Rules Column: Russ Wing

It’s important to make sure you think before you drop

At the recent BMW International Open on the European Tour, Thorbjorn Olesen had a frustrating experience. He hit his second shot on a par-4 hole into a Lateral Water Hazard (LWH) by the green, took relief from the LWH, incurring a 1-stroke penalty under Rule 26 to get out, and then watched as his ball in play rolled back into the LWH again, incurring another 1-stroke penalty to get out a second time.

Let’s review what happened, and see how Olesen might have avoided that second 1-stroke penalty.

The exhibit that accompanies this article shows the area where this happened. In particular, notice the height of the grass between the green and the LWH. It’s all pretty short, but it’s slightly longer near the railroad ties that form the wall of the LWH.

So what happened? After Olesen hit his second shot on the hole, the ball landed near the green and bounced and rolled down the bank and into the LWH. In order to get out of the LWH, he chose the 2 club-lengths option under Rule 26. The 2 club-lengths distance got him up on the bank where the grass was the most closely mowed, and that’s where he chose to drop. When he dropped a ball, it bounced and rolled down the bank and into the LWH. Following the procedure outlined in Rule 20-2c when to Re-Drop, Olesen re-dropped a ball on the most closely mowed grass, which also bounced and rolled down the bank and into the LWH. Again following the procedure outlined in Rule 20-2c, he placed a ball where his second drop had first landed, which was on the most closely mowed grass. At this point he had trouble getting his ball to stay at rest, which necessitated the use of Rule 20-3d Ball Fails to Come to Rest on Spot. Finally, the ball seemed to be at rest, and thus it was in play. Unfortunately, less than a minute later, it rolled down the bank and into the LWH.

Having watched his second shot from the fairway and his first dropped ball bounce and roll into the LWH, I think Olesen should have done his re-drop near the railroad ties where the grass was longer and ground more level. I think this defensive choice would have saved him from a second 1-stroke penalty.