Rules Guy: What do you do when you can identify your ball but can’t retrieve it?
The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.
I hit a drive into a fenced-in area that houses a water pump. I could identify my ball but not retrieve it. The area is inside the course’s boundary, so it’s not OB. What’s the right ruling? — James Schandua, San Antonio, Texas
Go forth and find yonder Committee.
The fence and water pump are both immovable obstructions. Typically, a Committee worth its capital C would just define the entire area as a single immovable obstruction; in this case, relief is as simple as finding your nearest point of complete relief from the fence under Rule 16.1b.
If the Committee somehow failed to do so, the situation could get complicated. Our writing space is fenced in, too, so let’s skip this unlikelihood.
Remember, when taking free relief, you’re allowed to substitute a new ball, so don’t worry about retrieving the old ball. James, get down from that fence!
For more identification-related guidance from our guru, read on …
During a recent round, my fellow competitor hooked his tee shot toward OB left. He announced that he’d hit a provisional, pulled a ball from his pocket, and did it on the same line. As we walked off the tee together, I asked him if he knew which ball was which. He shrugged and said he didn’t. Sure enough, one ball was OB and the other, which must have bounced off a tree, was in the fairway. He offered to declare that his first ball was OB and play his second. I countered that both balls are considered lost, since he couldn’t tell which was which. Who is right? — Brett Coleman, Antananarivo, Madagascar
Your fellow competitor, while inordinately blasé about marking his balls, seems like a fine fellow — and his generous offer is the way the Rules see the situation as well.
While you’re not wrong that your ball would be lost if you can’t tell the difference between your own ball and a random one, when the two balls you’re deciding between are your original and provisional, Rule 18.3c(2) rules in this case that the ball found on the course is treated as your provisional.
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