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Ask for a golf ruling with Cory Armstrong

QOn the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, there's a long fairway bunker right against a sea wall that defines the lateral water hazard. If a player hits his ball through the bunker and into the bay, and he wishes to drop within two club-lengths of its point of entry, he'd be dropping in the sand. Because the sand is soft, it would lead to a pretty bad lie. Has the USGA ever thought about giving the player an additional option in such a case? - Tim (Myrtle Beach)

ATim, you're right that Rule 26-1c " Relief for Ball in Water Hazard" allows a player who's hit his ball into a lateral water hazard (marked red) to drop within two club-lengths of (i) where it entered or (ii) at a point on the opposite margin of the lateral water hazard equidistant from the hole with a penalty of one stroke.

Also, don't forget about options 'a' and 'b.' Option 'a' lets the player play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. Option 'b' lets a player drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. Both options prescribe a penalty stroke. Unfortunately, because of the design of Pebble Beach's 18th hole (a gentle dogleg left), these options would likely send a player pretty far backward.

Therefore, most players would elect to use option 'c,' which, as you noted, guarantees them a buried lie - commonly called a "fried egg." For this week's U.S. Open, the USGA established a series of dropping zones along the right-hand side of the bunker and is using a local rule stating that a player whose ball comes to rest in the lateral water hazard (having last crossed the hazard margin at a point where, when proceeding under 26-1c(i), the player may drop a ball in the bunker) may drop a ball, under penalty of one stroke, on the nearest dropping zone which is not nearer the hole.

Who said rules officials don't have a heart?