Rules Guy has all the answers—even those you don't want to hear.
Darryl Estrine
By Rules Guy
Tuesday, June 05, 2007

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Hey, Rules Guy: After marking my ball on the green, I tossed it to a buddy for the old towel treatment. Thanks to his poor hand-eye coordination, he missed and the ball rolled into the lake. I putted out with a new ball and took no penalty. Was that OK? —Jared Sexton, Milwaukee, Wisc.

Let this be a lesson about toweling your ball. A player must finish the hole with the same ball he teed off with unless the ball is lost, OB or otherwise permitted to be substituted. Under Rule 16-1b, you're not allowed to substitute another ball. So to avoid the penalty, you may have to go for a swim. If you play a new ball, that's a two-stroke penalty. I suggest you play with pals with better depth-perception—or pack swim trunks.

Dear Ruler: I plugged a high approach shot into the slope of a two-tiered green. I marked my ball, but when I attempted to replace it, it rolled down toward the hole. So I played it from there. Did I violate a Rule? —Roger Spiller, Humble, Texas

Roger, your playing partner must be more forgiving than the Pope on his birthday. My buddy Pauly the Neck would have gotten Medieval—or at least late-Renaissance—on anyone who tried marking his ball that much closer. Rule 20-3d says that if a ball continually fails to come to rest where it originally lands, said ball shall be placed at the nearest possible spot no closer to the hole. Now I say unto you, "Go, and sin no more!"

Got a question for the rules guy, e-mail him at

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