Today, we will discuss what golfers may touch with their club in a hazard.
Remember that there are two types of hazard on a golf course, bunkers and water hazards (which include lateral water hazards) and that strokes (where there must be intent to strike at and move the ball) are different from practice swings.
Most golfers know that if their ball lies in a hazard they must not touch the ground in that hazard, or the water if it is a water hazard, with their hand or club.
Most golfers also realise that they must not touch or move any loose impediment (e.g. stones, branches and dead leaves) lying in or touching the same hazard, unless it is with the forward movement of their club as they make their stroke.
However, in my experience, many players do not realise that there is no penalty for touching anything that is growing with a practice swing, their backswing, or the forward movement of their club before it strikes the ball, even when their ball is lying in a hazard.
The Note to Rule 13-4 clarifies;
At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
Of course, the player must not do anything to improve their lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, because this would be a breach of Rule 13-2. So take care during those practice swings!
A memorable instance of a breach of Rule 13-4, by moving a loose impediment in a water hazard, occurred in 2010 on the first play-off hole at the Verizon Heritage.
On the backswing of his stroke, Brian Davis slightly moved a single loose palm frond, lying among several growing palm fronds.
Davis had to call the two strokes penalty on himself resulting in him losing the title to Jim Furyk, who was not even aware of the breach.
Note: The author is an R & A certified Level 2 Rules Official and an Apprentice Member of the Professional Golf Association of South Africa. Feedback: +265 888 346 510 or dingaank@gmail. com
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