What's Your (Nearest) Point?
OGA Senior Rules Officials Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
The focus of last month’s article was on definitions that must be applied when dealing with relief without penalty on the golf course. Often referred to as “free relief”, the most common need for this type of relief is from interference with a cart path. However, many other obstructions, such as sprinkler heads and control boxes use the same relief procedure requiring a good understanding of Rule 24 (Obstructions). This month we look at both movable and immovable obstructions but don’t be surprised if some of the questions require a quick review of pertinent definitions.
- If a ball has come to rest on a discarded towel, it may be lifted and dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief.
- A player’s ball has come to rest against an abandoned ball in a water hazard. He may remove the abandoned ball, but if his ball moves there is a penalty.
- A player, whose ball lies on a cart path, may stand on the path to make his next stroke after taking relief.
- The nearest point of relief does not guarantee the player a playable lie or a clear line of play.
- There is a clear procedure a player must follow when determining the nearest point of relief and he must use the club he would have made his next stroke with if the obstruction was not there.
- The one club-length drop area from the nearest point of relief must be measured with the club the player would have used if the obstruction was not there.
- A player’s ball lies within a water hazard but is playable. A movable stake defining the margin of the hazard interferes with his swing. He may remove the stake.
- A player’s ball lies within a water hazard and a permanent stake defining the margin of the hazard interferes with his swing. The player may determine the nearest point of relief and drop the ball within one club-length of this spot but it must be dropped in the hazard.
- A drain in a bunker interferes with the stance of a player whose ball lies in the bunker. The ball may be dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. Both the nearest point of relief and the spot of the drop must be within the bunker.
- A player believes her ball is lost in a maintenance building on the course. Her only option is to proceed under the stroke and distance penalty of Rule 27 for a lost ball.
- False. If a ball has come to rest on a movable obstruction, it may be played as it lies or lifted and the obstruction removed. The ball must be dropped as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball originally lay on the movable obstruction, or, if the movable obstruction is on the putting green, placed as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball originally lay on the movable obstruction. See Rule 24-1b.
- False. Rule 24-1a absolves the player of penalty for moving his ball when removing a movable obstruction provided the ball’s movement is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction. In this case, the abandoned ball was a movable obstruction and the player’s ball must be replaced to where it was at rest before the abandoned ball was removed. For a more complete definition of “directly attributable” see Decisions 20-1/15, 24-1/2 and 24-1/4.
- False. Rule 24-2 requires a player taking relief from an immovable obstruction to take full relief from the obstruction. This includes relief for his stance which may push the nearest point of relief farther from the path. However, if the player decided to play in a different direction or use a different type of stroke he would be permitted to stand on the path provided full relief was taken for the original direction of play and type of stroke.
- True. At times the nearest point of relief from interference from an obstruction may be within a bush or in tall grass. A prudent player will determine the nearest point of relief before lifting the ball as it may be advantageous to play the ball as it lies.
- False. The procedure to determine the nearest point of relief is only a recommendation and there is no penalty if a player disregards the procedure. The Rules are only concerned that the ball is dropped and played from the correct spot. There would be a penalty if the player dropped and played the ball from a wrong location. Therefore, when it is unclear as to where the ball should be dropped, it is recommended that the player use the procedure to correctly determine the nearest point of relief.
- False. The nearest point of relief should be determined with the club the player would have used if the obstruction was not there. However, the one club-length drop area may be measured with any club. Therefore, if the nearest point of relief is determined using a wedge, the player may measure the drop area with his driver.
- True. Movable hazard stakes are obstructions and may be removed even if the player’s ball is in the hazard. However, see question #8.
- False. When a player’s ball lies in a water hazard he is not entitled to relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction, such as a permanent hazard stake. He must play it as it lies, if possible, or proceed under Rule 26 for relief from the water hazard.
- True. In regards to obstructions, bunkers are treated differently than water hazards. As we see from Question #8, a player is not entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction when his ball lies in a water hazard. But, under Rule 24-2, he may take relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction in a bunker.
- False. If she has knowledge or is virtually certain that her ball, which has not been found, is in the obstruction (maintenance building) she may proceed under Rule 24-3. The proper procedure is to determine where the ball last crossed the outermost edge of the building and the ball is deemed to lie there. The nearest point of relief must then be determined and a ball dropped within one club-length of that spot.