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Rules question - ball under bridge


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I second that.

But the only improper act is taking relief when it isn't allowed. The lifting, dropping and playing the stroke are all part of the single act of taking relief, whether it was authorized or not. Since he was not allowed to take relief under the rule he was playing by, he could have replaced the ball at any point up to where he made a stroke at it and still only incurred one penalty stroke. The second stroke didn't kick in until he played from a wrong place, and at that point he must finish the hole with that ball and add 2 penalty strokes. The fact that there was more than one physical movement involved shouldn't matter, because they were all part of the improper act of taking relief when not allowed.

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You called it a "creek" or a "water runoff." They're typically marked - and the course should mark it as such - but that doesn't change the Rules of Golf.

Touche. If I play this course again I'll ask someone at the clubhouse what this area is/was intended to be and then ill know. and ill try not to hook my tee shot on that hole next time.. this is the underlying issue that no rulebook can govern.

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Well this has all been quite disheartening. I suppose I should have stuck with my first instinct; moved the bridge and played from there. I actually grabbed the structure by one of the 2x6 boards that was serving as a"floorboard" but when I lifted, expecting to lift the entire bridge, I ripped th 2x6 off. So I abandoned that campaign in favor of what I incorrectly interpretted as a free drop.

If the structure was actually breaking apart when you attempted to move it, I would question whether it is actually "movable." The committee really ought to weigh in on this with a local rule or statement clarifying the status of the structure.

As for the designation, it's not any area that ever contained water, it's really only a feature designed to carry / contain water. A low area that is occasionally filled as a puddle would not qualify, but a ditch or creekbed would. So it's really not THAT bad. But it sounds to me like the course you're playing needs to put a bit more effort into making sure the course is properly marked... As for the increasingly murky question of how many penalty strokes, perhaps Decision 20-7/2 is helpful, even though it deals with an erroneous unplayable lie rather than relief from an immovable obstruction. I don't see any obvious reason why one cannot simply substitute the obstruction rule for the unplayable lie rule and otherwise use the decision verbatim.
Q. On the 7th hole a player deems his ball unplayable in a water hazard and, thinking that Rule 28b or c is applicable, drops the ball in the water hazard and plays it. What is the ruling? A. Rule 28 does not apply when the player's ball lies in a water hazard. As Rule 26-1 was the Rule applicable to the player's situation, he is considered to have played from a wrong place under that Rule. In match play, the player loses the hole (Rule 20-7b). In stroke play, if a serious breach of the water hazard Rule was not involved, the player, in addition to incurring the penalty stroke provided for in Rule 26-1, incurs a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place and must play out the hole with the ball played from within the water hazard — see first paragraph of Rule 20-7c and Rule 26-1. In stroke play, if a serious breach of the water hazard Rule was involved, before playing from the next teeing ground, the player must either (1) place a ball on the spot where the original ball originally lay in the water hazard, with a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a, or (2) play a ball in accordance with Rule 26-1; in either case the player would add two penalty strokes to the score with that ball (Rule 20-7c). If the player fails to correct the mistake, he is disqualified — see second and third paragraphs of Rule 20-7c.

As I read it, if there was no serious breach (as we've been assuming), there are three penalty strokes. The reason is a bit different: since there was no valid option to take relief from the obstruction, the drop that the player took must have been under 26-1, so he takes a penalty stroke. The two other strokes are for playing from a wrong place under 20-7c.

If it was a serious breach, I think they're saying the only difference is that the player must go back and either place the ball at the original location or from a proper spot under 26-1. It's not clear to me, but I believe it means to say that you still get the three penalty strokes, but as it's written it's a bit unclear. If you do not go back and "undo" the advantage, you are DQ. So it really looks to me like there are three penalty strokes in all situations. Two are from 20-7c (wrong place), and the third is either from 26-1 or 18-2a, probably 26-1 in this case.
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If you want to really get down to it, it's entirely possible that only one penalty stroke was incurred. If the spot where he dropped was proper under one of the options in Rule 26-1, even if by accident, then he only incurs the one stroke penalty for dropping from a water hazard. In this case intent doesn't matter. If he is lucky enough to have made a correct drop, then add one stroke and play on.
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But the only improper act is taking relief when it isn't allowed. The lifting, dropping and playing the stroke are all part of the single act of taking relief, whether it was authorized or not.

Sorry, Rick, but I'm going with the rules official on this one. He's forgotten more about the Rules of Golf than you or I have ever known (and I appreciate your tremendous knowledge). You've lost this one.

Since he was not allowed to take relief under the rule he was playing by, he could have replaced the ball at any point up to where he made a stroke at it and still only incurred one penalty stroke. The second stroke didn't kick in until he played from a wrong place, and at that point he must finish the hole with that ball and add 2 penalty strokes. The fact that there was more than one physical movement involved shouldn't matter, because they were all part of the improper act of taking relief when not allowed.

See, the way I read that you contradict yourself. The first act did not compel the second. He did not need to take a stroke at the ball when he could have put it back in the correct spot. It was two distinct acts, the actual

stroke being the second act. Again, as far as I'm concerned, it's been decided.
If you want to really get down to it, it's entirely possible that only one penalty stroke was incurred. If the spot where he dropped was proper under one of the options in Rule 26-1, even if by accident, then he only incurs the one stroke penalty for dropping from a water hazard. In this case intent doesn't matter. If he is lucky enough to have made a correct drop, then add one stroke and play on.

Yes, it's possible he dropped in the proper spot as if he would have taken relief from a hazard, but that's even more hypothetical speculating and best avoided as none of us have a clue whether he dropped properly. All we know is that his reasons for dropping were not valid, so the assumption (for this discussion - it wouldn't be an assumption for a Rules Official on the scene) is that he dropped within the hazard to get away from the obstruction.

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This statement is wrong. A hazard should be marked, but marking is not required for it to still be a hazard. If it fits the definition which Erik quoted above then it is still a water hazard. It does not have to contain water all the time to be so designated.

So in an unmarked "hazard" where is the difinition of the margin ? i.e. which point would you use for dropping from ? the water level ? well by your used definition then would you use the summer water level or the winter water level ? A hazard must be defined under rule 33-2a.
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So in an unmarked "hazard" where is the difinition of the margin ?

You must use your honest judgement about where the ground stops fitting the definition of a water hazard. It would include the maximum extent that ever contains water (probably excluding flood conditions) whether or not the water reached that level at the time.

A hazard must be defined under rule 33-2a.

No. A water hazard

should be marked under that rule. If it is not, the committee has failed in one of its duties, but that does not change the definition of a water hazard nor excuse a golfer from the associated penalties (Decision 26/3). Furthermore, even if the committee DOES mark the hazard, if they do it incorrectly, the definition of the water hazard supersedes the stakes (Decision 26/2). The ditch here was, without question, a water hazard. The rulings on the topic could not be much clearer about this.
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Source: 33-2a/4 Where to Place Lines or Stakes Defining Margin of Water Hazard

Lines and stakes defining the margins of a water hazard should be placed as nearly as possible along the natural limits of the hazard, i.e., where the ground breaks down to form the depression containing the water . See also Decision 26-1/19.


Source: 26/2 Ball Within Natural Margin of Water Hazard But Outside Stakes Defining Margin

Q. Stakes defining the margin of a water hazard were improperly installed. As a result, an area which clearly was part of the water hazard was outside the stakes and, thus, technically was outside the hazard. A player's ball came to rest in water in this area. The player claimed that, in view of the alignment of the stakes, his ball was in casual water through the green. Was the claim valid?

A. No. The Committee erred in not properly defining the margin of the hazard as required by Rule 33-2a, but a player is not entitled to take advantage of such an error. Since it was clear that the place where the player's ball lay was within the natural boundaries of the water hazard, the claim should not be upheld.



This is very useful to know. I've more than once found myself in a place which would be part of a water hazard, but the stakes are not put far enough up.
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You must use your honest judgement about where the ground stops fitting the definition of a water hazard. It would include the maximum extent that ever contains water (probably excluding flood conditions) whether or not the water reached that level at the time.

No where in the rule book does it use the term .... you must use your honest judgement in determining the margin of the hazard, the rule assumes the margin is defined as rule 33-2 states clearly the committee must (not should) accurately mark the margins of water and lateral water hazards. This being said a ruling should have been sought at the time (or two balls played to the completion of the hole) and a ruling sought after the round.

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What the committee 'shall' do (decisions on rules of golf 1992) may be an entirely different matter to what they actually do. Their failure to stake the hazard does not mean that it is not a hazard nor does it preclude a player from deciding what the hazard is based on the rules quoted just before your last response.

The rules do not appear to explicitly state that judgements must be 'honest' however we are making DECISIONS on the rules of golf suggesting something must be determined/ decided that may require a level of interpretation. For example -what does it mean to be 'clearly in the hazard' or 'reasonable evidence' that a ball is lost in a hazard. As in Zeg's previous post the ground which is within the margin of a hazard is clearly defined in the rule book regardless of where stakes are positioned. But other than that almost any decision would surely have to be an honest/reasonable/evidenced one.
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No where in the rule book does it use the term .... you must use your honest judgement in determining the margin of the hazard, the rule assumes the margin is defined as rule 33-2 states clearly the committee must (not should) accurately mark the margins of water and lateral water hazards. This being said a ruling should have been sought at the time (or two balls played to the completion of the hole) and a ruling sought after the round.

No, they do not state that term with respect to water hazards. They don't need to, it is such a basic principle of the Rules that it is assumed that you will use such judgement every time you apply *any* rule, and Rule 1-3 (Equity) requires that you apply such a principle whenever an undefined situation arises. In this case, though, there is no such lack of definition. The rules are very clear about what defines a 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." It is emphatically not "any area defined by yellow stakes or lines on the ground."

The Rules, via the Decisions, *do* make use of the term "honest judgement" in a fairly general way, however. (26-1/16 asks about a situation where a player makes a drop on his best estimate of the last point his ball crossed the margin of a water hazard, but this point is later discovered to be incorrect)
Q. In the circumstances described in Decision 26-1/16, what is the ruling if A, having dropped a ball in a wrong place, plays it before his error is discovered? A. A must continue play with the ball played from a wrong place, without penalty. Applying a penalty under Rule 26-1 for playing from a wrong place (see Rule 20-7) is not appropriate. Otherwise, a competitor would risk incurring a penalty every time he makes an honest judgment as to the point where his ball last crosses a water hazard margin and that judgment subsequently proves incorrect.

You're right about 33-2a, it does say "must." However there aren't really any repercussions (within the game) for a committee failing to fulfill its duties. The player must still know the Rules (which include the definitions) and apply his judgement where necessary to implement them.

Yes, a ruling could have been sought at the time (were it practical, which is unlikely), or the two-ball procedure could have been used.
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So in an unmarked "hazard" where is the difinition of the margin ?

Decision 26/3 states:

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).

This decision shows that any such ditch is still a water hazard even if unmarked. In such a case you would have to use the natural margin of the watercourse to determine where the ball crossed into it, and use that point as your reference for proceding under 26-1b or 26-1c. No free lunch just because the course or the committee was negligent. A watercourse is still a hazard if it meets the definition.

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The reason why this particular rule is of so much interest to me is this ......

Our 16th hole has recently undergone some re-development of a water course .... the committee plan to in fact not mark this at all and play it as casual water if there is water in it.

So in this case can they make a local rule to preclude this water way from being a hazard ?

I can visualise the future arguments in club competitions already .......
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The reason why this particular rule is of so much interest to me is this ......

Interesting. I don't have personal experience with this, nor do I recall seeing a rule on the topic, but it seems to me that such a declaration would be at odds with the principles of the rules. My inclination would be to say that such a local rule would probably not stand up to a serious challenge.

However, it is allowed (as an exception in the definition) for the committee to declare a feature that meets the definition of a lateral water hazard to be treated as an ordinary water hazard. So on the one hand there is a bit of flexibility to bend that definition, suggesting that perhaps it would be ok. The flip side, of course, is that this exception IS called out, and there is no similar callout permitting a water hazard to be declared not to be played as one. Interesting question.
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Interesting. I don't have personal experience with this, nor do I recall seeing a rule on the topic, but it seems to me that such a declaration would be at odds with the principles of the rules. My inclination would be to say that such a local rule would probably not stand up to a serious challenge.

What the Committee may do is to fill the area formerly a water hazard thus creating an area through the green. What they cannot do is to declare an area matching the Definition of a water hazard not to be a water hazard. This would be modifying the Rules.

The Definition says: **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.** In essence, a water hazard is something supposed to contain water all the time or something that is formed by nature or man to transport water either permanently or occasionally. A ditch is a water hazard. A ditch filled with dirt in order to take it out of use is not a water hazard even if there would be water. In such a case it would be casual water.
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In essence, a water hazard is something supposed to contain water all the time or something that is formed by nature or man to transport water either permanently or occasionally. A ditch is a water hazard. A ditch filled with dirt in order to take it out of use is not a water hazard even if there would be water. In such a case it would be casual water.

Yeah, as I said, I'm inclined to agree that this is outside the powers of local rules. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time a local rule was implemented that wasn't permitted.

Within the allowed rules, I wonder how far you'd have to go to convert it to not being a hazard. Would it be enough to simply dam up the ends and sod the surface? At that point, I'd think you could argue it's just a depression and no longer a "ditch" or water course, but it's sorta borderline. Of course, I'm curious about the reason that the committee would have for wanting to de-hazardize the hazard. Seems odd to me.
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The hole is a 195m par 3, and the lowest handicap golfer on our committee is 15. So basically the "hazard" is in play for them, when they re-designed the hole they made no provision for a bail out area. So really they are trying to rectify the short sightedness with a local rule.

I'll take some photo's when I am out there this weekend and post to see what you guys think. If it is in fact against the rules for them to do this I'll make a submission to the committee.
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