Clearing up rules questions for career round

  A 14-handicapper friend of mine played a most extraordinary round of golf. Having never broken 80, he shot a miraculous 69, matching his age. But not wanting to tarnish the round wanted to check with me about some interesting rules situations to make sure he had proceeded correctly.

Here were his rules questions (italic) and my answers, which also might help other golfers faced with unusual situations in the future:

“I hit a drive into the trees to the left of the fairway on the third hole. My ball was on the right side of a tree and I would have had to hit it left-handed. When I addressed the ball, however, my feet were on the cart path. After taking my drop, I was able to hit the ball right handed and got it on the green and made par. One of my playing partners thought I should have hit the shot left handed.”

I told him that he had indeed proceeded correctly in this instance as long as he had dropped the ball correctly

“On the par 5 fifth hole, I got home in two for the first time. To speed up play, one of the other players marked my ball. When I got to the green, he tossed the ball over my head and it went into the nearby lake. We weren’t able to find my ball and I replaced it with another one. Was that a problem? By the way, I made the putt for an eagle.”

I told him that he was lucky that a fellow competitor did it, but he would have been penalized two strokes if his caddy had done it.

My long putt for a birdie hung on the lip of the cup on the seventh hole. I walked up to hole and bent over to see if the ball was moving. That’s when he ball dropped into the hole. Wow, what a birdie, I thought.”

I told him that in my opinion he was probably within his rights as a player has a reasonable amount of time to walk to the hole and then another 10 seconds. If more time had elapsed, he would have had to put the ball back on the lip and tap in for a par.

”On the 10th hole, my ball came to rest under a tree. I took a practice back swing and knocked down a few leaves. I know that you aren’t allowed to intentionally break down branches to create room, but isn’t it okay to knock down three little leaves?”

I told him that knocking down a few leaves might be OK and it’s a judgment call by a rules official on whether or not he improved his position by doing so. I said I could rule in his favor, but suggested he be careful in the future as another rules official might not see it that way.

“I sliced the ball on the 13th towards out-of-bounds. I announced and hit a provisional ball. When I got to the landing area, I found a “Titleist 1” in bounds and a “Titleist 1” out-of-bounds. I decided that the one ‘in bounds’ was my original ball since it had a grass mark on it. I hope this makes sense since I made a birdie.”

I answered that in this case I would probably have had to rule that he should have taken a stroke-and-distance penalty and should have written down a bogey since the grass mark was probably not enough to distinguish between the two balls. I added that in the future he should put different marks or use different numbers when hitting a provisional.

“On the 15th hole, my partner and I were both in a water hazard with our second shots on a par 5.. He got the balls out with his ball retriever. We played to the green, but discovered that we had accidentally exchanged balls. We exchanged the balls back on the green and used our original balls to putt. Did we do it correctly?

My first response was that it sounded OK since he could substitute another ball when taking relief from a hazard,, but then after a conversation with Doug Hoffman of the Minnesota Golf Association had to tell him that when they exchanged balls back on the green that both players should have been penalized two strokes although they were using their own balls, that were declared out of play earlier.

“On the 17th hole, a long par 3 with an elevated green, I hit my tee shot into the trees to the right of the green. I hit a provisional ball in case we couldn’t find it. The provisional missed the green short and to the left. We searched for the original ball for five minutes, but couldn’t find it. I hit my chip shot a little thin but on line and it hit the middle of the flag stick and went into the hole. As I took my ball out of the hole, my first ball was also in there! It must have hit a tree and rebounded into the cup. Since we looked for my first ball for more than five minutes, I took the score for my second ball and wrote down a 4.”

I indicated that he should have marked down a “1” as the hole was over when his first ball went in the hole, adding that if this had happened in a tournament and he had signed the scorecard that the “4” would have counted.

After all was done, I told him that his actual score probably should have been a 70—four added strokes for the rules violations, but three less for the final hole goof—but suggested he get a copy of the “Decisions on the Rules of Golf” to avoid problems in the future.

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