Rule 27 - Stroke & Distance Revisited
By bkuehn1952 on 11/2/11
The man needs no introduction by now, but at oob we believe those who deserve to be recognized should be recognized. Therefore, it's is my greatest pleasure to share with you Brian "bkuehn1952" Kuehn's latest submission. And in case you missed any of his 27 previous posts, I've linked them out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Enjoy!

The recent tweaks to the Rules of Golf got me thinking about one of the least liked rules in golf, the “stroke & distance” penalty assessed for hitting a ball out-of-bounds or for a lost ball. This penalty is routinely excoriated by novice and expert alike. Frankly, most discussions on this subject generate a lot more heat than light. True, taking what essentially is a 2-stroke penalty is a heavy price to pay for a momentary slip. Nonetheless, the game of golf is ultimately one of power and accuracy. The 2-stroke penalty for wayward shots rightly balances power with accuracy.

Some will argue that a 300-yard drive a foot out-of-bounds is treated worse than a whiffed tee shot. That is totally true. The player who whiffed, however, kept his ball on the course, the long inaccurate hitter did not. And let’s face it, the times a ball is OB by a foot are vastly out-numbered by shots that are either well outside the course or totally unrecoverable. Talking about balls being 12 inches out-of-bounds is really a red herring; it just does not happen very often.

OB and “Lost Ball” penalties tend to level the playing field between longer players and short hitters. Hit a 200-yard drive 5 degrees off target and you might be hitting from the rough. Hit a 300-yard drive 5 degrees off line and you may be bouncing down the road or in some family’s kiddie pool. When confronted with the possibility of a stroke & distance penalty, the intelligent long hitter dials back and clubs down, giving an opening to the more accurate short hitting player.

If there is one aspect of the OB and “Lost” rule that may need some adjustment, it is the requirement to return to the tee or spot from which one last hit. For all but tournament play, I would advocate an option that allowed a player, in lieu of hitting a provisional, to elect to drop within 2-club lengths from the spot where the ball last crossed from mown grass to natural vegetation (or the point where the ball crossed the OB line), no nearer the hole. Once a provisional was hit, this option would not be available. A ball lost in the rough or fairway would follow the same rules but the drop point would be where the ball last crossed from the fairway to the rough. A shot lost in the fairway would be dropped at the point where the ball most likely would have landed. In all cases the penalty would be 2 strokes.

Why make the drop point where the mown grass ends and natural terrain begins? One needs a “line” or border from which to measure 2-club lengths. Until courses paint a line along woodlands and grasslands, we need a defined border that separates the course from no man’s land.

Why require a decision to drop prior to hitting a provisional? In many instances a drop will be more punitive than hitting one’s 3rd from the tee under a stroke & distance penalty. The idea is to not give players an option of taking their provisional versus dropping with a 2-stroke penalty. Force the decision (provisional or drop) before the player moves forward. The hope is the drop rule will only be used when returning to the tee or the spot where one last played a stroke is impractical or impossible.

Why even change the rule? Maintaining a rule that is impractical or impossible to follow only serves to make players ignore the rules. Once one or two rules are openly disregarded, the game of golf can quickly devolve into “Flogton,” something most of us don’t care to see happen. In the long run it is better to create a framework of rules that reflect golf reality rather than insist on a code that only makes sense at the very highest levels of competition.

So what do my fellow Oobers think? Let’s hear your opinions and ideas. Maybe the powers at the USGA and the R&A will hear us.

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo by Phoenix Dark-Knight

[ comments ]
Nojdemo2 says:
Completely agree.

The *only* time where stroke and distance penalties are practicable are during organised competitions. In every other scenario, you will almost always end up holding up those behind you - and no-one likes slow-play. In those cases who doesn't just drop it close to where it went OB?

The rules of golf should be able to be applied in *all* scenarios, from two friends out playing for bragging rights all the way up to the top professional tournaments. Stroke & Distance is one rule that just doesn't work for most golfers.
oobscott2 says:
also completely agree
unfortunately me and my friends are total jews and will do whatever it takes to win a dollar off the other guy. so if my friend hits it ob, im making him walk back to the tee or give me the match
tnj says:
The OOB penalty is one that needs to change with modern golf design. Why should the golfer be penalized because the developer didn't have enough money to build a proper course, or chose to line the fairway with million dollar homes?

Lost balls should absolutely be a drop. Lost ball in the fairway should be a penalty on the greenskeeper.
homermania says:
I'm calling a penalty on @oobscott2. Your anti-semetic comments are really not appreciated here.
jrbizzle says:
For speed's sake, if I hit O.B. (and don't know it at the time), then I'll usually drop a ball about 225 out in the rough and play the next as my fourth shot. Basically to not hold up the group behind me, I'm acting as though I took stroke and distance, and hit a decent drive, but not great.

But I also think this is a case where if you know the rule and learn the reasoning behind it, you will become a better golfer. Course management is knowing the details of the terrain in front of you and avoiding the worst possible spots. O.B. is marked by white stakes, and you should see them from the tee and always take that most punitive hazard into consideration before hitting.
jrbizzle says:
And homer is right, that was pretty offensive oobscott2.
DWill3 says:
My group usually plays. If you hit one ob, then you hit a provisional, but if your provisional goes out of bounds. Then you hit 5 from where your last ball went ob.
birdieXris says:
I agree partially. I posted elsewhere that i was in favor of reworking this rule, but there needs to be certainty as with any rule. "A shot lost in the fairway would be dropped at the point where the ball most likely would have landed.". I think that wording is a little too wishy washy. Also, how many times have we gone to the spot we "KNOW" the ball ended only to find it 15 yards away later as we're walking to the green or to the bathroom. I think the lost ball stroke and distance can be amended, but there needs to be actual factual info involved. Since there's no borders like OB, it needs to be really well thought out.
I think lost balls should still be provisionals as well as stroke and distance. The rules cover burrowing animals and crazy happenings with balls moving and offer solutions. The OB ball though, is to protect the weekend golfer and beginner. It's to stop them from hitting 50 OB while trying to play stroke and distance. "lost balls" are another matter entirely.
ezra_hendrickx says:
Totally offensive, oobscott2. Stop reinforcing the idea that golfers are elitist racists. I assume OOB will remove the comment at some point.
Dusty23 says:
a certain amount of common sense must come into play as well, most of us have a pretty good idea of when we launched one off the property or when theres a good chance we're gonna find it playable, when you're sure its gone or when in doubt, hit the provisional, but i agree, if you go down and can't find it or its OB, take a drop as close to where you think it should be or where it crossed and play on with the appropriate penalty strokes
cjgiant says:
I have agreed with drop +2 strokes in cases where the shot was assumed to be in-bounds (i.e. blind tee shots on new course) to keep pace of play. However, if there is a possibility the ball went out-of-bounds, you should hit a provisional, especially if you are an average golfer or better. You will likely hit a decent shot with your provisional (always easier the second time), and it doesn't slow play that much, unless your setup is 5 minutes long.

I have seen numerous times where a shot goes wayward, and there is no inkling of a person even considering a provisional. If the golfer is having a bad day or isn't a strong player yet, this doesn't bother me, as pace of play can become and issue, and ESC would come into effect at some point. However, it does annoy me when a golfer ignores the rules so blatantly.
mmontisano says:
I disagree with cjgiant. that second shot is even more difficult than the first because of the added pressure to keep it inbounds. I do agree with DWill3 though. that helps maintain pace of play.

but in all seriousness, I'm okay with the OB rule. I'm not sure why though....

the only thing I can't stand is when courses make other fairways OB. I mean, the ball is playable and not in any sort of vegetation, so let me play the damn ball as it lies.
oobscott2 says:
sorry guys, bad habit caused my racist friends. i need some new friends
glenrich says:
In terms of handicapping, the potential for OOB/lost ball penalties is not properly reflected in the course ratings. This typically happens when courses are not properly maintained. So you can lose your ball 3 feet from the fairway in the 8 inch tall 'rough'. This also shows up when playing solo. Sometimes you just don't see where the ball went even on a good shot. Finally, some courses have oob markings that are for legal reasons and otherwise would not have been oob. Again I do not believe these are properly accounted for in the course ratings.
Regarding pace of play, if you actually took 5 minutes to search for the ball every time you had trouble finding it, you would hold up everyone else. You will then lose all of your golf friends and have to play solo and get more lost ball penalties because there is no one to help you spot your ball.
Banker85 says:
not that bad oobscott, it is just a sterotype. no biggie in my book.
I usually will hit a provisional if i am not sure. If i know it went out i just re-tee hitting 3. Sux. If i just cant find it i drop in the area i feel it should be and take 2 stroke penalty hitting lying 4 (1 tee shot, 2 stroke penalty).
cjgiant says:
@badcaddy - I feel it's the same amount of pressure, but hopefully you know/felt what you did wrong and can immediately correct it.

Actually, what I did kinda mean by prefacing with "being an average to better golfer" is that such a player is probably at least somewhat defined by the fact that such a golfer doesn't often shank multiple balls OB in a row too often, or else they would not be deemed an "average to better golfer". It's a self-fulfilling prophecy :).
mmontisano says:
ha! I will say this, it does feel good to pipe one down the middle after you've put one OB. it just washes away that pressure to perform better and is a bit of a confidence booster in a weird way.
Niramas says:
How about having to play out of a divot on the fairway? The game is hard enough without being punished for playing a good shot!!! It just makes the game less enjoyable.
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