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Friday, April 11, 2014

Taking Relief: Rule 26 Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)

Lateral Hazard Drop Options

The Star Fort Ladies Golf Association annual spring tournament's at hand and I'm readying myself for the contest with a little back yard chipping practice and a review of the ever-mysterious Rules of Golf.  I know it's hard to believe that a yearly competition among friends who golf together week after week requires a rules review, but there's always some Eagle-Eye monitoring and I don't want to be disqualified for an unintentional infraction.  Take the Rules Quiz:  Do you know your drop options in the situation illustrated here?

I became intimately acquainted with the intricacies of Rule 26 last summer at the 2013 Women's South Carolina Golf Association Match Play Championship.

I generally shy away from any event with Championship in the title because I don't think the game I have in my bag is good enough for that level of competition, but I'd been lured into participating in the event by Barb and Shirley, who convinced me it was actually a beach house party weekend with some golf thrown in for good measure.  Their misrepresentation got me me there but I quickly realized that this wasn't a casual golfing weekend.  Initially I struggled with the terror of competition against women I didn't know on a course I'd never played.  (When I watched Lexi Thompson's hand shake as she teed up her first shot in the final round of the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship I understood what she felt at a fundamentally personal level.)

That paralyzing fear receded, shot-by-shot, during my first 9 holes of my first round and I settled in to play my game and enjoy myself.  Admittedly, it wasn't a very good game, but it was the best game I had that day, and I've found that I play better and enjoy my round more when I can walk off the 18th green knowing that I gave it the best I had to give, regardless of the number on my card.  (That's not to say I don't prefer lower numbers.)

Pluff Mud (for the uninitiated).
Used courtesy
What does all this reminiscing have to do with Rule 26 and lateral water hazards?  During our qualifying rounds I was playing with Mary Jane Knauss, who knows a good deal more about the Rules of Golf than I do.  We were playing the par-3 5th hole at the Sanctuary Golf Club on Cat Island, South Carolina.

There's a hazard running alongside the right of the little fairway that's muddy at low tide and marshy at high tide, not the sort of environment any sane person would elect to play from under any conditions.  (There are some unimaginable things living in marsh environments.) In fact, it shouldn't be in play, IF one makes a proper swing.

MJ and I both hit into it and both balls disappeared into the pluff mud and tall marsh grass.  Both balls were gone.  No doubt about it.  We agreed on out points of entry and moved on.

I dropped out on a line that ran from the tee box to my point of entry into the hazard, chipped up to the green, 2-putted and double bogeyed.  MJ, who followed me, did it differently.  She extended her line to the other side of the hazard, giving her about the same distance to drop but without the psychological disadvantage of the looming hazard, chipped onto the green, and got up and down for a bogey.  I questioned her choice of the drop area and she fired back the options for taking relief from lateral hazards as specified in Rule 26-1(c):

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole that (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

I elected to drop at the X4 point.  MJ elected to drop at the Y4 point.  Had I understood the rule, I would have also elected to drop at the Y4 point.  The advantage is not one of distance but of ease of access to the green.

Alma once advised me to read the rules so you'll have a friend when you need one.  Alma was correct.