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Poll: OB/Lost Ball vs. Hazard & Unplayable Lie Penalties

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  1. 1. Should the penalties for Out of Bounds and Lost Balls be more severe than penalties for Hazards and Unplayables?

    • Yes, they should be more severe
      22
    • No, the should be the same
      17
    • Undecided
      3

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117 posts in this topic

"The USGA for some time has sought means to minimize penalties for the common errors-balls out of bounds, lost, unplayable, and in water hazards. There is a sameness among these four situations- the ball is made unplayable in one way or another; the fault is the player's, and relief without penalty is out of the question. Logically, the penalties and procedures should-be similar."

Former USGA Vice President John Winters Jr. in http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/1960s/1961/610204.pdf

I agree with what John Winters wrote in 1960.

Others (i.e. Fourputt & Iacas) feel that the penalty for Lost Balls and Out of Bounds need to be more severe for the following reasons:

1.  It is inherently worse to hit a ball off the property of the golf course or to a position in which you are unable to find it than to hit a ball into a hazard or to a position you can't or don't want to play from.

2.  Having a more severe penalty for OB/LB adds a strategic risk-reward layer to course management on some holes.

I feel that the penalties should be the same based on John Winters reasoning and the following:

1.  Having the same penalty simplifies  the rules and proceedures.

2.  A player can be uncertain whether his ball is lost in a hazard or lost outside a hazard- having the same penalties eliminates the possibility that a player is forced to play it as if it is lost outside the hazard when it is more than likely lost inside the hazard.  Look up Virtual Certainty for inane discussions on this.

3. Lost inside a hazard is not inherently better than lost outside a hazard, yet the penalties are different.  I would argue that with most hazards you are aware of their existence yet still hit a bad shot that put the ball there whereas you can lose a ball with a decent shot in an area where you thought you would find it and have a playable shot.

So should penalties for all 4 common errors be the same or different?

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Within the rules, there are transgressions that result in a penalty so simple and minor as your opponent being able to ask you to replay your shot.  At the far end of the spectrum, there are some so severe that the penalty is disqualification.

A transgression that is more severe should absolutely result in a penalty that's more severe.

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Originally Posted by David in FL

Within the rules, there are transgressions that result in a penalty so simple and minor as your opponent being able to ask you to replay your shot.  At the far end of the spectrum, there are some so severe that the penalty is disqualification.

A transgression that is more severe should absolutely result in a penalty that's more severe.

I am not advocating that all penalties be the same, just that penalties be the same for lost balls, out of bounds, hazards and unplayables- in all cases the transgression was hitting the ball someplace you shouldn't

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Frankly it does not seem as if the USGA guy knows what the word logical means.  Anyone can come up with isolated examples of how an OB shot was a better shot than a shot that ended up in a hazard or unplayable.  But it is indisputable, IMO that on average a shot that is off the defined limits of a hole is a worse shot than a shot that ends within the defined limits of a hole but in a hazard or in an unplayable spot.  Why even have a penalty for unplayable lies?  One guy hits his shot in the rough and has a clear shot and a great lie.  Another guy's shot is in almost the exact same place and is up against a tree nestled between the roots.  Using the "logic" put forth by the USGA guy and the OP, how can a one yard difference in result cause the legitimately unlucky player to incur a penalty?  Change the rules so he gets a free drop!  (lest I get pilloried, I hope it is clear that I am being facetious).

The simple distinction is between balls that are IN PLAY (hazards and unplayables) and balls that are OUT OF PLAY (OBs and lost balls).  Why anyone should believe that these completely different results should be treated the same is beyond me.  Individual quirks of particular courses are no reason to change the rules.

How many more threads are you going to start about this?

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I am not advocating that all penalties be the same, just that penalties be the same for lost balls, out of bounds, hazards and unplayables- in all cases the transgression was hitting the ball someplace you shouldn't

When I hit it in the rough, or short-side myself on my approach to the green, I hit the ball someplace I shouldn't have too. The severity of the individual transgression determines the penalty. Hitting the ball off the entire golf course is worse than hitting it into a bush, on the course, from which I choose not to play my next shot.

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My advice to you is don't change the rule, just don't hit it out of bounce.  The reason you can't change the rules to play like a hazard is that you can't easily drop in appropriate areas.  Let's  say that you lose a ball.  Since it is a lost ball you technically have no idea where it is exactly.  What rule or guidance are you going to take to say where you should drop for your penalty?  You can't say drop were you think it is lost.  If the ball is lost the only logical play is to play your next from the previous spot.  I have lost balls that I thought went down the middle of the fairway.  Do you suggest I plop one down right at the 150 to go mark and call that good?

The same applies for O.B.  Where are you going to drop.  Where you think that it crossed the out of bounds plane?  Good luck deciding where that happened.  By your logic there would be no need to have out of bounds even defined.  If you hit it out of bounds and you can find it then play it.  If you can't find it just take a drop where you think it is.

Yes, the penalty for hitting out of bounds and losing a ball blows, but that is the point.  It deters the play of certain shots.  If you don't want to have to deal with these consequences then keep the ball in play, which is the ultimate goal of the penalties.

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Originally Posted by MEfree

"The USGA for some time has sought means to minimize penalties for the common errors-balls out of bounds, lost, unplayable, and in water hazards." … wrote in 1960.

In other words, they've not changed it (or even mentioned it) in over 50 years, so they must like what they've got. :)

Originally Posted by MEfree

Others (i.e. Fourputt & Iacas) feel that the penalty for Lost Balls and Out of Bounds need to be more severe for the following reasons:

1.  It is inherently worse to hit a ball off the property of the golf course or to a position in which you are unable to find it than to hit a ball into a hazard or to a position you can't or don't want to play from.

That's a mischaracterization of my thoughts and feelings on this issue. There's far more subtlety to it than what you're suggesting.

On balls hit out of bounds, play is DISALLOWED. Play is never disallowed within a hazard. It speaks to one of the really, really fundamental tenets of the game: if you can find it, you can play it.

Quite literally you could be breaking the law (trespassing) if you even set foot onto someone's yard to retrieve your golf ball. Hitting the ball off the entire property is worse, yes, but it goes to far more than that.

Additionally, hitting your ball in an area where it's "lost" is not necessarily "inherently worse." We've lost balls we hit in leaves, into tall grass, etc. Sometimes just off the fairway. That situation speaks more to the fact that you don't have any clue at all WHERE to play from, so the only place you can play from with virtual certainty is to hit again from the last spot you played.

We've all looked for golf balls that we later find 30 yards ahead of or behind where we were almost positive we'd find it.

Originally Posted by MEfree

2.  Having a more severe penalty for OB/LB adds a strategic risk-reward layer to course management on some holes.

Again that lacks the subtlety I give to the situation.

Consider the 18th at Carnoustie. This would be an example of what you're suggesting. Doglegs that go around a hole where there's OB but tremendous reward if you can cut the dogleg successfully are another.

But there are other holes where OB strongly discourages you from hitting that way. Maybe it's the parking lot and the club doesn't want to pay out insurance claims on broken windshields. Maybe there's no strategic advantage to cutting it close to OB at all. But OB presenting a stricter penalty can be used artfully in MANY different ways to encourage play AWAY from OB.

I believe in the gradation of penalties. As I've written, fairways are good, but sometimes even one side of the fairway or another is advantageous. Rough has gradations. Trees have gradations. Where you leave your approach shot on the GREEN has gradations.

Golf - like life - has gradations of penalty and advantage.

Originally Posted by MEfree

I feel that the penalties should be the same based on John Winters reasoning and the following:

I disagree with Winters that there is a "sameness" to them. The ball may or may not be unplayable when it's in a hazard, for one. When it's OB or lost, by definition it's not playable. And the "unplayable" ball rule exists not because the ball is inherently unplayable, but because the player DEEMS it so.

So Winters is quite wrong in characterizing them as having a "sameness" about them.

Originally Posted by MEfree

1.  Having the same penalty simplifies the rules and proceedures.

You've yet to prove why that's important. Simplifying just for the sake of simplifying is pointless. I realize you strongly BELIEVE that simplifying the rules will be "A Good Thing™" but you've not proven that at all, and I disagree. I think the rules are pretty simple now, and again, will state that I have not had to consult the rules book in normal play since I-don't-know-when.

I know the Rules, but I'm not an expert. The "simple" rules account for 99.9% of situations you'll encounter.

Plus, "the same penalty" ignores gradation - in one situation it would be against the rules and perhaps even criminally illegal to play your ball (or even retrieve it), and in another, you can't even LOCATE your golf ball. You don't have a clue where it is.

Originally Posted by MEfree

2.  A player can be uncertain whether his ball is lost in a hazard or lost outside a hazard- having the same penalties eliminates the possibility that a player is forced to play it as if it is lost outside the hazard when it is more than likely lost inside the hazard.  Look up Virtual Certainty for inane discussions on this.

There's nothing inane about it. Sorry, but when you don't know, you take the stiffer penalty. Them's the breaks, kiddo.


Originally Posted by MEfree

3.  Lost inside a hazard is not inherently better than lost outside a hazard, yet the penalties are different.  I would argue that with most hazards you are aware of their existence yet still hit a bad shot that put the ball there whereas you can lose a ball with a decent shot in an area where you thought you would find it and have a playable shot.

It may or may not be "better" but it's very much different . If my ball splashes into a lake I KNOW where my ball is. If I lose my ball I DON'T KNOW where my ball is.

You keep trying to shift the course of the discussion into what is a "better" or "worse" shot. Examples can be provided on both sides, but generally speaking, if you hit the ball in the water it was a bad shot, and if you LOSE your golf ball (the absolute simplest "Rules of Golf" would be "hit the ball, find it, hit it again" and you can't even FIND it) you've violated the very essence of the game.

You won't score any points by citing examples where one situation could be a "better" or "worse" shot than another, because I believe that on the whole, the lost ball is by definition a worse shot because you can't even find the damn thing.

Originally Posted by MEfree

So should penalties for all 4 common errors be the same or different?

You're mischaracterizing another thing there in lumping an unplayable ball in with other "errors." The unplayable ball rule acts to FAVOR the golfer, by giving him an option of extricating himself from a situation from which he, if he had to play the ball as it lie, may quite literally NEVER recover (or which might take him 5, 10, 20, 40 strokes to recover).

It gives him options - with a penalty - and lets him continue play and not to shoot -3 on 17 holes and +37 on one hole because his ball settled into a crevice between two large and unmoveable rocks (from which he might never be able to take a stroke at the ball and to get it out).

Originally Posted by turtleback

Anyone can come up with isolated examples of how an OB shot was a better shot than a shot that ended up in a hazard or unplayable.  But it is indisputable, IMO that on average a shot that is off the defined limits of a hole is a worse shot than a shot that ends within the defined limits of a hole but in a hazard or in an unplayable spot.

I would tend to agree, though again even that misses some of the subtlety of it.


Originally Posted by turtleback

Why even have a penalty for unplayable lies?  One guy hits his shot in the rough and has a clear shot and a great lie.  Another guy's shot is in almost the exact same place and is up against a tree nestled between the roots.  Using the "logic" put forth by the USGA guy and the OP, how can a one yard difference in result cause the legitimately unlucky player to incur a penalty?  Change the rules so he gets a free drop!  (lest I get pilloried, I hope it is clear that I am being facetious).

That is a good counter-example, and should illustrate why examples are a poor way of discussing this type of thing. You need to consider higher level things, not examples, MEfree, because using examples will create an endless discussion as both sides will be able to cite an almost infinite number of examples and counter-examples.


Originally Posted by turtleback

The simple distinction is between balls that are IN PLAY (hazards and unplayables) and balls that are OUT OF PLAY (OBs and lost balls).  Why anyone should believe that these completely different results should be treated the same is beyond me.

Sums it up about as succinctly as anything.

Originally Posted by turtleback

How many more threads are you going to start about this?

Seriously.

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Originally Posted by iacas

It may or may not be "better" but it's very much different. If my ball splashes into a lake I KNOW where my ball is. If I lose my ball I DON'T KNOW where my ball is.

You keep trying to shift the course of the discussion into what is a "better" or "worse" shot. Examples can be provided on both sides, but generally speaking, if you hit the ball in the water it was a bad shot, and if you LOSE your golf ball (the absolute simplest "Rules of Golf" would be "hit the ball, find it, hit it again" and you can't even FIND it) you've violated the very essence of the game.

You won't score any points by citing examples where one situation could be a "better" or "worse" shot than another, because I believe that on the whole, the lost ball is by definition a worse shot because you can't even find the damn thing.

When you hit a ball into a big lake, you might KNOW it is in the Lake, but you might not know EXACTLY where in the Lake it is.  Same thing with losing a ball in the trees or the rough- you might KNOW it is in the trees but not know EXACTLY where in the trees it is.

You are correct that each of us could come up with different examples of one shot being better or worse in specific circumstances, BUT In either case, you don't actually find your golf ball- BOTH BALLS ARE LOST.  So why should the  penalty for a ball lost in a hazard be less than for a ball lost in the trees or lost in the rough?

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Originally Posted by MEfree

Quote:

Originally Posted by David in FL

Within the rules, there are transgressions that result in a penalty so simple and minor as your opponent being able to ask you to replay your shot.  At the far end of the spectrum, there are some so severe that the penalty is disqualification.

A transgression that is more severe should absolutely result in a penalty that's more severe.

I am not advocating that all penalties be the same, just that penalties be the same for lost balls, out of bounds, hazards and unplayables- in all cases the transgression was hitting the ball someplace you shouldn't

With that logic (and I disagree your basic premise), you should be penalized for hitting into a bunker or deep rough or wrong fairway.  I spend half my time on a golf course playing from places where I shouldn't be.

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Originally Posted by MEfree

When you hit a ball into a big lake, you might KNOW it is in the Lake, but you might not know EXACTLY where in the Lake it is.  Same thing with losing a ball in the trees or the rough- you might KNOW it is in the trees but not know EXACTLY where in the trees it is.

You are correct that each of us could come up with different examples of one shot being better or worse in specific circumstances, BUT In either case, you don't actually find your golf ball- BOTH BALLS ARE LOST.  So why should the  penalty for a ball lost in a hazard be less than for a ball lost in the trees or lost in the rough?

Seriously... Ok, if the ball is lost in the lake, you know where the margin of the lake is so you take your drop where it crossed the margin (or in a drop zone if there is one)...

When your ball is lost in tall grass or trees, where do you take your drop? Like Erik said above, we've all hit shots that we swear they are right in a certain place and end up finding them 30 yards ahead or behind where we thought. When the ball goes into the water and you drop behind the margin of the hazard there is no doubt that you are not playing nearer to the hole. If you just guess where you should drop on a lost ball, you may be nearer to the hole, you may not be. The fact is the ball is lost so you don't know.

Just curious, under your proposed rules, let's say I hit my ball into the left rough and my ball becomes lost. I proceed under your rule to take a drop a club length from an arbitrary point that I pick (a spot that I think the ball is lost but obviously isn't it since the ball isn't there) and hit what is now my third shot. Just after the ball leaves the face of the club my opponent alerts me that he sees my ball some distance behind me. What happens now?

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Originally Posted by MEfree

When you hit a ball into a big lake, you might KNOW it is in the Lake, but you might not know EXACTLY where in the Lake it is.  Same thing with losing a ball in the trees or the rough- you might KNOW it is in the trees but not know EXACTLY where in the trees it is.

That's not the same at all, and frankly, if you can't discern the differences, then there's really no point in discussing things further with you.

Edit: Tristan expounded a little on that.

Originally Posted by MEfree

You are correct that each of us could come up with different examples of one shot being better or worse in specific circumstances, BUT In either case, you don't actually find your golf ball- BOTH BALLS ARE LOST.  So why should the  penalty for a ball lost in a hazard be less than for a ball lost in the trees or lost in the rough?

No, they're not. Look at the definitions. Furthermore, not all balls hit into water hazards are unable to be located, and some are even perfectly playable.

I like how you try to cherry pick one of my points that you feel you can respond to, ignore all the others , and still get the cherry picked responses wrong. :P

I'm out. I hate repeating myself, and that's all I've been doing with this because you're incapable of understanding what I feel are some very basic concepts. If you want to increase retention or grow the game, focus on time to play and cost.

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Originally Posted by MEfree

Quote:

Originally Posted by iacas

It may or may not be "better" but it's very much different. If my ball splashes into a lake I KNOW where my ball is. If I lose my ball I DON'T KNOW where my ball is.

You keep trying to shift the course of the discussion into what is a "better" or "worse" shot. Examples can be provided on both sides, but generally speaking, if you hit the ball in the water it was a bad shot, and if you LOSE your golf ball (the absolute simplest "Rules of Golf" would be "hit the ball, find it, hit it again" and you can't even FIND it) you've violated the very essence of the game.

You won't score any points by citing examples where one situation could be a "better" or "worse" shot than another, because I believe that on the whole, the lost ball is by definition a worse shot because you can't even find the damn thing.

When you hit a ball into a big lake, you might KNOW it is in the Lake, but you might not know EXACTLY where in the Lake it is.  Same thing with losing a ball in the trees or the rough- you might KNOW it is in the trees but not know EXACTLY where in the trees it is.

You are correct that each of us could come up with different examples of one shot being better or worse in specific circumstances, BUT In either case, you don't actually find your golf ball- BOTH BALLS ARE LOST.  So why should the  penalty for a ball lost in a hazard be less than for a ball lost in the trees or lost in the rough?

The difference is that the ball in the water hazard is still in play, and potentially even playable.  Even if not found, you still have a distinct reference point to work from in taking penalty relief.  That's one point against, and two for.  The ball which is lost in the woods is not in play, is not potentially playable, and you have no distinct reference point to work from.  Three counts against.  But the big point still falls back on the term " ball in play ".   A ball in play deserves more consideration than a ball not in play.  That is the root, the crux of the discussion.

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I don't think we have nearly enough avenues to host this argument. I think I'll start another thread with a poll.

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Originally Posted by tristanhilton85

Seriously... Ok, if the ball is lost in the lake, you know where the margin of the lake is so you take your drop where it crossed the margin (or in a drop zone if there is one)...

When your ball is lost in tall grass or trees, where do you take your drop? Like Erik said above, we've all hit shots that we swear they are right in a certain place and end up finding them 30 yards ahead or behind where we thought. When the ball goes into the water and you drop behind the margin of the hazard there is no doubt that you are not playing nearer to the hole. If you just guess where you should drop on a lost ball, you may be nearer to the hole, you may not be. The fact is the ball is lost so you don't know.

Just curious, under your proposed rules, let's say I hit my ball into the left rough and my ball becomes lost. I proceed under your rule to take a drop a club length from an arbitrary point that I pick (a spot that I think the ball is lost but obviously isn't it since the ball isn't there) and hit what is now my third shot. Just after the ball leaves the face of the club my opponent alerts me that he sees my ball some distance behind me. What happens now?

This is sort of related to the portion of his point that I tend to understand.  Let's say, for example, that the area to the right of the hole is a giant canyon that is on the course property.  (Since you'll see several of these on the back 9 at Talega ;))  They can paint the edge of that canyon with red paint if they want, white paint if they want, or even no paint if they want.  I can hit the exact same horrendous shot into that canyon, and depending on which type of paint they (arbitrarily) chose, my penalty is going to be quite different.  It is that reason why I just don't see that the game would be fundamentally different if the penalties for all astray shots were uniform.  So, in the spirit of Mefree's idea, I could see the merits behind calling all areas off course the same thing. Whether it be a canyon, a lake, a forest, or just 10 foot high wild grass.

Now, lost balls on course?  Those are a different story, because you really have no idea where they went.  Gopher hole, stolen by another player, stolen by a bird, hit a sprinkler head, buried in the rough, etc, etc.  You're kind of SOL there.

However, just because I can see the merits and logic behind a change doesn't mean that I don't also understand the merits behind the way it is.  After all, like I've said before ... it's a silly game with equally silly rules, just like all other games that we play.  THEY ARE GAMES!

So, should the rules be changed?

No.

Were the rules to be changed, I wouldn't bat an eye and would love the game and continue to play it the same, and perhaps my handicap would go down by an extra 0.2 strokes, but I don't think they should be changed.

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Originally Posted by Golfingdad

Quote:

Originally Posted by tristanhilton85

Seriously... Ok, if the ball is lost in the lake, you know where the margin of the lake is so you take your drop where it crossed the margin (or in a drop zone if there is one)...

When your ball is lost in tall grass or trees, where do you take your drop? Like Erik said above, we've all hit shots that we swear they are right in a certain place and end up finding them 30 yards ahead or behind where we thought. When the ball goes into the water and you drop behind the margin of the hazard there is no doubt that you are not playing nearer to the hole. If you just guess where you should drop on a lost ball, you may be nearer to the hole, you may not be. The fact is the ball is lost so you don't know.

Just curious, under your proposed rules, let's say I hit my ball into the left rough and my ball becomes lost. I proceed under your rule to take a drop a club length from an arbitrary point that I pick (a spot that I think the ball is lost but obviously isn't it since the ball isn't there) and hit what is now my third shot. Just after the ball leaves the face of the club my opponent alerts me that he sees my ball some distance behind me. What happens now?

This is sort of related to the portion of his point that I tend to understand.  Let's say, for example, that the area to the right of the hole is a giant canyon that is on the course property.  (Since you'll see several of these on the back 9 at Talega ;))  They can paint the edge of that canyon with red paint if they want, white paint if they want, or even no paint if they want.  I can hit the exact same horrendous shot into that canyon, and depending on which type of paint they (arbitrarily) chose, my penalty is going to be quite different.  It is that reason why I just don't see that the game would be fundamentally different if the penalties for all astray shots were uniform.  So, in the spirit of Mefree's idea, I could see the merits behind calling all areas off course the same thing. Whether it be a canyon, a lake, a forest, or just 10 foot high wild grass.

Now, lost balls on course?  Those are a different story, because you really have no idea where they went.  Gopher hole, stolen by another player, stolen by a bird, hit a sprinkler head, buried in the rough, etc, etc.  You're kind of SOL there.

However, just because I can see the merits and logic behind a change doesn't mean that I don't also understand the merits behind the way it is.  After all, like I've said before ... it's a silly game with equally silly rules, just like all other games that we play.  THEY ARE GAMES!

So, should the rules be changed?

No.

Were the rules to be changed, I wouldn't bat an eye and would love the game and continue to play it the same, and perhaps my handicap would go down by an extra 0.2 strokes, but I don't think they should be changed.

The color of paint is not as arbitrary as you think it is, but it's irrelevant to the discussion.  If it's white, you are out of bounds.  If it's red you aren't.  I don't even get the point of your argument.  It still goes back to the fundamental principle that you play the course as you find it .  How the course management or designer chooses to have that canyon marked has no bearing on that principle.  It just is whatever it is.

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Originally Posted by Golfingdad

and depending on which type of paint they (arbitrarily) chose, my penalty is going to be quite different.

I disagree that their choice would (or should) be arbitrary. Water hazards have a very clear definition in the Rules of Golf. Do some courses occasionally ignore them? Sure. Do some courses mark a forest as a lateral hazard to speed up play? Sure (but even then it's not arbitrary) - but the course plays that way for all, and is rated as such, etc.

Additionally, this is the same old "I can name a counter-example for every example you come up with" type of situation. Your scenario does not apply to all or even the majority of golf courses.

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In my mind the difference between a hazard and OB or lost ball is huge. Speaking from personal experience one is a common occurrence and the other is infrequent. I could go back through stats and give exact numbers but I'd be willing to wager my instance of hazard penalties to OB/lost ball are in the 10 to 1 range. It makes sense that one penalty is more severe than the other. As mentioned previously, one ball is in the play the other is not. I can't see a way to equalize that without changing the way the game is played.

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Originally Posted by iacas

Quote:

Originally Posted by Golfingdad

and depending on which type of paint they (arbitrarily) chose, my penalty is going to be quite different.

I disagree that their choice would (or should) be arbitrary. Water hazards have a very clear definition in the Rules of Golf. Do some courses occasionally ignore them? Sure. Do some courses mark a forest as a lateral hazard to speed up play? Sure (but even then it's not arbitrary) - but the course plays that way for all, and is rated as such, etc.

Additionally, this is the same old "I can name a counter-example for every example you come up with" type of situation. Your scenario does not apply to all or even the majority of golf courses.

And this is in part the difficulty in creating a set of rules which is perfect for the entire world.  Golf courses are different from each other.  Just about every course in existence has some feature which is unique to that course.  The rules have to be written in such language so as to accommodate the similarities, the differences, and those unique features.  This is the reason for the list of allowed local rules too.  But no local rule is allowed to waive a rule of golf, nor are such modifications allowed without the approval of the USGA or R&A.;

Thus the Rules of Golf are not perfect, nor can they ever be.  But they are the best compromise that can be devised while adhering to the fundamental principles of the game and still maintaining suitable playability.

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