Rules Guy: Can I peek into my opponent's bag to see which club he used?
—Dana Jensen, New Orleans, La.
You can look, just don't touch. Decision 8-1/10 states that information obtained by observation is not a breach of Rule 8-1, but Decision 8-1/11 prohibits a player from obtaining such information by a physical act, such as removing a towel to see a club.
Hey, Rules Guy: I know you aren't allowed to reconfigure adjustable clubs during a round. But if a weight loosens in the course of play, can you tighten it? Or must you live with the rattle until the round is finished?
—Bob Horning, via e-mail
Adjustable clubheads still boggle my mind. I remember the days when you needed a hammer and chisel to tweak a driver. Yes, Bob, the Rules of Golf do permit you to tighten a weight mid-round, assuming the weight was loosened during the "normal course of play"—i.e., not as a result of intentional smashing, hurling, snapping, etc. Rule 4-3a gives you three options: (1) Keep using the club as is; (2) Fix it, assuming you can do so quickly; or (3) Replace it, assuming the club can't be played or fixed. So break out your toolbox and get to work. Just don't dawdle.
Mr. Rules Guy: My buddy recently crushed a drive off the fifth tee. Problem was, we were playing the fourth hole. He confidently declared that because he had unintentionally played the wrong hole, he was permitted to hit another tee shot off the correct tee without penalty. Was he?
—Brad Thompson, Denver, Colo.
Well, that's one solution for slow play: Skip a hole! A "stipulated round" is defined as playing all the holes in their correct order, unless your local rules authority tells you otherwise from the start. The penalty for playing out of sequence is laid out in Decision 11-5/5, which states that your friend should be penalized two strokes for playing from the wrong teeing ground. He must disregard the first tee ball he hit and replay the shot.
THAT'S [NOT] GOOD
Dear Rules Guy: In a match with my father, his birdie putt rolled to the edge of the cup. After I had conceded the next putt, his ball dropped! He claimed it counted because he is entitled to 10 seconds before picking up his ball. But I disallowed it, because in match play, once a stroke has been conceded, it can neither be retracted nor refused. Was I right?
—Bryan D. Glassing, via e-mail
Well, sort of. Rule 2-4 does say a conceded shot can't be "declined or withdrawn." But you can only concede a stroke after your opponent's ball is at rest. Even if it looked like his putt had stopped, by rule, it hadn't. Rule 16-2 states that when a ball overhangs the hole, the player is allowed time to reach the hole without "unreasonable delay," and then an additional 10 seconds.