Ask the Rules Guy: Flying putters and chunks of asphalt

July 1, 2010

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DEAR RULES GUY: After three-putting the 18th, my brother swung his putter like a pickax into the green, consequently damaging my line. Two-part question: Is there any penalty for this behavior? And was I permitted to place my ball on a new, undamaged line?
Frank Caddell, Sacramento, Calif.

Hulk three-putt! Hulk lose $2 skin! Hulk aaaaaaaangry!!! It goes without saying that your brother’s fit of rage was a shameful breach of etiquette, and if he continues to insist on making Bobby Knight look like Gandhi, the course’s committee can and should show him the door. As for the crevice that is your putting line, you may repair the damage, because you are entitled to the line of putt your previous shot gave you (Decision 16-1a/13). If the damage cannot be repaired, the committee may declare the area ground under repair, and you can place the ball without penalty on the nearest point of relief.

My opponent’s ball came to rest in a hazard next to a small chunk of asphalt. He claimed he could remove the asphalt because it was a movable obstruction. I said he couldn’t because it was in a hazard. Rules Guy?

Jim Gott, Kingsport, Tenn.

Talk about a road hole! A movable obstruction, be it through the green or in a hazard, is defined as an artificial object that can be moved without unreasonable effort and without delaying play or causing damage to the course (otherwise it is deemed an immovable obstruction). So under Rule 24-1, your opponent was free to toss the tarmac from the hazard without penalty.