Ask the Rules Guy: Hole-outs and fat chances

Ask the Rules Guy: Hole-outs and fat chances

Rules Guy, April 2012
Jason Raish

Dearest Rules Guy: At my favorite local course, a pesky par-3 green seems to attract drives from a nearby par 4. While teeing off on the par-4 hole, my buddy sliced one toward the par-3 green and, sure enough, the ball wound up in that hole! He gave himself an extra stroke for an unplayable ball and returned to the tee, but was this the right course of action?
— Gary Miller, Hooterville, Iowa

The times when the governing gods of golf hand you free relief are certainly few and far between — and alas, your buddy missed out. Because the ball landed on the green of a neighboring hole, the rules would deem interference by a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3a). Rule 25-3b goes on to state specifically that the player must take relief without penalty by dropping at the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole, ensuring that the ball does not first strike any part of the wrong putting surface before coming to rest. In returning to where he played his previous shot, he played under stroke and distance and would be hitting his third shot off the tee.

Hey Rules Guy: During a friendly match, my opponent took a mighty swipe at his ball on an approach shot and laid a divot right over his ball (you might say he hit it a little fat). The front-end of the divot was still attached to the ground, while the rest was almost completely covering the ball. I told him he had two options: hit it as it lay or take an unplayable. He thought he was entitled to peel the divot back without penalty. Who's right?
— Kenneth Brown, New Orleans, La.

Sounds like someone could have used a few more minutes out on the range. You are right. A divot that is not completely detached cannot be considered a loose impediment (Decision 13-2/5). By removing the fixed divot, your opponent would be improving his lie and should have received a two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-2. While you may be giving your opponent too much credit by saying he only hit it "a little fat," you deserve kudos for knowing your rulebook.

Dear Rules Guy: Several years ago, an accident cost me most of my left ring finger and half of my left pinkie. While I can still play to a 10 to 12 handicap, it's hard to maintain a good left-hand grip. Is there anything in the rules that would prohibit me from using a device, such as a strap, to secure the end of the club in my grip? I don't want my golf buddies yelling foul.
— Don Fritz, via e-mail

They can yell because Rule 14-3 states that the use of any artificial devices or unusual equipment during a round means disqualification. However, Exception 1 to Rule 14-3 states that a player is not in breach of this Rule if there is a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, as long as the device was not originally designed as a swing aid (Decision 14- 3/15.5). If you need to use one during an event, you must get approval from the organizers prior to the start of play. No breach, no foul.