Ask the Rules Guy: Water balls and clear advice

Ask the Rules Guy
Jason Raish

Dear Rules Guy: On a par 4, my friend's second shot to an elevated green fronted by a pond hit the bank in front and seemingly rolled back into the water. He then hit a provisional that clearly went into the water. He dropped a third ball, hitting that over the water, where it stopped just off the green. When we approached the green, he discovered that the ball from his initial shot to the green had not rolled into the water but was in the hazard area and hittable. Is he lying two or lying six?
— Doug Mohs, via e-mail

Essentially, a provisional ball is merely a ball used to save time when your ball may be OB or lost outside a water hazard (Rule 27-2). Here's the snag: You may not hit a provisional if the only place your ball could lie is in the water hazard. The multiple balls your friend struck after his first shot apparently went in the water cannot be considered provisionals and were actually his ball in play. Even though it turned out he had a play on his first ball, he abandoned that ball, making it lost, by hitting his second ball. Therefore, he would be lying a very unlucky six.

Rules Man: During our club championship my ball came to rest next to a bush inthe rough. The only way I could hit the ball was to swing left-handed, using the backside of my 5-iron. My opponent, who was playing very poorly, told me this was illegal except with a putter. He assessed me an additional 2-stroke penalty and I replayed the shot with a wedge upside down and left-handed. Recently I saw someone on TV do the same thing I did with the back of his club. What's the ruling?
— Arnie Kvarnberg, Sun City, Ariz.

Misguided, deceived, cheated—take your pick, really. If we open up the Rules book, you will see that Decision 14-1/1 plainly states that a player may play a stroke with any part of the clubhead, provided the ball is struck fairly with a conforming club as described in Rule 4-1. On the bright side, your misfortune does teach a valuable lesson: never trust an opponent with a ruling.

Hey Rules Guy: Prior to teeing off on the fourth hole in a two-man best-ball match play event, my partner and I discussed our opponents' use of a driver on the previous hole. After the round, our opponents assessed my partner and me a two-stroke penalty on hole four for soliciting advice. Was this a legitimate call?
— Mike McElrath, Oxnard, Calif.

First, there are no two-stroke penalties in match play, only in stroke play. Second, Rule 8-1 states there is no such thing as a violation of advice between partners. Third, Decision 8-1/6 allows you to ask opponents what club they used on a past hole without penalty. Finally, match play rules stipulate that your opponents would have had to make the claim before anyone teed off on the fifth hole, so informing you of the penalty at the end of the round was too late. Hopefully all you lost was pocket change.