Lateral Hazards – A Footnote

Santa golfingThe previous post (Camelback Golfers – Read This or Else; December 14, 2017), has generated far more “interest” than I had anticipated. Almost every response came to me in private rather than as a comment on this blog. After reviewing the responses, I can assure you that we not only have some good golfers in the group, we’ve also got some golfers that carry a sense of humor that can be used like a scalpel to surgically extract the essence of a situation and describe it in a fashion that make my sides hurt from laughter. I can’t share all the comments because they were sent in private. However, I will give the award for best humor to Dr. John Raines. Barbara must spend half her time doubled over in laughter.

I will share one comment and my response to it without mentioning any names (not even my own). One golfer said:

I assume you believe there are those that fudge?

Here’s my response.

“Three answers …

OFFICIAL ANSWER: I’ve had a number of [fill in tactful word for ‘complaints’] about those who (given the benefit of the doubt) don’t fully understand the rules surrounding lateral hazards. As a leader of the pack, I’m obligated to ‘educate’ new and old members alike. (Also, as Handicap Chair, I’m obliged to ‘educate’). Also, as the one with the media outlet (sounds more official than ‘blog’), I have the means to educate. Without exception, no one that complained mentioned any names.

NON-OFFICIAL ANSWER: Hell yes, there are those who fudge. If we were playing for Pokémon cards, most people wouldn’t care. However, money’s changing hands and ‘fudging’ shouldn’t impact that flow. Some people also point out that even if it doesn’t impact the money game, it tends to give the fudgers indefensibly low handicaps. They fear getting stuck with the vanity handicappers as a partner in a match or tournament.


When dealing with lateral hazards, there are frequently going to be judgment calls, especially on the question of “point of entry”. There is no section in the rule book concerning how to make a judgment. I think you learn that as a kid, maybe before. For example, I have seen many times where someone tees off on #8 Padre. The ball clears that water, but just barely. It lands in the grass and rolls back into the hazard. Does the golfer invoke the “two clubs from point of entry, no closer to the hole rule”? Or does he return to the “drop area” thus sacrificing twenty or thirty yards. It depends on whether the ball landed in the hazard or out of the hazard and rolled back in. Here’s the rub; the hazard ISN’T defined as the water. There’s usually a red line of demarcation on the other side of the pond. The ball often lands dry, but in the hazard. If so, back to the drop area. If it lands just past the red line, you can play much closer to the pin. Your call. The kicker is that from 175 yards, it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise landing spot, especially when comparing it to a red chalk line that has been largely eradicated from rain and the freshly grown grass. That call is further complicated by the fact that you’re bent over in a golfer’s curse pose vehemently bitching about the yardage on the cart GPS being wrong.

Nonetheless, it’s a judgment call. Do your best. As a suggestion in keeping with the season, consider the following:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
He’s checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Camelback Golfers – READ THIS OR ELSE!

GodfatherIf you continue to play golf at Camelback and you haven’t read this, a curse will be cast upon you. Your hair will fall out. (Note to those of you with sparse or no hair: In your case, a secondary curse will be administered the results of which are far too gruesome to detail in a public forum such as this.)

It has come to my attention that some golfers continue to be conflicted and/or confused by the rules governing “lateral hazards” in general and in particular, the rules as they pertain to the native grass areas at Camelback Golf Club. Please read this missive and absorb it. Inculcate it both into your conscious and subconscious minds, your ID, your EGO, your memory, your yin and your yang. Kindly understand this so thoroughly that in the event you talk in your sleep, you recite variations on this rule rather than cry out the name of someone with whom you had a love relationship in the past. In that regard, having a thorough grasp of this rule may not only save you penalty strokes on the golf course, it could also save your relationship at home.

ALL NATIVE GRASS AREAS ON THE AMBIENTE COURSE ARE DEEMED “LATERAL HAZARDS”. There are certain God given or natural laws of nature that apply to lateral hazards. Some for your bemusement are:

  1. Your ball is in the hazard AT THE LAST POINT OF ENTRY. It doesn’t matter if your ball is 700 feet in the air, the point of entry is that point where a vertical line straight down from your ball crosses the line of the hazard.
  2. Assuming you find your ball without being bitten by a rattlesnake, ravaged by a coyote, bobcat, or member of the grounds crew, you have the same five options for your next shot that you would if you had hit your ball into a lake. Those options are …
    • Play the ball AS IT LIES.
    • Drop two clubs lengths from the LAST POINT OF ENTRY, but no closer to the hole. There is a one stroke penalty.
    • Drop a ball within two clubs lengths of a point on the opposite side of the hazard in line with the LAST POINT OF ENTRY no closer to the hole. There is a one stroke penalty.
    • Play the ball from the location of your previous shot. There is a one stroke penalty.
    • Play the ball from any point you wish on a line directly, i.e., straight back, in line with the flagstick and the LAST POINT OF ENTRY. You may legally drop the ball back 800 yards if you’re so inclined (as long as you’re still in bounds), however, this option may have to be addressed in another post relating to mental competence. There is a one stroke penalty.

Things YOU MAY NOT DO if you’re going to play your ball from within the hazard.

  1. You MAY NOT ground your club in such a fashion as to be deemed “testing the ground” or “improving your lie or swing path”. You MAY lightly brush the grass in the course of addressing or swinging as long as it is not done to remove the grass or otherwise improve your swing path.
  2. You MAY NOT touch or move any loose impediments in your swing path or the path of the ball. You MAY NOT move rocks or native vegetation. “I paid two hundred dollars for this club” is not a statement that grants a waiver of the rules. You MAY move unnatural loose impediments such as those that are human caused. For example, you may move an empty beer can that impedes your swing. In fact, if the can isn’t empty, you may drink the contents before and/or after the swing. It may even help. You MAY move or take relief from waste or construction debris that is clearly man made. For example, you can take relief from a pile of mesquite slash having been cut and left for pickup. You may also get relief into the mesquite as long as you are not visible from any residence or by any other golfers on the course. The penalty for such relief is self-inflicted; remember, mesquite thorns are extremely sharp. If you get too close, you will come away with a much greater appreciation for the term “slash”.
  3. You MAY NOT lift your ball to identify it if it is clearly identifiable without lifting. If in doubt, your playing opponent usually has a pretty good eye for spotting your markings. If the ball does have to be lifted, make sure it is returned to the same place it was before the heist.
  4. You MAY NOT take a drop out of the hazard on a line running laterally from the point at which the ball came to rest. This technique is referred to a “desert rules” and is NOT the legal or proper way to take relief. The technique is also referred to a cheating, even if done with the noblest of intentions.

Now that I have hopefully made it clear how to proceed on those rare occasions when your ball unfairly, unjustly and no doubt in defiance of the physical laws of the universe makes its way into a “native grass lateral hazard”, let me take a little extra time to clarify the term “native grass area”.

On the Ambiente course, we have the following eight areas: teeing grounds, putting greens, sand traps, fairways, the rough (you know – those areas that look like the fairway, but aren’t cut nearly as close to the ground), lakes, cart paths and “OTHER AREAS”. If you’re not in one of the first seven, you’re in a “native grass area”. Native grass areas typically have native grasses in them, and sometimes flowers. They also have snakes, mice, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, and raptors, but to keep things simple, we’ll not refer to them as native animal areas; we’ll stick with native grass areas.

Here are a couple of the biggest sources of confusion when it comes to native grass areas. In the event that the following “interpretations” appear to violate the rules or spirit of the game as you may know them, consider them “sub-local” rules for our group only (unless the Club adopts them). They are hereby declared “the rules” as set by the Tournament Committee (me) and Chair of the Handicap Committee (also me).

  1. If a cart path runs adjacent to a native grass area and your ball comes to rest on the cart path or sufficiently close to the edge of the cart path as to cause you to risk injury or club damage, you MAY take relief on the non-hazard side of the cart path – EVEN IF YOUR BALL COMES TO REST CLEARLY ON THE HAZARD SIDE OF THE CART PATH.
  2. If a cart path runs through a native grass area, i.e., native grass areas exist on both sides of the cart path where your ball comes to rest, you may take free relief, however the drop must be made IN THE HAZARD. You must drop within one club length of the point of nearest relief from the cart path. Note this is a “local rule for our group only” and is in opposition to the official USGA position on this question. The USGA says you get NO RELIEF in such situations; you play the ball where it lies – even if it’s on the cart path. You still have all the options available for relief from a lateral hazard, however, it’ll cost you one stroke.

One final (famous last words) comment on the native grass question. If you’re playing golf on the Padre course and you’re ball comes to rest in a native grass area on the Ambiente course, e.g., behind the #12 green, these rules still apply.

I sincerely hope these clarifications make play easier, less stressful and faster. If I’ve missed anything or you have any further questions or comments, hit the comment button and let’er rip!

Also be aware that if any interpretation remains nebulous or ambiguous, resort to “Jones Rule #138”, i.e., all rule interpretations shall be made in a manner that favors the author and his team.