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Tournament players involved in interesting penalty situations

Last week I had the pleasure of working the UNLV Collegiate Invitational at Southern Highlands Golf Club and experienced several interesting rules situations.

At the par-3 12th hole, a player hit his ball onto the green and it spun back into the lateral hazard fronting the green. The player properly measured his two club lengths no nearer the hole from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard and proceeded to drop a ball.

The area in which he was dropping sloped sharply into the water and consequently the ball rolled back inside the hazard line. He retrieved the ball after his second drop and properly placed it where it last struck the course after his second drop.

After determining that the ball was at rest, he walked to his bag to select his club for the shot onto the green. As he returned to his ball to make the shot he watched in dismay as the ball rolled into the lateral hazard once again. Unfortunately, the player incurred another penalty stroke and was forced to drop again to take relief from the same hazard.

At the par-3 17th hole, which is surrounded on three sides by a water hazard and contains areas of vegetation and flower beds, a player hit his ball into the hazard. Virtually certain that his ball has landed within the margins of the hazard, he proceeded to an optional dropping zone and properly dropped a ball intending to proceed under Rule 26-1, Relief for Ball in Water Hazard.

He noticed his coach standing near the green and thought that the coach signaled that he might be able to play the ball from within the hazard. The player then picked up his ball and started to walk toward the green. After discovering that the original ball wasn’t really playable he returned to the dropping zone and again dropped the ball preparing to play to the green.

The coach, suspecting that there might be a violation of the rules, contacted a rules official for a clarification. The rules official explained that when the player dropped his ball in the dropping zone, it was now his ball in play and that by lifting it, he incurred a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a. When he again dropped the ball instead of replacing it, he incurred the general penalty of two strokes under Rule 18.

Unfortunately, because of the confusion, the player incurred a total penalty of three strokes, including the penalty for dropping from the water hazard.


Sue May is a U.S. Open rules official. She is also a member of the USGA Senior Women’s committee, tournament director of the Trans National Golf Tournament and head rules director for the Butch Harmon Vegas Tour. Address your rules questions to smay@sngahouse.net.

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