Ask the Rules Guy: Mucked-up balls and bummed bosses

Ask the Rules Guy: Mucked-up balls and bummed bosses


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DEAR RULES GUY: My ball landed on the edge of a sloped green. After cleaning and trying to replace it, the ball kept rolling downhill toward the hole. Moving it 'no nearer to the hole' would have put me off the green, which seems unfair. Is my status on the green protected?
Bob W., via e-mail

Unlike ambassadors,
your ball has no
diplomatic immunity on
the green. According to
Rule 20-3d, a ball that
won’t stay put after you
attempt to replace it twice
should be placed in a
spot as close as possible
to the original resting
place and no nearer to
the hole. If the only place
your ball will stay put is
on the fringe, that’s where
you’re stuck. Remember,
sometimes it’s better to
have a mucked-up ball.

During match play with an employee
(who had no sense of etiquette), our
shots ended up very close, with his
on the cart path. As I was in my next
backswing, he dropped his ball. It
accidently hit the path again, causing
the ball to bounce my way and me
to completely mis-hit my shot. My
employee told me I could retake it,
and I did, but now I feel like I may
have broken a Rule. Absolve me of my
guilt, or lay down my punishment.

Pierce N. , Philadelphia, Pa.

Impatience on the golf course
can lead to a lot of things,
but more often than not it leads to
extra strokes. While it may have
seemed perfectly logical to just
retake your shot to make up for
the unwanted distraction, wishing
won’t make your previous shot go
away. According to Decision 1-4/1,
such distractions, even caused
by an opponent, are considered a
“common occurrence.” And, as you
now know, an obnoxious opponent
is an extremely common occurrence.
In this case, listening to your
employee cost you the hole. You just
can’t find good help these days…

During a casual round with my regular
foursome, my friend marked his ball on the
green so I could take my putt. Rather than
pick his ball up he simply pushed it safely
to the side. We got distracted and he forgot
he had moved it. He took his putt from the
new spot, sinking it. When he realized
what he had done, he retook his putt from
the original spot, but we didn’t assess him
a penalty, figuring it was a 'No harm, no
foul' situation. Were we right?

Jordan Atkins, Cincinnati, Ohio

While there are plenty of four-letter
words that don’t belong on the golf
course, “No harm, no foul” is the four-word
phrase that the Rules Guy just can’t stand.
When your buddy putted from the new spot,
it may not have seemed like a big deal, but
it was a violation of the Rules. Decision 15/4
states that he played a wrong ball, as the
ball was out of play after he marked and
moved it. He should have taken a two-stroke
penalty and played his ball from the original
mark. In other words, “No harm, big foul.”