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How Far is Too Far

August 2010
By John Reis

At the 2010 USGA Junior Amateur Championship there was a ruling that caused some consternation on just how far is too far. It revolved around a player’s ball moving after he had addressed it.

Rule 18-2b discusses a Ball Moving after Address, and if you have read any of my earlier articles, you know the importance I put on knowing the DEFINITIONS. So many times they will lead us to the correct answer or decision. The definition of addressing the ball is: A player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance and has also grounded his club, except that in a hazard a player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance. So now that we know the definition, let’s explore the 2 parts to the issue; taking a stance and grounding the club. Once the player has taken his stance, or sometimes the stance that the situation allows given the conditions or position of the ball, his next concern is grounding his club. And this will lead us to the issue that arose at the U.S. Junior last month at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Michigan.

After the player had taken his stance and grounded his club, the ball moved. Consequently, under Rule 18-2b “If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball, and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.”

The player was informed of his penalty, and after some discussion, he argued that he had grounded his club at least 6 or maybe even 12 inches behind the ball, and therefore in reality, he argued, he didn’t ground his club at all.

Unfortunately for him, the rule doesn’t discuss how close to or far from the ball would be considered outside the realm of grounding, and without such finite limits incorporated in either the rule or a decision, the penalty was applied.

So, be careful when addressing your ball. If you take your stance and ground your club, you have addressed the ball and are liable for anything that may happen thereafter.