At the Founders Cup on the LPGA Tour, Nelly Korda drove her ball into the penalty area on the right of the 3rd hole. This illustrated a number of facets about the Penalty Area Rule and how it is applied.
Firstly, her ball actually plugged into the grass bank adjacent to the water but still within the margin of the red line demarcating the penalty area. You don’t get relief for an embedded ball in the penalty area so your only option would be to play it as it lies or to proceed under the penalty relief options.
You can take lateral relief and drop the ball within two club lengths of where it last crossed the red line; drop the ball on a line back from the point where it last crossed and the flag, going back as far as you like; or return to the tee and play another ball. Korda elected to take lateral relief, but wanted to make sure it was her ball. She then inadvertently dropped the ball into the water.
Under the rules, when taking relief, you are allowed to replace the ball, so luckily Korda did not need to send her caddie to go fishing for her original ball and proceeded to drop another ball and continue playing the hole.
Another topic that caught my eye is the ‘Distance Debate’ which has been going since steel shafts replaced hickory.
Recently, however, the effects of distance have been taken more seriously by the game’s governing bodies and it led to a large research project undertaken by the USGA and R&A.
This ‘Distance Initiative’ looked at ways modern equipment is affecting distance and at possible avenues through which these bodies could start regulating the distance the modern game is producing.
The first step after publishing the results of their study is the introduction of a Model Local Rule that limits the length of any club, except the putter, to only 46 inches.
This rule is recommended only for elite-level play and will not affect club golfers. The Tours of the world will start using this new rule in January 2022. While this is only a small change, it is most likely only the first step in a process to address the issue of what some believe is excessive distance in the modern game.
– This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!