Rules Guy: On a 220-yard par 3, my tee shot headed left and struck a lamppost on the course. It ricocheted off the pole and into a water hazard on the next hole. My playing partner told me to take a penalty and tee up another ball. I thought that the lamppost was considered an outside agency, which would entitle me to a free re-tee. Still, I took the penalty and teed up another ball, eventually taking a double-bogey. I lost the match by two strokes and my playing partner got bragging rights. I still have a sneaky suspicion that it was a tie. What's the ruling?
— Casey Woodard, via e-mail
Now that's one bad bounce! Maybe I can shed some light on the ruling for you. Any object (man-made or natural) on a golf course is considered an outside agency. As Rule 19-1 states, when a ball in motion strikes an outside agency, the situation is considered to be a "rub of the green" and the ball should be played as it lies. Because it came to rest in the water hazard, you should have either played your ball from there or, after taking the one-stroke penalty, proceeded under Rule 26-1 (Relief for Ball in Water Hazard).