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


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A scenario recently discussed by our Rules Committee. A player hits his drive into the middle of the fairway on a par 5 hole. On his line of play, one yard from his ball, is a ball mark which he repairs. He uses a fairway wood for his second stroke and his ball ends up short of the green. Considering the following from 13-2/0.5, would you assess a two stroke penalty? "Examples of changes that are unlikely to create such a potential advantage are if a player: repairs a small pitch-mark on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150-yard approach shot from through the green;"
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A scenario recently discussed by our Rules Committee.

A player hits his drive into the middle of the fairway on a par 5 hole. On his line of play, one yard from his ball, is a ball mark which he repairs. He uses a fairway wood for his second stroke and his ball ends up short of the green. Considering the following from 13-2/0.5, would you assess a two stroke penalty?

"Examples of changes that are unlikely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:

repairs a small pitch-mark on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150-yard approach shot from through the green;"

No penalty, IMO.  It is virtually identical to the quoted situation.  What would be the basis, in the face of that decision, for assessing the penalty?  What were the arguments in favor of assessing?

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From my point of view, the situation you described is very similar to the situation described in the decision, so I don't think a penalty is appropriate.  On the other hand, I'd suggest to the player that he wait to repair any ball marks through the green until after he's hit his shot.  Then there's no interpretation to make.

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No penalty, IMO.  It is virtually identical to the quoted situation.  What would be the basis, in the face of that decision, for assessing the penalty?  What were the arguments in favor of assessing?

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. As a player, I would use the ball mark as an alignment aid so it's presence would not be a distraction, however, for other players, it might be. If no penalty, what distance from the ball would a repaired ball mark cause a penalty for a fairway wood stroke?

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No penalty under 13-2, but you are taking a big risk by repairing the pitch mark before playing.  Not something I'd do in a competition.  Since you are technically making an improvement on your line of play, I don't really know how close it has to be before a rules official dings you on it.  It's an unnecessary risk, and I don't see any reason to take such a chance.

If such a piddling thing is truly a mental distraction then that player truly has issues that go beyond playing the game.

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No penalty under 13-2, but you are taking a big risk by repairing the pitch mark before playing.  Not something I'd do in a competition.  Since you are technically making an improvement on your line of play, I don't really know how close it has to be before a rules official dings you on it.  It's an unnecessary risk, and I don't see any reason to take such a chance.  If such a thing is truly a mental distraction then that player has a lot more issues to deal with.

I don't get it. Why would a player feel the need to do this? If the pitch mark is in your line of play, can't you just use that as an intermediate aiming point?

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fourputt

No penalty under 13-2, but you are taking a big risk by repairing the pitch mark before playing.  Not something I'd do in a competition.  Since you are technically making an improvement on your line of play, I don't really know how close it has to be before a rules official dings you on it.  It's an unnecessary risk, and I don't see any reason to take such a chance.  If such a thing is truly a mental distraction then that player has a lot more issues to deal with.

I don't get it. Why would a player feel the need to do this? If the pitch mark is in your line of play, can't you just use that as an intermediate aiming point?

Of course you can, but the idea of repairing it comes from concern for care of the course.  Some players try to repair as many divots as possible, whether they made them or not.  If you do that in such a way that it can be construed as improving your line of play, then it's a penalty, no matter your good intentions.  It's just a better idea to wait, whether it is useful as an aiming point or not.

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A scenario recently discussed by our Rules Committee.

A player hits his drive into the middle of the fairway on a par 5 hole. On his line of play, one yard from his ball, is a ball mark which he repairs. He uses a fairway wood for his second stroke and his ball ends up short of the green. Considering the following from 13-2/0.5, would you assess a two stroke penalty?

"Examples of changes that are unlikely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:

repairs a small pitch-mark on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150-yard approach shot from through the green;"

No penalty, but he should be assessed one round of drinks for foolishness. Generally reserve such course care for after you play a stroke to avoid even the appearance of improving your line of play. What would make this more interesting is say he topped his fairway shot. Still, I'd say no penalty, but it might up the assessment to two rounds of drinks.

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I don't get it. Why would a player feel the need to do this? If the pitch mark is in your line of play, can't you just use that as an intermediate aiming point?

Maybe the player was waiting for the green to clear. If I was standing around I could see myself sanding a few divots, repairing a pitch mark, etc. to pass the time and I have done such things on occasion (though not in competitive play, so far as I can remember).

Given the location on the line of play taking any action there is iffy at best, but caring for the course is hardly a surprising action in and of itself.

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Of course you can, but the idea of repairing it comes from concern for care of the course.  Some players try to repair as many divots as possible, whether they made them or not.

I understand that, but why would someone feel compelled to do this [i]before[/i] they take their shot? Especially when there is a possibility of a penalty? Just hit the shot, then fix the mark (and replace your divot). I'm just trying to see a possible scenario where you would have a good reason for possibly subjecting yourself to a penalty.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fourputt

Of course you can, but the idea of repairing it comes from concern for care of the course.  Some players try to repair as many divots as possible, whether they made them or not.

I understand that, but why would someone feel compelled to do this before they take their shot? Especially when there is a possibility of a penalty? Just hit the shot, then fix the mark (and replace your divot).

I'm just trying to see a possible scenario where you would have a good reason for possibly subjecting yourself to a penalty.

I usually do it when I'm waiting for the group in front to clear the target area.  My former course had bottles of sand/seed mix on every cart, and when I had to wait I'd wander around filling divot holes.  However, I never did any close to where my ball was until after I hit.  If I waited to do all of them until after I hit, I'd be holding up the group behind me.

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I usually do it when I'm waiting for the group in front to clear the target area.  My former course had bottles of sand/seed mix on every cart, and when I had to wait I'd wander around filling divot holes.  However, I never did any close to where my ball was until after I hit.  If I waited to do all of them until after I hit, I'd be holding up the group behind me.

So basically what @fr0sty said. For a number of reasons, I don't usually find myself in these scenarios, so this whole concept was foreign to me. Thanks for the explanation.

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No penalty under 13-2, but you are taking a big risk by repairing the pitch mark before playing.  Not something I'd do in a competition.  Since you are technically making an improvement on your line of play, I don't really know how close it has to be before a rules official dings you on it.  It's an unnecessary risk, and I don't see any reason to take such a chance.

I agree.

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.

As a player, I would use the ball mark as an alignment aid so it's presence would not be a distraction, however, for other players, it might be.

If no penalty, what distance from the ball would a repaired ball mark cause a penalty for a fairway wood stroke?

You still stuck on 6?  You must be slipping. :-)

I don't agree that D24-2a/1 would be analogous.  In that decision a player is trying to apply a rule that he is not allowed to. He is trying to use mental distraction as the reason for relief.    R13-2 says nothing, that I can find,  that talks about mental distractions.  D 13-2/23 mentions distractions, but I think that's talking about a physical distraction in the area of his swing.  I think R13-2 is referring to physical advantages.

As far as your distance question, I think it boils down to things like the club used, distance to hole, what would be the possible ball flights under the circumstances.  It's judgment.. In D13-2/0.5, the penalty examples it lists I think are fairly obvious, so I would think in those terms when ruling.

IMHO

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What if the player changed his mind after the repair and used his putter, not the wood?  Still no penalty?   I guess i'd go with the Rules and 5 yards to avoid any judgmental decisions.

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What if the player changed his mind after the repair and used his putter, not the wood?  Still no penalty?   I guess i'd go with the Rules and 5 yards to avoid any judgmental decisions.


I think this is one of the areas of the rules where intent is critical. It is interesting that the Rules of Golf do inject intent into the rules (definition of a stroke is best example, accidentally hitting the ball is not a stroke per se - it is a penalty and you have to replace). If the affected repair is in the player's intended line of play, then it is a violation. If it ends up being accidental (he tops the ball) no penalty. If after making the repair, the player changes his mind about line of play, it is a penalty because it has now become the intended line of play. While other sports have issues of intention, it is usually something like "intent to injure." While I am not a fan of rules that leave officials guessing as to what someone was thinking at the time, golf is distinct in the "honor code" nature of its rules. This gets back to the premise, though, of don't put yourself in the situation of having to question yourself. Leave care of anything between you and the hole until after you play your shot.

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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.

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I think this is one of the areas of the rules where intent is critical. It is interesting that the Rules of Golf do inject intent into the rules (definition of a stroke is best example, accidentally hitting the ball is not a stroke per se - it is a penalty and you have to replace). If the affected repair is in the player's intended line of play, then it is a violation. If it ends up being accidental (he tops the ball) no penalty. If after making the repair, the player changes his mind about line of play, it is a penalty because it has now become the intended line of play. While other sports have issues of intention, it is usually something like "intent to injure." While I am not a fan of rules that leave officials guessing as to what someone was thinking at the time, golf is distinct in the "honor code" nature of its rules. This gets back to the premise, though, of don't put yourself in the situation of having to question yourself. Leave care of anything between you and the hole until after you play your shot.

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.

13-2/24

Area of Originally Intended Swing Improved by Breaking Branch; Area of Swing Finally Used Not Affected by Branch

Q. A player, intending to play in a certain direction, took a practice backswing for a stroke in that direction and broke a branch impeding his backswing. The player then decided to play in a different direction. The area of his intended swing for a stroke in this new direction was not improved by the breaking of the branch. In such circumstances, would the player incur a penalty under Rule 13-2 ?

A. Yes. The player was in breach of Rule 13-2 as soon as he improved the area of the originally intended swing. The penalty is not avoided if he subsequently plays in another direction, even if the breaking of the branch had no effect on the area of the swing for a stroke in the new direction.

Line of Play

The “ line of play ’’ is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke , plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole .

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Note: This thread is 2227 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

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