Knowing the rules of golf are important for any player who has aspirations of being a better golfer. The rules, especially in competition, can work to advantage or against your understanding of how to apply the rules is fuzzy. I read the rules yearly and I am often asked for an interpretation when an unusual situation arises.
While playing at Black Bear Ridge Golf Club last year, my friend Jean hit his ball into the woods. The woods were to the left and not near the boundary of the golf course. As you can see, the woods were pretty open, but the fence was perpendicular to the fairway! This was an old fence, but there were no makings suggesting it was a hazard or ground under repair.
If you look closely, Jean is pointing at his ball that came to rest on the bottom rail of the fence. We search for quite a while and finally we were able to find it in this odd position. The question that came up was, “Now what?”
Under Rule 24-1 – Immovable Obstructions, our interpretation was that the fence should not have been there or be considered a hazard. It is man-made and be classed as a building or a sign post. The exact rule reads as follows:
An immovable obstruction is an artificial object on the course that cannot be
moved (e.g., a building) or cannot readily be moved (e.g., a firmly embedded
direction post). Objects defining out-of-bounds are not treated as obstructions.
An abnormal ground condition is casual water, ground under repair or a
hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
Except when the ball is in a water hazard, relief without penalty is available from
immovable obstructions and abnormal ground conditions when the condition
physically interferes with the lie of the ball, your stance or your swing. You
may lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief
(see Definition of “Nearest Point of Relief”), but not nearer the hole than the
nearest point of relief (see diagram below). If the ball is on the putting green, it
is placed at the nearest point of relief, which may be off the putting green.
Determining Jean was entitled to a free drop was the easy part. The next question was where should he take his full relief. Following the fence, the nearest point of relief was at the edge of the woods almost in the rough! This drop location was of great benefit because he now had a shot at the green.
Yes, this does sound strange, but we also had to consider the definition of ‘nearest point of relief’. Basically, without going into a long explanation, the immoveable obstruction must not impede the player after they take relief.
In this unique situation, we had to follow the fence to the end, establish his relief position, and then allow his one club length no closer to the hole! If we went in the other direction, the nearest point of relief would have been farther than the direction we chose.
In this case, knowing the rules was very beneficial for Jean. Of course, his playing partners had to agree and this is what we decided.
What do you think? Did we make the right call according to the rules?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!