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"Reasonable certainty" a ball is in the hazard...define


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#1 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 06:34 AM

Something that's been bugging me for a while and wanted to throw it out there. Hard without drawing a diagram but I'll give it a shot.

Foursome is teeing off on a par 4. There is a large pond / small lake down the left hand side that starts @ 200 yards out. Large hill/mound in front of it so you cannot see the edge of the lake that faces you.

Player A and B are similar players, for sake of argument their drives are @ the same distance.

Player A tees off, hits one 250 yards, right down the middle. B tees off, ball is heading towards the lake. However, because of the mound in front of the lake, you cannot see the ball bounce or splash in the lake. There are 2-3 trees that the ball goes through and none of the 4 hear or see the ball hit a tree.

Arriving at the pond, B cannot find his ball. It did not hit a tree, it was heading straight at the lake. Looking at A's ball it is more than reasonable to assume B is in the hazard. If you use the tee box as the distance marker and traced a radius over to the lake from A's ball - B would be smack in the middle of the lake.

However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect. A and B think this is ridiculous however since it is a tournament and to avoid further confrontation, after a few minutes of arguing, B agrees to re-tee.

I had read the rules 100 times cover to cover before this and never heard of such a change. I've since read the rules and all the decisions again and am still convinced there was no such change.

Edited by dcmidnight, 04 January 2013 - 07:13 AM.

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#2 dpb5031

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:15 AM

I don't have the rules in front of me, but the language of the rule was changed recently to include the term "virtual certainty." You have to be "virtually certain" that the ball came to final rest in the hazard.  Determining virtual certainty is where some sort of proof or an actual eyewitness is required.  

The rule used to contain the term "preponderance" which generally means "more likely than not."

Essentially, to my knowledge, they upped the burden of proof.

#3 Fade

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:26 AM

Virtual is not visual.

#4 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:29 AM

So this is the latest ruling I had found:

====

26-1/1
Meaning of "Known or Virtually Certain"

When a ball has been struck towards a water hazard and cannot be found, a player may not assume that his ball is in the water hazard simply because there is a possibility that the ball may be in the water hazard. In order to proceed under Rule 26-1, it must be "known or virtually certain" that the ball is in the water hazard. In the absence of "knowledge or virtual certainty" that it lies in a water hazard, a ball that cannot be found must be considered lost somewhere other than in a water hazard and the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

When a player's ball cannot be found, "knowledge" may be gained that his ball is in a water hazard in a number of ways. The player or his caddie or other members of his match or group may actually observe the ball disappear into the water hazard. Evidence provided by other reliable witnesses may also establish that the ball is in the water hazard. Such evidence could come from a referee, an observer, spectators or other outside agencies. It is important that all readily accessible information be considered because, for example, the mere fact that a ball has splashed in a water hazard would not always provide "knowledge" that the ball is in the water hazard, as there are instances when a ball may skip out of, and come to rest outside, the hazard.

In the absence of "knowledge" that the ball is in the water hazard, Rule 26-1 requires there to be "virtual certainty" that the player's ball is in the water hazard in order to proceed under this Rule. Unlike "knowledge," "virtual certainty" implies some small degree of doubt about the actual location of a ball that has not been found. However, "virtual certainty" also means that, although the ball has not been found, when all readily available information is considered, the conclusion that there is nowhere that the ball could be except in the water hazard would be justified.

In determining whether "virtual certainty" exists, some of the relevant factors in the area of the water hazard to be considered include topography, turf conditions, grass heights, visibility, weather conditions and the proximity of trees, bushes and abnormal ground conditions.
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#5 lander215

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:42 AM

If they drive similar distances, and nobody witnessed or heard the ball hit a tree, and the ball is nowhere to be found, then I'd be virtually certain it was in the water. You do not have to see it go into the water, no.


#6 CheckJV

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:45 AM

The key is in the definition of virtual...from Wikipedia below.  I think the USGA definition is the first.

Adjective
virtual (not comparable)
  • In effect or essence, if not in fact or reality; imitated, simulated. In fact a defeat on the battlefield, Tet was a virtual victory for the North, owing to its effect on public opinion. Virtual addressing allows applications to believe that there is much more physical memory than actually exists.
  • Nearly, almost. (A relatively recent corruption of meaning, attributed to misuse in advertising and media.) The angry peasants were a virtual army as they attacked the castle.


#7 Stuart G.

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:54 AM

+1 for dcmidnight's post.

Player C was wrong however:

Quote

Looking at A's ball it is more than reasonable to assume B is in the hazard. If you use the tee box as the distance marker and traced a radius over to the lake from A's ball - B would be smack in the middle of the lake.

Using another's ball or even other distance measure estimates of how far someone normally hits is in itself is not enough for virtual certainty.  You have to take into consideration the geography and all possible (not necessarily likely) results.

#8 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:01 AM

View PostStuart G., on 04 January 2013 - 07:54 AM, said:

Using another's ball or even other distance measure estimates of how far someone normally hits is in itself is not enough for virtual certainty.  You have to take into consideration the geography and all possible (not necessarily likely) results.

I agree, it was merely one piece of information we used when evaluating the situation and in that case we felt it was relevant IE - if player B normally hit the ball 175 yards off the tee and not 275 then it would be reasonable to assume the ball fell in the trees or rough. Certainly was not the deciding factor though.
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#9 Sawgrass

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:13 AM

View Postdcmidnight, on 04 January 2013 - 06:34 AM, said:

Player A tees off, hits one 250 yards, right down the middle. B tees off, ball is heading towards the lake. However, because of the mound in front of the lake, you cannot see the ball bounce or splash in the lake. There are 2-3 trees that the ball goes through and none of the 4 hear or see the ball hit a tree.


If B's ball "went through" two or three trees, you can't be virtually certain that it didn't quietly stay in one of them, or bounce, unheard, in an unexpected direction.  This is a re-tee situation.

If the ball had clearly gone over the trees, and there were no other conditions which imply that it could still be outside the large body of water, I'd judge it to be in the hazard.

#10 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:15 AM

Yes, as stated, all 4 players agreed they saw the ball go through the trees and did not hear or see anything to indicate it hit one.

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#11 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:17 AM

Here's the best I could do for a diagram although with mspaint it is not the best at letting me draw lines. You can see the three skinny trees I was talking about so to clarify it is not as if the ball went through a forest to get to the hazard.

The trees - which all agreed the ball did not hit - are @ 5-10 paces from the hazard.

Edited by dcmidnight, 04 January 2013 - 08:18 AM.

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#12 Sawgrass

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:29 AM

View Postdcmidnight, on 04 January 2013 - 08:15 AM, said:

Yes, as stated, all 4 players agreed they saw the ball go through the trees and did not hear or see anything to indicate it hit one.

I'm surprised you could "see" the ball go through the trees from your position on the tee.  But if you actually did, It looks to me like it's virtually certain that it's in the hazard.

Though tee shot on that hole!

#13 sui generis

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:49 AM

Known or virtually certain is requires a very high degree of "know" or "certainty."

Ask the question, "Could the ball be anywhere else?"

If the answer suggests that there is no other possible place than in the hazard that the ball could be then KVC can be applied, otherwise it's a lost ball.
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#14 Newby

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 10:29 AM

View Postdcmidnight, on 04 January 2013 - 08:17 AM, said:

Here's the best I could do for a diagram although with mspaint it is not the best at letting me draw lines. You can see the three skinny trees I was talking about so to clarify it is not as if the ball went through a forest to get to the hazard.

The trees - which all agreed the ball did not hit - are @ 5-10 paces from the hazard.

The area you have outlined in red looks as if it is not 'closely mown'. It looks like some sort of rough. If the grass is longer than an inch and/or there are dead leaves about, there is a possibility that a ball may not be seen.
The question of 'Known or Virtually Certain' (or KVC for short) is always difficult to answer if you are not at the site.

But a fundamental question that must always be asked and answered in the negative is: 'Could the ball possibly be anywhere else?'

Edit: Sorry Sui Generis, missed your post.

Edited by Newby, 04 January 2013 - 10:31 AM.


#15 KILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:04 AM

"It is important that all readily accessible information be considered because, for example, the mere fact that a ball has splashed in a water hazard would not always provide "knowledge" that the ball is in the water hazard, as there are instances when a ball may skip out of, and come to rest outside, the hazard."

The rule, IMO , is in place to keep a fellow competitor from gaining a significant advantage. If you don't know for sure, virtual certainty, then you have to follow the decision and take a stroke and distance penalty.


#16 dpb5031

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 12:12 PM

Again, the burden proof was bumped up when they revised the language.  Virtually certain is not 100% certain, but it is a higher burden than a preponderance.  It's is just like our legal system, there are different burdens of proof for different courts of law.  Beyond a reasonable doubt, being the greatest burden of proof which is used for criminal trials.

All factors must be considered...could the ball be lost in soft turf along tha bank of the pond, but outside of the hazard line?  Could it have bounced off the tree far enough away so that it is now concealed in some high grass, weeds, or wooded area?  Could it be plugged under the lip of a bunker?

If there is a reaonable possibility that the ball could have come to rest somewhere other than the confines of the hazard, then the player must re-tee, losing both stroke and distance.

#17 slocagolfer

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:10 PM

"However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect.

Don't you just love the "rules know it alls" that don't actually know the rules? It's the "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" thing.

#18 KILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:20 PM

View Postslocagolfer, on 04 January 2013 - 01:10 PM, said:

"However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect.

Don't you just love the "rules know it alls" that don't actually know the rules? It's the "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" thing.

Player C was correct , the clause had been changed.

#19 Sawgrass

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:36 PM

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 04 January 2013 - 01:20 PM, said:

View Postslocagolfer, on 04 January 2013 - 01:10 PM, said:

"However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect.

Don't you just love the "rules know it alls" that don't actually know the rules? It's the "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" thing.

Player C was correct , the clause had been changed.

Player C was correct about a change, but incorrect about the specific need to see the ball enter the water (if in fact that's what he said).

#20 KILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:49 PM

View PostSawgrass, on 04 January 2013 - 01:36 PM, said:

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 04 January 2013 - 01:20 PM, said:

View Postslocagolfer, on 04 January 2013 - 01:10 PM, said:

"However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect.

Don't you just love the "rules know it alls" that don't actually know the rules? It's the "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" thing.

Player C was correct , the clause had been changed.

Player C was correct about a change, but incorrect about the specific need to see the ball enter the water (if in fact that's what he said).

We can only be virtually certain he was correct about the change :golfer: , and the USGA decision specifically mentions seeing a splash in their decision as not being KVC. The others may have misunderstood his explanation of that decision, having been uncertain of the rule to begin with.To me, as stated before, the significant advantage of gaining a couple hundred yards for his third shot is where the focus should be and the reason the decision is worded like that to make sure it doesn't happen.

I applaud the player for re-teeing , he got it exactly right. In Tournament play, a ruling from an Official might have been the best way to proceed.


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#21 Newby

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:55 PM

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 04 January 2013 - 01:49 PM, said:

In Tournament play, a ruling from an Official might have been the best way to proceed.

The best way if an official was not available was to play two balls under rule 3-3.

Edited by Newby, 04 January 2013 - 01:56 PM.


#22 Sawgrass

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 02:17 PM

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 04 January 2013 - 01:49 PM, said:

View PostSawgrass, on 04 January 2013 - 01:36 PM, said:

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 04 January 2013 - 01:20 PM, said:

View Postslocagolfer, on 04 January 2013 - 01:10 PM, said:

"However player C fancies himself a rules know it all. He says the reasonable certainty clause has been changed and now you have to see the ball enter the water - you have to see a splash or ripples, something to that effect.

Don't you just love the "rules know it alls" that don't actually know the rules? It's the "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" thing.

Player C was correct , the clause had been changed.

Player C was correct about a change, but incorrect about the specific need to see the ball enter the water (if in fact that's what he said).

We can only be virtually certain he was correct about the change :golfer: , and the USGA decision specifically mentions seeing a splash in their decision as not being KVC. The others may have misunderstood his explanation of that decision, having been uncertain of the rule to begin with.To me, as stated before, the significant advantage of gaining a couple hundred yards for his third shot is where the focus should be and the reason the decision is worded like that to make sure it doesn't happen.

I applaud the player for re-teeing , he got it exactly right. In Tournament play, a ruling from an Official might have been the best way to proceed.

I agree with you that C had the right and obligation to raise the question.  And I also agree with you that it's possible/likely that C was misquoted.  And I suppose that I'm personally more like C than I am like others in this story.  (Maybe I don't "fancy myself a rules know it all" -- but more of a rules "know quite a bit" -- hold the "fancy.")

The only difficulty here is that the OP states that all four players saw the ball go through the trees without hitting any of them.  My eyesight is pretty bad, so I suppose I shouldn't make judgments about what can and can't be seen, but I still have a suspicion that the four players didn't actually see the ball go through the trees and out the other side, but rather they saw the ball go toward the trees and then didn't hear or see anything else.  IMO, and yours I suspect, that's just not good enough for KVC.

I do want to acknowledge though that it's possible to be KVC that a ball went into a water hazard even if you didn't see it go in the water.  A simple, silly example being standing on a fairway near a ten foot high hill blocking you from the ocean 50 yards away, and you hit a clean, blind 5 wood over the hill.  I don't care if you see it go in, it's in because it can't be anywhere else.

#23 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:03 PM

To be clear about one thing - when we saw it pass the last tree it was still 40 feet or so in the air, say 3/4 of the height of the tree. There is a zero percent chance it hit a tree. Not one player disagrees with that, so just to clarify that every player in the group agrees it went through. We all saw the ball clear the final tree and start its descent. Again we are talking about seeing a ball pass through three trees in the fall after all the leaves were off - not rifle through a thick forest of sequoias. I think thats an important distinction.

Given that there were approximately 10 - 15 paces between the last tree and the hazard, and given the direction of the shot, height of the shot when it passed the tree as well as the approximate distance, in my opinion it was more than 95% certain the ball was in the hazard.

Is it possible in the 10 - 15 yards between the tree and the hazard the ball hit a bird, plummeted to Earth and was lost? Yes, sure, I guess I could come up with a number of things that could have happened. But now having read the all of the rule decisions over again, it does not seem unreasonable to have judged the ball to be in the hazard.

At that point Player B just wanted to get on with it. As did I since I was Player A lol.

Player C by the way was not misquoted.

Edited by dcmidnight, 04 January 2013 - 03:04 PM.

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#24 sui generis

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:06 PM

@ dcmidnight

It seems you came with a question about KVC. Many helped to define it for you in several ways.

The "many" were not there ... you were. Know that we're not arguing with you.

However, it might well be that had their been a rules official accompanying your group he would likely apply KVC in the conventional sense and that B would be sent back to the tee. At any rate he certainly might have suggested a provisional ball or a 3-3.

As these message board discussions go, no one who was not there can do anything but suggest how the event may have played out.
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#25 dcmidnight

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:15 PM

Nope, and I appreciate all the opinions. As with the way it was that day - it was not clear one way or the other.

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#26 Sawgrass

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:19 PM

View Postdcmidnight, on 04 January 2013 - 03:03 PM, said:

To be clear about one thing - when we saw it pass the last tree it was still 40 feet or so in the air, say 3/4 of the height of the tree. There is a zero percent chance it hit a tree. Not one player disagrees with that, so just to clarify that every player in the group agrees it went through. We all saw the ball clear the final tree and start its descent. Again we are talking about seeing a ball pass through three trees in the fall after all the leaves were off - not rifle through a thick forest of sequoias. I think thats an important distinction.

Given that there were approximately 10 - 15 paces between the last tree and the hazard, and given the direction of the shot, height of the shot when it passed the tree as well as the approximate distance, in my opinion it was more than 95% certain the ball was in the hazard.

Is it possible in the 10 - 15 yards between the tree and the hazard the ball hit a bird, plummeted to Earth and was lost? Yes, sure, I guess I could come up with a number of things that could have happened. But now having read the all of the rule decisions over again, it does not seem unreasonable to have judged the ball to be in the hazard.

At that point Player B just wanted to get on with it. As did I since I was Player A lol.

Player C by the way was not misquoted.

DC, now that you've been so explicit in your statement that four people saw that the ball certainly went through the trees, and there was no where else for it to land other than in the water (or in an unseen birds side) I agree with you that the ball could have been judged to be KVC in the hazard.  IMO that bird joke/option you added is exactly why "virtually certain" is in there rather than simply "certain."

And I also agree with you that C only had part of the rule clear in his head, and thereby didn't help the situation.  I guess he deserves "fancies himself" after all.

It sounds like you all agree on the facts, it's just that C didn't promote the exact KVC definition as was necessary in this situation.  So Newby's/Sui's suggestion of playing two balls probably would have helped you.

In any case, if it were up to me, given all the information you've provided you'd be permitted to consider yourself in the hazard.

#27 Vindog

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:23 PM

The implications of this may trickle down in the fact that now, not only do we have to hit provisionals for all the OB's and lost ball guesswork, but we also are going to have to hit provisionals every time we're not positive that the ball went into the hazard.  ughh...

Pretty soon we'll be hitting 2 from very tee!!  (well no, not really but...)
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#28 lander215

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:49 PM

View Postdcmidnight, on 04 January 2013 - 03:03 PM, said:

To be clear about one thing - when we saw it pass the last tree it was still 40 feet or so in the air, say 3/4 of the height of the tree. There is a zero percent chance it hit a tree. Not one player disagrees with that, so just to clarify that every player in the group agrees it went through. We all saw the ball clear the final tree and start its descent. Again we are talking about seeing a ball pass through three trees in the fall after all the leaves were off - not rifle through a thick forest of sequoias. I think thats an important distinction.

Given that there were approximately 10 - 15 paces between the last tree and the hazard, and given the direction of the shot, height of the shot when it passed the tree as well as the approximate distance, in my opinion it was more than 95% certain the ball was in the hazard.

Is it possible in the 10 - 15 yards between the tree and the hazard the ball hit a bird, plummeted to Earth and was lost? Yes, sure, I guess I could come up with a number of things that could have happened. But now having read the all of the rule decisions over again, it does not seem unreasonable to have judged the ball to be in the hazard.

At that point Player B just wanted to get on with it. As did I since I was Player A lol.

Player C by the way was not misquoted.

I think you have quite clearly defined "Virtually Certain" in the case at hand. However, since it was a tournament, it probably would have been best to have played two balls and let the committee decide later. That would have thrown player C for a loop to have him get his interpretation of the rules wrong and be trumped by the rules to boot! :)

#29 Augster

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:40 PM

Given the facts given in post 1, it is time to hit a provisional.

Given the clarification/new facts given in post 23, it is safe to say you can be KVC it is in the hazard.

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Pretty soon we'll be hitting 2 from very tee!!  (well no, not really but...)

Because I play strictly by the Rules, and can't drive the ball to where I can be certain I am going to find it but maybe 3 times per round (not including par 3's), I bet I hit an average of 4 or 5 provisional balls per round.  It takes less than 30 seconds to do and the last time I walked back to the tee I vowed it'll be my last time I walk back if there is even a remote chance my ball won't be found.  If you hit 5 provisional balls per round at 30 seconds apiece, you've extended your round almost 3 minutes.  One single walk back to the tee is going to add 8-15 easy.  If you get a ride back, less obviously.  But still way more than 3 minutes.

#30 deadsolid...shank

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 06:05 PM

To me it's another case of the USGA going too far. Gallaries, observers, marshalls, etc, that's all well and good for  the guys playing on TV for money. For the other 99.9% of out there we have to rely on our own senses to know where the ball went. And if it's that far enough off line, it's also probably out there far enough that it will be difficult to know exactly where it went.

The scenario the OP put up there looks just about as clear cut to me as can be. It's not a small pond, it's a lake which looks to be at least twice the width of the fairway. Between the trees and the water looks more like bare ground to me than rough, no where for a ball to he hiding. I think it's ridiculous that he had to play that as a lost ball.

Like an earlier poster alluded to, I know the USGA is trying to prevent someone from gaining an advantage, but I think they dropped the ball on this rule change.

Edited by deadsolid...shank, 04 January 2013 - 06:51 PM.

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