IT is surprising how many golfers play for years without fully understanding vital aspects of the Rules of Golf.
For example, this is a typical extract from emails that I receive:
“Thank you, Barry. I discovered you on YouTube, and for the first time in years I got what is meant by water hazard and lateral water hazard. You are very articulate in you explanation of the rules. I must have read this rule a million times, but could not get it; but now I do. So thank you for that.”
He was referring to my instructional YouTube videos: Relief from Water Hazard, Relief from Lateral Water Hazard.
With regard to this subject of water hazards there seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that the line of flight of a ball from the club-face to where the ball comes to rest is relevant to where a player may drop their ball.
This is wrong, although the point where the ball last crossed the margin of a (lateral) water hazard, abnormal ground condition or obstruction, may be relevant to whether certain options for relief are available.
Perhaps some misunderstandings arise because the term ‘line of flight’, which is not used in the Rules, is misunderstood.
For this reason I am going to try and clarify the difference between four ‘line of ……..s’:
Line of Flight:
Is the path that a ball takes from the time it is struck until the time it comes to rest.
The only part of the line of flight that may be relevant in the Rules is where the ball last crossed a margin, so that the correct place to drop can be determined when taking relief for a ball that is inside the margin of a (lateral) water hazard (Rule 26-1b and c), for a ball that is lost in an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c), or for a ball that is lost in an obstruction (Rule 24-3).
Line of Play:
Is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction.
The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole. The Rules do not provide relief for immovable obstructions on the line of play.
Amateur golfers sometimes think otherwise, because they hear TV commentators saying that a player is getting line of play relief.
However, this is because tour events have a Condition of Competition affording relief from Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIOs). Examples of TIOs include, but are not limited to, tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatory facilities.
When irrigation sprinklers are located close to a putting green Committees will often introduce a Local Rule providing line of play relief from them.
Typically, this is when the ball lies off the putting green, but not in a hazard, within two club-lengths of a sprinkler head that intervenes on the player’s line of play and which is also located within two club-lengths of the putting green.
Except on the putting green, a player may have their chosen line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line, or an extension of the line beyond the hole, while the stroke is being made.
Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line of play must be removed before the stroke is made, Rule 8-2a.
THE R&A EXPLAIN THE NEW RULES OF GOLF PART I:
Line of Putt:
Is the line that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line.
The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole. When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched.
A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting, Rule 8-2b.
The player must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball, Rule 16-1e.
Line of Drop:
Is the line on which a player may drop a ball when taking relief from a water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1b), or when they have deemed their ball unplayable (Rule 28b).
If a player’s ball lies within the margins of a (lateral) water hazard and they choose this option, under penalty of one stroke they may drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.
If a player deems their ball unplayable and chooses this option, under penalty of one stroke they may drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole (flagstick) and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
I hope that this clarifies that the line of flight, which is the actual path of the ball through the air, may be very different from the line of play, which is the intended path of the ball through the air.
Usually, the worse the stroke the bigger the difference!
Photo: Justin Falconer
THE R&A EXPLAIN THE NEW RULES OF GOLF PART II:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Barry is the author of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' (including the January 2016 changes), and '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf (newly published in January 2016).
He believes that these books provide the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules. Barry is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer, resident in Dublin, Ireland, who developed an interest, then a fascination, and now an obsession with the Rules of Golf.
Barry’s relationship with the Rules began in 2000 with his participation in the inter-club Rules of Golf quiz competitions, organised by the Royal & Ancient for Golf Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland.
This then led to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at a variety of golf clubs and corporate functions.
In March 2008, Barry became the first person to achieve a 100% correct mark on the public Advanced Rules of Golf Course examination, run by the PGA in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK, and in April 2015, Barry received a ‘Pass with Distinction’ in the R&A’s Level 3, Tournament Administrators and Referees School examination, the highest certification awarded.
Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’. To purchase the eBook, click here.
He writes a weekly web blog, containing interesting content for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. To visit the blog, click here.
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