Ask The Rules Guy: Are Fire Ants A Hazard?
Dear Rules Guy: My opponent's ball came to rest on a fire ant mound in a bunker. He claimed he could move his ball away from the mound without penalty to avoid a stinging attack. I said he could only claim relief like that outside a hazard. Who's right?
—Ron, The Hills, Texas
In the future, Ron, I hope the only stingers you encounter on the course are the low, wind-piercing kind. But if your opponent is truly concerned about the pests, Decision 1-4/10 lights the way with specific instructions on how to deal with "dangerous situations." Although the anthill is considered a loose impediment, it can't be moved in a hazard. But a player can drop within one club-length of the nearest danger-free spot, no nearer the hole, within the same hazard, and play penalty free. Problem solved—and you didn't have to use any Raid.
Rules Man: When my buddy's putt came to rest on the lip of the cup, he jumped in frustration, landed two feet from the hole, and the ball dropped in, on account of his heavy thud. I was certain he should have incurred a penalty, but he claimed that because the ball fell in within 10 seconds, his leap was legal. Was it?
—Jim Diederich, Berkeley, Calif.
Rule 16-2 gives you 10 seconds once you reach the hole to determine if the ball is at rest, but that's not the issue here. It sounds like your buddy's tantrum was caused by the fact that his ball was at rest on the lip of the cup (and not at the bottom of it), and that means that his stormy stomp did in fact cause the ball to move. That should have cost him a stroke per Rule 18-2a ("player causes the ball to move"), and the ball should have been replaced on the lip.
CROSSING THE LINE
Rules Guru: My tee shot stayed in bounds, but in order to hit it I had to stand outside the OB line. Should I have gone back to the tee?
—Len Kraus, via e-mail
There's no need to do the walk of shame and re-tee. When dealing with a shot that's almost OB, all that matters is the ball's position. As long as the ball is in play, you can place your feet wherever you want—on either side of the white stakes—to execute the shot.
Rules Guy: The people I play with stand directly behind me while I putt. I find it distracting. Is there a rule against this?
—Michael G., Smiths Station, Ala.
Rule 14-2b does prohibit your caddie or partner from standing behind your ball on an extension of your line during your stroke, to the tune of two strokes, or loss of hole in match play. For an opponent in match play or fellow competitor in stroke play, there are no such restrictions. The Rules advise against standing directly behind the hole or ball being played, so as not to distract another player, but there's no penalty for this. If it bothers you, ask the culprits for space—or hold up a "No Loitering" sign.