Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Like Situations Treated Alike" - Where the Ball Lies



            After a Rules presentation yesterday for Walnut Creek Men’s Club, one of the members asked me a general question about philosophy behind the Rules.  He was trying to figure out why if any part of the ball touches a hazard, it’s in the hazard, yet the ball must be completely out of bounds in order to be out of bounds.  So I re-framed his view:  if any part of the ball touches the course, it is on the course.  After that it all became clear.
            It made what I had already known even clearer, that the fundamental principle “like things are treated alike,” does not just apply to equity, but it applies throughout the Rules of Golf.  It led me to a general principle that I will elaborate on – the ball rests on the smallest part of the course that it touches.
            The Rules of Golf word this philosophy differently depending on which Definition you are reading, so let’s go through the applicable definitions or Rules one by one.

The Teeing Ground
A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
You could also word it this way: “A ball is inside the teeing ground when any part of it touches the teeing ground.”  Just like a ball out of bounds, the Rules tell us when a ball is inside an area by describing when it is outside the area.  This also fits with the general principle stated above because the teeing ground is the smaller of two parts of the course the ball could be touching.  If the ball is half in and half out of the teeing ground, it is touching the teeing ground and through the green.  Through the green is the larger of the two parts of the course.  Since the ball touches both, it lies on the smaller of the two parts of the course.

Out of Bounds
A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.
The phrase makes more sense when worded: “A ball is on the course when any part of it touches the course.”  Considering that the entire world is off the course, and only the defined boundaries are the area of the course, when the ball is touching both out of bounds and the course, it is lying on the smaller of the two areas – the course.

Bunker
A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.
With rare exceptions as seen below, if a ball is touching a bunker and another part of the course, the bunker is the smaller part of the course and therefore the ball lies in the bunker.

The Putting Green
A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.
This phrasing makes sense, especially in the context of our new principle.  If a ball is touching both the putting green and another part of the course, the other part of the course is likely to be through the green.  Through the green is a much larger area than the putting green, therefore the ball lies on the smaller of the two areas – the putting green.

Water Hazard and Lateral Water Hazard
A ball is in a [lateral] water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.
There will be two exceptions to this later, but if a ball is touching both a water hazard and another part of the course, the other part of the course is likely to be through the green.  Through the green is a larger area than an individual water hazard, therefore the ball lies in the smaller of the two areas – the water hazard.

Casual Water and Ground Under Repair
A ball is in casual water [ground under repair] when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water [ground under repair].
These are two conditions that can occur on various part of the course, but with rare exceptions they are always smaller than the part of the course on which they lie.  For example, a ball that touches both a bunker and casual water is in the casual water, the smaller of the two areas.  In this case, however, the ball still also lies in the bunker and a specific Rule governs the player’s options (Rule 25-1b(ii)).

The EXCEPTIONS

Decision 26/1.5 - When a ball touches both a water hazard and another part of the course, it lies in the water hazard.  In this case, the putting green or bunker may be smaller than the water hazard, but in this case the ball touches the water hazard so it lies in the water hazard.

Large Water Hazards – Occasionally, a water hazard will actually be larger than the other part of the course the ball is touching (like the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach).  In this case the ball is still lying in the water hazard even though the other part of the course may be smaller.

A Ball Above the Lip of the Hole – Perhaps this is an exception because the Hole is not technically a “part of the course" (teeing ground, through the green, hazards, putting green), but it is worth mention here anyway.  A ball that is within the circumference of the hole, but all of it is not below the level of the hole is not holed.  So even though the ball is touching the hole which is smaller than the putting green, it is not considered holed.

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