Roadside Ditch

Published on 19th September 2023 in Robbo's Rules

The Rules Explained

Roadside Ditch and Penalty Areas

Why is the Roadside Ditch defined as an Immovable Obstruction?

The purpose of the roadside ditch is to protect the course by stopping vehicles from driving onto the course. Such a protective ditch is not something you would normally find on a golf course and, as such, it can be argued that it should not be part of the challenge of playing the course.

If instead of the protective ditch the Club erected treated pine rails to stop cars driving onto the course, the rails would be Immovable Obstructions under the Rules and Definitions of Golf, and the Local Rule would not be required. So, considering this, it would seem only fair to deem the ditch to be an Immovable Obstruction.

However, it may also be argued that the principal rule of golf is to “play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it.” Using this interpretation, the Committee may deem the ditch to be an integral part of the course, and therefore part of the challenge of the game of golf.

In the end, it is up to the Golf Committee to decide what is fair and reasonable.

Why isn’t the roadside ditch, (which holds water), defined as a red penalty area?

Part of the definition of a penalty area is “ any body of water (whether or not marked by the Committee), including sea, pond, lake, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (even if not containing water).”

The Committee may define any part of the course as a red penalty area. Although the roadside ditch may contain water, its sole purpose is to stop vehicles from driving onto the course, not to carry water. The out of bounds running along the 2nd, 3rd and 6th holes is already a severe enough penalty on these holes without adding another penalty situation. (Usually, any public road that runs through a course is marked Out of Bounds for safety reasons)

Summarizing, because the roadside ditch is an Immovable Obstruction, the relief procedure is as per Rule 16.1 for Abnormal Course Conditions. Therefore, the relief procedure is the same as when taking relief from GUR, Temporary Water or any artificial objects, e.g., artificial paths.

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