Ask the Rules Guy: Balls in trees and imbedded in the sand

Thursday July 1st, 2010

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\nDEAR RULES GUY: My tee shot lodged 30 feet up a tree, so I shook some branches to get the ball loose. The ball dropped, but how do I proceed?
—Dan Massa, Albany, N.Y.

Stupid trees. Can't they make their oxygen some place other than a golf course? If you were trying to dislodge the ball to identify it and avoid a penalty for moving your ball (Rule 18-2a), you would've had to announce your intent to declare the ball unplayable before shaking the tree (Decision 18-2a/27), or else take a one-stroke penalty for moving your ball (Decision 18-2a/28). In that case, you must replace your ball, a daunting task in your situation. If you can't do so, you must deem your ball unplayable and take an additional penalty stroke under Rule 28 (Decision 18-2a/29). Now you know why desert golf is so darn popular.

\nDEAR RULES GUY: My ball came to rest against a rake in a bunker. When I moved the rake, the ball moved. I tried to replace it, but it was on a downslope and kept rolling closer to the hole. Complicating matters further, the original spot was farther from the hole than any other part of the bunker, so there was no place to replace my ball in the bunker that was not nearer the hole. Could I have pressed the ball into the sand to keep it in place?
—Joe Martino, Jackson, Wyo.

Geez, sounds like you were stuck between a rake and a hard place! Ahem...sorry. According to Decision 20-3d/2, you cannot imbed your ball into the sand, which in your case leaves you with two options, both of which are fairly ugly: Declare your ball unplayable and play it as near as possible to the original spot, or drop the ball outside the bunker, keeping the spot where the ball lay between the hole and the area in which you're dropping. Either option comes with its own one-stroke penalty.

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