Friday, March 20, 2015

Back at it: Balls in the Air, Fog in the Air…


My first two assignments of the year are in the books.  It was great to break away from studying rules, taking sample tests, etc., in preparation for rules school and actually get a chance to apply some of that knowledge in a practical (practicable?) way.

First stop, Roddy Ranch in Antioch for NCGA Senior Championship Qualifying.  I’d meant to enter this event myself but, sigh, missed the deadline.  I attempted last year.  My 78 at Boundary Oak tied for the last qualifying spots but I lost it in a card-off.  Sigh…  Four three putts instead of five (!) would have done the trick and gained me a trip to Spyglass…

The course itself presented some rules challenges due to a lot of potential abnormal ground conditions in the fairways (the committee put out a lot of white paint that morning), but there were actually relatively few questions.  Scores were high because of greasy-fast greens and gusty winds.  There were two notable rules incidents.

Something happened that you could go your entire golfing life without seeing.  Two players played from opposite sides of the green at the same time, and their balls collided in mid air.  Amazingly, the official present said it was the second time in a year that he’d seen that happen.  What’s the ruling?  Rule 19-5b says it’s a rub of the green; both players play it as it lies. 

There was a more serious incident at scoring.  A player turned in a card with some numbers written over.  The scoring official asked him about one specific score and the player replied “four.”  He left the table.  At this point, his marker, who had been sitting at another table, came over and asked which hole was at question, and when told, said the player had made a five.  The player was called back, and said yes, it was a five.  But since the player had signed his card and left the scoring area, he was disqualified for signing for a lower score, regardless of intent.

Next stop, a few days later for the Bay Area Intercollegiate at the Meadow Club, hosted by USF.  The big issue the first day was due to two holes being cut on each green.  Upon finishing the first round, each group was to move the flagstick to the new position for the second round.  What is the status of the unused hole if it lies in a player’s line of play?  It depends, as it turns out.  If the player’s ball is on the green, a “hole made by a greenskeeper,” is an abnormal ground condition and the player is entitled to relief, placing her ball at the nearest point where there is no longer interference.  I was stationed near the 11th green and this came into play a handful of times.

If the player is off the green, however, no such relief is available, and the ruling is the tournament officials’ favorite:  “Play hard.”

Another big issue was deer hoof prints on the green.  This is a complicated issue.  Players are not allowed relief—Decision 25/19.5 says a footprint is “an irregularity of surface from which there is no relief without penalty.”  Players may ask a committee member to repair such marks, or they may repair them themselves after completion of the hole.

But what if the deer ran across a player’s line after the player’s ball had come to rest?  We know that a player is entitled to the lie, line of play, and stance when the ball came to rest.  Decision 16-1a/13 says the line of putt may be restored by anyone, so if it is known the damage was caused by an outside agency after the ball came to rest, the player may fix the damage.  It was, however, recommended that the players still ask a committee member whenever possible to fix the marks.

A big issue the second day:  Heavy fog.  The morning started out crystal clear, but about fifteen minutes before the 8:30 shotgun start, pea soup thick fog rolled in.  The players were on the course ready to go, but the fog delayed the start.  As time went on, it became an issue due to teams’ travel plans.  It was ultimately decided that if play could not start by 10:30, the round would be canceled.  Fortunately, it was clear enough by 10AM to start.

I had two minor issues to attend to.  First, a player’s ball plugged in the sod face of a bunker.  Since the margins of a bunker do not extend upward, the player was entitled to relief from an embedded ball.  She dropped twice, with the ball rolling back into the bunker both times.  She was then allowed to place the ball at the spot where the second ball landed.

Later in the day I was called to the fifteenth hole, where a player told me she couldn’t get her ball to stay in one place after marking and lifting it on the green.  I observed as she tried several times.  Rule 20-3d(i) says the ball must be place at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.  Going about an inch to one spot, she found a spot where the ball would stay put and she could proceed.

After the round there was a buffet lunch.  After serving myself, I watched in amazement as small groups of players discussed whether they should go, wait for their teammates, wait for their coaches, etc.  That's the difference between college men and women:  The guys would have had no such issue.  They would have laid siege on the buffet the moment they arrived.  By the time I'd finished, only a handful of players had even started.

Great to get back on the course, and it was really enjoyable to watch college women play.  They play within themselves, their tempos are wonderful, and they generally play faster than men because they hit a lot more fairways. 

Next stop, three days at the San Francisco City Championship!

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