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    I’m playing behind a group of 4 old farts, wait a minute! I just turned 50! Crap! O.K. Older old farts! They are playing painstakingly slow. On the 18th tee two of the guys are coming back to the tee hit again. Really. I say, “How much money is on the line here that you have to come back the tee box?” To which they replied that they were playing in a 54 hole tournament, this being their last hole. Over the hill off the tee before the fairway starts is an area that is flooded with casual water as we have had way too much rain this year already. I mean this area you would lose your golf shoes in if you tried to look for your ball. So here is where the rules of golf always seem to get screwed up. It’s not a lost ball if everyone agrees that the ball “for a certainty” has to be in the area effected by casual water. And it isn’t in an area that the ball could be retrieved easily or even seen. The area hasn’t been mowed in at least a couple weeks and is probably 20 yards deep by 35 yards wide. These guys didn’t hit the ball very far and they were not in any way off line of the direction that this area would have come into play.


    Rule 25-1 states if the ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition that the player can take a free drop from the condition, Nearest point of relief. This is where it can always get tricky. Nearest and nicest aren’t always the same.

    John Kufrovich
    Rick Kimbrell

    Well…there is one particular golf course in MB where the Pro going over rules (for the day) basically went against this particular rule (the old one). Indigo Creek…the golf course was pretty much a swamp. It had rained all night. It was very easy to see a ball land in the fairway yet the ball could not be found. Everyone in the group could agree they saw the ball land, water splash but could not walk around in there and find it. This particular circumstance was asked before we went out to play. The Pro’s statement was “If you do not find the ball…it is lost!”. Several of us mentioned the ruling and we were told…”if this happens to you, your ball is lost.” Multiple people that day had to take penalty strokes due to this ruling.


    Thanks John! I haven’t got the new Decisions Book but did find it on the website. You are correct. Rick, this is why sometimes you have to get together with your playing partners to make the right decision from the book. The pro was wrong on that one. If I can’t waive a rule, why should the pro be allowed to?

    Bob Newman

    If it was over the hill and could not be seen to land, how can you be “virtually certain “ that it’s in the Abnormal Course Condition or Temporary Water?..also Temorary Water is a new definition that will eliminate some instances you will be able to obtain free relief.

    Tommy Briggs

    “Virtual certainty” would include:

    Golfer hits ball over hill, players find abnormal course conditions in the line the ball travelled. After searching for the ball and not finding it you could claim it has to be in the abnormal condition and if all players agree it becomes a virtual certainty.

    Here are a few others I disagree with. Range finders with slope mode that allow the slope mode to be turned off, trusting the golfer to use it only in “non-slope” mode. Before anyone jumps on me about bashing the integrity of golf and golfers, I played over 30 tournaments last year and at least ten times I found someone using a range finder with slope.

    Now back to virtual certainty; a ball is hit into an area with a heavy marsh area that is NOT staked, directly next to an area of water (penalty area) that is staked. No one was able to see where the ball landed. It could have landed in the trouble area (water) or could be “lost” in the marsh area. after looking do you have a lost ball (in the marsh area) or a ball in the penalty area and how do you proceed?

    Bob Newman

    To understand this situation you must first start by looking up the definition of Known or Virtually Certain in issue of the Rules (players edition, Rules of Golf, or Official Guide). Then go to the Official Guide and look up Interpretation # 16.3a(2)/1. Also read rule 16.1e (ball not found in Abnormal Course Condition) paying close attention to the “But” at the end. See how simple the USGA has made this, haha. Basically if the ball can be anywhere else than the ACC or Penalty area, it is LOST. Someone has to SEE exactly where the ball crossed or entered . So over the hill might be a problem, or did you hear it hit a tree or limb which could have altered the flight, etc, or was the slope of land such that the ball had to roll out ant into penalty area. In other words, it is now a clear cut answer to the question and is probably on a case by caee and seeing exactly all the surrounding area of where it happened.
    As for the Slope edition, I do not think, and I do play with a Slope Edition, gains anyone as much of an advantage, because you still have to hit the shot and most people I play with, after determining what the distance is changed to, still do not account for the fact the ball may be on a downslope or an upslope and do not enter that into the calculation. I do think that the people that do not interpret the Temporary Water correctly, or Nearest Point of Relief (not Nicest) or where it entered penalty area gain more advantage. Over the years I have been shocked at the total lack of knowledge that the majority of players that play in the WA have on the rules. The first WA I played in (2005) I went to a seminar the WA had and it helped me tremendously. They currently do some type of WEB thing which I have not checked on but have heard other talk about it.

    Tommy Briggs

    I disagree with your understanding of “known or virtually certain”. The definition says

    1. you or someone else witnessed it


    2. all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

    I agree Slope does not really provide a competitive advantage because if you have been playing golf for very long, (like before range finders) you earned how to compensate for elevation changes without the use of technology. I was merely saying if the rules say 14 clubs, you cannot carry 15 and declare one out of paly. If the rules say no slope mode is allowed, having it but turning it off is questionable. Just make them all legal and get rid of any possible confusion.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Tommy Briggs.

    Bob and Tommy, I can tell you in this instance the course that was played, there has never been a lake or marsh area on this hole. If these two guys both hit their ball straight toward the fairway but because they just don’t hit the ball that far in the air and the only spot their ball could reasonably for a “virtual certainty” end up was right before the start of the fairway should these guys be penalized for a lost ball and have to come back to the tee box to hit again? Really? This part of the course is normally mowed when they wouldn’t have to worry about a buried mower. Wet conditions this year prevent them from mowing this area right now. Unfortunately for them it was their landing area. I’d stand by the “virtually certain” in this instance especially since I know the course. If it was dry and mowed there wouldn’t be a question that their ball would have been found easily right there or possibly in the fairway if it rolled out. I think we’ve all had that round where we hit a ball and know exactly where we hit it and maybe we are lucky to find it plugged a couple inches under the grass because the course is soaked.
    Hopefully we don’t have any conditions like that for the World Am this year. But if we do, I guess we can tell there will probably be more than a few players that will be out to screw us if this happens on a wet course.
    Tommy, the reason we have Range Finders is to speed up play. If you take them away your going to have 6 1/2 hour rounds at a minimum. I honestly could care less if the guy has slope on his laser. He still has to be able to hit the shots and make the putts.

    Bob Newman

    this is the 3rd time I have got to the end and completely lost my reply before hitting summit. I hate computers. But in an early try, I thought I had put the statement in that you almost always need to see the lay of land, conditions on that day, to make a decision on what happened. It is ultimately the players decision on what to do. It will not be a roving official that you can call in for help. All one can do at the WA is help with fact as you see them, explain the options, and then let the player decide how to proceed. Then play your own ball. I do take a harder line on the rules based on what I have seen happen in other tournaments that I work. But I will not allow another’s interpretation of what happened to ruin my game. I’m sure that a situation like this will come up with just about every group and hopefully every group will handle it as best they can.
    On the Slope, I had an old Bushnell that had the red cover for the slope. I was playing in a Club tournament, 9 hole matches, First day, 1st nine was Alternate Shot I forgot to change to non slope, we finished 3 up, second nine was Best Ball, after finishing second hole, my team was 2 up when I discovered my error—ended up, lost the front nine, was 2 down on back with 7 to play. Have already decided to have a piece of tape on Slope switch(newer version) for this years WA

    Tommy Briggs

    I understand why we have range finders, I also do not think slope is a big difference. If you do not understand hitting to an elevated green requires more club slope is probably not going to help you.

    My point is if the rules state slope is not allowed, slope is not allowed.

    I repeat I do not care if someone is using slope mode but it is a violation of the rules. That is all I was saying in my original post.

    Jeffrey in the example you described a lost ball is a lost ball. If the ball is lost in the “rough” however long or deep the rough is, the ball is lost. With virtual certainty you can all agree the ball is in the rough, that does not mean it is not lost. If I hit my drive 300 yards but miss the fairway right or left and cannot find the ball it is lost, regardless of whether we all agree the ball is in the rough.

    If the course has been unable to mow they can designate certain areas as GUR. However as someone once told me there is no relief from a bad shot, if those players are unable to hit the ball long enough to reach the fairway off the tee, I would suggest they are playing from the wrong tees or need to address the issue with the club pro and ask to have the tees they play from be moved up.

    There are a lot of rules that do not make sense, (Not allowing a provisional if your ball might be in a hazard) but they have addressed a few of them with this last revision, hopefully they will add more. I personally have always felt there should be a set of “tournament rules” and a set of “regular rules”.

    If the goal is to speed up play too many regular golfers are handicapped when they try to play by the rules. I played in a tournament yesterday and it poured. The horn sounded and two people were DQ’d for playing out the hole they were on and three more were DQ’d for practicing on the putting green before we were released.


    Tommy, this is exactly why you have to know the rules yourself, because someone like you will give a bad ruling to the other player and have him penalized when he should have got a free drop. “Abnormal ground conditions” should never cause a player to have to return to the tee box. when all 4 players seen exactly which direction the ball went and are 95% sure that the ball is in the area of that condition. And the wrong tee theory? I think everyone playing in the World Am should be forced to play from the back tees. Hey, it’s a tournament. It shouldn’t matter, right?

    Bob Newman

    I personally hope we never have 2 sets of rules for any competition .What someone wants to do when playing with buddies is completely up to them but if you are any type of group, at home course and elsewhere, it should be by the Rules, including specifically any local rules in effect. How else can it be a fair competition. With that being said, I am not trying to count clubs, check his range finder, wait till the incurs a penalty to call it, if you see him about to incur a penalty and you know it, you need to stop the player and help him. But at some point all golfers need to make an attempt to better learn the rules. I personally think that the local clubs do not do enough to teach the players. And if you are relying on the pros to sort it out, I do not trust them to know enough to answer. Its a joke what they tell us sometimes, ie: “if you play 2 balls and score the same on both, you do not have to tell us at scorers table” By the Rules if you fail to tell at Scorers Table you are DQ’d. The USGA have some very good material on line that can teach you a lot. Put the free app on your phone and you can search out most issues easily.Golf is not a fair game, it is played along the ground which is not always perfect, things will happen you will need to deal with. You need to equip yourself with the most knowledge you can. Playing in the WA forced me to do all I could to learn the Rules and it has lead me to a very enjoyable pastime working Junior Tournaments.

    Tommy Briggs

    Jeffrey I never said a player who hits a ball into Abnormal Ground Conditions should return to the tee. What I said is a player or group of players who hit a ball into the rough cannot decide to designate that area abnormal ground condition because they think it should have been mowed shorter or because they do not like where the course chose to start or end a fairway.
    The USGA defines Abnormal Ground Conditions as;
    An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction or temporary water.
    The USGA does not designate unmown rough or thick rough as ground under repair anywhere in their rules, decisions or definitions, so I fail to see how you think unmown or thick rough meets the criteria for abnormal ground condition. It is what it is, rough.

    For your information, I am quite comfortable with my knowledge of the rules. I am concerned with someone who claims to know the rules and then claims a normally unmown area, also called the rough, lies outside of the fairway, where most players find unmown grass or rough can be arbitrarily designated as abnormal ground conditions by a single group of players.

    The USGA does not define what an acceptable length is for rough; the course has ignored it, it has not been announced before play.
    I REPEAT, the USGA does not define it, the course has ignored it and it has not been addressed before play starts, but you believe you have the right to arbitrarily designate rough you think is too long as abnormal ground conditions? Can I claim a bunker has too much sand in it as abnormal ground conditions? Do you really believe one group of players are allowed to designate an area as abnormal ground conditions, and another group designating a different area, and a third group designating another area, because they don’t like the length of the rough or where it is located.

    Sorry Jeffrey but your argument makes no sense at all. The course always has the option of marking it or designating it but absent of the course designating it, a player does not have the right to.

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