Ask the Rules Guy: Turn-about

The Rules Guy


I was playing “four ball” with my usual group when we ran into a situation that nearly led to a fistfight. My partner and I hit shots onto the green that landed about a foot away from each other, and on the exact same line to the hole. My partner’s ball was inside of mine, but since he’s a far superior putter, he told me that he’d shoot first to give me a look at the line. Without even thinking about the consequences, my buddy sank his putt, and, before anyone could say a word, I lined up and put mine it right behind it. Our opponents erupted, saying that it was illegal for my partner to putt first, since I was clearly away. They demanded that we forfeit the hole, but I insisted that we’d done nothing wrong, and that as a team it was up to us to decide who hit first. Please settle this score!
M. Spearo, Charlotte, N.C.

Just as like your mother told you growing up, it’s important to wait your turn. But, in this case, it’s your opponents who were out of line. Rule 31-4 makes it explicitly clear that balls that belong to the same side in a Four-Ball match may be played in whichever order that team sees fit. And even if you had truly played out of turn (which is to say that you played a ball when your opponent should have played first), the penalty wouldn’t be nearly so severe as losing the hole. Instead, your opponent would simply have had the right to force you to cancel your stroke and replay your ball, in the proper order, from the same spot without penalty (Rule 10-1c). Tell the other twosome that your switcheroo was perfectly legal, and that their turn to complain is up.