Thursday, May 16, 2013

Decision of the Day - 24-2b/3.5 (And 3.7)

   At CGA Qualifying this past Tuesday, there were no truly notable rulings to share.  I did have one question from a competitor whose slight misunderstanding of the Rules leads me to today's Decision of the Day.
   The player in question invoked Rule 3-3 and played two balls.  He was unsure of his nearest point of relief from an immovable obstruction (in this case a sprinkler control box).  He dropped one ball at his nearest point of relief in the rough and one ball at his actual nearest point of relief which happened to be in a gravelly area.  He was unsure whether the Rules permitted him to drop off of the grass and in essence "change cuts."
   The player had gone through the 3-3 procedure correctly, and in this case, it did not matter which ball he had selected because only one was played in accordance with the Rules.  The ball played from the gravelly area would count.  In this player's case, it ended up helping him as he had scored better with the gravel ball.  He ended up as the fourth low qualifier of seven.
   But his misunderstanding was both reasonable and unreasonable from various perspectives.  Potentially the gravel area could be deemed an obstruction or even part of the same obstruction and then his nearest point of relief would not have been on the gravel.  This player was confused by the terminology of 'through the green' and what that meant for his area to drop in.
   The definition of "Through the Green" tells us that through the green includes the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.  This means that everything else is through the green.  So when Rule 24-2b says the ball must be dropped through the green, this does not mean that it must be dropped on grass or even in a playable situation.
   Decision 24-2b/3.5 highlights this scenario quite well.  In the decision, the player is unable to physically determine the nearest point of relief because the nearest point of relief would actually be inside the middle of a tree.  While this doesn't seem like "relief" to most people, the decision tells us that the point in the middle of the tree is still the nearest point of relief, regardless of whether the player can actually play the stroke or not.  The same applies if a boundary wall obstructs the player's ability to determine the nearest point of relief.
    It is important to remember that the nearest point of relief is not always the nicest point of relief.  When officiating, I like to have the player keep the ball in its original position until the player is absolutely sure he wants to take relief.  That way, if he sees his options and does not like them, there would be no penalty for moving his ball in play.
   For a picture representation of Decision 24-2b/3.5, go no further than Decision 24-2b/3.7.

Decision 24-2b/3.5

Q.  In proceeding under Rule 24-2b(i) or Rule 25-1b(i), the Definition of "Nearest Point of Relief" provides that to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he would have used from the original position had the obstruction or condition not been there.  What is the procedure of a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of relief because, for example, that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required address position?

A.  The nearest point of relief in both cases must be estimated and the player must drop the ball within one club-length of the estimated point, not nearer the hole.

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