Rules of Golf: Our Rules Expert Breaks Down FAQs

July 2, 2016
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Rules Guy:

My ball came to rest in a puddle of water on a cart path. I wanted to hit my ball from the path but not from the puddle. Can I take relief from the water and still drop on the cart path? —HORACE ALLISON, ATLANTA, GA.

You want to hit from the concrete? (Note to self: Never loan Horace my shiny new blades.) You may be in luck. If you want to take relief from the casual water—rather than take relief from the cart path, since you can only do one or the other at one time—you may do so. And if the nearest point of relief from said puddle is on the cart path, then drop away. That drop could be tricky, though. Cart paths are awfully bouncy. You may want to brush up on Rule 20-2c(vi), which concerns redropping the ball (without penalty) after it comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it hit the ground (or asphalt, in this case). A last suggestion: If all goes according to your plan, whatever you do, don’t hit it fat.

Rules Man:

If a golfer hits a provisional from the tee on a par 3 and knocks this second shot into the hole, then finds his original ball on his way to the green, what’s the proper course of action? —ROBERT GRAHAM, VIA E-MAIL

That might be a heckuva 3. Reminds me of the punch line to an old golf joke: “Hit your second shot first.” In this scenario, as in comedy, timing is everything. If the player, his opponent or a fellow competitor finds the original ball within five minutes of commencing the search, and before the player snatches his provisional out of the hole, he must abandon the provisional and continue play with the original ball. If instead the player picks his provisional from the hole before the original ball reappears, he has officially completed the hole in three strokes. By the way, yelling “Second-Team All-American!” or “Player B!” upon the miraculous hole-out is entirely optional.

Great Ruler:

I sometimes use my putter to “plumb bob” putts. But I think it would be more precise and easier if I used a small weight tied to a string instead. Would that be legal? —BRIAN GRAFTON, VIA E-MAIL

Rules Guy salutes your DIY spirit, even if plumb bobbing’s utility remains a mystery to me. Rule 14-3 deals with unusual equipment and artificial devices, and unfortunately, your proposed contraption would cause you to run afoul of its stipulations, were you to employ it during a round. Why? Using an artificial device “for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect your play” is forbidden (unless a local rule is in effect that allows, for example, the use of rangefinders.) The penalty is a loss of hole in match play, a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and disqualification for any subsequent breach. An exception to Rule 14-3 permits you to use your putter as a plumb line, because the use of a club in this manner is considered traditionally accepted—just like, say, haggis, or Rules Guy himself.