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DEAR RULES GUY: I was playing a late round with a friend on a hot summer day. As I lined up a putt on the 18th green, the sprinklers suddenly came to life, dousing the putting surface and me. We got them to shut the sprinklers off, but I was left with a little standing water between my ball and the hole, which I decided to mop up with my towel. My buddy said this was a breach of the Rules, since I was improving my putting line, while I felt that I was entitled to my original line, which was on a bone-dry green. Who was right?
Don Chiciak, via e-mail
Soggy, sunburned and penalized is no way to finish a round, but unfortunately that's how your day ended. As there was casual water on your line of putt, you were entitled to relief under Rule 25-1b(iii), but that's all. As your friend suggested, your toweling act was in breach of Rule 16-1a, which forbids you from mopping up casual water on your line of putt (Decision 16-1a/1). For that move, you get two strokes or loss of hole in match play.
DEAR RULES GUY:
I was playing with a friend and we both hit drives into the same fairway bunker. My ball was 10 feet shorter than his, so I hit first. After I hit my shot, he raked my footprints. While the sand he raked was nowhere near his ball, it was in the same bunker. I told him I was pretty sure that was a penalty since he hadn't hit yet and he raked the same bunker his ball was in. We ended up betting a steak dinner on it. Who gets the rib eye?
Richard Daly, Houston, Texas
Now would be a good time for your friend to make a reservation, because he definitely owes you on your "high-steaks" bet. Unless there was a possibility that your footprints could have affected his stroke, your buddy's raking clearly meets the USGA's definition of "testing the condition of a hazard," in violation of Rule 13-4, as raking your footprints gave him more information about the bunker. In addition to the bill, your friend should have picked up two strokes for his actions.