Ask the Rules Guy: Pin placements and broken tees

Ask the Rules Guy: Pin placements and broken tees


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DEAR RULES GUY: My home course is notorious for tough pin placements, but I was still shocked to see the flag on one of our par 3s standing about three feet from the edge of the green. Is this legal? How far from the edge of the green should the pin position be? Can it be any distance?
Vic T., via e-mail

The Rules of Golf appear to govern every inch of the game. After all, there are Rules and Decisions dealing with everything from hitting into a pile of cow manure to whacking your playing partner in the melon with your drive. But some areas are open to interpretation, and that includes course setup. There is no Rule that governs how far from the edge of a green a hole may be placed, only that it must rest on the green itself. Most greenskeepers like to keep the cup at least 10 feet from the edge of the green. Unless some sort of maintenance requires it, any greenskeeper worth his salt will avoid a 'sucker pin,' or one that is less than 5 feet from the edge of the green. I guess in this case, you’re the sucker.

I usually use a broken tee on the par 3s (there are always several on the tee box). During match play, my opponent claimed that I 'used someone else’s equipment' by using the broken tee, and thus should have lost each of the par-3 holes. I won 6 and 5, so the match outcome would not have changed, but I’d still like to know the answer.

Dale Derbidge, via e-mail

Your opponent’s argument is as weak as his game. While Rule 4-4 does prohibit players from sharing clubs with competitors, Decision 5-1/5 allows players to share other pieces of equipment, including balls and tees. As long as the broken tees would still be considered conforming by the USGA, you can pick them up and use them to your heart’s delight. In fact, you are being thrifty, one of Rules Guy’s favorite qualities. Now close that door, I’m not paying to heat the entire neighborhood!