Some Committees may assume that they have the authority to make any Local Rule that will assist their Club or Society members to enjoy their golf, particularly if it helps to speed up play. This is incorrect; Rule 33-1 states;
The Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf.So, for example, a Committee may not assist players who cannot drive their ball over a water hazard, by adopting a Local Rule that allows them to drop a ball, for a penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone located across the hazard (Decision 33-8/2). This is by way of an introduction to my main point, which concerns the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 1. This permits a ball to be played provisionally, under Rule 26-1, when the original may be in a water hazard of such character that, if it cannot be found it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard, and it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play. I want to emphasise that Committees must understand that there are two important restrictions before they may implement this Local Rule (which I will reproduce in full later on) and they are;
The water hazard (including a lateral water hazard) must be of such size and shape and/or located in such a position that:These restrictions mean that the Local Rule may only be introduced where it is virtually impossible that a ball could be lost outside the water hazard. This rules out most of the water hazards that I have ever encountered, because there are usually trees, bushes, reeds, fescue, deep rough or marshy areas in the vicinity of the hazard, where a ball could be lost. In the relatively rare cases where this Local Rule may be applicable this is the specimen wording from Appendix l, Part B, 1;
(i) it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play, and
(ii) if the original ball is not found, it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard
“If there is doubt whether a ball is in or is lost in the water hazard (specify location), the player may play another ball provisionally under any of the applicable options in Rule 26-1.
If the original ball is found outside the water hazard, the player must continue play with it.There are three points here that I would like to draw your attention to. Firstly, note the different wording in this specimen Local Rule compared to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. It is the use of the phrase "ball played provisionally" (3 times), as opposed to "provisional ball", highlighting that the ball is being played under Rule 26-1, Water Hazards, and not Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. Secondly, this is a very rare instance in the Rules of Golf (unique?) where the player may have a choice of which ball he wishes to continue to play with; the ball found inside the water hazard or the ball played provisionally. Thirdly, note that if a player is uncertain as to whether their ball has crossed over the water hazard, or has landed in it, they may proceed to where their ball last crossed the margin and drop and play a ball provisionally, under option 26-1b, dropping it outside the hazard, on a line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin. In short, the ball played provisionally does not have to be played as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played, though that is still an option.
If the original ball is found in the water hazard, the player may either play the original ball as it lies or continue with the ball played provisionally under Rule 26-1.
If the original ball is not found or identified within the five-minute search period, the player must continue with the ball played provisionally.
I hope that I have sufficiently emphasised that this Local Rule is not relevant to most courses and certainly cannot be applied to all holes with water hazards, as seems to be the case in the photo above. I strongly recommend that even if a water hazard does meet the two important qualifying conditions for its introduction, Committees should consider very carefully before implementing it, as it is bound to lead to confusion amongst players, especially visitors to the course. For example, a player may think that they can play a ball provisionally when it is obvious that their ball has come to rest in a water hazard. In that situation, the Local Rule is not applicable and if another ball is played that is the ball in play, even if the original is subsequently found to be playable in the hazard.
I started by warning you that this is an obscure and difficult area of the Rules! My principal reason for covering it is to warn Committees against its introduction, unless they are absolutely certain that a water hazard on their course fully meets the restrictive conditions. If those requirements are ignored it is possible that its introduction could invalidate the course rating for handicapping purposes.
I promise to return to a less esoteric subject next week!
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