Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The "Line-of-Flight" Debate

There is so much to learn about golf aside from just how to hit the ball. There’s a lot of etiquette to know, but there are just so many rules it’s mind boggling. One situation that most of us experience frequently is hitting into a hazard, so one might think that the rules that go with that situation would be widely known and accepted. Over the course of my golf education so far, I have been given a few different explanations of how to take relief from a water hazard and a lateral water hazard. Most people I talk to about it are absolutely certain they are correct, but they don’t always agree with one another. This difference of opinion caused me to look up the official ruling, after which I thought I had it all sorted out in my head. However, it came up again after my tournament this past Saturday, and a spirited discussion followed. I stated how I understood the rule and how I took relief accordingly on a hole during the course of play. My foursome agreed with the ruling but none of them were there for this discussion. The longer we discussed it and the more alcohol that was consumed, the more certain we all were that I was wrong after all. They’re the experienced ones and they seemed so sure – I must have misunderstood the rule I read or looked up the wrong thing. They changed their bylaws to allow women and let me in their club – who am I *blink-blink* to make waves when they want to instruct me in the rules of golf? Especially after coming in and immediately starting to win tournaments. As long as the rules are followed correctly out on the course, right? So to that end, I looked up the rule again and I’m convinced I had interpreted it correctly after all.

Here’s the debate: How should one take relief when a ball is lost inside a water hazard? Same question for a lateral water hazard?

Everyone agreed on the penalty of one stroke.

Everyone agreed that in either scenario you could go back and hit from the teeing ground or the place from which the ball was originally played.

In this debate, everyone agreed there was a two-club length rule for the lateral hazard, and for the most part, we agreed on where that could occur.

Based on past discussions, some people think there’s a one-club length rule for a water hazard and two-club lengths from a lateral.

Most people agree that from a water hazard you could take the ball back any distance, but here’s the most widely accepted idea that seems to be dead wrong: the line you take that ball back is either the line of flight the ball was on when it crossed the hazard or between the point where it crossed and the point from where you originally hit it.

I understood that when you take it back to whatever distance, it had to be on the line from the hole and the point of entry. From a water hazard it’s from behind the hazard and from a lateral, it’s along that line from the side far side of the hazard.

Here are the rules and even an illustration copied directly from http://www.usga.org:

26-1/15 Procedures for Relief from Lateral Water Hazard http://www.usga.org/playing/rules/books/decisions/dec26.html#26-1/15

In the above illustration, a player has played a ball from the teeing ground (Point A) into the lateral water hazard at Point B. It last crossed the margin of the hazard at Point C. He may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke:

(a) play another ball from the teeing ground — Rule 26-1a;

(b) drop a ball anywhere on the far side of the hazard on the dotted line from the hole through Point C, e.g., Point D — Rule 26-1b;
(c) drop a ball in the shaded area on the near side of the hazard which is all ground within two club-lengths of Point C, but not nearer the hole than Point C — Rule 26-1c(i); or
(d) drop a ball in the shaded area on the far side of the hazard which is all ground within two club-lengths of Point E, but not nearer the hole than Point E — Rule 26-1c(ii).

The player may not drop a ball on the so-called “line-of-flight” at Point F or anywhere else on the line the ball followed from A to B, except in the shaded area on the near side. Nor may he drop a ball within two club-lengths of Point G, the point on the far side of the hazard directly opposite Point C.

26-1. Relief for Ball in Water Hazard


It is a question of fact whether a ball lost after having been struck toward a water hazard is lost inside or outside the hazard. In order to treat the ball as lost in the hazard, there must be reasonable evidence that the ball lodged in it. In the absence of such evidence, the ball must be treated as a lost ball and Rule 27 applies.

If a ball is in or is lost in a water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

The ball may be lifted and cleaned when proceeding under this Rule.

(Prohibited actions when ball is in hazard — see Rule 13-4.)

(Ball moving in water in a water hazard — see Rule 14-6.)

Next post.


Eat Golf said...

So it doesn't matter whether the hazard is red or yellow staked. In both scenarios you would drop on a line keeping the POE and the flag - as far back as you want.

So what is the difference between yellow and red stakes? Is it that you are allowed to play your ball out of the red staked hazard without grounding your club - yellow staked you have to drop even if you see your ball?

Golfchick said...

I think these rules only apply to water hazards. It seems to me that when it's not lateral, there's no option to drop either within one or two club lengths in any direction no nearer the hole. It must be on that line and as far back as you want. The two club lengths is only for the margin of a lateral hazard where the shaded areas are. I presume it doesn't mention red or yellow stakes because they can mean other things at the discrection of the course? So as for the other differences... you tell me? Can't red or yellow mean other things than water hazard e.g., environmentally sensitive area?
I'm so confused!

Emily Hambidge said...

Great post! I, too, was thinking about golf etiquette the other day and posted some great books that are interesting here.

Golfchick said...

Oh oh oh Mister Kotter!
It does say under the lateral hazard rule (assuming yellow stakes) that you may play it as it lies. I think you can't ground your club in any hazard. Now that that has been answered, I'm really not sure of the differences! They must be deeper into the specific rules.