I got up to a tee box only to see a bunch of maintenance workers busily touching up the hole. After making sure to get their attention, me and my buddy teed off. I hit a booming drive over a small hill, but I knew from experience that my ball had landed in a fairway bunker, one notorious for eating balls alive. When I got to the bunker, I wasn’t surprised to find my ball dead in the center. But I was surprised by my lie. Instead of being buried, it was sitting right up on the sand, perfectly placed inside some fresh rake lines. When I looked up, I could see a maintenance guy walking away, giving me a thumbs up. Obviously this guy gave me a helping hand, but I’m a real stickler for keeping a proper handicap. Did this guy cost me any strokes by improving my lie?
–Jimmy E., Miami, Fla.
It’s often said that in the Rules of Golf no good deed goes unpunished, but in this case your friend on the greenskeeping staff was all help and no hurt. According to Decision 13-2/4, you are not held responsible for a staff member improving your lie or your line of play, as long as you were not responsible for the action and did not encourage him to do so (if you did, you would have been in violation of Rule 13-2 and been forced to take a two stroke penalty). Hopefully you tipped your cap to the staffer to thank him for his efforts, or next time you may find your ball mysteriously plugged right in the middle of the fairway.