This unusual story was related to me by my good friends, Bob and Gaby.
A couple years ago, they went out to the golf course on a cold brisk day for their first game of the season. Everyone knows it would take more than bad winter-like conditions to stop good old golf enthusiasts like them.
Yet, that morning, Bob and Gaby found out that some maniacs are wackier than others as they were paired up with 2 complete strangers…
It all started right after they introduced themselves to each other. One of these odd guys, dressed more for duck hunting than golf – but we could pardon it because it was pretty damn cold, pulled a hammer out of his golf bag!
Using Hammer to Tee Off
And not a little tiny hammer but rather one of these big construction-type metal ones with a black rubber handle!
What could he be doing with a hammer of a golf course?
The funny thing is that was only the beginning of probably their strangest yet most entertaining golf game ever…
After the hammer, the tool belt followed to remain comfortable…To stay warm or get warmer if you prefer…a little pick-me-up was also close at hand. These guys really thought of everything!
Yet you’ll see they could have got their brains to better use…
Dangerous Walk Over
A few holes into the round, they both hit their ball into a lake, in fact, more like onto a lake because it was frozen over. A bit unusual but nothing exceptional yet…
Bob and Gaby looked at each other and the bizarre situation made them smile. But again, they were stunned when our two weirdoes casually walked right into the water hazard, with the pull cart and all...onto what looked like very thin ice. The precarious situation didn’t seem that funny anymore…
Our two uncanny misfits didn’t even notice the danger. They joked about fishing out balls and duck hunting on pond. They hit their ball out of the hazard with an iron, breaking off some ice in the process. They were also very glad to find a lot of lost balls…even though some were making holes in the ice as they were picked out. They walked thru the lake as if it was solid ground...
In the end, they were extremely lucky because the ice only cracked but never completely broke under their weight.
Fortunately, they didn’t think of using their hammer to dig out balls out of the ice.
What the Rules Say?
There’s not much mentioned about using a hammer in the rule book, probably because it’s not even considered a possibility.
But after some quite extensive research, it appears that using a hammer to peg down a tee is permitted. In fact, a hammer may even be used to shape the surface of the teeing ground before teeing off. Some players stomp down their foot to make a depression behind their ball before their tee shot and a tool like a hammer could be used in the same manner.
In the process, just make sure to respect golf etiquette, those sacred unwritten rules of conduct observed among respectable golfers. Among other things, golf etiquette would suggest properly maintaining the course and being mindful of fellow golfers. So in this situation, you should repair the damage the hammer made after your shot and be careful not to make too much noise with the hammer when other golfers are executing their shot.
The rules are pretty clear that the hammer cannot be used to hit the ball or to alter any equipment (like golf clubs or balls) during the round. It also cannot be used as an alignment tool (for example by putting hammer down behind or in front of the ball during the shot).
It can be noted that the legal use of the hammer seems to be limited to the teeing ground. As on the rest of the course, the hammer may not improve the lie around the ball for instance by stomping down grass, ground or by knocking leaves, branches or trees out of the way.
Here is an excerpt of rule 11-1:
When a player is putting a ball into play from the teeing ground, it must be played from within the teeing ground and from the surface of the ground or from a conforming tee (see Appendix IV) in or on the surface of the ground.
For the purposes of this Rule, the surface of the ground includes an irregularity of surface (whether or not created by the player) and sand or other natural substance (whether or not placed by the player).
Although it may be ill-advised, walking on frozen water hazard is permitted by the rules.
A ball lying on or in the ice of a frozen water hazard would be considered in the hazard as its boundaries expand upwards.
The player can get relief from a frozen water hazard using normal water hazard drop options and would incur a penalty of one stroke (Rule 26).
The player also has the option to play the ball as it lies in the hazard but must be careful not to test the conditions of the hazard for instance by touching the water/ice with his hand or club.
Excerpt of rule 13-4:
…before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;
b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or
c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.
The casual water option would entitle him free relief.
As loose impediment, ice can be removed but if the ball moves as a result of that action, the player would be accessed a one-stroke penalty and the ball would have to be replaced.
Casual Water Definition:
"Casual water" is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.
A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.
Let’s Adopt Friendly Winter Golf Rules
Canadian golfers often experience harsh winter-like conditions to start and end their golf season.
To be fair and still have fun, we suggest adopting more flexible rules in those difficult conditions. For instance, if you lose a ball in the leaves or woods, you could forget the «stroke» part of stroke-and- distance. Searching for all those balls would only result in frustrating slow play for everyone anyway.
Speaking of fun, have a look at these two frozen water hazard videos:
So, next time you play golf in the cold, have fun with your hammer and make sure you are extra careful when you venture onto that probably-too-thin iced pond.