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Dear Rules Guy: My partner found his ball in the rough, but it was 30 yards from the line of his tee shot. We're no forensics experts, but given that the ball was covered in slobber, we deduced that a stray dog on the course had relocated my buddy's ball. We felt we should replace the ball, because it was obvious that the dog had moved it. Question is, where to replace it?
—Joe Cates, Fort Worth, Tex.
Wow, a spitball? I haven't seen one of those since the days of Gaylord Perry. Because you and your partner were virtually certain that the ball had been moved, Rule 18-1 states that you can replace the ball where it originally came to rest. However, since it was impossible to identify that spot, Decision 18-1/5 states that the ball should be dropped in an area that is neither the most, nor the least, favorable of the various areas where it was equally possible that the ball originally lay.
Hey Rules Guy: During a recent round, the long-bomber in our group teed off first—only to have his ball break in half on contact! After laughing in amazement and cursing ourselves for not having a video camera rolling, we agreed that he could re-tee and hit another ball without penalty. Did we make the right call?
—Fred Worthington, Jacksonville, N.C.
Either your pal needs to lay off the bench press and protein shakes, or he needs to stop ball-shopping at those dollar stores. Per Rule 5-3, a ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape. (This used to happen all the time in the days of the balata ball.) If a ball breaks into pieces as a result of a stroke, the stroke is canceled and the player must play a ball as near as possible to the spot from which the original ball was played, without penalty. So you might say you cracked the case and got the ruling right.
MARK OF A CHAMPION?
Mr. Rules Guru: My brother frequently marks his ball with random objects from the course — sticks, pebbles, leaves, you name it. The other day, a wind gust shifted his "twig marker" as he was tending the flag for me. I said he should be penalized, but he argued that he should be able to replace his ball as near as possible to the original position of his mark. A little help, Rules Guy!
—Pete Johansson, Delray Beach, Fla.
Your wariness of your brother's knowledge of the Rules is pretty understandable, given his choice of eco-friendly ball markers on a windy day. Still, under Decision 20-1/16, loose impediments are deemed permissible marks, which means that sticks, leaves, moss, clovers and dead bugs are all fair game. Furthermore, Decision 20-1/10.5 states that his dislodged ball marker must be replaced without penalty on the spot from which it was lifted or moved by an outside agency or the wind, in accordance with Rule 20-3a. I'm hopeful this ruling won't cost you any skins, and if it does, here's a suggestion: Pay it out in coins, so next time you play against your bro, he has a pocketful of immovable markers.