Ask the Rules Guy: Tree stumps and coin flips

Tuesday October 12th, 2010
Jason Raish

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

RULES GUY: My friend's tee shot landed right on top of a cut tree stump. He wanted a free lift from ground under repair, even though it wasn't marked that way. We did not give him a free lift, so he hit it off the top of the stump. Should we have given him a free lift?
—Dale Dixon , via e-mail

This situation may put the "abnormal" in "abnormal condition," but that does not mean that your buddy was entitled to relief. According to Decision 25/8, a tree stump is not considered ground under repair unless it is properly marked as such or is in the process of being removed (which would make it "material piled for removal"). Since your stump wasn't marked and wasn't going anywhere, you made the right call: your friend was not entitled to relief and either had to take an unplayable lie (and a penalty stroke) or play the ball from the stump. I'm sure that wasn't the good wood your buddy was looking for on his drive.

\nRULES REPLIER: Last week I lent a forgetful friend some balls. On a long par-4, we hit nearly identical drives. We found one ball in the fairway and one in the rough a few feet away. That's when we realized that neither of us had marked our ball. We flipped a coin for it, but we knew that wasn't the right way to figure out whose ball was whose. What was?
—Geoffrey Pell, San Diego, Calif.

You're right about one thing: the Rules of Golf don't supply "flip a coin" as the solution to many problems. While you're not required to mark your ball, it is strongly encouraged, and this is exactly why. By not marking your balls, you and your friend can't possibly know for sure which is which. Therefore, Decision 27/10 states that both of your balls are officially lost, meaning you have to go back to where you played your previous shots, taking a penalty of stroke and distance.

\nDEAR RULES GUY: I hit a tee shot on a par 3 that made a pitch mark in the fringe and then backed up about 6 inches. My ball came to rest in the fringe while the pitch mark, (also in the fringe), was on my line to the hole. Not wanting to break any rules, I did not repair the pitch mark and played the ball as it lay. My question is whether I was entitled to repair the pitch mark on the fringe. My other question is what if I had hit the green, made a pitch mark and my ball backed up to rest in the fringe—could I have repaired the pitch mark on the green prior to playing my next stroke? Thank you for your help.
—Michael Hofkamp, Round Rock, Tex.

There's little that burns the Rules Guy up more than strolling up to a green only to find that it resembles the face of the moon. Rule 16-1c states that you may repair any pitch mark on the green, regardless of whether it's in your line of putt or whether your own ball is on the green. You can't, however, fix your mark on the fringe if it's in your line of play (Rule 13-2). As long as you don't delay play (and stick by the Rules), the Rules Guy's motto is "leave no trace"—if you make a mark, fix it up, and if you see someone else's mark near you, tidy that up, too. We're all in this together.

\nTHE GOLFER'S GLOSSARY: Some new words we've heard on the course...
Alec Guinness: A shot that's O.B.-Wan Kenobi
 —Steve Morelock, Springfield, Ore.

More From the Web

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN