Monday, 6 April 2009

When the Wind Moves Your Ball in Play

A ruling mistake in the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club, California highlights how important it is to understand how to proceed when the wind moves your ball in play. The LPGA admitted that an incorrect ruling was given to Ji Young Oh when her ball, at rest on the 18th green, having been marked and replaced, began rolling because of the strong winds and rolled into the lake in front of the green. The Rules Official (RO) told Oh to replace the ball on the green where it had been with a one-shot penalty because the ball came to rest in a hazard, an incorrect ruling. Wind and water are not outside agencies so Oh’s ball was still in play after it had entered the water hazard. Oh should have been told she had three options under Rule 26-1, Relief for Ball in Water Hazard: keep the point where she entered the hazard between her and the pin and play a shot from as far back as she wanted, use the drop zone designated for the hole, or play a shot from where she had played her previous stroke from which her ball landed on the 18th putting green. By telling Oh to replace the ball on the green where it was before the wind moved it, the RO instructed her to play from the wrong place. However, Rule 34-2 states, “If a referee has been appointed by the Committee, his decision is final”, and therefore the (wrong) decision stands. Unfortunately, Oh still ended-up with a double bogey on the hole.

The Decision that covers the circumstances above is 18-1/12 - Ball Replaced and at Rest Is Thereafter Moved by Wind;

Q. A player replaces his ball on the putting green and the ball is at rest. Before the player addresses the ball, a sudden gust of wind blows the ball farther from the hole. The player plays the ball from its new position. Is that correct?
A. Yes. Wind is not an outside agency — see Definition of ‘Outside Agency.’ Accordingly, Rule 18-1 does not apply.

The way that I remember this Rule is that if a player moves the ball it has to be replaced and they incur a penalty stroke. If God moves the ball then it has to be played it from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. Of course in Ji Young Oh’s case she did incur a one stroke penalty because her ball was blown into water in a water hazard and was unplayable.

Understanding the Rules is important if you want to avoid unnecessary penalties.

Barry Rhodes
rules at barryrhodes dot com

See golfrulesquestions for details on my book ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’.

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