Thursday, March 19, 2015

Things Are a Part of What They Define

     There are very few times in the Rules of Golf that 100% consistency can be claimed throughout.  One thing that is consistent, is that things that define are part of what they define.  We see this in each Definition where objects define an area of the course (or off the course). I will give some examples to highlight the point and then show the ruling from the Junior Tour of Northern California Spring Series I that occurred last week where this principle came into play.

Water Hazards
     With both Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards, when stakes define the margin of the hazard, the stakes are inside the hazard.  When a line defines the margin, the line itself is in the water hazard and a ball that so much as touches a defining line or stake is considered to be in the water hazard.

Out of Bounds
     This one is slightly harder to see because out of bounds is the one area defined that is NOT on the course.  But remember that stakes that define out of bounds are not obstructions and they lie out of bounds. When a line defines out of bounds, the line itself is out of bounds.  In this case, a ball must be completely out of bounds in order to be out, so a ball merely touching the out of bounds line or stake is not out of bounds so long as part of the ball also touches the course (meaning it breaks the course side of an invisible vertical plane at the boundary).

Ground Under Repair
    Another instance where stakes or lines that define the area are considered part of what they define is in ground under repair. A ball that simply touches the stake or line defining the area is considered to be in the ground under repair.

Junior Tour Spring Series I
     On the 7th hole at Stockton Country Club, there is a lateral water hazard that lays along the right hand side.  The entire hazard is surrounded by a cement wall.  In the Local Rules, the margin of the hazard is defined by the "outside edge of the cement wall."  Later in the round, a player's ball came to rest laying against the cement wall.  Because things are a part of what they define, the player's ball was touching the lateral water hazard. So when the player asked if he was entitled to relief from the obstruction (because even though it lies in a water hazard it is still an obstruction), I had to tell him no, and that he must either play the ball as it lay (which was virtually impossible) or take penalized relief from the water hazard under Rule 26-1.  Had his ball had even a millimeter of space between the ball and the wall the player would have been entitled to relief from the cement wall in accordance with Rule 24-2b.  Remember, when it comes to obstruction relief, it is where the ball lies, not the obstruction (I use the word obstruction for that general statement because remember that an immovable artificial object lying out of bounds is not an obstruction).

     This premise has also become an issue when officials or club officers have asked advice about local Rules to define their golf course.  In many cases, they would like to deem the edge of the cart path to define out of bounds in some places.  While in many cases that would make a great boundary, if the cart path is defining out of bounds, it is "part of" out of bounds and is not an obstruction (Definition of Obstructions).  Which means that players would not be entitled to relief if their ball came to rest in bounds on the cart path.  This is why, on the right side of the 12th hole at Poppy Hills, we installed white Botts dots to officially define the out of bounds margin.  With the Botts dots defining out of bounds the cart path was free to remain an obstruction.

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