Pro takes advantage of unique rules break, then hits wild hook

Chris Kirk got relief from a boundary fence and it led to a birdie at the Sony Open.

Chris Kirk got relief from a boundary fence and it led to a birdie at the Sony Open.

NBC Sports

All golf courses have quirks, but an old Seth Raynor design like Waialae Country Club can sometimes have a few more.

We’ve already told you about the rare internal out-of-bounds situation on the 13th hole at Waialae which prevents players from trying to gain a better angle by playing up the 12th fairway at this week’s Sony Open.

But what Waialea taketh, Waialea giveth back … or something like that.

The par-5 9th plays along the driving range, which is almost out-of-bounds at every PGA Tour venue. Waialea is no exception, except for the unique boundary fence. And Chris Kirk is thankful for it.

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According to the rules of golf, “Artificial objects defining or showing out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, from which free relief is not allowed.” That basically means if your ball is up against a boundary fence, you either tough it out or take an unplayable.

The fence between Waialea’s 9th hole and driving range has a massive net, presumably to keep balls from the range from endangering players on the 9th hole — and Jordan Spieth’s third shot on Friday from going out of bounds. This week that net is not a standard boundary fence. It’s considered a temporary immovable obstruction.

That means Kirk, who hit his tee shot right up next to the fence during Saturday’s third round, was able to take free relief.

He capitalized.

After taking relief, Kirk still had a difficult 204-yard shot to go for the par-5 green in two. Five palm trees about 50 yards ahead of him blocked his direct line to the green. He had about a 10-yard gap to go through them or he would have to play about 60 yards right of the flag, toward out-of-bounds on the other side of the hole.

The 37-year-old veteran chose the latter.

His ball started well right of the trees, curved back and rolled up onto the left side of the green, hole high about 50 feet from the hole.

NBC Sports Analyst Peter Jacobsen implied that without the drop, Kirk might not have been able to move the ball right-to-left as much as he did.

“Dropped it beautiful lie, that helped curve it,” Jacobsen said.

“It’s a unique situation, typically the fence would be a boundary that would not get relief from for out-of-bounds, but here at Waialea, short of the range, they play it as a TIO and players get relief.”

Kirk two-putted to go out in one under after driving it out-of-bounds on the first hole Saturday and making double. The birdie got him into a tie for second.

But his four would have been much more difficult without getting the drop from the boundary fence.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at