Written by: Darin Green, Senior Director of Rules & Competitions
Golf cart bridges over water or ditches are very common on golf courses. Nearly every course in Florida has at least one cart path or bridge that goes through a red or yellow penalty area.
Why did I just use the word “through” rather than “over”?
A penalty area is any body of water on the course including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse, and any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area. The definition of “penalty area” tells us that the edge of the penalty area is defined by the stakes or painted line and extends both up above ground and down below ground. So, when you drive your golf cart on the bridge you are driving through the penalty, not over it.
The concrete or wood bridge is an immovable obstruction and now that we know that the bridge through the penalty area is part of the penalty area, do you get free relief from it? The answer depends on where the player’s golf ball lies.
If the player has interference (lie of ball, area of stance, or area of intended swing) from the bridge and their ball lies in the penalty area (including on the bridge), the player is not entitled to free relief. However, if the player’s ball lies outside the penalty area and the player has interference from the bridge that lies inside the penalty area, the player is entitled to free relief
As with all immovable obstructions (cart paths, sprinkler heads, etc.), free relief is taken by finding the nearest point of complete relief for the player’s lie of ball, area of stance, and area of intended swing that is not closer to the hole and in the same part of the course and drop a ball in the relief area.
See more on Rule on Rule 16 here.
You may be asking yourself, why do the Tour players not get free relief from the wood bulkheads when they play THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Every year we see a player’s tee shot on 17 come to rest on the fringe, but so close to the wood bulkhead that the player stands on the wood to play the shot. Why do they not get free relief? The reason is, the PGA Tour has a Local Rule in effect that essentially says “artificial walls and pilings when located in penalty areas are integral objects.” The FSGA uses a similar Local Rule in our competitions.
Keep it in the short grass!