Rule Tip of the Week: Mistaken Identity

Rule 33-2a [The Committee: The Course: Defining Bounds and Margins] charges the Committee with the responsibility to accurately define the course and out of bounds, the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards, ground under repair, obstructions, and integral parts of the course. For the PGA Professional, who is normally the Committee at his or her course, the task of defining the bounds and margins of the course is a never-ending one. Grass grows and is mowed, requiring the periodic repainting of lines. Similarly, stakes are sometimes moved by players and/or course maintenance workers, requiring routine surveillance to reposition the stakes.

The adjacent photograph illustrates a classic example of the confusion and uncertainty that often occurs when stakes are not positioned correctly. A player’s ball has come to rest between the red stake, ostensibly marking the boundary of a lateral water hazard, and a white stake, apparently marking out of bounds. However, without the benefit of additional stakes, there is a “no man’s land” area between the two stakes. As a result, it is impossible for the player to determine if his or her ball has come to rest in bounds, out of bounds, or within the lateral water hazard!


By the way, in stroke play, if a player is faced with such a dilemma, the player would be justified in temporarily suspending play in order to get a determination from the Committee. See Rule 6-8a(iii) [Discontinuance of Play …] which points out that, “A player must not discontinue play unless … he is seeking a decision from the Committee on a doubtful or disputed point….”

In the second photograph, notice that an attempt has been made to correct the situation by simply relocating the red stake against the white stake. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to determine if the ball is out of bounds or is in the hazard. Even though there may be an additional white stake to the left and an additional red stake to the right of the two stakes shown in the picture, the course boundary and the margin of the lateral water hazard are not accurately defined in this area. Additional stakes are needed to clarify whether the ball is in bounds or within the water hazard!



The accurate defining of this area can be accomplished with stakes as shown in the adjacent diagram. The doubling up of white stakes establishes the out of bounds line heading to infinity in the direction of the dotted white arrow. Also, the placement of a red stake against the out of bounds stake effectively eliminates any “no man’s land” area.


In the second diagram, with this area now properly defined by well-positioned stakes (enhanced in the diagram by dotted white and red lines), it is now apparent that the player’s ball has come to rest within the lateral water hazard. The player can either play the ball as it lies or proceed under any of the options available under Rule 26-1c [Lateral Water Hazards]. Under penalty of one stroke, the player may return to the spot from which he or she just played. Alternatively, using point “X” where his or her ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, or drop a ball behind the hazard on a line extending from the flag through point “X.”

April 2018 Rules