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Penalty or Not? - Repairing Ball Mark on Line in Fairway


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Hi Joe,

I may not be understanding what you are trying to say.

.

In D13-2/24 the player changes his mind, or intention, on deciding his line of play, but is still in breach of the rule.  Also,in JoeKelly's example, he is not changing his line of play.

My comment was mostly in reference to the original post and trying to understand why typically it is not a penalty if you fix a ball mark in the area where, although it is in your line of play, you would not intentionally hit your ball in that manner (you're not trying skull the ball 150 yards, but even if you do and it hits the repaired area it is not a penalty). Similarly, with D13-2/24 it is a penalty to improve your lie (e.g. breaking branches, even accidentally on a practice swing while preparing on a line of play). Just because you then change your mind, it doesn't change the penalty or the advantage offered you - whether you use it or not. What this all falls under is what a player was intending at the time of the action in question. It's a bit like the definition of a stroke. If you accidentally hit the ball, it is not a stroke (but a penalty). Similarly, even if you don't hit the ball, but intend to, it is a stroke (and not a penalty for "whiffing" etc.). In JoeKelly's example, it would be a penalty. See something like 12-2/24 - You take your stance, and then after taking your stance, you change the line of play and that line was improved by your original stance. While there is a change of line of play, there is still an intent to take advantage of some improvement caused by you. Also look at 13-2/0.5  and the examples of likely not improving your line (you grab grass a few yards ahead of the ball to test the wind). Even if the ball ends up where the grass was because you chunk it, it is not a penalty - you weren't intending to take advantage of the improvement even though you gained from it.  What happens if you're 10 yards off the green intending to play a flop shot and you skull it across the divot or pitch mark you fixed? That's a good one, a gray area, and gets back to the rule of thumb of not doing any course care in front of you until after you play.

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I'll play devil's advocate.  It could be viewed that the mere fact he repaired a pitch mark in front of his ball indicates its presence bothered him and his intent was to improve his line.  A distance of 3 feet versus 15 feet is significant.  It is possible the R&A;/USGA used 15 feet to underline the fact that if one repairs the course well away from one's ball, all is well and good but one should not take this Decision as a license to shrink the distance to a mere 1-3 feet.  Three feet is less than a club length.

Many of us have had a problem with alignment when the tee markers are carelessly placed.  The visual cues override our initial aim.  A prominent ball mark 3 feet (or 2 feet or a foot) in front of our ball will not affect our stance, stroke or the ball's flight but it could be a distraction if the mark is slightly off line with our desired aim.  Frankly, I probably would move a visually distracting loose impediment or obstruction that was lying 3 feet in front of my ball.  I would not do so if it was 15 feet in front.

Just as mental interference cannot be used as a reason for taking relief from an obstruction or GUR, you can't use that as a reason to inflict a penalty in interpreting this rule.  As long as repair of the divot or pitch mark cannot be seen as improving a player's lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, then it can be repaired without penalty before the stroke is made.  Mental interference is not a factor in making this determination.  Although technically on the line of play, the intended stroke would make such a defect irrelevant, even if the player was to ultimately mishit the ball and the ball should roll over the repaired defect.

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Just as mental interference cannot be used as a reason for taking relief from an obstruction or GUR, you can't use that as a reason to inflict a penalty in interpreting this rule.

I am not so sure. If you look at 13-2/23 - just shaking water off the leaves on a tree can be a penalty. Note especially the use of the word "distraction," which to me implies the USGA recognizes that even if an improvement is made mostly for mental benefit, it could be a rule violation. Of course where do you draw the line? If there is a divot off to the side and you replace it because it was annoying you, is that a rule violation? Hardly, but again, the rule of thumb I was always given is save any course care until after you play your shot.

13-2/23

Shaking Water from Tree Branch Interfering with Backswing

Q.After heavy rain, a player plays a stroke that comes to rest under a tree. A branch of the tree interferes with the player's backswing. Before playing his next stroke, the player shakes the water off this branch in order to eliminate the possibility of dislodged water distracting him. Is this a breach of Rule 13-2 ?

A.Yes. In moving the branch, the player removed water which could have caused a distraction and thereby improved the area of his intended swing in breach of Rule 13-2 .

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fourputt

Just as mental interference cannot be used as a reason for taking relief from an obstruction or GUR, you can't use that as a reason to inflict a penalty in interpreting this rule.

I am not so sure. If you look at 13-2/23 - just shaking water off the leaves on a tree can be a penalty. Note especially the use of the word "distraction," which to me implies the USGA recognizes that even if an improvement is made mostly for mental benefit, it could be a rule violation. Of course where do you draw the line? If there is a divot off to the side and you replace it because it was annoying you, is that a rule violation? Hardly, but again, the rule of thumb I was always given is save any course care until after you play your shot.

13-2/23

Shaking Water from Tree Branch Interfering with Backswing

Q.After heavy rain, a player plays a stroke that comes to rest under a tree. A branch of the tree interferes with the player's backswing. Before playing his next stroke, the player shakes the water off this branch in order to eliminate the possibility of dislodged water distracting him. Is this a breach of Rule 13-2?

A.Yes. In moving the branch, the player removed water which could have caused a distraction and thereby improved the area of his intended swing in breach of Rule 13-2.

But, that water is directly in the path of his swing, and he expects to dislodge it with his swing.  It's a different situation.  He is talking about the dislodging and falling of the water being a distraction, not it's mere presence.  I read it like this:  The dislodged water would fall on his head or bare neck if it hadn't been shaken off, and that is a direct physical distraction, not mental.  Nothing in the decision says anything about it being a mental distraction.

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But, that water is directly in the path of his swing, and he expects to dislodge it with his swing.  It's a different situation.  He is talking about the dislodging and falling of the water being a distraction, not it's mere presence.  I read it like this:  The dislodged water would fall on his head or bare neck if it hadn't been shaken off, and that is a direct physical distraction, not mental.  Nothing in the decision says anything about it being a mental distraction.

Good points. He dislodged something that he believes could physically interfere with his swing - a mental distraction only because of its potential for physical interference.

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It was felt by some that the ball mark could be a "mental distraction," similar to 24-2a/1, for which there is no relief and for which, there would then be a 2 stroke penalty.

Also, in 27-2a/1.5, the RofG include a specific maximum distance that a player can go forward to search, 50 yards, beyond which he cannot go back to play a provisional ball. Similarly, if a ball mark may be repaired 5 yards in front of the ball in play with no penalty, then a ball mark only a yard in front would be too close to allow it to be repaired.

Off the original topic, but it should be noted that the "50 yards" in 27-2a/1.5 is not a specific maximum distance.

Emphasis mine:


As a guideline, a player should be considered to have proceeded more than a short distance, and therefore to have gone forward to search, if he has proceeded more than approximately 50 yards. However, this guideline does not preclude a player from playing a provisional ball when he has proceeded more than a short distance for another specific purpose, such as to retrieve a ball or a different club to play a provisional ball, or to confer with a referee. (Revised)

Reasoning for this decision as was explained to us in Rules class is that the R&A; had a number of situations where rulings were issued that were way too extreme.  For example, player hits a ball and then walks to his cart,which was parked forward of the tees, to retrieve another ball to use as a provisional.  Apparently there had been cases where they player had been deemed to have "gone forward" in such a case and was not permitted to hit a provisional.  Additionally, there may be cases where a blind tee-shot could change one's mind about the need to hit a provisional after having proceeded down the hole a bit.

So while 50 yards is the guideline, it is just a guideline and there could be cases where no penalty is assessed even though the player went further.

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