Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is It In the Bunker?!

Is it in or out?
So as we can all see, my days of playing golf decently are about as numbered as Tiger's.  This situation arose on the 6th hole at Silverado (North).  I ruled against myself, that the ball was actually embedded in the non-grass covered wall of the bunker and I was forced to take an unplayable.  But let's take a careful look at the Rules surrounding this situation:

Definition of Bunker
  The Definition of Bunker tells us two important things relevant to this situation:
     1) A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.
     2) A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker.

Upon review it is clear that the ball is not touching sand in the bunker, but as we can see from item 2, it may still be touching part of the bunker (as I ruled against myself).  If you look carefully you can see that the sand is fairly well-manicured to the point where there are very few points where dirt wall is present above the sand.  However, there are several points where dirt wall is visible and according to point 2, that is considered part of the bunker.  Since my ball is clearly touching the uncovered dirt wall, the ball should be considered to be in the bunker.

The situation brings up the subjectivity of some rulings.  You could very easily argue (and some very talented Rules minds did based on this picture) that the ball was embedded in the dirty roots of the grass just above the lip of the bunker.  However, upon closer viewing in person, it was clear to me that it was in fact buried in the dirt wall that by definition is considered part of the bunker.

How did this affect me?  Well let's take a quick look at two Rules:

Appendix I - B - 4a Local Rule for Ball Embedded Through The Green
Rule 25-2 provides relief for a ball embedded in a closely-mown area through the green.  The Local Rule in the Appendix, in effect for most competitions in the United States and even a few across the globe, extends that area and provides relief for a ball embedded through the green (except in sand in areas not closely-mown).  Had my ball been considered to be lying through the green, I would have been entitled to relief without penalty and been permitted to drop the ball outside the bunker, as near as possible to where it lay embedded no nearer the hole.

Rule 28 - Ball Unplayable
Since the ball was touching part of the bunker and therefore was lying in the bunker, I was not entitled to relief in accordance with the Local Rule and was forced to take an unplayable.  One of the toughest parts about Rule 28 is that if the ball originally lay in the bunker, in proceeding under options b or c, the ball must be dropped in the bunker.  To make matters worse, since my previous stroke had been played from within the bunker, my stroke and distance option (Rule 28a) was ALSO in the bunker.  I had no possible way to get out of the bunker, even with a penalty stroke.  So I chose to drop in the bunker within two club-lengths of where the ball lay, no nearer the hole (Rule 28c), which helped me to avoid the lip in which the ball initially plugged.

Sometimes the Rules don't seem fair, but if you think about it...wasn't it my fault for thinking I could hit the 6-iron high enough to get over that lip in the first place when an 8-iron would've left me with a simple pitch and putt to save par?

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