"But what if the ball rolls into the water and becomes unplayable?" Boros wanted to know. "Where would I drop outside the hazard for a stroke penalty?" The official told him that he then could invoke the water hazard Rule and drop a ball outside the hazard, under a stroke penalty.
In other words, the free lift away from the pipe was merely an extension—the completion—of the second shot which originally sent the ball into the hazard. Boros did not have to decide whether to invoke the water hazard Rule and take its one-stroke penalty until he had seen the result of the free drop ensuing from the second shot.
So he dropped the ball successfully on the patch of grass within the water hazard, and got a playable lie as well as relief from the pipe.
But that was not all. When the ball fell, it came to rest against his heel. Question then arose whether there would be a penalty if the ball should move as Boros took his foot away. Julius stood still until the official ruled that there would be no penalty. Today you'll find this point spelled out in the Rules as a result of this case.
Boros played the ball successfully out of the hazard in 3.
The Rule about obstruction is not fully appreciated by many golfers. The first thing to know is what an obstruction is. It is anything artificial, whether erected, placed or left on the course, but not including stakes and fences defining out of bounds, and artificial roads and paths. Note the distinction between obstructions and loose impediments: loose impediments are natural objects not fixed or growing, such as pebbles, loose twigs and leaves, whereas obstructions are artificial, man-made objects, such as paper, tin cans, water hydrants and ball washers.
An incident involving an unusual type of obstruction occurred in an English country championship, 36 holes at stroke play. A golfer's ball came to rest in the heather touching a skylark's nest containing four young birds. The ball was in a good lie, but rather than hit the ball and destroy both nest and birds the player, under the watchful eyes of a fellow competitor, dropped back of the nest and played his ball from there. The case went to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club for a ruling and the Rules Committee declared, in a mood of sporting generosity, that the nest could be considered an immovable obstruction (Rule 31:2). The golfer's action was therefore upheld without penalty.
The principle of playing the ball as it lies is the fundamental Rule of Golf. But sometimes it can be overdone. Consider the case of Peter Wilding last spring at Scarborough, England.
Mr. Wilding swung at a ball in the rough, and it hopped into his trousers' cuff.
Mr. Wilding consulted his partner, who said the Rules were plain—play the ball as it lies.