23 Dec 2004
I was enjoying a round of golf at one of the new courses in Orange County with three friends recently. It was the first time I had played the course, and I always have fun on a course I do not know.
It was a beautiful Southern California day, the company was good, the golf was fun - and then it happened.
I hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway. The pin was tucked behind a bunker on the right side of the green, but I was anticipating trying to attack the pin position with a short iron in my hand. As I approached my ball, I saw that it looked a little funny. Sure enough, it was sitting squarely in the middle of a huge divot that a previous golfer had taken and not bothered to repair.
I was penalized not because of a poor shot on my part, but because of the lack of proper golf course manners by another player. If my ball had been just an inch or two away from the divot, I would have been rewarded for my perfect drive.
I could not try for the pin from that lie and had to play a shot to the front of the green and hope I could get up and down for my par, instead of being able to putt for a birdie.
I shook off the bad break, not wanting it to interfere with my enjoyment of the day. But a few holes later, after another perfect drive, I was in a situation with a short iron and a good lie and did try to attack a pin tucked behind a bunker.
I just missed carrying the bunker with my shot but was not worried, as I am good at short bunker shots. I expected to be able to get up and down out of the sand to save my par. However, when I got to my ball I saw that someone, apparently a large someone, had not bothered to rake the trap. There were numerous very large, deep footprints.
My ball was in the deepest heel print. I had no chance to get the ball out and clear the large lip in front of me. So, again, I was penalized by another player's inconsiderate action.
I fail to understand how you can play a course, find it in perfect condition, and leave it in such a state as I described above for the next golfer to have to deal with.
On the chance that this was a new golfer who does not know the rules and etiquette of the game, I also do not understand how the other players in the group did not take the opportunity to teach the ignorant or discourteous golfer a lesson.
It is my opinion that the rules requiring you to hit out of someone else's divot in the fairway or footprint in the bunker are the least fair of all of the rules of golf.
It becomes a game of luck, rather than a game of skill, when you hit a good shot and get penalized for something another player did not do.
However, I doubt the USGA will change these two rules just because of my opinion. So I will have to continue playing the way I always have, taking what the golf course gives me.
Actually, I had to do a lot of that during this round of golf.
The fairways and the areas around the greens were very hard, and the ball rolled a lot after landing. I started playing a bump-and-run shot, landing the ball 10 yards short of the green and playing for the ball to run up onto the green, rather than playing my normal flop-and-stop shot.
The result was an enjoyable round of golf after all.