Ask the Rules Guy: Ball warmers and windmills

June 30, 2010

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DEAR RULES GUY: One of my fellow-competitors pulled out the flag and laid it behind the hole as I was getting ready to putt. Unfortunately, I rolled the ball with too much gusto, and it banked off the stick and into the hole! I certainly didn’t intend for that to happen, but my buddy called a two-stroke penalty on me for hitting the stick anyway. What’s the call, Ruler?
Bob Liddle, via e-mail

Unless the hole you were playing features a clown’s mouth or a windmill (and I’m not talking about John Daly’s new course in Holland), you’re going to be disappointed. According to Decision 17-3/3, if the flagstick has been placed behind the hole by a member of your group and you putt too strongly, striking the stick, count the putt and add a two-stroke penalty. However, there is no penalty if your ball strikes the flagstick after it has been blown down by the wind while you are hitting from the fairway, or if the group ahead of you fails to replace the flagstick in the hole. But hey, if you were playing on a hole that features a clown’s mouth, maybe you won yourself a free game!

I play in the Pacific Northwest, and it can get pretty cold up here. A friend in my group hit his drive, which appeared to go out of bounds. He declared a provisional, and since I was next to his bag, he asked me to get another ball for him. But when I reached into his bag, I noticed that he was using hand warmers to keep his golf balls warm so they would fly farther. I didn’t call a penalty on him, but could I have?

Scott Seina, via e-mail

Under Decision 14-3/13.5, if you use a ball that has been purposely warmed during a round with an artificial device, you are automatically DQ’d. However, you can artificially warm your ball prior to the round.