Another in our monthly series of columns by one of the Sunshine Tour’s rules officials to help you get the most from your game.
There were two interesting cases of ‘taking relief’ that caught my eye recently. At the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, Bryson DeChambeau’s ball ended up against a fence next to a cart path and the ruling illustrated the rules around objects defining out of bounds and obstructions.
An object that defines out of bounds is not a normal obstruction and a player would not get relief if such an object interfered with their intended stroke. In this scenario, the fence was defining out of bounds and DeChambeau would have had to play the ball as it lies without relief.
However, a cart path was running adjacent to this fence and normally you would get relief from the cart path. This is where the ruling got interesting. Because the fence was not that high, DeChambeau was able to show that he had intended to play a reasonable stroke by leaning over the fence and then hitting the club into the fence in order to move the ball towards the fairway in play. The rules do allow such a stroke and in the judgement of the rules official the stroke was indeed reasonable.
In taking his stance for this stroke, DeChambeau would have had to stand on the cart path and, with the path being an immovable obstruction, he was entitled to relief from the path for his intended stroke. His relief area was on the other side of the cart path, and he proceeded to drop the ball in the light rough away from the fence and path. It’s important to note that he did not get relief from the fence, but the only shot he could play meant he would stand on the path and therefore he got relief from it and was able to drop away.
Once you have taken relief from the condition causing the interference you have a new situation or lie, and the rules do not require you to still play the same stroke for which you have taken relief. DeChambeau was then able to select a different club and play a more normal stroke towards the green.
On the Sunshine Tour’s Vodacom Origins of Golf – De Zalze, the 13th hole illustrated the workings of the ‘lateral’ relief option when dealing with red penalty areas. This is a beautiful short par four, with the feature of the hole being the island tee boxes with a wooden bridge linking to the next tee box and to the fairway. The water runs all the way along the left of the fairway up to and around the edge of the green. On the final day we moved the tee up to entice players to take the risk of going for the green.
Even in normal club play you need to pick your line off the tee carefully to ensure you have enough length off the tee to carry the water and land on the fairway. Unfortunately, many of us don’t always hit the ball where we aim it and on a hole like this you could easily pull it a bit left and come up centimetres short of the safety of the green grass.
The mistake many golfers make here is that they might find their ball in the water just next to the edge and declare that they are taking ‘lateral relief’ and proceed to drop adjacent to where they fished the ball out of the water. However, unless the ball first pitched on the fairway side of the water and then rolled or bounced back into the water this would be the wrong place to drop. Under Rule 17 your reference point for taking relief is the point where it last crossed the margin of the penalty area, and on a hole such as the 13th at De Zalze this is right in front of the tee box
So, unless there is a drop zone, you would be heading back to the tee box.
Remember, it’s the point where your ball last crossed, not where you found it that determines the reference point.
– This article first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!