Ask the Rules Guy: Switch hitters and bad bounces

Ask the Rules Guy: Switch hitters and bad bounces

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***Rules Guy: When we
reached the first tee box,
my buddy realized that
he’d forgotten to bring
tees. I offered one of
mine, though I knew he
prefers an extra long tee.
He grabbed some sand
from the container of
divot mix on the side of
our cart, poured a pile on
the tee box, then put his
peg in the sandy mound,
essentially creating a
long tee. I said that this
couldn’t be legal. But my
friend insisted that since
his ball was only touching
the tee, it didn’t matter
whether the tee was in
the turf or in the collected
sand. Who’s right?

— Danny Hall, via e-mail

Believe it or not,
your friend can
keep building his sand
castles. According
to Rule 11-1, you are
allowed to put your
tee on the “surface of
the ground,” in the tee
box and according to
the USGA, that surface
includes sand or any
other natural substance,
regardless of whether or
not it was placed in the
tee box by a player. The
only rule your buddy
broke was mooching
off of you after he
forgot his tees at home.
Unfortunately, there’s no
penalty for that, either.

Hey Rules Guy: I hit my drive directly next to a tree, in a
position that would make it impossible to take a proper
right-handed stance. When I tried addressing the ball for
a left-handed swing, however, I found myself standing on
the cart path. I took a drop, which gave me a clear line to
the green — as a righty. So I took a normal swing. But I felt
like I was getting away with something. Was I?

— F. Goddel, Lansing, Mich.

This conundrum can be solved only with a dose
of honesty. Ask yourself, “If the cart path weren’t
there, would I still hit the shot left-handed?” If the
answer is “no” — that is, if you’re trying to get out of
taking an awkward swing — then you’re trying to
game the Rules system, and you must play the ball
as it lies, path or no path. (Decision 24-2b/18). But if
you answer “yes,” you’re entitled to free relief from
the cart path (or any other obstruction), according
to Decision 24-2b/19. Take your drop and play your
next shot left- or right-handed. Your conscience is
clear, and so is your scorecard.

Rules Ref: Last week. I made
the greatest putt of my
life. Almost. My 80-footer
was tracking toward the
hole, as my friend/match
play oppenent looked on. It
was about to fall when my
pal dropped his ball, which
bounced off his shoe and
knocked my miracle putt off
course! He was apologetic
and conceded the skin, but
I’m not sure I earned it.

— Patrick R. New York, N.Y.

This sounds like a golf
horror movie: Invasion
of the Birdie Snatchers.
As you suspected, your
friend jumped the gun in
giving you the hole. Since
his error was accidental,
Decision 19-5/1.7 states
that you had the option of
playing your ball where it
stopped or replaying your
lengthy putt. Not only did
your friend not have to
concede, he didn’t incur
any penalty. The guilt of
ruining the almost-bestshot
of your life should be
punishment enough.

***This article contains a correction from the October 2011 issue of Golf Magazine.