Ask the Rules Guy: Sticky situations and bad advice

Ask the Rules Guy: Sticky situations and bad advice

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Dear Rules Guy: During a
Florida golf trip, I pulled
my drive into a row of
orange trees. After a
lengthy search, we finally
found the ball firmly
embedded inside an
orange on the ground.
My playing partners said I
had to play it as it lay, but I
felt like a free drop was in
order. What’s your ruling?

— Terry Decker, New Carlisle, Ohio

If your ball had been
lying next to the orange,
the fruit would have
been considered a loose
impediment. But since it
actually became embedded
in the fruit, you’re
not entitled to a free drop.
Instead (according to
Decision 23/10), you had
the option of playing
the ball/fruit as it lay,
or deeming your ball
unplayable and dropping
with a one-stroke penalty.
Unlucky for sure, but
orange you glad I didn’t
say stroke and distance?

Rules Rectifier: I was playing in a tournament with two
older women. We got to the tee box on a par 3, but I
couldn’t find a distance marker anywhere. Knowing that
one of the women was a regular at this course, I asked
if she knew how far we were from the hole. The other
woman heard me and went berserk, claiming that I had to
take a two-stroke penalty for even asking. I ignored her,
but I had the nagging suspicion that she was right. Can
this possibly be true?

— Sandra F., Philadelphia, Penn.

According to Decision 8-1/1, distances are
specifically excluded from the definition of
“advice.” Regardless of whether there’s a marker
on the tee box, you are within your rights to ask
either an opponent or a fellow competitor how
long a hole is. In fact, you’re allowed to discuss
any matter of distance on the course (e.g., how
far away a particular bunker is) without penalty
(Decision 8-1/2). You should have told the busybody
in your group to buzz off — you did nothing wrong.

Rules Ref: I was playing
with two friends when I
replaced my ball on the
green. I stepped up to
address it, but one buddy
pointed out that my ball
was a yellow one from my
pocket, not the white one
I had hit onto the green. I
replaced it with the original
ball, but my other friend
then interceded, saying
that since I had placed
and addressed my ball on
the green, I had already
“played” the substituted
ball, even without hitting
it. What do you say?

— R. Fein., via e-mail

When is a stroke not a
stroke? Certainly not
in this case. Although
playing the substituted
ball would have been a
breach of Rule 15-2 (and
a two-stroke penalty),
Decision 15-2/2 makes it
clear that the punishment
should only be meted
out if you actually hit the
incorrect ball — simply
placing and addressing
it is not enough. As long
as you replaced your
original ball in the correct
spot (and, assuming
you marked and placed
the yellow ball correctly,
there is no reason to
assume you didn’t),
then you’re in the clear.
Next time just use proper
manners and keep your
hands out of your pockets.