What Do We Do?
At the recent US Women’s Open Championship Sectional Qualifier held at Heathrow Country Club in Heathrow, Florida, the radio silence was broken by a call saying “I have two golf balls that both have come to rest in the lateral water hazard left of the 18th fairway that are touching each other.”
I headed that way to give Jim Keedy a hand if needed. Instruction on the radio told Jim to “have one of the players mark the position of her ball and lift it. Then have the other player go ahead and play her ball. After she has, have the remaining player replace her ball and go ahead play.”
That all sounded good and simple until you think about where the balls were, what Rules applied and what happens when the lie has been altered after the first player plays.
When I arrived and took a look, I saw that the balls were in the hazard in a small “valley” created by a washout on the bank of the lateral water hazard; no relief (Rule 25-1b, Note 1). The mini canyon ran East-West while the hole ran North-South so the only play was to chip the ball sideways back toward the fairway if they chose to play it as it lies (Rule 13-1). They both had the options available under the water hazard Rule (Rule 26-1) but instead decided to play out sideways.
Since the position of the balls interfered with each other (Rule 22-1), we had one young woman mark the position of her ball (Rule 20-1) and then move the mark over a couple of putter head lengths (Note to Rule 20-1) being careful not to clean the ball when it was lifted (Rule 21). She was able to ground the putter head on the ground in the hazard while measuring (Rule 13-4, Exception 1) the two putter head lengths over before moving the mark.
The first player played out successfully to the fairway. Now, the second player was required to replace her ball (Rule 20-3a). However, the original lie had been altered by the stroke of the first player (Rule 20-3b) requiring the second player to place her ball in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length from the original lie, not nearer the hole, while staying in the hazard.
There were plenty of places within one club-length to place the ball but none had the same “valley” effect. Even though the original lie had been altered, the nearest lie to the original lie was, in fact, the original lie in its altered condition. Therefore, we had the player place the ball back where it originally lie in its altered condition (Decision 20-3b/7) where she promptly chipped back out sideways to the fairway where play continued.
It didn’t take too long to accomplish but there sure were a lot of Rules involved!
Remember, it pays to know the Rules. Knowing the Rules of Golf can help you save strokes and enjoy the game of golf.