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Ask The Rules Guy: What a Relief!

Rules Guy: Penalty for Putt Hitting a Downed Flagstick?
The Golf Magazine Rules Guy is here to answer your trickiest questions. Do you lose a stroke for hitting a downed flagstick?

A BRIDGE TO PAR

Dear Rules Guy: My ball came to rest on a bridge that doubles as a cart path over a water hazard. Do I have to play the ball as it lies, or is the bridge considered an immovable obstruction, entitling me to free relief?

—Terry Burke, Brighton, Ont.

Terry, it just so happens that "immovable obstruction" were my first words as a child. As to your question, the bridge is an artificial object and is thus considered an immovable obstruction. Normally, you get free relief. But because a water hazard extends vertically, a ball on the bridge may be within the confines of the hazard. If it's in the hazard, per Rule 24-2b, you aren't entitled to free relief, but you can play it as it lies without penalty.

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What do you do when your ball lands on a bridge that also serves as a cart path?

INTERFERE FACTOR

Rules Guru: During a match, my ball came to rest outside a fairway bunker, but my stance was in the bunker, which contained standing water. Do I get stance relief, even though my ball is outside the bunker?

—Jay Draffin, Columbia, S.C.

Standing in casual water entitles you to relief. In fact, this kind of thing is so common, a whole section of the Good Book is devoted to it: Rule 25-1a, "Abnormal Ground Conditions: Interference." The upshot: Unless your ball found a water hazard, you can take relief if your ball lies in or touches the casual water, or if the casual water affects your stance or the intended area of your swing. So you get a free drop within one clublength of your nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole.

IT’S IN THE BAG

Rules Man: In a money match, a friend left his golf bag near the green, then accidentally chipped his ball into the bag! He gave himself a free drop, then made the putt to save par and win the match. Was that fair?

—Clay Lorinsky, Big Sky, Mont.

Is your friend trick-shot artist Chuck "The Hit Man" Hiter? Because that's some serious greenside shotmaking. Lucky for you, Clay—and your wallet—this decision is in your favor. Rule 19-2 states that if a player's ball in motion is deflected by his own equipment, he or she incurs a one-stroke penalty and must play the ball as it lies. Since your pal's ball lies inside his bag, he must drop it as close as possible to the spot directly under where it came to rest, no nearer the hole. He's now putting for bogey.

SNAP JUDGMENT

Hey Rules Guy: My buddy was hitting a shot from the fairway when his club broke in half. Our group was too busy laughing to see where his ball went, and we never found it. The hole had water to the left and OB to the right. What's the call?

—Kevin Treusch, Delray Beach, Fla.

Broken club or no, this is a lost-ball issue. Your friend's shot may have found water or OB, but because no one knows where the ball went, he must hit again from a spot as near as possible to where the original ball was last played, and take a one-stroke penalty, per Rule 27-1. Also, since your buddy's club was damaged in the normal course of play—as opposed to being snapped in anger, Tommy Bolt–style—he can replace it.

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