July 18, 2008
Sometimes a golfer can be very happy to see someone else’s golf ball sitting much closer to the hole than where he finds his own.
Naturally, a short story goes with this comment.
The sixth hole at Shawnee Country Club is relatively short, at 326 yards from the white tees, but it’s a challenge nonetheless. That’s because the approach shot needs to be as accurate as possible.
There are three large greenside bunkers, on the front right, along the right edge, and in the back on the right. The sloping green also features more elevation changes than you can see from 100-130 yards out.
Going to the left side of the green is no bargain, either. Most downhill left-leaning shots missing the green will bounce off a hillside and into the adjoining forest, after first ricocheting off the paved cart path for that little extra insult.
Not long ago, I was playing a friendly round against a fellow member. My approach shot bounced just left of the sixth green and down the hill. By some miracle, however, the hillside rough stood just high enough to hold the ball, about halfway down.
My companion had a much better approach, with his ball coming to rest four feet from the hole.
He must have thought his ball was in no danger, because he didn’t bother to mark and remove it from the green as I prepared for my next stroke.
My chip took off a little faster than planned, skidded onto the green, and shot across the downward slope. It smacked into the other ball and stopped almost immediately, pushing my competitor’s ball a few feet away.
We had no trouble pinpointing where his ball should be replaced, and did. It was also easy to see that if my ball hadn’t hit his, it would have gone off the green on the other side.
Hitting a ball only 1.680 inches wide from over 30 feet away wasn’t simply a lucky shot. Under the Rules of Golf, even if I wanted his ball to sit there as a potential backstop, I had no right to insist on it.
This issue came up recently in another Shawnee CC golf league match.
This time, my ball was the one lying on the eighth green, a few feet above the hole on the left front. My playing competitor’s ball was in the right side bunker. He faced a longish blast out of the sand. If it went over the green from that angle, however, his ball could have gone into the left greenside bunker.
As I walked toward my ball to mark its spot and remove it, he called out and said I couldn’t. His playing partner then said I could mark the spot with my coin, but I still couldn’t move my ball if his partner didn’t want it moved.
My own playing partner became a little agitated, and insisted I had every right to remove my ball to keep it from assisting my competitor.
Tensions were rising, so I did what I could to defuse the situation.
I said, “It’s all right. I’ll keep the ball there. His will go right past it.”
At that, my competitor took his swing, as well as my implied suggestion.
His ball rolled several feet beyond mine, and into the left rough short of the trap.
His next shot didn’t find the hole, either.
We did some double-checking after the match, and confirmed our understanding of the rules.
Rule 22-1 says, “Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may: a. lift the ball if it is his ball, or b. have any other ball lifted.”
If a player’s ball is lifted from the green under these circumstances, he can clean it before replacing it to its spot, but not otherwise.
Note that the rule says the player “may” lift the ball. My choice to leave it there was mine to make, along with the helpful hint to miss it.