‘Can I take a drop?’

Are you break­ing the rules with­out re­al­is­ing it? Here’s a re­minder

Today's Golfer (UK) - - First Tee -

We all like to think we know what we’re do­ing on the course, even if our shot-mak­ing is usu­ally a dead give­away. But what you may not re­alise is that you’ve prob­a­bly bro­ken the same rules twice, maybe three times over, al­ready this sum­mer. Toby Thorne, deputy cham­pi­onship direc­tor at Eng­land Golf, says he’s lost count how many times he’s had to give a rul­ing on the course to stop golfers from in­cur­ring a penalty. To help keep you on the straight and nar­row dur­ing your next club comp, he’s picked out five of golf’s most mis­un­der­stood rules…

Wa­ter haz­ards Never as­sume that be­cause your ball was veer­ing to­wards a wa­ter haz­ard, it is in the haz­ard. Just be­cause you can’t find your ball, it doesn’t mean it has found a wa­tery grave. It must be “known or vir­tu­ally cer­tain” that it lies in the haz­ard to take re­lief un­der the wa­ter haz­ard rule (Rule 261). With­out this cer­tainty, your only op­tion is to pro­ceed un­der penalty of stroke and dis­tance (Rule 27-1). That is why it al­ways makes sense to play a pro­vi­sional ball when­ever you have any doubts af­ter play­ing your orig­i­nal shot. Tak­ing a drop When tak­ing re­lief from a wa­ter haz­ard (yel­low stakes and/or lines), it is not the po­si­tion of the ball that mat­ters; it is where the ball last crossed the mar­gin of the haz­ard. You may drop any dis­tance be­hind the haz­ard, but you must keep a straight line between the hole and the point where the ball last crossed the mar­gin. Just re­mem­ber it’s only with a lat­eral wa­ter haz­ard (red stakes and/or lines) that you may drop within two clublengths of the point of en­try, no nearer the hole (Rule 26-1).

Pick and place Win­ter rules are there to help us, but it’s easy to breach them when pre­ferred lies are in oper­a­tion. To avoid in­cur­ring a one-stroke penalty, make sure you mark your ball be­fore lift­ing it to pre­fer a lie. And once the ball has been pre­ferred in the first in­stance, the ball is now in play and can­not be moved again.

An­i­mal drop­pings If a ball lies in an area sur­rounded by rab­bit drop­pings, it does not mean you are en­ti­tled to a free drop. An­i­mal drop­pings are classed as loose im­ped­i­ments, hence they may be re­moved (Rule 23-1), but there must be in­ter­fer­ence from an ab­nor­mal ground con­di­tion, such as an ac­tual hole, cast or run­way in the ground which has been made by a bur­row­ing an­i­mal, to claim re­lief and drop your ball away from them (Rule 25-1). And no, an­i­mal foot­prints do not count!

Declar­ing a lost ball If you hit a hook into the trees, and knock your pro­vi­sional five feet from the pin, you are not obliged to look for your orig­i­nal ball. How­ever, there is noth­ing stop­ping your op­po­nent or fel­low com­peti­tor from look­ing. If they find it within the five-minute search pe­riod, and you haven’t al­ready played your next shot with your pro­vi­sional, you must go and iden­tify the ball. If it is yours, you must play it. Ig­nor­ing it in favour of the pro­vi­sional would mean you’d be play­ing a wrong ball, and in­cur a two-stroke penalty at best (Rule 27-2c).

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