Ask The Rules Guy: Can I get a free drop if I accidentally run over my ball with my cart?
HIT AND RUN...OVER
Rules Man: I accidentally ran over my ball with my cart, making my lie unplayable. My club pro said it should be a one-stroke penalty, claiming that my cart actually counted as my equipment. Was he right?
—Michael J. Starke, via e-mail
A Your pro is correct. Because you were at the wheel, your buggy is indeed considered equipment that moved your ball, and Rule 18-2a stipulates a one-stroke penalty. Since your lie was altered, replace the ball in the most similar lie within a club length; or, if you don't know the original lie, drop it as close as possible to where you found it. And cheer up! If this is the most trouble you've had with your "equipment," you're way ahead of most guys.
Mr. Rules Guy: During a rainy round I hit my ball into a concrete culvert, an area that normally means a free drop. But the wet conditions had created a rushing stream in the culvert, which apparently carried my ball away. What's the call? Lost-ball penalty?
—Jack Blessing, via e-mail
A Here's a brainteaser: When does hitting your ball into a stream not result in a penalty? When said stream is temporary and thus referred to as an "obstruction through the green." Since your ball was lost in the obstruction, you're entitled to free relief under Rule 24-3b(i). Determine where the ball last crossed the outermost margin of the culvert and take one club-length of relief from that spot, no closer to the hole.
Rules Guru: I didn't see my tee shot land on a short par 4. When I reached the green, I found my ball in the hole. My first ace—and on a par 4! Or so I thought. Later at the bar, a player in the group ahead confessed that he had dropped my ball into the cup. How do I score it?
—Russ Towle, via e-mail
A Incredibly, Russ, your double-eagle ace stands. Decision 18-1/3 and the Note to Rule 18-1 hold that if you're unaware that your ball was moved by an outside agency and you've teed off on the next hole, your score on that hole stands. So drink up! (And have the fool who fiddled with your ball pay the tab.)
Hey Rules Guy: As my perfect approach was in flight, a groundskeeper moved his lawn mower onto the green. Doink! My shot struck the mower and went into a hazard. Am I out of luck?
—D.W., via e-mail
A Rule 19-1 states that deflection by an outside agency is considered "rub of the green" (translation: dumb luck). You must play it as it lies. But hey, the next time this happens, I'll bet a bad shot caroms toward the hole. The golf gods giveth, and the golf gods taketh away.