Dear Rules Guy: My opponent hit his approach into a bunker, where it ended up on top of a rake. He wanted to move the rake, let the ball come to rest and play it from there. I said he should simply mark the ball, move the rake and replace the ball. Help!
—Daniel Carter, Santa Fe, N.M.
To misquote Sam Cooke: "Don't know much about garden tools…." But I do know about rakes, at least as they pertain to the Rules. Bunker rakes are considered movable obstructions. Per Rule 24-1b, your opponent must lift the ball, remove the rake, and take a drop as near as possible to the spot beneath its original position, then play without penalty. Oh, and a quick rant: The discourteous dolts who leave rakes in bunkers in the first place aren't penalized—but they should be.
Rules Man: During play, one of my buddies likes to scuff the face of his wedge with sandpaper to get more spin. That can't possibly conform, can it?
—Jeff Kanas, Long Island, N.Y.
Is your friend a rebellious, smokin'-in-the-boys-room teenager? That may explain his nonconformist ways. Tell this rebel without a clue that clubs must follow the standards outlined by the USGA and the R&A, and that he's in clear violation. Purposely scuffing a wedge with sandpaper changes the club's playing characteristics, a clear breach of Rule 4-2. The penalties are stiff. Merely carrying the club, and not using it, can cost him up to four strokes in stroke play and the loss of two holes in match play. And if he happens to make a stroke with his sandpapered club, he's disqualified. That should scare him straight. Better to have him follow my lead: I only use my 80-grit to sand down my maple golf-themed chess set. (And yes, Gary Player is a black knight.)
Rules Guy: My Florida golf club features cart paths made of a limestone called coquina, the fragments of which often end up in players' spikes. The guy I was playing against picked up small pieces of coquina from the fringe to allow him to putt from off the green. I told him that sand and loose soil are only considered loose impediments when they're on the green, not the fringe. Was I right?
—Mark Bennett, Bonita Springs, Fla.
Ah, coquina—my favorite sedimentary rock after chert (humble chert gets no respect). Mark, you're right about one thing—sand and loose soil are considered loose impediments only on the putting green. But the Rules treat coquina fragments like gravel or stones, so per Rule 23-1, they can be removed without penalty, even when they lie off the green.
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