Ask the Rules Guy: Impact craters and suction cups

Ask the Rules Guy: Impact craters and suction cups


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DEAR RULES GUY: The other day I hit a line drive right into a bunker. When I got there I saw a mark in the sand, but no ball. Then I looked closer and realized that it was an impact crater. I stuck my hand in and found my ball deep in the sand. What’s the ruling?
Johnny Hart, Westfield, Ind.

In this situation, think like an archaeologist—look for your prize while doing as little damage to the lie as possible. You are entitled to get to your ball, and Rule 12-1 allows you to investigate by raking or otherwise moving the sand if you believe your ball is covered in a bunker—and there’s no penalty, even if you move the ball. After finding the ball, however, you must re-create the lie, replace the ball, and cover it with sand so only part of it is showing. And since yanking the ball out might make it tough to re-create the lie, try to be more delicate next time.

During a recent round, a guy in my foursome said it was illegal to have a suction cup on the end of my putter grip. I have a bad back, so I like to use the suction cup to pick my ball out of the hole. It doesn’t affect the movement of the ball, although it is an 'unusual device.' What gives?

Al Cohen, Covina, Calif.

This rules maven was most likely referring to Rule 1a of Appendix II of the Rules of Golf on clubs, which prohibits a club from having external attachments. However, an exception has been made for certain attachments that do not affect the performance of the club. In your case, the suction cup has been a long-standing exception to Rule 1a, and is allowed. Tell the guy to get off your back—it hurts enough already.