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Another Bunker Liner Ruling: Hoffman Gets Out Of Plugged Lie

Here's the situation: final round, 2017 RBC Canadian Open, Charley Hoffman hits into a greenside bunker at the 12th and has a badly buried lie:

Credit Hoffman and caddie for recognizing the renovated Glen Abbey bunkers for having newly installed bunker floor lining that prevented him from digging enough to take a stance on his bunker shot. (You can see a demo at the 1:30 mark of how it is sprayed in). And even cred it them for asking to get a ruling even after Hoffman can be heard saying multiple times he did not believe there was any kind of artificial lining causing an issue (his caddie wasn't so sure and convinced him to get a second opinion). CBS's Peter Kostis said exactly the opposite: Hoffman was calling for a ruling because he could feel the liner. Maybe he had a producer yelling in his ear during the conversation, but it was still misleading.

Official Gary Young arrived and seemed very reluctant to give Hoffman relief, but the player soon could smell an opening, ultimately convincing Young that he could not take his stance because of the concrete lining.

"That's so generous!" barked out playing partner Kevin Chappell, somewhat sarcastically. Young replied that it was consistent with other rulings related to the new age bunker liners designed to keep sand on faces and from being contaminated. Chappell then lightly pointed out Hoffman's smile upon getting relief:



One other comment from Chappell, again with a light touch, prompted a one-word response and smile from Hoffman as he went about his business: "Rules."

Given the behind-the-scenes grumbling still taking place over Branden Grace's BMW PGA relief from a buried lie while citing bunker lining as a stance preventative, it's hard to see how Hoffman's will be any better received by his peers (note the sampling of fan outrage below).

However, it should be noted that Hoffman was initially skeptical about even suggesting he deserved a drop from the lie. He went on to lose the Canadian Open in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas.

The situation seems worse than it might appear given that the PGA Tour, which has signaled a desire to be in the news delivery business via the web and television, scrubbed videos of the drop after briefly posting them to official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Here is the PGA Tour Facebook post of the ruling, deleted (thanks reader Jeremy S).

And the Tweet captured by reader MS:

The reaction below sums up the social media reaction, which offers another reminder that it's very hard to bend the rules and not go unnoticed in the age of social media:

What do we learn from this?

A) Bunker liners are going to be an ongoing problem. A product meant to keep sand from becoming contaminated and to keep sand on bunker faces is now being used to subvert the game's original rule: play it as it lies.

B) Players are increasingly unafraid to stretch the boundaries of the rules to gain an advantage.

C) Instead of embracing this as a learning situation, the PGA Tour scrubbed their accounts of the evidence, which will only make Hoffman's peers and their caddies wonder what needed hiding. Even though Hoffman was initially skeptical that the situation warranted a ruling, much less a drop, the lack of transparency will raise suspicions about what went down.

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Reader Comments (48)

How can these players take these advantages, unearned though in the rules, and sleep at night? I couldn't take that gift of a ruling and live with myself. How do they stare fellow colleagues in the face and not feel like a cheat?

I felt the same way about Spieth's unplayable, even though that's more clearly in the rules but same thing - he got away with one. And I got roasted for saying it.

I learned to play it as it lies...
07.30.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
That drop was a joke and if Hoffman didn't initially think he was entitled to it but tried to get it anyway, he should be ashamed.

But the golf gods took care of it almost immediately, so I'm good.
07.30.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTremendous Slouch
I saw it all in real time, great tourney. I am indifferent to the ruling, but Chappell could be heard saying, after his first comment , ''Look at that shit eating grin.''

It was obvious that the bunker had an issue as to the depth of sand, and what was under, and the announce crew was playinng on a drop because his fried egg lie was very deep, and it was uncertain the concrete was right under his ball. Enough wrist injuries n golf from natural resistances, much less from a swimming pool with sand, called a bunker.

Charlie rushed and hit a terrible bunker shot, not even getting it on the green. Karma or not, good call or not, if he had whacked his club on concrete, a lot more twits would have chirped up at the PGA instead of the player(s).

@Paul while you may carry on about Spieth, as ''you are entitled to your opinion'', it is only your opinion, and the facts shoot you down. Move along. It's over. :)

07.30.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Taking relief is one thing. Playing 3 feet away from the original lie is criminal.
07.30.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRgw
They are going to have to either make them integral or deny relief for stance. This is not going away otherwise.(The European Tour currently deny relief for stance for holes made by burrowing animals and newly laid turf - dont know what you guys do)
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
What ever happened to the days when you went onto a golf course and just accepted the challenges made by Man/Nature.

Our modern day highly paid questionable and questioning heroes, are so intent in making money the very idea of playing The Royal & Ancient Game of Golf is clearly not within their remit. And clearly above their pay scale.

Our modern players are just weak reflections of what golfers use to be - pity because it was once enjoyable seeing a quality golfer display his skills, These precious skills seem to be lost in the mist of time and we are left with a circus act rendering very little in entertainment department unless you thrive on shambles.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
I'm with Paul; rules be damned. The spirit of the game is not actually a rule, but we all know it when we see it. And the converse.
As for the PGAT, did we expect them to handle it differently? Instead of addressing a problem and fixing it, they scrub it. If they want to fix it behind closed doors, fine. But do it! Unless as in the case of slow play, they don't believe there's a problem. No better recent example than the Red Sox. Management let the Price/ Eckersley confrontation fester until it blew up in their face. And now 30-days later it's still a story. Any adult would have put that to bed in a day or two instead of shoving it under the bed.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
It is funny how the lining never seems to be an issue when they have nice lies on the upslope of the bunker.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
The problem is not with Charlie, or "pampered" pros, or Langer ! The problem is the rules. If bunkers were really treated has a hazard then all this never happens. Whether or not you think Charlie broke "the spirit of the rules" is completely irrelevant . It's the rule. You folks complain when a player doesn't know the rules and you complain when a player does know the rules and uses them to his advantage! You can't have it both ways.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commenter#fakerules
If the lie was good, would Hoffman have asked for relief? I don't like relief when you are in a hazard. The liner should be deemed an integral part of the course.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZimmer
A bunker is a hazard. It's bad enough when pros want to go into a greenside bunker because missing the green on the fringe is worse. But this rule is a joke. Hit it in a bunker, deal with it. Another reason why the pro game is becoming stale. I'd rather see a great Seve like escape rather than running to the ref for help.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
"The problem is the rules. If bunkers were really treated has a hazard then all this never happens."

Yup. Bad things can happen in bunkers. If you don't want bad things to happen to you in bunkers, don't hit in bunkers.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Fotos
What Easy said.
It's a bunker. It's a hazard.
Do we see someone claim relief from a lateral or water hazard because his socks might get wet?
You are not supposed to be in a hazard. If you are. Deal with it.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Insofar as players are going to continue to be beat over the head with HDTV rules violations and innane and archaic rules, they will continue to use those very rules to their benefit. I can't blame them - can't have it both ways.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRules
"What do we learn from this"?
1. That Shack hates Peter Kostis.
2. That Shack vilifies PGA Tour for deleting stuff that makes them look bad while at the same time Shack deletes every post that makes his own self look bad.
3. That this places moves further left every day and the clones keep buying into it.
4. That Shack is owned and operated by Callaway & Golf Channel.
That's what we learn.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commentershackdelete
Being a tour rules official is the easiest job in the world. Simply show up, agree with the player (unless it's Dustin Johnson), and go back to sitting in a cart under a shade tree.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrBunsenHoneydew
How about if there is a drop for any circumstance.. then the lie is recreated?
Give him relief but in a lie as close to identical as the original.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
shackdelete: as usual for trolls like you, wrong as usual. We did learn that you're a jackass, however. Please go back to Breitbart.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPops
You may be onto something Metro 18. Recreating the lie in a bunker already happens in some other special circumstances.
The only one I can think of Met is the casual water rule for a drop without penalty no nearer the hole. That would work, but they could avoid the whole thing if they built the bunker properly :)
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
@metro18 - great solution but far too sensible!
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Norrie
Billy Bunkers are the only Billy I have a distaste for.

I'm just not a #Hater
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan Billy
rule is crystal clear, if wrongheaded. If bunker liner is DAMAGED it should be ground under repair.

since we all know PGA Tour courses are perfect, this should be an integral part of course. if sand is too shallow and you are gonna hit the liner w/your downswing--then dont swing so hard.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commentered

Is that you Peter? Found another place and anonymous name to log into the site from?
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKyleU
I read that he came in on the high side, pushing a bunch of sand down. That's an etiquette faux pas.

If he did, did it possibly cibtribute to bottoming out?
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
c'mon, it IS kind of funny that Geoff rails against the tours censoring of anything possibly negative (which IS true),
but absolutely has an itchy trigger finger for deleting posts here!
but this ruling is stupid...When Grace got the ruling, he was at least sliding down the slope because of the liner.
Charlie was digging in so deep to get closer to level with the ball as well as trying to get footing. Hell, you could dig down deep enough to find something for relief in that case
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBluecoats lose
"I felt the same way about Spieth's unplayable, even though that's more clearly in the rules but same thing - he got away with one. And I got roasted for saying it."

Well, you probably got roasted for things like including that modifier "more," which obviously has no purpose other than to prop up the "got away with one" conclusion. It would be more accurate and forthright to say Spieth's unplayable was "clearly in the rules" not "more clearly in the rules." The Hoffman situation seems like a grey area where possibly a different rules official might have ruled differently; the Spieth situation was black and white and no rules official would have ruled differently. They are not alike.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterWEG
WEG-I thought that Speith incurred a 1 stroke penalty when he took the unplayable.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZimmer
Worrying about the sand becoming 'contaminated' sounds like a issue with appearance more than anything....
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnswers
Hoffman was digging in for a drop ruling, that's clear. It was also clear that the official thought so, and only appeared to grant the drop because Hoffman kept insisting. And this business about Hoffman not initially thinking he deserved a drop, that's a big a bunch of hooey as there could be.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrSchteeve
Of course he incurred a penalty, that is what taking an unplayable is. There is absolutely no correlation between Hoffman's situation and Spieth's situation. A player is entitled to take an unplayable any time they wish, and add a stroke. Many players choose not to because they feel they can advance the ball even from a difficult lie, and be further ahead than if they took the unplayable and the stroke that comes with it. After they whiff it, they often think "I should have taken an unplayable" - but they it's too late. ;-)
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
This is another reminder that I have completed watching my fill of professional golf on TV this year. Tell me when we get to Kapalua.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLA John
The rules official granted relief. Charlie would have been a fool to not accept it.

The simple solution would have been for the official to deny any relief.

Time for the rules people to get tougher.

The fewer rules, the better. Keep hands off the ball & play it where it lies.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
The ball must be played wherever, or howsoever, it lies, or the hole be given up. Before ever there were any written rules to guide the faltering steps of golfers, this was understood to be the underlying principle that guided the conduct of the golfer in relation to his ball.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
It seems the powers that be are trying to please everyone, trying to make golf fair. Scared to say " no, you cant do this" The problem is, it isn't fair. It's like life, you have to roll with the punches. Sometimes you get knocked out too. That is why golf is such a great game, when you have that round when you shoot your best, it means everything. You've almost beat the game you can't beat.

But nowadays it seems they have to have everything perfect, even a bloody hazard called a bunker.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Thank you, Ivan (and Max).

As to the Tour deleting its own material, the Internet remembers everything. To delete is to put a magnifying glass on it.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGolden Bell
In a perfect world, or heck, even not, i wish the first rule of golf would actually be to play it as it lies-; but we are not in the flowing hills or sand dunes of Scotland, so hitting it out of the neighboring yard takes on a different vibe than walking into your neighbors field to play--and even then and there, I don't think the sheep herders and kings played it as it lied from the gorse-- how did that work- Tom M?

I am all for the bare minimum of rules, but also for the quickest way to expedite play in the days of cart paths and such. As I saidin my first post in this thread, I am indifferent to the ruling. The ''argument'' i presented was from the announcers ''concern'' over the concrete being right under the ball.

several good posts here, and a few flights of fancy. Tom M continues to rail on wimpy game we call golf, relative to the manly way he played it as a pup back in the 1840's, before power mowers and alternating current. EW brings it, as does Bud. IM, while ''giving up the hole'' is an answer, it doesn't resolve what to do in ''playing it as it lies'' in stroke competition. Dr. Shcteeve- really? I watched and cannot see how you ''know'' what Charlie ''initially'' did or knew. BS, ''Dr.'' Pops calling out SD in order, though point two is not innacurate.

I still remain indifferent. Just the soil of the earth in any bunkers I play- if i ever get to playing aqain. Pops- thanks for the thought the other day- better-yes, but 2 blood clots and awaiting a rescheduled hernia surgery next Thursday, and then a 2 month recovery and, I may be ready to get out again. I'm trying to go play b4 surgery, for fun- but 100* days mean late afternoon or not at all-- I am not up for an early start.

07.31.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Chappell should have been all over the rules official if he disagreed. PGA Tour is just a bunch of high priced union thugs protecting their own. He is no better than Charley here.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
From the Demo video...

With all the equipment, materials, man hours to prep one bunker.... amazing how golf courses make any money.
07.31.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn C

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