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UTAH GOLF ASSOCIATION

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Pine Tree Issues

 

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Photo #1

1.  A group of players where searching for a ball on the 18th hole of Bonnivile Ridge gold course during the third round of the UGA Senior Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

2.  A Referee observed a player shake a branch of a pine tree while searching for a ball.  The Referee saw Ball A immediately fall from the tree. 

3.  Photo #1 shows Ball A on the ground.   

 

Question #1 – What is the first question the Referee should ask the players?

Answer to Question #1 – Who is the owner of Ball A?  Is the player that shook the branch the owner of Ball A or is the player that shook the branch of the tree a fellow competitor?

Question #2 – Is there a penalty if the owner of Ball A shook the branch?

Question #3 – If so how many penalty strokes?

Question #4 – How should the owner proceed if he shook the branch?

Answer to Question #2 – Yes!!!

Answer to Question #3 – A minimum of one penalty stroke!!!  The Referee must determine what the player’s intent was when he shook the tree branch. 

  1. One penalty stroke if the player deemed Ball A unplayable in advance or if it was reasonable to assume that he intended to declare Ball A unplayable.  (See Decision 18-2/27) 

Decision 18-2/27 Player Wishes to Dislodge Ball in Tree and Proceed Under Unplayable Ball Rule

Q. A player who knows or believes that his ball is lodged high in a tree wishes to dislodge it by shaking the tree or throwing a club so that he can identify it and proceed by deeming his ball unplayable under Rule 28. Is this permissible?

A. Yes. However, to avoid a penalty under Rule 18-2, before any movement of the ball occurs, the player must announce that he intends to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule or it must be reasonable to assume from his actions that he intends to do so. (Revised)

  1. The owner of Ball A would incure a penalty stroke if he had no intention to proceed under the Unplayable Ball Rule.  {See Rule 18-2(i) and Rule 18-2(ii)}

Rule 18-2. Ball at Rest Moved By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player's ball is in play, if

(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:

  • lifts or moves the ball,
  • touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or
  • causes the ball to move, or

(ii) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

  1. The owner of Ball A would have a total of 2 penalty strokes if he had no intention to proceed under Rule 28 when he shook the tree and then decided to proceed under Rule 28. 

Answer to Question #4 – It depends!!!

  1. The player may proceed directly to Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable) if he has declared Ball A unplayable prior to shaking the tree or if it was reasonable to assume from his actions he intended to declare Ball A unplayable.  First the player must estimate where the ball lay in the tree.  He may then use a spot on the ground as a reference point to apply Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).  {See Rule 20-2b, Decision 18-2/28 and Decision 28/11}

Rule 20-2b. Where to Drop

When a ball is to be dropped as near as possible to a specific spot, it must be dropped not nearer the hole than the specific spot which, if it is not precisely known to the player, must be estimated.

A ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course where the applicable Rule requires it to be dropped. If it is not so dropped, Rules 20-6 and 20-7 apply.

Decision 18-2/28 Ball Dislodged from Tree; Player Had No Intention to Proceed Under Unplayable Ball Rule

Q. A player could not find his ball. Believing the ball might be lodged in a tree, he shook the tree and his ball fell to the ground. He played the ball from where it came to rest. What is the ruling?

A.  As the player did not announce that he intended to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule and it was not reasonable to assume from his actions that he intended to do so, he incurred one penalty stroke under Rule 18-2 for moving his ball. He should have replaced the ball. Since he did not do so, in match play he lost the hole. In stroke play, he incurred a total penalty of two strokes, unless it was a serious breach (see Rule 18 penalty statement and Rule 20-7c).

Having incurred the one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2, the player could have elected to proceed directly under the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke under Rule 28, rather than replace the ball in the tree. (Revised)

Deciision 28/11 Ball Unplayable in Tree and Player Opts to Drop Within Two Club-Lengths

Q. A player's ball is eight feet off the ground, lodged in a tree. The player deems the ball unplayable. May the player proceed under option c of Rule 28 which permits him to drop a ball within two club-lengths of where his ball lay unplayable?

A. Yes. The player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree. In some instances this may allow the player to drop a ball on a putting green.

  1. The player may replace Ball A in the tree and try to play it, with one penalty stroke, if he did not declare his ball unplayable in advance or if it is not reasonable to assume from his actions that his intent was to declare it unplayable.  He could also declare it unplayable and proceed directly to Rule 28.  Decision 18-2/29 gives us guidence on how the player can proceed.

Decision 18-2/29 Procedure for Player after Dislodging His Ball from Tree

Q. A player, believing his ball is lodged in a tree, shakes the tree and his ball falls to the ground. As provided in Decision 18-2/28, unless the player announced or it was reasonable to assume from his actions that he would proceed under the unplayable ball Rule if it was his ball, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 and must replace his ball. However, how should the player proceed if he cannot replace his ball because:

  1. the spot where it lay in the tree is not determinable, or
  2. the ball fails to remain on the correct spot when replaced, or
  3. the player cannot reach the spot where the ball lay?

A. Rules 20-3c and 20-3d would normally cover circumstances (1) and (2), but these Rules do not contemplate a situation such as the one described. Accordingly, in equity (Rule 1-4), in circumstances (1) and (2), the ball must be placed in the tree as near as possible to the spot from which it was moved. Alternatively, the player may elect to proceed directly under the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke under Rule 28.

In circumstance (3), the player must proceed under the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke under Rule 28. (Revised )

Question #5 – Is there a penalty if a fellow competitor shook the branch searching for Ball A and it fell from the tree?

Question #6 – How should the owner of Ball A proceed?

Question #7 – Would there be a penalty if the competition was match play and an opponent shook the branch searching for Ball A and it fell from the tree?

Answer to Question #5 – There are no penalties to anyone.  (See Rule 18-4)

Rule 18-4. Ball at Rest Moved By Fellow-Competitor, Caddie or Equipment in Stroke Play

If a fellow-competitor, his caddie or his equipment, moves the player's ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

Answer to Question #6 – A fellow-competitor is an outside agency and Decision 18-1/9 gives us guidence how the owner of Ball A should proceed. 

Decision 18-1/9 Ball Lodged in Tree Knocked Down by Outside Agency

Q. A player's ball is lodged in a tree about eight feet off the ground. A spectator knocks the ball down from the tree. In complying with Rule 18-1, it is impossible to replace the ball in the prescribed manner in the tree because the spot where it lay in the tree is unknown or unreachable. What is the ruling?

A. Rules 20-3c and 20-3d cover cases in which the spot where a ball is to be placed or replaced is not determinable or a ball fails to come to rest on the spot on which it is placed. However, these Rules do not contemplate a case such as this one. Thus, in equity (Rule 1-4), if the position of the ball in the tree was such that the player could have made a stroke at it, the ball must be placed in the tree as near as possible to the spot from which it was moved, without penalty. Otherwise, the player must proceed under the unplayable ball Rule.

Answer to Question #7 – The would be no penalties since the opponent moved Ball A during search.  (See Rule 18-3)

Rule 18-3. Ball at Rest Moved By Opponent, Caddie or Equipment in Match Play

a. During Search

If, during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment, moves the ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

b. Other Than During Search

If, other than during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment, moves the ball, touches it purposely or causes it to move, except as otherwise provided in the Rules, the opponent incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

 

 

Photo #2

1.  A player hit her tee shot under a tree on the 10th hole of the Davis Park Golf Course during the second stroke play round of the UGA Women’s Amateur Champtionship.

2.  The player attempted to play a stroke at her ball.

3.  She hit the branch shown in Photo #2 with her backswing and immediately checked her downswing.

4.  The player asked for a referee when her caddie mentioned  several pine needles fell when her club hit the branch.

 

Question #1 – Is the player penalized for improving her area of intended swing when the pine needles fell?

Question #2 – Could the player ever be penalized under Rule 13-2 if she had completed her stroke?

Answer to Question #1 – It depends!!!  The question is:  Has the player’s area of intended swing been changed for the better so that the player has created a potential advantage?  Decision 13-2/0.5 gives us guidence when we are trying to answer this question. 

Decision 13-2/0.5 Meaning of "Improve" in Rule 13-2

Q. Rule 13-2 prohibits a player from improving certain areas. What does "improve" mean?

A. In the context of Rule 13-2, "improve" means to change for the better so that the player creates a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or the area in which he is to drop or place a ball. Therefore, merely changing an area protected by Rule 13-2 will not be a breach of Rule 13-2 unless it creates such a potential advantage for the player in his play.

Examples of changes that are unlikely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:

  • repairs a small pitch-mark, smoothes a footprint in a bunker or replaces a divot in a divot hole on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150-yard approach shot from through the green;
  • whose ball lies in the middle of a long, shallow-faced fairway bunker, smoothes footprints five yards in front of his ball and on his line of play prior to playing a long shot over the smoothed area;
  • accidentally knocks down several leaves from a tree in his area of intended swing with a practice swing, but there are still so many leaves or branches remaining that the area of intended swing has not been materially affected; or 
  • whose ball lies in thick rough 180 yards from the green, walks forward and pulls strands of grass on his line of play and tosses them in the air to determine the direction of the wind.

Examples of changes that are likely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:

  • repairs a pitch-mark through the green or replaces a divot in a divot hole five yards in front of his ball and on his line of play prior to making a stroke from off the putting green that might be affected by the pitch-mark or divot hole (e.g., a putt or a low-running shot);
  • whose ball lies in a greenside bunker, smoothes footprints five yards in front of his ball on his line of play prior to playing a short shot intended to be played over the smoothed area;
  • accidentally knocks down a single leaf from a tree in his area of intended swing with a practice swing, but, as this was one of very few leaves that might either interfere with his swing or fall and thereby distract him, the area of intended swing has been materially affected; or
  • pulls strands of grass from rough a few inches behind his ball to test the wind, but thereby reduces a potential distraction for the player, or resistance to his club, in the area of his intended swing.

The determination as to whether a player has created a potential advantage by his actions is made by reference to all the circumstances immediately prior to his stroke. (Revised)

The Committee ruled the player’s area of intenden swing had not been materially affected because there were so many pine needles and branches remaining in the area.  Therefore there was no penalty.   

Answer to Question #2 – No!!! (See Rule 13-2)

Rule 13-2. Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play

A player must not improve or allow to be improved:

  • the position or lie of his ball,
  • the area of his intended stance or swing,
  • his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or
  • the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,

by any of the following actions:

  • pressing a club on the ground,
  • moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds),
  • creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,
  • removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position, or
  • removing dew, frost or water.

However, the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs:

  • in grounding the club lightly when addressing the ball,
  • in fairly taking his stance,
  • in making a stroke or the backward movement of his club for a stroke and the stroke is made,
  • in creating or eliminating irregularities of surface within the teeing ground or in removing dew, frost or water from the teeing ground, or
  • on the putting green in removing sand and loose soil or in repairing damage (Rule 16-1).

Exception: Ball in hazard - see Rule 13-4.

Rules Official’s Web Page

Bare Ground

Rule 33-2a(iii) and Rule 33-2(iv) state that the Committee must define accurately Ground Under Repair and Obstructions and intergral parts of the course. 

Several Referees have asked the following Question:  “Why do we give relief from some areas of bare ground on the golf course and we do not give relief from other areas of bare ground on the golf course?”  We hope to answer some of these questions with Photos #3, #4 and #5.

 

 

Photo #3

1.  Photo #3 shows and artificially surfaced path located near the 17th putting green of Alpine Country Club and a ball lying on bare ground at the entrance to the cart path.

2.  The statement, “WHITE-LINED AREAS TYING INTO ARTIFICIALLY-SURFACED ROADS AND PATHS - have the same status as roads and paths (which they tie into), that of obstructions.” Is on the UGA Hard Card.

3.  This bare ground was white lined and tied into the artificially sirfaced path at this years US Open Qualifying.

4. The player was granted relief from this bare ground. 

 

Question #1 – Why would the Committee white line areas lying next to Artificially Surfaced Surfaced Roads and Paths?

Answer to Question #1 – The Committee usually consider the bare areas near artificially surfaced paths an extension of the path.  These bare area are a result of golf carts entering or exiting the artificially surfaced path in one specific area of the course and probably would not be there if the course had not installed a artificially surfaced path in a specific area. The Committee usually ties the bare entrance areas to artificially surfaced paths to the paths because:

  1. These areas are usually small.  One player could obtain relief when his ball lies in one of theses bare areas because he is standing on the artificially surfaced path or the artificially surfaced path interfers with his swing and another player who’s ball lieing just a few feet away in a bare area would not get relief because there is no interference  from the artificially surfaced path.  The quality of each players shot is the same. 
  2. The Committee will also paint the areas surrounding a artificially surfaced path when it is difficult to determine where the artificially surfaced path starts and stops.  (Think paths covered with gravel)      

 

 

Photo #4

1.  Photo #4 shows a bridge in a lateral water hazard on the 17th hole of Alpine Country Club.

2.  A ball has come to rest in the rough, on bare ground at the entrance to the bridge and outside the lateral water hazard.  The bridge allows acess from the 15th hole to the 17th hole and is 30 yards from the 17th fairway.

3.  A player asked for relief from the bare ground at this years US Open Qualifying.

4.  The Committee denied relief from this area.   

 

 

Question #2 – This bare area are a result of golf carts entering or exiting the bridge in one specific area of the course and probably would not be there if the course had not installed the bridge.   Why wouldn’t the Committee define this bare ground, outside the lateral water hazard, as ground under repair? 

Answer to Question #2 – There is no doubt that the bare ground is a result of cart traffic across the bridge.  There are two reason the Committee chose not to give relief from this bare ground:

  1. The bare ground is a long way from the fairway in the rough.  It is not abnormal since there are several areas of bare ground in the rough at this golf course.   
  2. A player whose ball came to rest on the bare ground or the bridge in the hazard would not be granted relief from these conditions. The quality of each players shot is the same.  (See Rule 24-2b Note 1 and Rule 25-1b Note 1)

Rule 24-2b. Immovable Obstruction Relief

Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player may not take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction. The player must play the ball as it lies or proceed under Rule 26-1

25-1b Abnormal Ground Conditions Relief

Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player is not entitled to relief, without penalty, from interference by an abnormal ground condition. The player must play the ball as it lies (unless prohibited by Local Rule) or proceed under Rule 26-1.

 

 Photo #5

1.  Photo #5 shows bare ground in the rough at the Rose Park Golf Course, site of a Utah Amateur Qualifying.

2.  There were several areas of bare ground in the rough at this golf course

3.  The golf course lost irrigation water during May of 2017 and the golf course had not had the time or money to repair the bare ground.

4.  The Committee decided not to mark these areas as ground under repair.

Question #3 – Why did the Committee decide not to mark these areas.

Answer to Question #3 – The Committee decided not to mark these areas because:

  1. The Committee felt these areas of bare ground was a general condition of the golf course and thus where not abnormal to this golf course.
  2. These areas of bare ground were in the rough.  Areas like this on or near the intended line of paly should be marked.
  3. The Committee decided that they would give relief if a player could not get a club on his ball because of cracks in the ground or ruts in these areas. (See Decision 25/16)

Decision 25/12 Cracks in Earth

Q. Are cracks in the earth which occur in hot and dry conditions ground under repair? Do the Rules of Golf provide relief?

A. No. However, a player whose ball is in a large crack would be justified in requesting the Committee to declare the crack to be ground under repair, and the Committee would be justified in doing so.

Decision 25/16 Rut Made by Tractor

Q. Is a rut made by a tractor considered a hole made by a greenkeeper and thus ground under repair? If not, should the Committee declare such a rut to be ground under repair?

A. Such a rut is not a hole made by a greenkeeper. The Committee would be justified in declaring a deep rut to be ground under repair, but not a shallow indentation made by greenkeeping equipment

 

In Conclusion

A mentor of mine told me Ground Under Repair is a matter of opinion.  One Committee may come to a golf course and define certain condition as Ground Under Repair.  Another Committee may come in a week later and decide the same condition should not be defined as Ground Under Repair.  Neither Committee is wrong.  What is important is that each Committee decides in advance what the condition is.