Rules we might need as we emerge from lockdown

From the 18er Rules Committee

After 2-months away from golf, it appears that very soon we may be able to get back out there on the golf course along with our clubs instead of, or more likely in addition to, our dogs! Chances are, however, that this long dreary interlude with no golf means that we may experience more slices, duck hooks, skulls, whiffs, stubs, and even the dreaded shank. To put it more politely, most of us will be a little rusty. In this article, we will explore several Rules of Golf that may be helpful as we emerge from the shadows back onto our beautiful golf courses. Made more beautiful I might add, because of efforts from our fabulous grounds crew together with the fact that we have not been tearing up the course by playing!

Model Local Rule E5. The usual procedure when you lose a ball or hit a ball out of bounds (OB) is to take stroke and distance penalty and hit it again from the same place. For example, if your drive went OB, your next shot would be to hit another drive, which would be your 3rd shot. However, perhaps you don’t have your slice yet under control, and you may fear that there’s a good chance you will hit your 2nd drive OB again. If that’s the case, Local Rule E5, which has been adopted by our course, is for you! This Rule allows you, instead of hitting another drive, to drop your ball in the fairway at a point even with where you estimate your first drive went OB. Thus, it is as though you had hit your 2nd drive and it landed in the fairway even with the point your first drive went OB. This Rule applies, of course, not just to drives getting lost or going OB, but to any shot getting lost or going OB.

Rule 19.3b. Unless one of your favorite shots is your bunker shot, after a long layoff, your ball landing in a bunker may strike fear into your heart – can you get it out in one shot, or if you do, will you skull it over the green and into the creek? If this situation resonates with you, here’s a Rule that might be helpful! Rule 19.3b allows you to declare the ball in the bunker “unplayable” and drop it back on a line with the flag (or in our current situation, perhaps on a line with the tin can stuck in the hole) outside the bunker. However, you do need to take an extra penalty stroke to do this – one stroke for declaring your ball “unplayable” and a 2nd stroke for removing it from the bunker. Thus, if on a par 3 hole, your tee shot landed in a bunker, your next shot would be shot #4. Any of us who has taken more than 2 shots to get out of a bunker might be quite happy with that outcome!

Eraser Rule (Rule 14.5). Now, a rule like this sounds just like something we have always wished for – if you hit a terrible shot, you get to have a second go at it! Well, no. Unfortunately, it only applies in certain circumstances where we have made a mistake in applying a Rule or choosing a wrong Rule. If either we or one of our playing partners or opponents notices the mistake before we hit our next shot, we get to go back without penalty and apply the Rule correctly or apply the correct Rule, or even apply a different Rule! The situations that qualify are those discussed under Rule 14, which deals with how to substitute, replace, drop, or place a ball. A simple (albeit perhaps unlikely) example is as follows. Suppose your ball lands on a cart path (immovable obstruction), and instead of taking 1-club length relief, you take 2-club length relief. If someone points out the mistake before you strike the ball, you can lift the ball without penalty and just go back and drop it again correctly. Or, you may decide that taking only 1-club length relief does not leave you with a reasonable next shot. In that case, you can instead decide to either hit the ball from the cart path, or take stroke and distance penalty (i.e., hit your next shot from where you hit the original shot that landed on the cart path). In other words, you can choose a different relief option that applies depending on the particular situation.