Hossler In The Hazard
San Francisco – On the 13th hole in the third round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club, Beau Hossler’s tee shot came to rest in the lateral water hazard to the left of the putting green. He determined that he was able to play the stroke. When he was making the backswing for his stroke, his club brushed some long grass that was growing in the hazard. Was this a penalty?
No, the Note at the end of Rule 13-4 (Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions) says:
Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
Therefore, you may touch growing grass, a bridge in water hazard or a tree trunk with the club in making your backswing without penalty. Since balls in water hazards can end up in long grass, it would sometimes be impossible to swing the club without touching growing grass.
While you may touch growing grass, you may not touch unattached strands of grass or leaves since they are loose impediments. Touching a loose impediment in this manner while in a hazard is a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.