I played dumb golf last week, and should have known better.
Here’s the lo down.
I was playing in a friendly competition with members of my local league. On the 12th hole – a par 3 with an elevated green, I hit my tee shot to the right of the green into what I thought was just the edge of the woods… but just in case I could not find it, I hit a provisional. This second ball landed short of the green but in a perfectly safe spot. After everyone else had hit their tee shot I headed up toward the green to search for my first ball, and unfortunately I found it! It was under a bramble bush— a deep thicket with lots of thorns and nasty prickly things. I declared it unplayable
Here’s where things became interesting as I considered my options.
- First, the provisional ball was out of play because I had found my first ball.
- Second, —and I should have known this as I have played this hole many times— there were no stakes to indicate out of bounds.
- Third, the thicket extended at least twenty feet to either side of my first ball’s position, and straight back into more thicket. The nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole, was about twenty feet to the right of the ball which would land me into some pine needles but at least I would have a shot.
So, thinking I knew the rule, I told my golf partners that I would pick up the ball, move to the nearest point of relief and then drop the ball there and hit in onto the green, taking a one stroke penalty.
One of the players disagreed. She insisted that I count off the number of club lengths it would take me to get to that point of relief and count a stroke for every two club lengths. As my driver shaft is about 3 1/2 feet long that would mean it would take roughly 6 club lengths to reach the point of relief… or an additional 3 stroke penalty…. !!!
She was insistent that she was correct and as the other players did not have a better solution, I simply declared myself out of the hole and they continued to play.
In hindsight I realize I should have just gone back to the tee box and hit another shot, taking a one stroke penalty… but by that time the group behind us were on the tee box listening to us trying to decide what to do.
But was the woman right? Would I have to count a stroke for every 2 club lengths until I got to a patch from which I could play????
We asked the pro at the club house when we got back and I checked with several golfers who are very rule savvy. The answer all relates to Rule 28 in the USGA Rule Book.
Bottom line: The woman was right. In the situation in which I found myself there was no “nearest point of relief.” I could not go back into the woods to hit, that left me with two choices… mark off two club lengths from the ball, no nearer the hole, drop the ball and then hit, taking a penalty stroke. If the ball was still unplayable I had to repeat the marking off, dropping and hitting and adding a stroke until the ball was finally playable! Or, the third choice— the smart choice was to go back to the tee, apologize to the group waiting, and hit the #$%@!# ball for three. Sigh. But I was embarassed by that time and just decided to move on. After all it was just a friendly tournament. Not as if we were playing for major money.
But I learned a great deal from the experience.
- I need to bone up on the rules of golf!
- I need to remember where the out of bound stakes are at my golf course!
- and one other thing… if you are ever in such a situation and you suspect that your ball is in an unplayable position but not out of bounds, DO NOT LOOK FOR IT. And don’t let your golf buddies look for it. If you find it you have to play it. Immediately declare your ball unplayable and hit a provisional. Then go and hit the provisional, putting it into play. Once you do, your first ball is out of play, even if someone finds it later.