It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. After reading through some of my earlier entries, I've decided that this exercise serves me, as well as the readers, better if I focus more on specific events that have some bearing on my efforts as an NCGA Tournament Official, rather than a general summary of the little things that may have happened over the course of a round.
Here’s a good one. Last Friday I was on the course for the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Paradise Valley in Fairfield. It was a tough day. Temperatures pushed up into the high 90’s, the trademark Fairfield breezes made only brief Cameos, and it was a walking only event. The college kids did well, but you could see the older players melting down over the course of the day.
A player in one of my groups hit a drive on the 13th into a tree well, pretty close to the trunk. The ball was close enough to the trunk that he couldn’t line up to play a shot toward the green and still have a swing. His only option was to stand forward of the ball and punch the ball out sideways, back to the fairway, as you can see below.
However, in taking this stance, his foot was squarely on top of what was definitely a burrowing animal hole. He called me over, and said somewhat sheepishly, “This may seem kind of chickensh*t, but…” I had him walk me through what he intended to do, and it was clear that the hole interfered with his stance for the only shot he could reasonably hit.
Not being entirely certain, and cognizant of the fact that the group was close to its pace of play guideline, I suggested he play two balls under Rule 3-3, let his fellow competitors know which ball he wanted to count, and I would get confer with another official and get back to him. He did so, and I hit the radio for help. A Rules Certified official arrived shortly. After some discussion and a look through the Decisions book, we decided that Decision 25-1b/22, “Cast of Burrowing Animal Interferes with Sideways Stroke; When Relief Granted.” The decision says he is entitled to relief when a sideways stroke is the only reasonable stroke, and if relief gets him to a place where he can now play directly at the green, he is entitled to do so.
There are two lessons here, one for me as an official and one for the player. If this had happened last year, I may not have thought to suggest 3-3, and had the player wait until another official could arrive, which might have taken a bit of time. While I was reasonably certain he was entitled to relief, there was enough doubt. Having him play under 3-3 helped maintain the flow of play. As we’re told time and time again, get on the radio. I learned early on that it’s only a dumb question if you don’t ask it.
For the player, the lesson is simple. The rules can also help you out, and they certainly did in this case. It wasn't "chickensh*t" to ask. The player hit the second ball onto the green and probably made an easy par. Coincidentally, I was playing in a tournament Monday, and two of us hit our tee shots wide of a fairway, over a bunker, and into what looked like a huge flowerbed from the tee. When we got to the area, I noticed white lines. And there it was, a “Ground Under Repair” sign. It could just as well have said “Get Out Of Jail Free.”