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DEAR RULES GUY: I was playing at my friend's fancy club when we came to one particularly tough green. After conferring with his caddie, my buddy addressed the ball while his caddie stood a few feet behind him and to the side. I couldn't help but notice that my friend's caddie was making a shadow right along the line that they had agreed upon. Sure enough, my buddy's putt went straight along the shadow, over a hill and into the hole. I didn't want to embarrass my friend at his club, but I felt like I'd been had. Can this possibly be legal?
Henry R., Chicago, Ill.
You were right to cast doubt over your buddy's antics, and the rules back you up. While he wasn't touching the green (a more obvious no-no), the caddie was still violating Rule 8-2b-1, which strictly forbids anyone from indicating the line of putt while the stroke is being played. That should have cost your buddy two strokes. If you still feel bad about not calling him out on it, you might want to schedule your next showdown for high noon.
DEAR RULES GUY:
During a recent round, my friend hit his tee shot into a bush. He could still play the ball, but he couldn't hit it toward the green. He decided to play out sideways toward the fairway, but when he took his stance he realized he'd have to stand on a cart path. We agreed he could take relief from the path and the bush without penalty. But this gave him a shot to the green, and he decided he wanted to go that route. Can he do this, or does he still have to hit sideways, as he originally intended?
Ian Scott, Dubai, U.A.E.
Believe it or not, your buddy has the Rules by the throat. As you noted, he clearly has a right to relief based on the impediment to his only real shot. According to Rule 24-2b/7, a player is not forced to maintain an obstruction to their line of play, even when taking a free drop. As long as your partner's drop abided by the Rules, there's no reason he can't shoot for the green. This is a case where the Rules giveth and don't taketh away.