Ask the Rules Guy: Dogs eating balls and out-of-bounds stances

Monday March 14th, 2011
Jason Raish

• Got a Rules question? Zip it to rulesguy@golf.com

RULES REP: After driving up the edge of the fairway, I found my tee shot at the feet of a Labrador retriever. The dog was on a long leash tied to a house beside the fairway, near (or maybe even exactly where) I had seen my drive land. The cover of the ball was half-chewed and soaking wet, but it was mine. I dropped another ball and finished the hole, despite my buddy complaining that there was no way to be sure where the ball first landed. Please let me know the rule so I can end my buddy's protest.
- D. Lewis, via e-mail

I'm having trouble deciding whether that pup was a poorly trained course dog or well-trained retriever. The ruling, however, is much easier to discern. The wayward pooch should be treated as an outside agency. Without evidence he moved the ball you are entitled to play it as it lies (Rule 18-1) without penalty. Assuming your friend agreed that your original ball was unfit for play (you must ask under Rule 5-3), then you did nothing wrong and can crawl out of your pal's doghouse.

RULES MAN: Here's the situation: Out-of-bounds stakes denote the property line on my course. My ball comes to rest a half-inch from the property line, but is in bounds. The club has posted signs warning competitors not to trespass on private property. Can I stand out of bounds to strike a ball that is in bounds?
- Dan Powell, via e-mail

The definition of "out of bounds" in the Rules of Golf lets the player stand out of bounds while playing a ball that is in bounds. As far as the signs that your club is posting, it sounds more like legal advice than rules advice. It can't hurt to see what your local committee has to say, but in the meantime the Rules say play on... just tread lightly on the neighbor's lawn.

RG: Here's one for you. My golf buddy Pete and I were playing on a windy December day. As Pete was hitting his tee shot on a par 5, the wind blew the ball off the tee. Pete couldn't stop his swing and hit the ball as it was falling off the tee. Consequently, the weak shot landed in a hazard. Pete re-teed but didn't take a penalty. Should he have?
-Jim McGraw, Memphis, Tenn.

Your buddy likely got his Rules a little confused. While he was correct that Rule 11-3 allows you to re-tee (without penalty) a ball that has fallen off the peg, that only applies if the player has not made a stroke at the ball. Since Pete had made a stroke at his ball, the ball was in play. However, at any time a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball from where the previous stroke was made (Rule 27-1a). As the previous stroke was made from within the teeing ground, the ball may be teed (Rule 20-5a). Pete was allowed to re-tee his ball, but should have realized that he was lying three after he hit it (Decision 18-2a/2).

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