Don't Let Course Maintenance Trip You Up
Illustration by Stephen Cheetham
Keeping your favorite course as pretty and playable as possible takes a lot of hard work. Kudos to superintendents and their crews. However, you still might encounter times when a construction zone affects your round. For a refresher on what to do in many situations, read on.
▶ GROUND UNDER REPAIR
These areas are usually marked by lines or stakes, but not always. If you encounter a hole made by the superintendent's staff or materials that have been piled for removal, they're GUR. This includes grass clippings and cut-up wood from a downed tree. The key words are "piled for removal." If it's just lying there, it's not GUR. Furthermore, washouts from big rain storms aren't GUR unless they're marked. When your ball is located within GUR, how you proceed depends on where the ball is located. In most cases you find the nearest point that's clear of interference from the area, and drop within one club-length of that spot, but not closer to the hole. An exception is if the GUR and the ball are on the putting green. In this case, you find the nearest point of relief that isn't closer to the hole, and then place the ball. The only situations you don't receive relief without penalty from GUR are when your ball is in a water hazard or when your ball is in a bunker and you choose to drop outside that bunker. Final thought: You can play the ball as it lies in GUR, but first check to see if the course or committee has enacted a Local Rule mandating that you must take relief.
▶ AERATION HOLES AND HOLE PLUGS
Superintendents routinely poke holes into your golf course. Sometimes these holes, and the plugs of turf removed when the holes are created, can get in the way of a good round. Unfortunately, unless a Local Rule is in effect, you do not get relief if your ball is resting in an aeration hole. You can, however, remove plugs of turf around your ball provided you don't move your ball in the process.
▶ MOWERS AND THEIR TRACKS
If your ball ends up in a rut created by a cart or maintenance vehicle, it's up to the course or committee to declare it GUR. If not, play it as it lies. Keep in mind that the rut would have to be significant to even warrant consideration. Shallow indentations do not qualify. Was your ball damaged by a mower?
▶ HOSES, SPRINKLERS, SPRINKLER HEADS
Your course needs water. That means there's a good chance you're going to encounter equipment needed to irrigate. You get free relief if you find your ball next to a hose or a sprinkler head (same applies for rakes, ladders and any other maintenance equipment). Remember that your stance, ball or intended swing has to be interfered with to take relief. If possible, have the equipment removed and play on. If your ball moved in the process, just return it to its original position. You do not get relief if a sprinkler head is in your line of play. An example is if you want to putt from off the green and a sprinkler head is between your ball and the hole. You also don't get relief if a sprinkler douses your ball or comes on as you're about to hit. Treat any visible accumulation of water created by the sprinkler, before or after taking your stance, as casual water.
▶ PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZER
Ball covered in chemicals? Unfortunately, it's against the rules in most cases to lift and clean your ball before you reach the putting green. But you can treat applications, such as foam, as movable obstructions and take relief without penalty.
Q: Your ball lands on a green covered with leaves. How long can you spend clearing leaves to hit your putt before you are hit with a delay penalty?
A: You may take as long as you need provided you don't unduly delay play. In other words, just be mindful of the group behind you. Will you, please?