Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wall Lining the 17th at the International Crown

            On the 17th hole yesterday at the International Crown at Caves Valley in my birth town of Owings Mills, MD (Go O's!), twice (on television coverage) a ball came to rest on the rock wall lining the water hazard guarding the green.  For those who want to know what to do when your ball ends up in this spot, read on.
            First, it should also be noted that a television cable had been run along the wall directly next to the cut of grass and in the first instance was next to the player's ball. 
            The television cable is a movable obstruction.  Movable obstructions are one of the very few things you get relief for even when your ball lies in a water hazard.*  In this case, the player should be allowed to remove the cable, and if the ball moved as a result, she would have to replace the ball at the original spot without penalty. (Thanks to MJ for telling me this is exactly what occurred).
            Well how about playing the ball of the wall?  Stacy Lewis chipped from off the wall in an attempt to help Paula Creamer and herself square the match.  Obviously she was permitted to do so, and she was permitted to ground her club on the rock wall as well.
            I’ll cover two scenarios since I don’t have the International Crown local rules:
The rock wall is an immovable obstruction inside a water hazard.  The Note to Rule 13-4 permits a player to touch an obstruction in a hazard with a club or otherwise even when their ball lies in the same hazard.  Because of the note, the obstruction is not considered “ground” in the hazard.  (See Decision 13-4/30 regarding bridges over water hazards). 
It is also possible that the LPGA declared that wall to be an “integral part of the course” because they did not want to give relief for interference by the wall for a ball lying barely outside the hazard.  Even if the LPGA had declared the wall an integral part of the course, Lewis was still permitted to touch the wall with her club or otherwise, because that same Note to Rule 13-4 permits touching integral parts of the course as well.
So if your ball comes to rest on one of these types of walls, go ahead and play it if you can, just be careful you don’t fall backwards!

*For those wondering what other things you get relief for when your ball lies in a water hazard, see the Local Rules in Appendix I for “Protection of Young Trees” and “Temporary Immovable Obstructions.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sun-Ju Ahn and Rule 13-3

            On the 18th hole of her third round in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, Sun-Ju Ahn had a very awkward lie in the greenside bunker.  In order to gain better footing, she slid sand down the side of the bunker to help gain a foothold on the side-slope of the bunker.
            Under Rule 13-3 a player is entitled to take her stance firmly, but must not build a stance.  For those of us who have attended one or numerous Rules seminars, Ahn’s action is a classic example of a breach of Rule 13-3.  A player is entitled to dig into the sand as described in Decision 13-4/0.5, “a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking a stance for a stroke.”  However, knocking down sand from the side of a bunker to help gain a more level stance is not covered as “digging in” but rather is considered a breach of Rule 13-3 and is covered in Decision 13-3/3:

Q. A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level.  Is this permissible?
A. No. Such an action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.

When trying to decipher between “digging in” and “building” the clearest separation is whether a player has to lift their feet again to settle into the stance.  When you dig in your feet, you swish them around in the sand, but in order to build a stance you must lift your foot out of its initial spot and push more sand around from another location (side slope or otherwise).  This is not a firm and fast Rule, because there are certainly exceptions, but if you see someone on the wrong side of the line it is important to take a second look, which is exactly what the R & A did in this situation.