Jason Raish
By Rules Guy
Thursday, September 08, 2011

• Got a Rules question? Zip it to rulesguy@golf.com

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***Rules Guy: When we reached the first tee box, my buddy realized that he'd forgotten to bring tees. I offered one of mine, though I knew he prefers an extra long tee. He grabbed some sand from the container of divot mix on the side of our cart, poured a pile on the tee box, then put his peg in the sandy mound, essentially creating a long tee. I said that this couldn't be legal. But my friend insisted that since his ball was only touching the tee, it didn't matter whether the tee was in the turf or in the collected sand. Who's right?
— Danny Hall, via e-mail

\nBelieve it or not, your friend can keep building his sand castles. According to Rule 11-1, you are allowed to put your tee on the "surface of the ground," in the tee box and according to the USGA, that surface includes sand or any other natural substance, regardless of whether or not it was placed in the tee box by a player. The only rule your buddy broke was mooching off of you after he forgot his tees at home. Unfortunately, there's no penalty for that, either.

\nHey Rules Guy: I hit my drive directly next to a tree, in a position that would make it impossible to take a proper right-handed stance. When I tried addressing the ball for a left-handed swing, however, I found myself standing on the cart path. I took a drop, which gave me a clear line to the green — as a righty. So I took a normal swing. But I felt like I was getting away with something. Was I?
— F. Goddel, Lansing, Mich.

\nThis conundrum can be solved only with a dose of honesty. Ask yourself, "If the cart path weren't there, would I still hit the shot left-handed?" If the answer is "no" — that is, if you're trying to get out of taking an awkward swing — then you're trying to game the Rules system, and you must play the ball as it lies, path or no path. (Decision 24-2b/18). But if you answer "yes," you're entitled to free relief from the cart path (or any other obstruction), according to Decision 24-2b/19. Take your drop and play your next shot left- or right-handed. Your conscience is clear, and so is your scorecard.

\nRules Ref: Last week. I made the greatest putt of my life. Almost. My 80-footer was tracking toward the hole, as my friend/match play oppenent looked on. It was about to fall when my pal dropped his ball, which bounced off his shoe and knocked my miracle putt off course! He was apologetic and conceded the skin, but I'm not sure I earned it.
— Patrick R. New York, N.Y.

\nThis sounds like a golf horror movie: Invasion of the Birdie Snatchers. As you suspected, your friend jumped the gun in giving you the hole. Since his error was accidental, Decision 19-5/1.7 states that you had the option of playing your ball where it stopped or replaying your lengthy putt. Not only did your friend not have to concede, he didn't incur any penalty. The guilt of ruining the almost-bestshot of your life should be punishment enough.

\n***This article contains a correction from the October 2011 issue of Golf Magazine.

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