Every golfer knows that the second time you hit a putt, it always goes in the hole. Unfortunately, that's not legal....Unless you invoke a little-noticed aspect of Rule 28 of The Rules Of Golf, which covers unplayable lies.
Jeremy McLean, one of the excellent teaching pros at GlenArbor in Bedford, NY, reminds us that a ball can be deemed unplayable at anytime, anywhere on the course except when it lies in a water hazard. What's more, the player is the sole judge of whether or not the ball is unplayable. If you declare it, you have three options, all under penalty of one stroke:
1. Play the ball as near as possible to the spot where where the previous stroke was made.
2. Drop the ball anywhere on a line extending backwards from the point where the ball lay in line with the hole.
3. Drop a ball within two club lengths of the spot the ball lay, not nearer to the hole.
(If you're in a bunker for options 2 and 3, the ball must be dropped in the same bunker.)
Here's where the rule can help your score on the green. Let's say you've got a four-footer above the hole and decide to make an aggressive stroke to keep the ball on line. Unfortunately, the ball lips out and speeds down the hill, leaving you with a thirty-foot comebacker that's not even a cinch two-putt. Or even worse, it runs off the green and down into the fairway even further away! Jeremy reminds us that you can declare the ball unplayable, replace it on the spot above the hole and take your penalty, then have a second chance at that four-footer.
Thanks for the GlenArbor Teaching Center Newsletter for that excellent rules tip.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo.