Rules Guy: What Happens If Two Pitched Balls Collide on the Green?

October 22, 2016
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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!

Rules Guy, Let’s say two pitch shots are struck simultaneously from opposite sides of an elevated green that keeps the golfers from seeing each other. Their balls collide. Do both players hit from where the balls came to rest? And are there any penalties? — JIM KELLY, VIA E-MAIL

Stroke play and match play are on a collision course here, Jim. Rule 19-5b states that when a player’s ball in motion is deflected by another player’s ball in motion (neither one played from the putting green), each must play the ball as it lies without penalty. In match play, however, there’s a potential twist: If your ball hits your opponent’s ball when they’re both in motion, and he’s played out of turn, you can call a do-over on these simultaneous shots and restore both balls to their original positions. Now, if your shot deflected into the hole while your rival’s ricocheted into the bunker, you’d surely not demand a do-over, and vice versa. Either way, you may not cancel just one of the strokes, even if it benefits you. When you play by the Rules, it’s all or nothing — not à la carte.

Rules Boss, During a recent match, my ball came to rest just outside a fairway bunker, but I had to take a stance in the bunker — and the trap contained standing water, which I was forced to stand in. Was I entitled to relief even though only my stance, not my ball, was affected by water? — JAY DRAFFIN, COLUMBIA, S.C.

Jay, if you took relief, you’re not all wet — you made the right call. Players often get confused about what to do when the ball is in one condition and their stance is in another. When the ball lies “through the green” (i.e., just about anywhere that’s not the tee, the green or a hazard), interference caused by abnormal ground conditions (such as casual water) or immovable obstructions (like cart paths) includes the stance, and you’re entitled to relief. Find the nearest point of relief not in the hazard and take a free drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. This may or may not place your stance outside the bunker, but it will ensure that your DryJoys stay dry.

Dear Rules Man, My tee shot hit a tree 30 yards ahead of the tee box and flew right back at me. As I jumped out of the way, the ball hit my foot and bounced into a nearby water hazard. Where do I drop, and what do I lie? — BRYAN MARKS, VIA E-MAIL

“Kick save, and a beauty!” If the PGA Tour isn’t in your future, maybe the NHL is. First, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 19-2, since you accidentally deflected your own ball. And you have to play the ball as it lies. Assuming you’re unable to play it from the hazard, you may take relief under the Water Hazard Rule, Rule 26-1, incurring another one-stroke penalty and hitting your fourth shot. Rules Guy’s advice? Aim better, or jump quicker.