• Rules: A buried ball

    Rules officials
    Not all lies are created equally

    I was interested to read on social media about an incident at the Cape Town Ladies Open at Royal Cape Golf Club, involving professional Nicole Garcia.

    During the second round of this Sunshine Ladies Tour event, Garcia hit her ball into a bunker on the par-five 7th.

    ‘The ball was gone in the bunker,’ she said.

    Quite clearly, this was not only a plugged lie. The ball had disappeared. So, what did she do?

    Well, she acted strictly within the rules and did what she needed to.

    Her first task was to find her golf ball. For this, she had the standard five minutes to search for her ball. Garcia would have been allowed to use a golf club, a bunker rake or her bare hands to do this.

    If she had disturbed her ball while searching for it, that would have been fine. The point is, the rules allow for her to search for her ball in the bunker.

    If she hadn’t found her ball, it would have been considered a lost ball. So, under these circumstances, she would have had to return to the position of her previous shot and play from there, with a one-stroke penalty.

    But, after searching, she found her ball. What was her next step?

    She had to replace the ball in similar conditions to how she found it and replace the sand around it too. But here
    is the difference, and it’s an important difference if ever you find yourself in the same position.

    The rules of golf may sometimes be hard to understand, but they are not designed to make the game impossible for you.

    It would be unreasonable to expect Garcia, or any player in a similar position, to bury the ball again and play a ‘blind’ shot. The rules allow for you to replace the ball in the position you found it, but then to leave just a little bit of the white of the ball showing so that you are able to see where it is when you play your shot.

    There is no penalty for any of this because you are entitled to look for your ball in this manner in a bunker. The same does not necessarily apply to other areas of the golf course. But in a bunker, the course of action Garcia took is entirely within the rules and exactly what she needed to do.

    I was extremely impressed to hear that she managed to play her next shot out to 20 feet from the hole. Unfortunately, though, she then missed that putt for
    par and made bogey.

    But her understanding of the rules and possibly the help of a rules official ensured she didn’t incur any penalties unnecessarily.

    – This article first appeared in the March issue of Compleat Golfer

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