Friday, July 13, 2012

500 words on golf penalties

So after a death-by-penalties round at local course a few days ago, I looked at the official rules on hazards, drops, etc:

The way I understand it now:  Aside from water hazards, anytime you can’t find a ball, you should technically take a 1-stroke drop at the same spot from which you originally hit.  If that spot happened to be off the tee, then you can re-tee it.

Thus, to keep play moving along, if you hit a ball in the woods, tall grass, etc and worry you might not be able to find it, it’s probably a good idea to immediately hit a provisional shot to act as your penalty drop shot in the event that you end up not finding that original ball.

In the event where you take a shot without hitting a provisional, but then can’t find your original ball, not sure of the official ruling, but it seems like most people say, to avoid having to walk back to the spot from where you originally shot, you can just take a 2-stroke drop within a couple club lengths from where you suspect the ball exited play.  This is effectively the same result as hitting a provisional to your drop location (in terms of stroke cost and ball location).

As an example, say you shank a ball into the woods off the tee (stroke #1).  You place a new ball on the tee (stroke #2), and then hit another shot out onto the fairway (stroke #3).  At this point, you’re laying 3 on the fairway and will be shooting your 4th shot from there.  However, if you happen to search for your original ball and actually find it in the woods, you can play it from there and just pickup your provisional ball and pretend like you never hit a provisional shot.

Second example:  You hit your ball off the tee a good distance toward the hole but it lands in some tall grass (stroke #1).  For whatever reason you choose to not hit a provisional shot.  When you get to the grass, you realize there’s no way you’ll find your ball, so you take a drop where you think the ball entered the grass (strokes 2 & 3).  At this point you’re laying 3 in a playable area just outside the tall grass, about to shoot your 4th shot.

Balls lost in water hazards are apparently one exception.  You can either re-hit from the same spot (effectively the first example above) OR take a 1-stroke drop close to where the ball crossed the plane of the water.  Your drop shouldn’t advance the ball beyond that hazard entry point, though (eg dropping on the other side of the pond is illegal).  So, replacing “tall grass” w/ “pond” in the second example above, once you take your drop, you’re laying 2, about to shoot your 3rd shot.

Anyway, that’s my current understanding / interpretation of the rules.  I’m certainly no USGA rule pro, but I suspect this approach is closer to true penalty scoring than what my group typically does.

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