Dear Rules Guy: During a recent round, a flock of geese flew overhead as my brother-in-law was putting. A feather floated down into his line and stopped his ball. He begged us to let him replay the shot, but we weren't feeling sympathy that day. Play it as it lies, right?
—Mike Coblentz, Warren, Ore.
Hey, when it comes to receiving a gift from a goose, you can do a lot worse than a feather. Normally, per Rule 19-1, when a moving ball is accidentally stopped or deflected by any outside agency, it's considered rub of the green (or pure luck) and the ball is played as it lies, no penalty. But because the stroke was made from the green, and the feather was moving at the time it either stopped or deflected the ball, the stroke must be canceled and replayed.
ON A CLUB KICK
Rules Man: My approach to the green struck a club left behind by a player in the group ahead. As a result, my ball ricocheted into a bunker instead of cozying up to the hole. This can't be fair! Should I be allowed a do-over?
—Bill Simas, Sacramento, Calif.
I hope you scolded that forgetful player for ruining your score on that hole, Bill, because sadly, that's your only recourse. According to Rule 19-1, the club left near the green (like the feather in the first question) is considered an outside agency. Unlike the feather fracas, however, your shot must be played where it lies without penalty, because you never cancel a stroke made from off the putting green that strikes an outside agency, moving or not. Here's hoping that next time, an idle club kicks your ball into the hole instead of a trap.
Hey Rules Guru: During match play, my opponent hit his first two shots into a water hazard on a par 4. I hit my drive in the fairway and my approach shot just off the green. Meanwhile, my competitor had made his way to the green without hitting another shot. I assumed he was out of the hole, but when I skulled my third into the water, he announced that he had never conceded and then raced back to the tee to hit his fifth. He rallied for a 7, and I butchered my way to an 8. Fair?
—Chris Miller, Greensburg, Ind.
Chris, my condolences on your come-from-ahead loss of that hole. It must have stung. Now then, we don't say "fair." We say "within the rules." Since your opponent never conceded the hole, the weasel was within his rights to scurry back and steal victory from the jaws of defeat. The rules don't address the verbal requirements of conceding a hole, but if the other guy appears to be in his pocket, protect yourself by asking if he is, in fact, conceding. And be sure he answers explicitly, so there's no wiggle room. By the way, since he never conceded, you technically played out of turn when you hit your third. So if you had hit that shot tight, instead of into the water, he could have nullified it under Rule 10-1 and made you replay when it was your turn (that is, after he replayed from the tee). Of course, he didn't because your water ball helped his cause.