Playing by the book -
Looking at situations you may encounter during winter golf, plus take a look at a couple of the changes to the Rules, that took effect on Jan 1 2012
With the ground becoming softer the likelihood of a ball becoming plugged increases. This situation is covered by Rule 25-2 – Embedded Ball. The Rule states, “A ball embedded in its own pitchmark in the ground in any closely-mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. ‘Closely-mown area’ means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.”
The phrase “through the green” is mentioned twice in this Rule, so to understand the Rule fully we need to know what the phrase means, and to do this we head to the Definitions section at the beginning of the Rule book. To safely negotiate the book it is important to have an understanding of the definitions.
“Through the green” is the whole area of the course except:
* The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and
* All hazards on the course.
It is clear from the above that if the ball is plugged in the rough there is no relief. However, at times a course may be so wet that this is a common occurrence. In such circumstances a committee may introduce a Local Rule to deem that relief is available for an embedded ball anywhere through the green. Always check the local rules at the club!
Again, referring to the Definitions at the front of the Rule book, “Casual water is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance...”
You are not allowed to press down hard with your feet to make water become visible (Decision 25/4 in the Decisions On The Rules Of Golf).
The two photos show a player’s feet in soft ground, one with casual water visible and one without.
Relief from Casual Water is available under the guidance of Rule 25-1 – Abnormal Ground Conditions. Through the green (see above) the ball may be dropped within one club-length and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
It is important to note that as there is no distinction between rough and fairway in the definition of through the green it may happen that your ball lies in the fairway and your nearest point of relief is in the rough, and vice versa. Another example here of it being important to assess the situation before taking a drop as the outcome may be worse than the situation you are in originally! Our pictures show a ball on the edge of the fairway lying in very shallow casual water. The player decides to take relief, but as the nearest point of relief is to the left as we view the situation, the player ends up playing out of the rough with the ball below his feet.
Mud and grass adhering to ball
It is a common occurrence in winter golf for the ball to come to rest with mud and grass adhering to it. Anything adhering to the ball cannot be considered a loose impediment (see definition of loose impediment at the front of the Rule book) and therefore the ball must be played as it lies and nothing can be removed from the ball. However, again check the local rules at your club because a committee may introduce a local rule where a ball that lies on any closely mown area (see above) may be lifted, cleaned and replaced.
Furthermore, if ground conditions are such that lies in the fairway are inconsistent this local rule may be extended to what is commonly referred to as “winter rules” or “preferred lies”, where a ball may be lifted, cleaned and placed within (usually) six inches of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay.
Check at your club to see if either of these Rules is posted.
Note that a ball should always be marked before it is lifted to be cleaned and dropped.
New for 2012
Previously, if the player's ball moved after he had addressed it he was penalised regardless of whether or not he caused the ball to move. From 2012, if it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, he now escapes any penalty. Additionally, the player has addressed the ball once the club is grounded in front of or behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance. Up until now the player would have had to have taken his stance as well before being deemed to have addressed the ball.
New for 2012: Rule 13-4 on ‘prohibited actions’
There are a number of welcome revisions to the Rules of Golf, effective 1st January 2012. And it’s your responsibility to be aware of them, so take the time to have a good read through the new Rules of Golf book that accompanies this issue and then pop it into your golf bag.
Among the revisions is a modification to Rule 13-4 covering prohibited actions when your ball lies in a hazard. Exception 2 to the Rule at present prohibits the player from any raking of a bunker before a stroke is made at a ball lying within it. However, it has now been recognised that this could prohibit a player from simply caring for the course (having to walk through the bunker to get a rake and not being able to tidy your footprints, for instance) and potentially saving time. New for 2012 is the modification that a player may rake a bunker at any time, provided nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 (Improving Lie, Area of Intended Swing, or Line of Play) with respect to his next stroke.