We’ve seen players dropping from the spectator barriers all week at Hoylake, so why did the American crash his ball into a railing at the 18th? Our rules expert digs in
Gary Woodland sent spectators ducking for cover when he smashed a fairway wood into the railings on Hoylake’s 18th hole.
Social media video showed the American’s final tee shot in the first round went left, and finished outside the spectator barriers framing The Open’s closing hole.
The American dug into the bag for some timber as he tried to get his second shot near the green.
But he had fans, straining to get a closer look, sprawling as his shot cannoned off the metal barrier and towards them.
Despite his ball going almost sideways, he still managed to pick up an incredible par. And as the video picked up pace around the internet, some asked why he’d been unable to take relief from the fence.
We’ve seen players pulling the ball left of the 1st into metal gates throughout the championship and getting a drop. So what gives? The answer lies in the Local Rules in operation for The Open.
That fencing on the 1st, both before and after the TV tower and only when playing the 1st, is considered part of that tower and is classed as a temporary immovable obstruction. Free relief is allowed.
Elsewhere, metal fencing put up for crowd control is an immovable obstruction. Players can have relief if their ball is on the fence, or physically interferes with area of intended stance or swing, but they wouldn’t normally get line of play relief.
There is, though, an extra option in The Open’s Local Rules that allows it.
The problem for Woodland was how far away his ball lay from the fencing. To get relief in this circumstance, players must satisfy a series of criteria.
The ball has to be in the general area and, crucially for Woodland, “the ball lies on the outside of the fencing but within four-club lengths of it, and the fencing is directly between the player’s ball and the hole or the ball lies within one club-length of a spot at the same distance from the hole where this would exist”.
If he’d been a bit closer, he’d have got a break. He would even have been able to drop it inside the metal fencing – or back within the fenced confines of the 18th hole.
But, where he was, he played it as it lies – and gave a few fans close by a hell of a fright.
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