Perhaps a bit of luck and fortuitous timing helped Justin Thomas on his way to winning the 2017 PGA Championship at the Quail Hollow Club. During the final round, he was faced with an 8-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 10th hole. His ball barely missed, and ended up overhanging the left edge of the hole. Instinctively, he pointed for his ball to drop into the hole. When it did not, he turned and walked away from the hole in disbelief. However, as he turned around and was heading toward the hole, he saw that his ball had fallen into the hole for a crucial birdie on his way to hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy!
The amount of time that transpired from the moment that Justin pointed for his ball to drop to the moment that his ball fell into the hole was approximately 12 seconds. Some “arm chair” officials watching the television coverage may have wondered why Justin was not penalized one stroke under Rule 16-2 [Ball Overhanging Hole] since it took more than ten seconds for his ball to drop once it arrived at the hole. Carefully note the wording of Rule 16-2:
“When any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional ten seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke, and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole; otherwise, there is no penalty under this Rule.”
Note that the 10-second period associated with this Rule is separate from, and in addition to, the period of time to allow the player to reach the hole without unreasonable delay. Also, note that the period of time to allow the player to reach the hole without unreasonable delay will vary depending upon the circumstances.
Consider, for example, the player who plays a long approach shot that ends up overhanging the hole. His or her walk to the green will be interrupted to allow the other players in his or her group to play their approach shots to the green. Throw in a 5-minute search for someone’s lost ball, and there can be a considerable, but not unreasonable, delay before the player reaches the hole.
Likewise, consider the player who plays an excellent shot from a greenside bunker to the lip of the hole. In such a case, the period of time to allow the player to reach the hole without unreasonable delay might include perhaps a minute or so for the player to rake the bunker in order to properly care for the course.
No penalty will be incurred under Rule 16-2 if the ball falls into the hole within (a) the time it takes to walk directly to the hole (actual or estimated), plus (b) a reasonable period of delay in walking to the hole, plus 10 seconds. In Justin’s case, the reasonable period of delay would have included his natural reaction of pointing to the right and then turning away from the hole in disbelief that his ball did not drop into the hole. Even though he did not immediately walk to the hole, there was no penalty under Rule 16-2 because his ball fell into the hole within the allowable time frame, i.e., the time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay plus an additional ten seconds