Ruling of the day: Round 1
Ernie Els encountered one of the many gorse bushes on the Old Course during his first round of the 144th Open Championship.
Initially the ball could not be found so it was necessary to search for it in the gorse bushes. With the help of his caddie, the referee, ball spotters and the marshal, Els searched for his ball. A player has a total of five minutes to search for the ball and in Els’ case, the search was proving fruitless. However, three minutes into the search one of the marshals looked up and spotted the ball suspended in the gorse bush approximately 5 feet in the air.
“Good spot!” said Ernie when the marshal pointed out the ball’s location.
After identifying that the ball was his, Els consulted the referee as to his options for relief since the ball was not going to be playable from the spot where it lay.
The player is the sole judge as to whether the ball is playable. You may deem the ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. There are three options for relief, under penalty of one stroke (Rule 28):
a... play again from where your last shot was played, or
b... drop a ball any distance behind the point where the ball lay keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball lay and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or
c... drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lies not nearer the hole.
If your ball is in a bunker you may proceed as above; however, if you are dropping back on a line or within two club-lengths (options b or c), you must drop a ball in the bunker.
Had Els chosen to drop the ball under Rule 28c, he would have been entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in gorse bush. You can use any club in the bag to measure the two club-lengths but in this particular case, even using a driver, would not have afforded Els the relief he was seeking out of the gorse bush.
Wisely, Els decided to drop the ball behind the point where it lay in the gorse (Rule 28b). He went on to bogey the 12th hole and post a 71, one under par, for his first round.