Rules Guy: What do I do if my wind-blown towel stops my ball on the green?

July 23, 2019
towel on green

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.

In a four-ball match on a windy day, I marked my ball on the green and cleaned it with my towel, which an opponent then asked to borrow. Sure, no problem — I’m up first. The ball has barely left my putter when the wind blows the towel on top of my ball, stopping it dead. Chuckles all around … and I end up three-putting for bogey and a halve. I argued, unsuccessfully, that my towel was our opponents’ towel when it impeded my shot, and that they should be penalized somehow. Everyone else said it was my towel, and so my fault.
—TOM NOGA, HUNTINGDON VALLEY, PENN.

You were wrong to throw in the towel so soon, Tom. Under Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b, the stroke was canceled, with the ball replaced and the stroke replayed, since it was made from the putting green and accidentally hit a movable obstruction.

If your playing partner and your opponents agreed that you should play on from the point of the towel incident, that agreement stands; otherwise, you should have proceeded in the way you thought was right, and your opponent would have had until a player teed off on the next hole to request a ruling.

Had this happened in stroke play, and you erred by not replaying the stroke, the general penalty of two strokes would be added to your score. Next time, don’t be so generous with your towel — and try to find a partner who won’t throw you under the bus!

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!