Question: Ralph and Jack were playing in their monthly interclub match at a course that they had not played before. On the fourth hole Jack hit a big hook and watched as his ball headed toward a small creek on the left side of the fairway. When they arrived at the spot where they thought the ball might be, Jack’s ball was nowhere to be found. Since the creek was marked with red stakes, as a lateral water hazard, Jack proposed to take a penalty stroke and drop a new ball within two club lengths of the spot where the ball most likely entered the hazard. Ralph said wait. The far side of the small creek is marked with both red hazard stakes and white out of bounds stakes and I don’t know if you can assume that your ball was lost in the hazard. How do they decide?
Answer: The key is can they be virtually certain or reasonably sure that Jack’s ball did not go out of bounds and was in fact lost in the hazard. This can be determined by the nature of the hazard and the manner in which his ball was traveling. If it can be agreed that his ball was slowly rolling when it reached the area and that the running water or heavy vegetation in the hazard likely hid the ball, then they could be reasonably sure that the ball was lost in the hazard. However, if the ball was still in the air when it entered the area, Jack would be unable to reasonably say that he was virtually certain that the ball did not go out of bounds. He would therefore have to go back to the tee and under stroke and distance penalty, hit another ball.
Tip of the Day: One of the most consistent complaints that I hear is that the golf course is too hard and it takes too long to play and my scores are too high. I have a suggestion. We can speed up play and also lower our scores if the courses we play would mark the dense woods as hazards and limit out of bounds and the lost ball stroke and distance penalty. Out of bounds would be necessary when trespass is an issue.
As always, have fun playing and practicing the game of golf and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.