Ask The Rules Guy: Your Trickiest Golf Questions Answered

Ask The Rules Guy: Your Trickiest Golf Questions Answered

The penalty for switching balls when not allowed is the loss of a hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play.
Jason Raish


Hey Rules Man: After marking his ball on the green, my partner tossed it to his caddie. But the looper wasn't looking, and the ball rolled into a pond. My partner finished the hole with another ball. Should he be penalized for not completing the hole with the same ball?

— Joe Pratt, Plymouth, Mich.

A: Instead of a wad of cash, here's a tip for that caddie: Pay attention, pal! Not that he had much choice, but your partner substituted a new ball before he was finished with the hole. That's a definite no-no. The penalty for switching balls when not allowed, according to Rule 15-2? It's loss of a hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play. Or he could have made like Woody Austin and gone after the ball that's now sleeping with the fishes.


Rules Guy: Angry after three-putting in a tournament, I walked off the green, grabbed my 5-iron and hit my ball into the woods. My opponent said I should be penalized two strokes for practicing. Was he right?

— Ryan Budahazy, Hanover, Md.

A: Your temper will cost you two strokes in medal play or loss of the hole in match play. Full-swing practice shots are never allowed between holes, but you can keep your short-game sharp. Per Rule 7-2, if you are between holes you may practice your chipping or putting on or near the green you've just played; on a practice green; or on or near the next tee. (Heads up: This can be prohibited by the Rules committee, as it is on the PGA Tour). As for your anger issues, Ryan, just count the Rules of Golf out loud. (There are 34, by the way.)


Rules Guru: My driver head flew off in the middle of my swing. Although the head never touched the ball, I did complete the swing. Does it still count as a stroke if equipment failure caused my whiff?

— Ron Ferment, Mars, Pa.

A: The Rules are nothing if not thorough, and Decision 14/2 covers precisely this situation. If the head came off during your backswing, you're in the clear because a stroke only starts with the forward movement of the club (the downswing), and a shaft alone is not considered a club. If you lost your head in the downswing, though, the stroke counts, says Decision 14/3. But look on the bright side: At least you don't have to re-tee.


Hey Rules Guy: I used a broken tee for my tee shot on a par 3. My opponent claimed I deserved a penalty for using someone else's equipment. That can't be right, can it?

— Bob Dun, Attica, N.Y.

A: You're golden, Bob. The only equipment you can't borrow from another player is his or her clubs. Anything else — rain gear, towels, balls, Yoda headcover — can be borrowed and used without penalty. And I doff my visor to your recycling. Soon you'll be like me, swapping your graphite shafts for renewable Indian bamboo.

Got a Rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to [email protected] and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of Golf Magazine. Until then, play by the Rules!