Changing Your Decision When Taking Relief from Temporary Water in a Bunker.

The following question was put to me recently and could be one that many of you may come across during your rounds being played in the adverse weather conditions many are experiencing at this time.

The scenario is that, due to overnight rain, some of the bunkers have temporary water however there is still room to take relief in the bunker and drop and play the ball. The player decides that he still doesn’t like the lie in the bunker so decides to drop outside the bunker (back-on-the-line relief). Under rule 16.1c this would incur 1 penalty stroke. But as the ball would be playable in the bunker shouldn’t rule 19.3 option 4 apply which incurs a penalty of 2 strokes.

Which is correct and why?

The ruling that will apply, depends upon whether the player has or has not taken relief and put a ball into play.

I am reading this scenario as:

The player has decided to take free-relief from the Temporary Water and dropped a ball in accordance with Rule 16.1c within the bunker.

The player then decides that s/he does not like the lie in the bunker and decides to drop outside the bunker on back-on-the-line-relief.

Under Rule 14.3c(1), if the player has dropped the ball in the correct way and it comes to rest within the relief area, then the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.

If the player, having dropped the ball, does not like the lie of the ball then s/he has the option to declare the ball unplayable and take relief under Rule 19.3a, under penalty of one stroke drop the ball within the bunker, or under Rule 19.3b, under penalty of two strokes, take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker.

If the player takes relief incorrectly, e.g. drops the ball incorrectly, the ball does not come to rest in the correct relief area or dropped in wrong relief area, then the player must correct the mistake before playing the ball.

While being able to correct the error, the player may also change her/his choice of relief under the options available under the same rule that they have chosen to take relief under, which would mean s/he could change her/his mind and drop outside the bunker under back-on-the-line relief still under Rule 16.1c. (Rule 14.5b(2).

If, however, the player has dropped a ball and taken Maximum Available Relief, then decides to take Back-On-the-Line Relief outside the bunker, s/he may do so, because s/he will still have interference from the Temporary Water, for a one stroke penalty

Rule 16.1 Interpretation 16.1c/1: Player Takes Maximum Available Relief; Then Decides to Take Back-On-the-Line Relief

If the player takes maximum available relief, he or she will still have interference from the abnormal course condition and may take further relief by using the back-on-the-line procedure for one penalty stroke. If the player decides to do this, the reference point for back-on-the-line relief is where the ball came to rest after taking maximum available relief.

If, however, the player lifts her/his ball. To take relief under Rule 16.1c, but has not decided which relief option to take, then s/he may, before s/he puts a ball into ply may choose either of the two options available to her/him.

Rule 16.1c Interpretation 16.1c/2: After Lifting Ball Player May Change Relief Options Before Putting a Ball in Play

If a player lifts his or her ball to take relief under Rule 16.1c, he or she is not committed to the intended relief option under Rule 16.1c until the original ball is put in play or another ball is substituted under that option.

For example, a player elects to take relief from temporary water in a bunker and lifts the ball with the intention of taking free relief in the bunker (Rule 16.1c(1)). The player then realizes that where the Rule requires the ball to be dropped in the bunker will result in a very difficult shot.

After lifting the ball, but prior to putting a ball in play, the player may choose either of the two options of the Rule despite the original intention to take relief under Rule 16.1c(1).

Enjoy your golf, despite the weather conditions,


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