Ask the Rules Guy: Can a player overrule his or her partner in match play?

November 9, 2017

In a foursomes match, an opponent and I each had three-footers left for par. “Good-good?” I offered. He said, “Okay,” but before he picked up his partner said, “No, putt them.” He missed, I made for the win…at which point they argued that the offer accepted by the player putting was binding and the hole had been halved. So, can a player overrule his partner in this scenario or not? 

Your opponents are bad-bad, from the “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” school of fairness. Per Rule 2-4, once a concession has been made (by either partner in team play), it can’t be declined or withdrawn. Likewise, in a “good-good?” concession offer, acceptance by either opponent is binding. There are no overrules. So, in this instance, your opponents would get a halve on the hole…but rest assured the golf gods will catch up to them very, very soon.

My opponent’s drive landed in a drainage ditch, with no stakes defining it as a hazard. He argued that since the ditch is man-made, he’s entitled to relief. I said he must drop two club-lengths from the point of entry, with a one-stroke penalty. Who is the rat in a drainage ditch here?

Neither of you is a rat, but both of your arguments are sinking ships. Your opponent can’t just grant himself relief—unless you let him—and you can’t just penalize him, either. It’s best to check with the committee in charge to determine what, exactly, the area is. Sometimes a surface drainage ditch meets the definition of a water hazard, even if it’s unmarked, but sometimes it’s ground under repair, and other times it’s simply treated as “through the green” and the ball must be played as it lies. If the committee isn’t available and you two can agree on how to define the ditch, you’re welcome to do so. If your opponent takes the law into his own hands by granting himself relief, you need to make a claim before anyone tees off on the next hole for the committee to review later. It will lead to his losing the hole if he’s wrong. Stroke play instead? Under Rule 3-3, play two balls and have the committee clarify the matter later.

My ball landed in a greenside bunker. Then my playing partner’s approach shot hit my ball, causing it to bury slightly. Am I entitled to any kind of relief?

Like sand through an hourglass, so are the rounds of our lives…In fact, your situation isn’t much of a soap opera. You are entitled to relief. Under Rule 18-5, replace a ball at rest moved by another ball to its original spot, and under Rule 20-3b(iii), if the lie changed, re-create the original lie, too. Now go ingrain the rules in your system.

I’ve seen Tour pros on TV use the AimPoint system for reading the greens, where they straddle the putt’s intended line to get a feel for the slope. How much leeway on either side of the line do you get before this is a Rules violation?

Not to walk a fine line, but the relevant standard is “a reasonable distance.” Straddling the line? Fine. Strolling on the line, which includes a reasonable distance on either side? Problematic. If you’re concerned about an opponent or fellow competitor’s action under Rule 16-1a, raise it with the player or refer it to the committee. Remember, if you’re carrying a flatstick, walk smartly.

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!