Rules Guy: I was on the green standing over my ball when a large dragonfly flying next to the ball distracted me. I stood up out of my stance and waved my putter at the insect to shoo it off. As I was shaking my putter with one hand, it touched my ball, and my opponent immediately called a one-stroke penalty. What rule would apply to this, and did this warrant a penalty stroke?
-- Tim Seitz, Udon Thani, Thailand
Confess, Tim: Are you sure you aren't trying to cover up a case of the yips? If the ball didn't move, you are not penalized since you did not intentionally touch it (Rule 18-2a(i)). Tell your opponent to buzz off. If the ball did move, according to Rule 18-2a(ii), you incur a one-stroke penalty and must replace your ball on the spot where it originally came to rest. Keep your putter off the ball until it's bug free.
Dear Rules Guy: I hit my second shot on a par 4 to gimme range. My friend then hit his to 10 feet. On the green, I tapped in first for a birdie. Should I have received a two-stroke penalty for putting out of turn, since my friend's ball was farther from the cup? Is stroke play different from match play in this instance?
-- Jim Eastman, Naples, Fla.
Playing out of turn is taboo, even when it speeds up play. In match play, the ball farthest from the hole must be played first. While there is no penalty for jumping the gun, Rule 10-1c allows your opponent to immediately recall the stroke and have it played at the appropriate time. Stroke play differs: Rule 10-2c says that when a ball is played out of turn, the stroke counts, and the ball is played as it lies. A penalty only occurs in stroke play if the shot is made out of turn to help another player.
Mr. Rules Man: In a match-play event, my opponent and I both hit our balls into the woods, then hit provisionals. After searching for four minutes, I found his ball (in a tough spot) but not mine; I played my provisional and made a 5. It took him two swings to escape the woods, and he carded a 6. Upset, he claimed that he'd stopped looking for his ball so I should have stopped, too. But I was looking for my ball when I found his. Does he have a case?
-- Frank Cardio, Rockaway, N.J.
I haven't seen someone grasp at straws this desperately since the Scarecrow met those flying monkeys. Rule 27-1c clearly states that a player has five minutes from the time his side begins searching for the lost ball. No rule forbids his competition from helping him search for his shot. In fact, it's common courtesy to do so. If the original ball was found within the allotted five minutes, your opponent must then abandon his provisional and continue playing the original. Had he continued with his provisional after the original ball was found, he then would have been playing a wrong ball, and he would lose the hole under Rule 15-3a.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Golf Magazine, on newstands now. Click here to subscribe to Golf Magazine and to learn about Golf Magazine All Access.