Incorrect ruling leads to disqualification

Q. I would like to know if the tournament committee took the appropriate action when it disqualified me in a recent event. I was attempting to identify my ball during play of a hole, and, without marking the position of the ball or notifying my fellow competitors of my actions, I lifted a ball, determined that it was not my ball and replaced it. I subsequently found my own ball and properly played it into the hole. After I signed my score card, I was notified that I had incurred a penalty stroke on the hole for not following the proper procedures under Rule 12-2 (identifying a ball). I had signed for a score lower than I actually had taken on the hole and was disqualified. Was this the correct ruling since the ball I lifted was not my own? — Marty D.

A. Marty, this was not the correct ruling and I’m sorry you were disqualified when you shouldn’t have been. Under Rule 12-2 it states that “if the ball is the player’s ball and he fails to comply with all or any part of the procedure under Rule 12-2, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.” Since this wasn’t your ball, this rule doesn’t apply to you.

Q. I was given a penalty at a tournament last week and I don’t think I should have gotten one. I measured two club lengths from the margin of a lateral water hazard and dropped my ball. The ball bounced and hit my foot. I was told that since the ball hit my foot this was a two-stroke penalty for exerting influence on the ball. Is this correct? — Junior Golfer

A. No, it is not and you shouldn’t have received any penalty at all. The rule states that if the dropped ball touches any person or the equipment of any player before or after it strikes a part of the course and before it comes to rest, the ball must be re-dropped, without penalty. There is no limit to the number of times a ball must be re-dropped in these circumstances.

Q. I played in a tournament at Boulder Creek and the lateral hazard to the right side of the fairway on Desert Hawk’s sixth hole was marked on both sides with red stakes. This hazard has a large area of thick bushes and brush connecting to a road that defines the out of bounds. I was not allowed to apply the water hazard rule when I hit my ball toward the hazard because the way it was marked the ball could have been outside the hazard in the bushes. In order to treat my ball as in the hazard I would have had to find it in the hazard. My question is why was it necessary to mark both sides of the hazard? If only the fairway side was marked, wouldn’t the hazard extend to infinity? If the hazard had extended to infinity I would have been virtually certain that my ball was lost in the hazard and would not have to go back to the tee under stroke and distance. — SNGA Player

A. The USGA has a statement in its Local Rules and Conditions of Competition that deals with this very same problem. It states: “When a water hazard or lateral water hazard is defined on only one side, it is deemed to extend to infinity.” If it is difficult for a player to get to the other side of a lateral water hazard or unreasonable to expect him to be able to get there, they will mark the hazard accordingly.

Sue May is a U.S. Open rules official . Address your rules questions to suemay@cox.net.

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