“Play the course as you find it; play the ball as it lies. If you can’t do either then play fair. In order to play fair, you need to know the rules of golf.”


Rule 18-1, Rule 24-3, Rule 25-1c and Rule 26-1 make reference to the term “known or virtually certain” – what does it mean?

It is easy to make assumptions regarding the whereabouts of a golf ball, for example – if a ball has been struck towards a water hazard and cannot be found, a player could assume that his or her ball is in the water hazard simply because there is a possibility that the ball may be in the water hazard. The ball may, in fact, not be in the hazard and may be lost. If so, the player would not be able to proceed under Rule 26-1 but would rather have to proceed under Rule 27-1 (Lost Ball). The player must establish “knowledge” or “virtual certainty” of the ball’s whereabouts in order to proceed correctly.

“Knowledge” may be gained by someone actually observing the ball disappear in the water. Such evidence could come from the player, his or her caddie, other players, a referee or spectators. It is important that all readily accessible information be considered, because
for example, the mere fact that a ball has splashed in a water hazard does not always provide “knowledge” that the ball is in the water hazard, as there are instances when a ball may skip out of, and come to rest outside, the hazard.

In the absence of “knowledge”, “virtual certainty” must be established. Unlike “knowledge”, “virtual certainty” implies some small degree of doubt about the actual location of the ball that has not been found. However, “virtual certainty” also means that, although the ball has
not been found, when all readily available information is considered, the conclusion that there is nowhere that the ball could be except in the water hazard would be justified. In determining whether “virtual certainty” exists, some of the relevant factors in the area of the
water hazard to be considered include topography, turf conditions, grass height, visibility, weather conditions and the proximity of trees, bushes and abnormal ground conditions. See related Decisions: 26-1/1 and 26-1/1.3.

Here is an example of where it will be difficult to determine “virtual certainty” that the ball is in the water hazard without going forward to assess the area surrounding the water hazard:
It is a clear day, with good visibility. A player’s ball is struck towards a water hazard, which has closely mown grass extending right up to its margin. The ball is observed travelling in the direction of the water hazard and it is known from prior experience that, with normal
turf conditions, the ball would undoubtedly go into the water hazard. However, on this day, the fairways are wet and therefore it is possible that the ball could have embedded in the fairway and thus might not be in the water hazard.

Please note: even though the original ball may be in a water hazard, the player is entitled to play a provisional ball if the original ball might also be lost outside the water hazard. In such a case, if the original ball is found to be in the water hazard, the provisional ball must be
abandoned – Rule 27-2c. See Decision 27-2a/2.2

Don’t assume – it may make an ASS (of) U (or) ME…

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