In my regular foursome I always share a cart with one of my friends, because we play good cart golf--we always seem to miss in the same spot. Last week, though, we took it to a new extreme. Teeing off on a par-3, my friend and I both hit our balls right to the very edge of a water hazard in front of the green. We’ve been in that spot many times, so neither of us were surprised to find our balls resting in the shallow end of the lake just off of the rough. My friend picked up a ball, so I naturally assumed he knew which one was his. I grabbed the other one, quickly dried it off, took a drop and played up to the green. He did the same and we both putted out. But when I picked my ball out of the cup, I immediately noticed that it wasn’t mine at all, it was his! I was sure my friend had cost me a couple of penalty strokes, but he insisted that it didn’t matter that we had switched balls, and that this was a “no harm, no foul” situation. Was he right?
--Christopher S., via e-mail
It’s nice when friends stick together, but you and your buddy are definitely taking it to the extreme. The good news, however, is that this time your friend didn’t cost you anything more than a momentary panic attack. According to Rule 26-1b, a player is authorized to drop “a ball” in the proper zone after hitting into a water hazard. In this case, “a ball” can be any ball, including the one that your buddy hit into the water. You were right to simply take your drop and penalty (under Rule 26-1b) and play the rest of the hole--and the round--without penalty (Decision 15-1/4). One suggestion: If you’re going to continue to play such consistent cart golf, you might want to consider riding with a better player.