One of Golf's Rarest Rulings

At the recent Boys’ Junior Championship conducted in the Vero Beach area, I was summoned to the seventh hole of the beautiful Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club (future host of the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship). A call came over the radio saying that a player had played from the lateral water hazard right of the green and the ball had come to rest out of bounds.

“Now what can he do?”

I was stationed near the sixth green so it took me a short while to work my way through players waiting as a result of the back-up created by the situation. On my way, I realized that this is one of the rarest rulings in golf (Rule 26-2b) of which I had only encountered one other time in 21 years of officiating golf.

I arrived on scene to find the player standing near to where he had played his ball from the lateral water hazard. I also noticed the water hazard was bordered by a bunker. What we sometimes call a beach bunker as it transitions directly from bunker to water hazard with no grass in between.

When the player asked what his options were, I knew this could take a while.

First, since his ball lay out of bounds, it would cost him one penalty stroke to get back to where he last played. Regardless, that penalty stroke would never go away. The player could drop it back in the hazard and play from there or skip that step, but it was still going to cost him that stroke. If he did drop it in the hazard, he was not required to play the ball. He could, for an additional penalty (making two penalty strokes in all), still regress back in time to when his ball first entered the water hazard and use any of those available options.

Those additional options were that he could,
go back and play from where he last played from outside the hazard, or

  • keep the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard and the hole in a line and drop behind the hazard, or
  • drop within two club-lengths of the spot where he last crossed the margin of the hazard (in the bunker), or
  • drop within two club-lengths of a spot equidistant from the hole on the opposite margin of the lateral water hazard from where he last crossed.

He decided to drop in the water hazard for his first penalty stroke and get a “free look” at the lie knowing he could still choose other options for an additional penalty stroke. The lie was good, half submerged so he elected to hit it out of there. I held my breath hoping he wouldn’t hit it out of bounds again. Good fortune smiled upon him as he knocked it out of the water and on to the putting green.

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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