Ask the Rules Guy: Loose impediments and OB stakes

Ask the Rules Guy: Loose impediments and OB stakes


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DEAR RULES GUY: I play with a friend who likes to sweep loose impediments (leaves, sand, etc.) from his line of putt. He’ll often do this with his cap or a towel, but he sometimes does it with the palm of his hand. It seems to me that he’s unfairly determining the direction of the grain when he does this, so I told him he could only use the back of his hand. What say ye, Ruler?
Peter Peng, Maitland, Fla.

I think your buddy may have just invented a new meaning for the term “rub of the green.” However, when you remove loose impediments from the green, you can use any implement, including a towel, cup or either side of your hand. If your friend didn’t intend to test the surface of the green, his brushing or rubbing was not excessive, and he didn’t press anything down, then he’s in the clear. This is one time when your buddy has every right not to keep his hands to himself.

I hit my drive close to an out-of-bounds area, but I could only see one of the OB stakes. It looked like my ball was in bounds, so I took a swing and knocked it on the green. My buddy then found another OB stake that clearly showed my ball had been OB when I hit it. I told him I’d have to go back to the tee box to comply with the stroke-and-distance rule. But he told me I’d have to do that and take a penalty for hitting a wrong ball. Who’s right?

Justin Wright, Detroit, Mich.

Your buddy’s rules knowledge knows no bounds. A ball lying OB is out of play and therefore a wrong ball. So that’s two penalty strokes under Rule 15-3b. And since your tee shot went OB, you have to go back to the tee box and play another ball under stroke-and-distance in Rule 27-1. Therefore, add a total of three penalty strokes to your score.