Well, here we go with an extremely contentious issue, and one that I suspect will create a lot of discussion, especially after what I am about to say. What would you think if I said that in probably every competition that is played at Pelican Waters, an incorrect interpretation of the Rules is made relating to taking a penalty drop from a hazard when a path lies adjacent to that hazard? Further, what would you say if I said that players should be penalised and/or disqualified if they do not follow this particular rule to the letter of the law? Below is a photo of a path adjacent to the lateral hazard on the left of the 9th fairway.
Let’s work through a common scenario. A player pulls his drive off the 9th tee and it crosses the path and goes into the hazard. There are a couple of lucky players at Pelican I know whose ball almost always bounces back out, but in the scenario I am discussing, the ball remains in the hazard. The player decides to takes his medicine and takes a penalty, which in this case should be within two club lengths of where it crossed the hazard line, no nearer the hole. In the instance in the photo, taking a drop within two club lengths of the hazard line would mean dropping on the path. It appears to have become common practice that players announce, or more often than not, are told by their playing partner(s) to not worry about dropping on the path, but simply take relief from the path and drop on the grass. The player then proceeds to take relief from the path, correctly dropping the ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief from the path. They then proceed, believing all’s well with the world and life goes on.
But wait! Here is the kicker. The player should have been penalised (2 strokes) for playing from the wrong place. The correct procedure is for the player to take a drop, within two club lengths of where his ball last crossed the hazard, which in this case is on the path. Then, if he chooses, he may take relief from the cart path. But hang on, I hear you exclaim! Surely it is just saving time by moving straight to the grass, and the end result is the same. Well, yes, it does probably save a few seconds, but there is nowhere in the rules that permits the action that most of us seem to have accepted as common practice. A committee is not allowed to make a Local Rule permitting this to occur. Another point of interest in the photo above, is that some players may prefer to play off the path as the grass is quite thick and deep, and I have seen players struggle to move the ball more than a few metres after their ball sunk down deep in the grass.
I look forward to hearing and reading what people have to say. In the meantime, how are you going to proceed in future, if you find yourself in this situation?