unplayable, I know I have a few options.  However, since I am now behind the green and in the trees, how can I make a drop that is not closer to the hole?  Do I go two club lengths to the left or right of where the ball entered into the trees, providing that it is no closer to the pin?  Or do I need to go back and hit the shot again from the original spot?  Or is there something I need to be doing completely differently?  I can't pick a spot in a straight line further back from the pin as this would just take you deeper into the trees.

Unless specifically marked as a hazard (ie. yellow or red stakes) then where your ball entered the trees is irrelevant. Your option of up to two club lengths (no nearer the hole) is from where you find your ball. And as you say it's probably not going to get you out of the trees.

If you have no shot where your ball lies, and two club lengths doesn't get you clear, and you can't go back on the line from the flag to your ball (sometimes you can go back 40 or 50 yards to a fairway behind the trees), then your only option is pretty much to go back to where you hit your last shot, and drop another ball as near as possible to that spot.

If you can't find your ball, then your only option is to drop another one and try again.

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Originally Posted by Rulesman

2) Yes, if you can find such a place

I think you mis-read his question. He asked if he can go two club lengths from where his ball entered the trees, which obviously he can't.

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You've gotten some very good answers.  Just so you're clear, if the ball is not in a marked hazard (red or yellow) stakes you can deem it unplayable.  You do not have to find the ball to deem it unplayable, however in that case,  your only option is Rule 28a which is to replay your stroke from where you last played.  (stroke and distance)

In order to use one of the other two Unplayable options (drop within two club lengths no closer, or drop on an extension from the pin to the ball), you MUST first IDENTIFY your ball and use it's exact position for reference in making your drop.

Under the Rules you ALWAYS have the option of replaying your stroke under 27-1 stroke and distance. (Lost Ball Rule)

I would also recommend you take a look at Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure) for future reference.  May save you in a tournament if you're unsure what to do and you can not get a ruling.

BTW welcome to the forum, no golf rule question is a dumb question.  I have an acquaintance who use to be a nuclear physicist and now is a Rules Official.  He says his golf rule book is harder to understand than his nuclear power plant rule book.

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From the description, it would seem to me that the best option would be to replay from the original spot with a penalty stroke.  A penalty is going to be involved anyway, so you might as well get the most from it.

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Originally Posted by ledbetter10

If I deem the ball to be unplayable, I know I have a few options.  However, since I am now behind the green and in the trees, how can I make a drop that is not closer to the hole?  Do I go two club lengths to the left or right of where the ball entered into the trees, providing that it is no closer to the pin?  Or do I need to go back and hit the shot again from the original spot?  Or is there something I need to be doing completely differently?  I can't pick a spot in a straight line further back from the pin as this would just take you deeper into the trees.

Where the ball entered the trees is irrelevant.  You get 2 club-lengths, no nearer the hole, from where the ball ended up.  If that doesn't give you a shot then it is just too bad.  In your situation it sounds like the only practical option to get some kind of shot is going back to the point where you played the shot and drop a ball at a stroke and distance penalty.

"Where the ball entered . . ." is only relevant for determining relief from water hazards.

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Originally Posted by turtleback

Where the ball entered the trees is irrelevant.  ...

"Where the ball entered . . ." is only relevant for determining relief from water hazards.

As an additional point of clarification, "water hazard" does not mean a place with water. It means a hazard marketed as a "water hazard" with stakes or a note on the card or some other way of indicating that they are a hazard. Red stakes means lateral water hazard even if it is not lateral to anything and there is no water. Yellow means water hazard. Note on card means whatever it says.

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Originally Posted by rustyredcab

As an additional point of clarification, "water hazard" does not mean a place with water. It means a hazard marketed as a "water hazard" with stakes or a note on the card or some other way of indicating that they are a hazard. Red stakes means lateral water hazard even if it is not lateral to anything and there is no water. Yellow means water hazard. Note on card means whatever it says.

Actually that isn't entirely correct.  Below I've posted the definition of a water hazard.  Just because some courses take the easy way out and mark areas as hazards which aren't, that doesn't make them water hazards.  It makes the course management wrong and lazy, but if the area doesn't fit the definition of being a lake or water course, even if dry, then it isn't a water hazard.

Water Hazard

A “water hazard’’ is any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature on the course. All ground and water within the margin of a water hazard are part of the water hazard.

When the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the water hazard. The margin of a water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a water hazard are obstructions.

Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a water hazard must be yellow.

Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a water hazard.

Lateral Water Hazard

A “lateral water hazard” is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible, or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable, to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-Ib. All ground and water within the margin of a lateral water hazard are part of the lateral water hazard.

When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a lateral water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the lateral water hazard. The margin of a lateral water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a lateral water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the lateral water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard are obstructions.

Note 1: That part of a water hazard to be played as a lateral water hazard must be distinctively marked. Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard must be red.

Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a lateral water hazard.

Note 3: The Committee may define a lateral water hazard as a water hazard.

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Originally Posted by Mordan

I think you mis-read his question. He asked if he can go two club lengths from where his ball entered the trees, which obviously he can't.

Oops

Thanks, sloppy reading. Of course it is two cl from where the ball lies.

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Originally Posted by Fourputt

Actually that isn't entirely correct.  Below I've posted the definition of a water hazard.  Just because some courses take the easy way out and mark areas as hazards which aren't, that doesn't make them water hazards.  It makes the course management wrong and lazy, but if the area doesn't fit the definition of being a lake or water course, even if dry, then it isn't a water hazard.

What are you saying? That a red staked area that has no water should not be a lateral water hazard or is not a lateral water hazard?

Woods running alone the fairway, marked with red stakes, are treated by the rules as a lateral water hazard, right?

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Originally Posted by rustyredcab

What are you saying? That a red staked area that has no water should not be a lateral water hazard or is not a lateral water hazard?

Woods running alone the fairway, marked with red stakes, are treated by the rules as a lateral water hazard, right?

If they do not meet the definition of a water hazard as above, then they are not a water hazard (either A Water Hazard or Lateral Water Hazard).

If a course illegally marks them with red stakes or lines then they still not Lateral Water Hazards.

The Rules of Golf do not recognise them.

Many courses mark such areas with red stakes or lines and call the Lateral Hazards (a term not recognised by the USGA or R&A;) and require players to play by the Lateral Water Hazard rule. Although this is illegal it is usually better to abide by such a rule specified by the owners of the course. It is generally too much hassle to do otherwise.

This practice seems to be most prevalent on courses in North America where there is pressure to pack players onto courses and keep them moving like cattle.

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Originally Posted by Rulesman

If they do not meet the definition of a water hazard as above, then they are not a water hazard (either A Water Hazard or Lateral Water Hazard).

If a course illegally marks them with red stakes or lines then they still not Lateral Water Hazards.

The Rules of Golf do not recognise them.

Many courses mark such areas with red stakes or lines and call the Lateral Hazards (a term not recognised by the USGA or R&A;) and require players to play by the Lateral Water Hazard rule. Although this is illegal it is usually better to abide by such a rule specified by the owners of the course. It is generally too much hassle to do otherwise.

This practice seems to be most prevalent on courses in North America where there is pressure to pack players onto courses and keep them moving like cattle.

Thanks for the reply. I must say that I play a lot of newly designed courses (last 40 years) and they seem to have been designed with this as a feature. Woods are often treated as red stake hazards. Sometimes there is a creek or pond down in there somewhere (often irrelevantly far from the defined margin), but often not. Most of these seem to have been planned and not some late attempt to speed play.

I believe you but it seems odd that so many courses have these "illegal" features.

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Originally Posted by rustyredcab

Thanks for the reply. I must say that I play a lot of newly designed courses (last 40 years) and they seem to have been designed with this as a feature. Woods are often treated as red stake hazards. Sometimes there is a creek or pond down in there somewhere (often irrelevantly far from the defined margin), but often not. Most of these seem to have been planned and not some late attempt to speed play.

I believe you but it seems odd that so many courses have these "illegal" features.

If they want to speed up play and  correctly define the course then those areas should be marked as Out of Bounds.  Of course that would make the players even more unhappy, and you certainly wouldn't want unhappy players, now would you? Or maybe they should educate the players and teach them how to properly use a provisional ball.  My home course in Colorado has native prairie grass rough that in a wet year can grow 4 feet tall.  You can't find your ball there and if you did you certainly couldn't play it (short guys are lucky to find their way back to the fairway ).  Players are counseled on the first tee on how and when to play a provisional ball.  It speeds up play AND it keeps within the rules.  But of course, that takes a proactive effort on the part of the course, which too many courses just can't be bothered with (yeah, I'm a bit cynical after too many years of reading threads like this) .

And by the way, the course I'm talking about is a public municipal course, not a high dollar private one.

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This discussion came up a couple of months ago I think.

Two things....if it does not fit the definition of a Water Hazard then it's against the rules to mark it as such.  I know, it's done a lot, but that's the rule.  Sometimes the course can get away with marking the area as an ESA or Environmentally Sensitive Area and play it like a Water Hazard.

The second thing is if it does fits the definition of a Water Hazard and is not marked, it's still a Water Hazard.

26/3

Unmarked Water Hazard

Q. An unmarked ditch on the left of a hole is in bounds, but the left-hand margin is out of bounds. Accordingly, it is impossible to drop behind the water hazard under Rule 26-1b . A player's ball comes to rest in the ditch. Is the player restricted to playing the ball as it lies or proceeding under Rule 26-1a ?

A. It is the responsibility of the Committee to define accurately the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards - see Rule 33-2a . However, if the Committee has not done so, the ditch is, by definition, a lateral water hazard and the player should be permitted to proceed under Rule 26-1c(i) .

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Originally Posted by Fourputt

And by the way, the course I'm talking about is a public municipal course, not a high dollar private one.

Which course is that? (sorry for de-railing the thread)

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Originally Posted by Rulesman

If they do not meet the definition of a water hazard as above, then they are not a water hazard (either A Water Hazard or Lateral Water Hazard).

If a course illegally marks them with red stakes or lines then they still not Lateral Water Hazards.

The Rules of Golf do not recognise them.

Many courses mark such areas with red stakes or lines and call the Lateral Hazards (a term not recognised by the USGA or R&A;) and require players to play by the Lateral Water Hazard rule. Although this is illegal it is usually better to abide by such a rule specified by the owners of the course. It is generally too much hassle to do otherwise.

This practice seems to be most prevalent on courses in North America where there is pressure to pack players onto courses and keep them moving like cattle.

We should also note that the course rating folks are going to ignore any course markings that are contrary to the Rules of Golf.  So if the ball in the woods would result in a lost ball or unplayable lie and that is less favorable than playing it as a lateral water hazard, and hence the rating adjustment is higher, the course will play easier than its course/slope ratings and result in an inaccurate handicap.

If they want to mark it as a lateral water hazard they should dig a ditch and run some water through it on occasion.

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Direct from the USGA

Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2008 7:12 PM

Subject: FW: Local Rules

Dear Mr ......

When the authorized golf association rates a golf course to establish a USGA Course rating and Slope the rating is done as if the course was in mid-season playing conditions, and that the golf course was marked in accordance with the Rules of Golf.  If the course is using preferred lies or markings that are not in accordance with the Rules of Golf those would not be considered when performing the course rating.

.... .... .... USGA

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