Ask the Rules Guy: Bunker baloney and fuzzy math

Photo: Jason Raish

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DEAR RULES GUY: When one of my buddies is in a sand trap, he scrapes the sand on his backswing to create a trough for his forward swing. I told him this is a two-stroke penalty, but he said he's not testing the bunker or grounding his club because he's touching the sand during his backswing. Is this correct?
—R.L. Butts, Harrisburg, Pa.

Your buddy's bunker tactics may have worked well on the Western Front, but the golf course is no place for trench warfare. Decision 13-4/31 prohibits touching the ground in a bunker with your club before you've made your downswing, whether it's to dig a trench or build a sand castle. Your friend breached Rule 13-4b and should take the two-stroke penalty.

DEAR RULES GUY: A friend of mine in our foursome hit a full-speed wedge shot, but when we all looked up we couldn't see where the ball went. Somehow the mud under him acted like glue and the ball was stuck on the clubface! It was amazing. What is the Rule on how to play that?
—Augusto Marques, via e-mail

As outrageously unlikely as this sticky situation might seem, it occurs often enough that the Rules cover it in two separate Decisions. Assuming that the ball stuck to the club in one clean stroke, your buddy was in luck. Decision 1-4/2 gives him so-called "equity," meaning that his ball should have been dropped, with no penalty, as near to the spot of contact as possible. If, however, the ball had popped up in the air before sticking to his club (thereby making contact with the clubface twice), Decision 14-4/1 states that he stopped a ball in motion (Rule 19-2), and should have taken a penalty stroke (in match and stroke play) before dropping as close as possible to where the ball got stuck. Either way, he might want to keep his clubs a little cleaner, or you might want to stop playing in the bogs.

DEAR RULES GUY: In a match-play situation, Player A lies 4 with a very makeable three-foot putt. After Player A marks the ball, Player B sinks a long putt and declares he made a 4 on the hole. Player A then picks up his marker. Halfway to the next tee box, Player B says he forgot he had to punch out and his score on the last hole was actually a five. The players behind them were hitting onto the green so they were not able to go back and have Player A attempt the putt. What is the ruling in this situation?
—Bob Lee, via e-mail

This situation comes down to the ABCs of match-play scorekeeping. By miscounting his whacks from tee to green, Player B gave Player A incorrect information about the number of strokes taken, a no-no under Rule 9-2. As Player B gave wrong information when Player A had a putt for half, the hole is halved. Player B was lucky he realized his mistake before they teed off on the next hole, as the result would have been far more severe: he would have lost the previous hole by violating Rule 9-2biii.

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