In a junior tournament sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic PGA recently, an interesting situation occurred in reference to a ball being lost or being in a lateral hazard. The player hit his approach shot short and left of the green near a lateral water hazard. The area around the hazard was covered with very tall, thick grass.
Because all the players saw the ball going towards the hazard area, the player and the other competitors in the group began looking for the ball in the tall grass. After the five minute search (the time allowed to search for a lost ball) I advised the player he needed to return to the location from where he hit the shot and play another ball, invoking rule 27-1 (stroke and distance penalty).
The player claimed since he saw the ball going towards the hazard and we couldn’t find it, the ball must have gone into the hazard. He stated he was going to invoke the lateral hazard rule and drop within two club lengths from where he thought it entered the hazard.
I advised the player it was a lost ball and he must invoke 27-1, stroke and distance. Is this the correct ruling or could the player be right in claiming the ball to be in the hazard since it was not found?
The rule states, “It must be known or virtually certain” the ball in question entered the hazard. Without virtual certainty, it is deemed a lost ball.
During the entire five minutes allotted, all the players searched in the tall grass for the player’s ball. Since no one saw the ball enter the hazard, there was no virtual certainty it was in the hazard. He admitted not seeing it enter the hazard but not finding it meant it must be there. The player had to be virtually certain the ball had entered the hazard to make his claim.
Therefore, this meant the ball was lost and the player must return to the location of the last shot. He incurred the stroke and distance penalty stated in Rule 27-1.
Do you have a Rules question you would like answered? Contact me. Gary@thenextgolfshot.com