November 26, 2010
When I first began playing golf nearly thirty years ago, paved cart paths on the golf course were the exception, not the rule.
When we moved to the Cape Region twenty years ago, therefore, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Old Landing Golf Course had no paved cart paths.
Over time, many courses have switched to paved paths, either concrete or asphalt. From the club’s perspective, the pavement helps encourage cart users to stay on them, reducing the chance of rutting or otherwise damaging the course at its more sensitive spots.
Paving can also cuts down on the dust, noise, and general rumpling around that happens when a small motorized vehicle traips along a dirt-strewn route.
Old Landing hasn’t yet made that change to its paths, and that’s fine. On the other hand, at both Old Landing and the courses with paved paths, golfers with the occasionally less than perfect swing can easily discover how far a golf ball hitting pavement will bounce and roll.
At Old Landing, this can happen with a hooked tee shot on a few holes on the front nine, where the course runs along Old Landing Road.
On golf courses with paved paths, including Rehoboth CC, Kings Creek CC, and Shawnee CC, the high bounces and unexpectedly long distances from a pavement-assisted shot can happen at many locations.
I thought about this for two reasons. First, Shawnee CC’s women’s club champion Lisa Hutchins recently told me about an unusually long tee shot she had on the par-5 eleventh hole at Shawnee, courtesy of the cart path.
Second, a recent Ruling of the Day at the USGA’s website had me disagreeing with the USGA, which doesn’t happen all that often.
In the situation described in the Ruling, a golfer thinks his tee shot is either lost or out of bounds past a road running along the course, and he hits a provisional ball just in case. After searching for his original ball unsuccessfully, he hits a second shot with the provisional ball. As he walks further up the fairway, he discovers his original ball. It had apparently run along the road and then bounced back onto the course.
He’s now hoping to use the original ball, instead of the provisional ball with its added strokes.
However, the USGA says he’s stuck with the provisional, citing Rule 27-2b: “The player played a stroke with the provisional ball from a point nearer the hole than the place where the original ball was likely to be. When he did so, the provisional ball became the ball in play and the original ball was lost…. The place where the original ball in fact lay was irrelevant.”
I think this ruling was unduly harsh, at least under two additional circumstances.
Suppose that the golfer hit his second shot well before the full five minutes had run out under the Rules, which he could have spent looking for the original ball.
Also suppose that those five minutes would not have expired by the time he walked up to where he found the ball, much farther down the fairway than he would have hit a normal drive.
I think the golfer should be able to take advantage of two things—first, his good fortune in finding the original ball inbounds, within the five minutes; and second, he hadn’t held up anyone else’s play by taking the full five minutes to search for the ball, when he could have.
The real impact of this Ruling is to encourage a better appreciation for what “likely to be” means, when there’s pavement potentially involved.
If a ball has a good chance to bounce onto pavement, be it on the course or just off of it, the golfer should take those extra yards into account, in figuring out where best to spend his five minutes searching for it.
Paying a bit more attention could save you a few strokes, and some aggravation, too.