Rules Guy: What happens if I hit the wrong ball out of a hazard?

July 4, 2019

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

A friend hit his shot into a creek bank inside the hazard line. The grass was thick, but his playing partner found the ball and helped him identify it. Without grounding his club, my friend swung and recovered back into the fairway. Only problem: It turns out he’d hit another ball underneath or somewhere very close to his original ball, which we found still back on the bank. What’s the ruling, and does the fact that this occurred inside a hazard impact it? —CRAIG WOLFGANG, ARCADIA, IND.

Ah, the old switcheroo. Penalty area or not (“hazards” no longer exist, per the 2019 Rules), there is no penalty for a stroke made at one’s own ball that happens to dislodge a concealed ball. The stroke simply counts, and then the player goes back and plays his original ball … though given your friend’s recovery skills, he might want to consider taking a penalty drop on more forgiving turf.

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. Until then, play by the Rules!