Getting the Shaft
Dear Rules Guy: I only carry 13 clubs in my bag. But if I carry an extra shaft for my adjustable driver, can I change the shaft during an event and consider it a different club, making it the 14th club in my bag? Would the shaft by itself already be considered the 14th club in my bag?
-Doug Barth, Pinehurst, N.C.
According to Decision 4-4a/15, components, in this case a shaft, do not constitute a club. Therefore, the extra shaft you are carrying in your bag would not count toward the number of clubs you may carry under Rule 4-4a. Welcome to the new world of adjustability, right? Not quite. If you loosen the head of the driver, you are changing its playing characteristics, which is a violation of Rule 4-2a. Even if you immediately retightened the clubhead, you would receive a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of a hole in match play. You must immediately declare the club out of play. Use the driver after that and you can adjust shafts all day, since you'll be DQed.
Hey Rules Guy: The other day I hit my iron shot near the green, but when I went to play my next shot I couldn't find my ball. We eventually found it, but there was a probelm -- my ball had somehow landed on top of a frog. I didn't want to hit the ball because it would hurt the frog, so I moved it (the ball that is). Not sure what the rules are for this one.
-Matt Lenzi, West Bloomfiled, Mich.
You were right not to endanger your amphibious friend, and the Rules of Golf will reward you for that. According to Rule 19-1a, if a ball in motion comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency -- like a frog -- the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest, no nearer the hole. And with the frog out of your way, you really had no excuse to croak on your next shot.
Playing in the Sand
Dear Rules Guy: After an awful bunker shot earlier in the round, I decided to practice my swing in a greenside bunker while my opponent was looking for his ball near the green. My ball was already on the green, so I proceeded to take a practice swing in the empty bunker. When my opponent returned from the brush, he saw me in the bunker taking that swing into the sand and assessed me a penalty. Thirteen very quite holes followed. I took the stroke but believe he was incorrect. Was he?
-Chris Bishop, Milwaukee, Wis.
There is nothing in the Rules that prohibits this act. The only circumstance where a penalty may be assessed in a situation like this is for a breach of etiquette. Between you and me, though, you probably should have been helping him look for his ball. It's no wonder he tried to penalize you.