Ask the Rules Guy: Taking sides, stake outs and geese

Ask the Rules Guy: Taking sides, stake outs and geese

Ask the Rules Guy
Jason Raish

Hi, Rules Guy: My left-handed friend hit a ball that landed two feet left of a cart path. Out of bounds was marked five feet left of the path, so his ball was in the rough and in bounds but he was standing on the cart path. We thought he was entitled to relief of one club length, no closer to the hole. If he went one club length back, he still had a stance on the cart path. He claimed he could drop on the right side of the path. I disagreed because that would have been more than one club length away. He said he didn't have to play the ball standing on the path. I claimed that if he wanted to move to the right side of the path it would cost him a stroke. Which side is right?
— Ralph Richardi, Mill Valley, Calif.

The Rules side with your lefty friend. There is no maximum distance that you can go to find the nearest point of relief (NPR), no nearer the hole. The one club length applies only to the area where you can drop the ball after determining the NPR. If your friend's NPR was on the other side of the cart path, then he can play from there without any penalty. Next time make sure you follow the right path.

Rules Guy: On the ninth hole of my local course I hit a drive down the left side, which has a street running along it. My friend said that my ball might be OB, so I hit a provisional. I then found my first ball in the left rough. On this hole there are white stakes that end shortly after the tee box and don't appear again for about 120 yards. My friend said I was out of bounds because I had to line up the two stakes, even though they were 120 yards apart. I argued I was in bounds because there were no stakes anywhere near my ball and nothing noted on the scorecard. I couldn't seem to find anything in the rules book. Please help.
— Charles Centore, via e-mail

Oh, it's there all right—you just have to look in the right place: Section II. The definition of out of bounds (OB) states that when defined by stakes, OB is the inside edge of the stakes at ground level. A string run along the inside edge from stake to stake would determine if the ball was in bounds or not. It's possible that some of the stakes may be missing on a course, but in your case a straight line between the two stakes that were on the hole would determine the boundary. At least your provisional saved you from a long walk back to the tee box.

Mr. Rules Man: I hit my approach shot to a green with water in front of it. The ball hit the far side of the water hazard, bounced once, hit a goose, and then bounced into the water. None of my playing partners knew how to rule it, so I dropped a ball where my first ball hit the goose and finished the hole without a penalty. Was I right?
— Ken Rogge, via e-mail

What's bad for the goose is also not good for the golfer. Rule 19-1 says that it's a "rub of the green" when a ball deflects off an outside agency. You must play from where the ball comes to rest, unless it was deliberately deflected by the outside agency. Not likely in this case. Your choices would be to play the ball in the hazard or proceed under the water hazard rule (Rule 26) with a one-stroke penalty. Or only play when the geese head south. At least the green fees will be cheaper.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Golf Magazine, on newstands now. Click here to subscribe to Golf Magazine and to learn about Golf Magazine All Access.