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Rules Man: I was lying 5 and my partner was lying 4 in a match play round. We were on about the same line, so I was going to give him a good line of putt. Our opponent told me to pick it up. Was I allowed to putt it to give my partner the line, or must I pick it up for a 6?
— Dave Martin, via e-mail
Even though you wanted to say “thanks, but no thanks” to your opponent’s generous offer, you must accept his gift. A conceded putt can neither be refused nor withdrawn, though usually you would not be penalized for putting out. There is one caveat, however. Decision 2-4/7 states that, had you putted out in order to aid your partner, you would have had to count your six and your partner would have been out of the hole entirely.
Rules Guy: Here in New Orleans, courses can get extremely muddy. Last week I hit my drive into a sloppy area, and found my ball covered in the brown stuff. I came up with a clever idea: I told my buddy that my ball was unfit for play. I picked it up and put a fresh, clean ball in its place. My buddy protested, claiming that a muddy ball was not an unfit one, and that I should be penalized for substituting my ball, and also for lifting it in the first place. I still say my move was a clever (and legal) one, but what say you?
— V. Hapland, New Orleans, La.
You might have thought you got away clean, but your conscience should be as dirty as your shoes. According to Rule 5-3, a ball is not considered unfit for play just because it is covered in mud. Normally (as your buddy mentioned) you would be penalized a stroke for the simple action of lifting your ball under these circumstances, but since you went the extra step of putting a new ball in play, you should have added on two strokes for the improper replacement, with no additional penalty for lifting your ball.
RulesRep: My buddy drove his ball into the woods just off the fairway, but he didn’t hit a provisional because we both thought it was still in play. He found his ball a few feet in the woods, then walked out to his bag to choose a club. But when he returned to the woods to hit his next shot, he couldn’t locate his ball again. After a discussion he took a drop with a one-stroke penalty. After finishing the match, our opponents told us that he should have taken a two-stroke penalty and lost the hole, because he should have gone back to the tee and hit from there. Are they right?
— Bryan Feddock, Mountaintop, Pa.
You can’t always trust your opponents, but this time they were pretty accurate. According to Rule 27-1c, when your buddy could not find his ball (for the second time) within five minutes, he was subject to a penalty of stroke and distance. He took the stroke, but by not going back to the tee he was in breach of Rule 20-7b (playing from the wrong place), and thus disqualified from the hole.