PLANE & SIMPLE
Dear Rules Guy: During a round near a military base, my brother's approach shot on a par 4 hit a low-flying plane overhead, and the ball ricocheted about 100 yards behind us. He replayed the shot from his original position, but I thought he should have played it from where he found it. Who's right?
–Joe Beland, Santa Rosa, Calif.
My, your course marshal flies low. According to Rule 19-1 ("Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped"), your brother should have played his ball without penalty from wherever it came to rest. But since he played from the spot of his last stroke, Rule 27-la says he's deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance, so he's now lying four, hitting five.
Rules Man: During a recent round, I marked and picked up my ball on the green. There was sand scattered on my putting line, so I brushed it away with my hat—and inadvertently struck and moved my marker. Am I penalized?
–Larry, via e-mail
Larry, hats are so…bourgeois. I much prefer removing those pesky grains with a handsome silk ascot. Either way, the Rules are in your favor. Only on the green is sand considered a loose impediment, and under Rule 23-1, there's no penalty for your hand, hat or glove causing your marker to move while you're discarding said impediments.
Hi, Rules Guy: My friend's shot stopped in the rough on a tree-lined ridge. His only option was to play the ball backward, with his club rotated 180 degrees. For support and balance while hitting the awkward shot, he held onto a nearby tree trunk. Is this allowed?
–S. L. Wakama, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria
Your friend sounds very flexible, which I'm not when it comes to the Rules. But in this case he's entitled to play the course as he finds it, so if he needs to hug a tree to balance himself, it's okay. However, moving an object that he finds or may have with him (such as a rake, a stake or a cart) in order to steady himself is not okay.
THE GRAIN EVENT
Rules Guru: My course has a par-3 that features an old brick silo on the right side of the fairway, about 50 yards short of the green. What's the proper drop for a shot that ends up inside the silo? –Anonymous, via e-mail
I haven't gone near a silo since I watched Harrison Ford sentence that baddie to death by corn in Witness! But I do know that a silo is an immovable obstruction. If you can find your ball inside, determine the nearest point of relief and drop within one club-length of that spot, not nearer the hole, with no penalty. If you can't find your ball, you still get free relief. Start at the edge of the silo where your ball disappeared and determine the nearest point of relief from there. Then drop within one club-length of that spot, not nearer the hole.
Hey, Rules Regulator! I tripped and grounded my club in the bunker to keep from falling. Did I incur a penalty for touching the sand?
–Bob Eaton, Corpus Christi, Texas
In this case, you don't have to take two strokes for "testing" the bunker. Rule 13-4 prohibits you from touching the ground with your club, but Exception 1 allows it if you're attempting to prevent a fall. Just make sure to rake on your way out.