January - 2009

In the past, I've tried to show examples how the Rules of Golf are fair and balanced, how they go to great lengths to explain different situations and, your various options. Well, sometimes the rules just do not seem fair and in some situations you are damned if you do and damned if you don't!

Let me give you an example regarding Rule 28. Ball Unplayable: There are two areas at San Clemente that have always been a problem relative to this Rule and the corresponding decisions.

Here's Rule 28. Ball Unplayable:

All defined terms are in italics and are listed alphabetically in the Definitions section.

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:
    a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

    b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

    c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

Penalty for Breach of Rule: Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes

On the 6th hole (left of the trees and next to the apartment complex) is an area where a ball can come to rest against the OB fence and be considered unplayable. Taking relief under the unplayable lie rule - one option is to lift, clean and drop your ball within two club lengths of where the ball came to rest against the fence. The problem with this area as well as the left side of the cart path on the 16th hole (where the OB fence is located) that option dropping the ball MAY cause your ball to roll back into an unplayable lie situation. This seems very unfair but, you must factor the possibility that your ball can roll (while taking relief) back into the same condition. Decision 28/3 explains this below.

Decision 28/3 Ball Dropped Under Unplayable Ball Rule Comes to Rest in Original Position or Another Position at Which Ball Is Unplayable

Q. A player deemed his ball unplayable and, under Rule 28c, dropped his ball within two club-lengths of the spot where it lay. The ball came to rest in the original position or another position at which the ball was unplayable. What is the ruling?

A. The ball was in play when it was dropped - Rule 20-4. Thus, if the ball came to rest in the original position, the player must again invoke the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke, unless he decides to play the ball as it lies. The same applies if the ball came to rest in another position at which it was unplayable, assuming that the ball did not roll into a position covered by Rule 20-2c, in which case re-dropping without penalty would be required.

Derek Duesler