Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ask Linda #50-Unintended ball cleaning

Hi Linda,

I was playing a better ball match play match and the following happened:
Both of my opponents’ balls were off the green. I noticed one ball on the fringe and the other further away.
My partner and I went up to the green to mark our balls and after doing so we noticed that our opponent’s ball closest to the green but still in the fringe had disappeared.
So I asked her “Where is your ball?” She answered “Well, it is here in my pocket because I marked my ball on request of my partner.”

I called her on the fact that she cleaned her ball by putting it in her pocket. There was no question about the fact that she cleaned her ball. Spectators noticed that.
The ruling was that she had a one stroke penalty.

She was mad at me calling her on this but I told her that she has to announce that she is going to pick up the ball and is not allowed to clean it. If she had told me I would have answered that yes, she could lift her ball, but she should be aware that you do not clean your ball.

What is your opinion on this?
Can she pick up the ball without notifying me?
The pro agreed with me, ruling that she put the ball in her pocket and by doing so cleaned it.

Happy Easter,

Dear Lulu,
The rule that allows a player to have another ball lifted that is interfering with her play (Rule 22-2) is a little different from the rules regarding lifting a ball to determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3) or lifting a ball to identify it (Rule 12-2). Under those two rules, you have to announce your intention to lift the ball, and your opponent (match play) or your fellow competitor (stroke play) must be allowed to observe the entire process. This is to allow the other player to agree (or disagree) that your ball is unfit or that the ball you need to identify is yours.

Rule 22-2, which allows another player to ask you to lift your ball if it is interfering with her play, does not have the same requirement regarding observation. This is primarily because the ball clearly belongs to that player, and she is not asking for corroboration that the ball is unfit for play. She is simply being asked to lift her ball that is in someone else’s way.

That being said, it never hurts to notify your opponent that you have been asked to lift a ball. In the situation you describe, the player would have saved herself a penalty stroke had she informed you, since you would have reminded her that a ball that is lifted because it is interfering with play may not be cleaned, and that she should therefore be very careful how she handles that ball. You may have noticed while watching golf on television that when a player lifts a ball that is not permitted to be cleaned, she lifts and holds it carefully between two fingers, so that there will be no question as to whether the ball was cleaned.

The player in your story learned her lesson the hard way, but it was poor manners for her to become angry with you for correctly penalizing her infraction. She should have been annoyed at herself, as her ignorance of the rule cost her a stroke. Indeed, she should thank you for pointing out her infraction; if this had been a stroke play event, and she didn’t count that penalty stroke in her score for the hole, she would be signing a score card whose total would be one stroke too low, which would result in her disqualification!

There is no question that your opponent would be assessed one penalty stroke for cleaning the ball when she put it in her pocket. Had she tossed the ball to her caddie, or if her partner had lifted the ball and tossed it to her, she would likewise be assessed one penalty stroke for cleaning the ball. In both cases, even though there may not have been any intent to clean the ball, clearly some dirt would be removed by placing it in one’s pocket or tossing and catching it. These are instances in which any doubt about whether the ball was cleaned would be resolved against the player.


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ask Linda #49-Relief from OB wall

Dear Linda,
I read on your blog that there is no free relief from an out of bounds wall [Rules #3-Relief Options, March 16]. OB walls are man-made, just like things you do get free relief from (water fountains, pump houses, etc.). I’m going to have a hard time convincing my buddies to add a penalty stroke when they drop away from an OB fence. Why can’t you get free relief from them?
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Constructions that define out of bounds, such as walls, fences, or stakes, are not obstructions; the rule book defines them as being “fixed,” and there is no free relief from fixed objects.

Let’s take out a moment and review the parts of the definitions of obstructions and out of bounds in Section II of the USGA rule book that relate to your question. “Obstructions” are defined as “anything artificial…EXCEPT objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings.” The definition of “Out of Bounds” states that “objects defining out of bounds…are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed.”

While you are entitled to free relief from obstructions [see Rules #2-Relief Options, posted on March 7], there is no free relief from objects that are fixed. If you are unable to hit your ball because of interference from a fixed object (and constructions that define out of bounds come under that heading), you will have to declare the ball unplayable and follow the procedures I outlined on March 16 under Rules #3 (Unplayable Ball).

If a player mistakenly identifies an OB construction as an obstruction and lifts and drops his ball at the nearest point of relief (NPR), here is how he is penalized and how he should proceed:

1. He is assessed a one-stroke penalty for moving his ball (Rule 18-2a), and must replace the ball before he plays his next shot. After replacing it, if he decides to declare it unplayable, he will have to add an additional one-stroke penalty under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable) when he chooses one of the options provided by that rule.
2. If he hits that ball that he dropped under the inapplicable rule (Rule 24-2, Immovable Obstructions, is not the correct rule for this situation), he loses the hole in match play or is assessed two penalty strokes in stroke play.

If you explain to your buddies that OB walls, fences, etc., are NOT obstructions, and that it will cost them TWO strokes instead of one for proceeding incorrectly, that might give them pause for thought. If you carry a 2008 rule book (and everyone should), then the definitions I referred to are on pages 13 and 14; you might want to highlight the sentences referring to objects defining out of bounds being fixed (page 14, definition of Out of Bounds, last paragraph before first Note), and not being obstructions (page 13, definition of Obstructions, first paragraph plus sub-section “a”).

Lou, if this happens in a tournament, and your fellow competitor still disputes your assertion that he is not entitled to free relief, then you might suggest to him that he play two balls under Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure) and resolve the matter with the tournament officials at the table where you turn in your score card PRIOR to signing it. Playing two balls (one his way, one according to the rules) will save him from an additional penalty stroke and possible disqualification – he will be grateful, in retrospect, for your wise advice.

I will explain Rule 3-3, which I call the “ounce of prevention rule,” in a future column.


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rules #3-Relief Options, Part II: Unplayable Ball

Last week, in Part I of Relief Options, I explained how to find relief when you have interference from an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition, or a wrong putting green. Relief was found within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. There was no charge (no penalty stroke assessed) for this relief, since these are all features of the golf course that were not designed to be obstacles.

Today I will talk about what to do when your ball is unplayable. This is a situation in which you will have to pay for the privilege of taking relief. Be aware that it will always cost you one stroke when you are seeking relief from some condition that is actually supposed to be there (e.g., tree roots, out of bounds walls, fescue). The only good news is that, since you are adding a stroke to your score, you have a choice of relief options.

Except when your ball is in a water hazard, you may declare your ball to be unplayable anywhere on the golf course. Once you have done so, you have three choices. Each choice will add one penalty stroke to your score:
1. Play a ball under stroke and distance (i.e., play a ball from where you hit your previous shot).
2. Drop a ball on the line-of-sight to the hole (i.e., draw a line from the hole through your ball continuing as far back as you wish, and drop anywhere on the part of this line that is behind your ball).
3. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of where your unplayable ball lies, no closer to the hole.
Remember to assess your situation before you pick up your ball; once you lift it, it will cost you one penalty stroke, even if you decide to put it back and not take relief.

If you declare your ball unplayable in a bunker, you still have these three relief options, but two of them have restrictions. The only way to take the ball out of the bunker is to proceed under stroke and distance (#1 above). If you take either the line-of-sight or the two club-lengths option (#2 and #3 above), the ball MUST be dropped in the bunker.

A few things you need to know…

1. Out of bounds walls and fences are NOT obstructions; you do NOT get free relief. If they interfere with your shot, and you decide to take relief, you will have to declare your ball unplayable, add one penalty stroke, and proceed under one of the options I described above.

2. You don’t have to find or identify your ball if you are proceeding under stroke and distance. However, in order to proceed under the other options (line-of-sight, two club-lengths), you must find and identify your ball.
Note: In order to protect yourself from receiving a penalty stroke for moving your ball (Rule 18-2a), always announce your intention to declare your ball unplayable before you get close enough to possibly cause it to move. You may always change your mind after you assess the situation and decide to play it where it lies.

3. After you drop your ball, if it is still unplayable (either because it rolled back into the same situation or into another unplayable situation), it will cost you another penalty stroke to take relief a second time. Best advice: Choose your relief option with care!

4. Let’s say you hit a ball that hits a tree and ricochets behind you into an unplayable lie. If you proceed under stroke and distance, you will legally be dropping your ball closer to the hole than where it now lies (see Decision 28/8).

5. If your unplayable ball is not in a hazard, and the relief option you choose will have you dropping in a hazard, you are permitted to drop in the hazard. (Your playing partners are free to question your sanity, however.)

6. If your ball is lying against the trunk of a large shade tree or nestled deep in the woods, and you choose the two club-lengths relief option, please measure before you lift your ball. If it takes six club-lengths to get out into the open, it will cost you three penalty strokes to get there.

7. Suppose your ball has taken up residence in a tree. (I find that this rarely happens in real life, but happens surprisingly often in the rule book!) If you choose the two club-lengths relief option, which you will measure from the point on the ground directly below where you ball is perched in the tree, there may be a time where that will cause you to drop on a green. It would be permissible to do so.

8. If you declare your ball unplayable, lift it, and then discover that the ball was actually in ground under repair, then as long as you have not put your ball into play under the unplayable rule you may take free relief from the GUR (NPR plus one club-length; see Relief Options, Part I).

In Part III of Relief Options, I will talk about water hazards. Until then, try to stay on dry land!

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ask Linda #48-Lifting and Replacing

(Note: The following inquiry from Lulu was a two-part question. Operating under the theory that “divide and conquer” might be the best approach to avoid unnecessary confusion, I have separated the questions and answered them individually.)

Question #1:
Dear Linda,

I am having a problem understanding the intent in Rules 20-1 and 20-3. Can you help me?

Rule 20-1. A ball may be lifted by a player, his partner or another person authorized by the player. To me that implies a ball MAY NOT be lifted by anyone other than the player, his partner or another person authorized by the player. The PLAYER incurs the penalty for a breach of the rule. Is a breach of the rule a failure to mark the ball and have it replaced properly? Or is it also a breach of the rule to have the ball lifted by someone other than the player, his partner or another person authorized by the player?

Decision 20-1/2. Player's ball lifted by opponent without authority of player. The opponent got a penalty stroke.
Decision 20-1/4. In stroke play a fellow competitor lifts a competitor's ball without the authority of the competitor. There was no penalty. Does Rule 20-1 apply only in match play?

Thanks for your help.

Dear Lulu,

I believe I can more easily clear up your confusion if I go straight to a specific example of a ball being lifted. Let’s consider a ball on the putting green. You (naturally) may mark and lift it; if you have a partner, she may mark and lift it (no need for her to ask your permission); another person in your group may lift and mark it (this person will need your permission to do so). If any of these AUTHORIZED people neglects to mark the ball before lifting (a highly unlikely occurrence, from my point of view), the player will incur a one-stroke penalty; if any of them accidentally moves the ball before marking it (perhaps they absentmindedly kick it while reaching into their pocket for a spare ball marker), the player will incur a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is replaced incorrectly, and the error is not corrected, the player will incur a two-stroke penalty. THE KEY POINT TO REMEMBER HERE IS THAT THE PENALTY IS ASSESSED TO THE PLAYER BECAUSE HER BALL IS INVOLVED AND THESE THREE PEOPLE ARE ALL AUTHORIZED TO LIFT THE BALL.

The situation changes if an UNAUTHORIZED person lifts the ball. In MATCH PLAY, if your opponent marks and lifts your ball without your permission, your opponent incurs a one-stroke penalty (18-3b). In STROKE PLAY (18-4), there is no penalty for doing this. That explains the difference in the two Decisions you cited.

Question #2:
Dear Linda,

Rule 20-3. A ball to be replaced must be replaced by the player, his partner or the person who lifted it.

Does that mean.....
1. If the partner lifted the ball, the PLAYER could replace it?
2. If the PLAYER lifted the ball, the partner could replace it?
3. If a person authorized to lift the ball (neither the player nor the partner) lifted the ball, either the PLAYER or the partner could replace it?
4. If a person authorized to lift the ball (neither the player nor the partner) lifted the ball must this person be the ONLY person to replace it?
5. Must whoever lifts the ball (player, partner or person authorized to lift the ball) be the only person to replace it? In other words..."whoever lifts must replace"?
I hope this makes sense. As Rules Chairperson of my club I know I am going to be questioned on this one.

Thanks again for your help.

Dear Lulu,

Let’s revisit that ball that was marked and lifted on the putting green and now needs to be replaced. There are three people who may replace the ball: you (the player), your partner (if you have one), or the person who lifted it. Any one of these people may replace the ball; there is no rule that states “whoever lifts must replace.”

The answers to your five questions, therefore, are:
1. Yes (partner lifts ball, player may replace it)
2. Yes (player lifts ball, partner may replace it)
3. Yes (authorized person lifts ball, player or partner or authorized person may replace it)
4. No (ball does NOT have to be replaced by person who lifted it)
5. No (same as #4)

I hope I have clarified both rules for you. This was an interesting challenge!


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Ask Linda #36-New Handicap Rules

A note to my readers: This column was written on January 15, but somehow was never posted on my blog.

Dear Linda,

I have heard that there will be some changes to the golf rules in 2008. Is this true? Can you tell me what they will be?


Dear Lulu,

Your sources are correct, dear. The USGA changes, modifies, and does some subtle tweaking to the Rules of Golf every four years, and 2008 is one of those years of change. I would strongly recommend that you and all my readers purchase a new USGA Rules of Golf Book soon, as your old one is now obsolete.

There are a few important changes this year. I will explain them to you early in March. Since I am attending a USGA Rules of Golf Workshop at the end of February, I thought it best to wait until after that class so that I can let you know all the new rules as well as their correct interpretations. [Please see Rules #1 – 2008 Rules Changes, which I posted in February.]

However, I don’t want you to have to leave this communication empty-handed, so I will explain two new changes to the handicap system in 2008 that you will notice as soon as you visit the GHIN.com website.

Prior to January 1, when you visited GHIN.com looking for a fellow golfer’s handicap and scoring information, you would find the date and course on which each round was played. Now you will only see the month and the score, with no reference to the course or the particular day. The USGA made this change because it was concerned with privacy issues. However, the Handicap Committee at your club, fellow club members, and officials in charge of any outside tournaments in which you compete will be able to access your complete record. (You can do this from your computer only if you know the golfer’s GHIN number.)

The other major change to handicap procedures is that GAP and the NJSGA are now set up to accept scores if you are playing winter golf in a state where golf is in an “active” season” (such as Florida). If you winter in the warm and sunny South, you no longer have to keep a record of your scores and post them all at once when you return home. You may post those scores at the club, if it has a GHIN computer, or you may post them online at GHIN.com. Your Handicap Index will be revised once a month from now until April 1, which is the date when golf once again becomes “active” in New Jersey.

So go out and purchase a new rule book, look over the principal changes (located in the front of the book), consider reviewing all the rules in the book (you spent good money on the book – might as well read it), and I promise to explain the changes to you in March.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller

Ask Linda #47-when to post scores

Dear Linda,

It is my understanding that scores be posted in a timely manner. What does that mean, (especially as it applies to tournament eligibility) and please specifically address the posting of scores from an area, like Florida, in the winter, where your home course is closed for the season.
Thank You!

Dear Lulu,

The USGA would like you to post your score at your course immediately following your round. This is the preferred timing for posting your scores. If you are unable to do so, then your score should be posted as soon as possible. If you miss the chance to post at your club, and your club permits internet posting, then you should post your score as soon as you get home. (I promise not to send the score-posting police to your door if you feed the cat, eat dinner, and walk the dog before you post your score!)

When you enter tournaments that are played under USGA rules, the expectation is that all competitors are adhering to the USGA-recommended policy of posting scores immediately after the round or as soon thereafter as practical.

Regarding posting winter scores, there have been two major changes to the handicap system this year, and this is one of them. You are now able (and expected) to post winter scores if you are playing golf where the season is active. Both the NJSGA and the GAP are now accepting scores from active areas and are updating handicaps monthly throughout the winter. You can post these scores at the course if they provide a computer for that service, or post via the GHIN.com site on the internet.

I was just about to refer you to “Ask Linda #36-New Handicap Rules” for a full explanation of the two significant changes to the 2008 handicap system, but I checked my blog and, lo and behold, that column was never posted! I will remedy that situation immediately by posting #36 today. Fortunately, I’m a rules pack rat, so I have that column saved in my files.


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ask Linda #46-How many provisionals?

I played in a tournament about 2 years ago and on the first tee a player sliced his drive into the woods. He promptly said he would hit a provisional, which also sliced into the woods. Again, he hit another provisional which was in the fairway. Upon searching the woods (and I don't remember if 5 minutes elapsed), he announced he found his first ball and played it to the hole without any penalty. Question, can you hit more than one provisional and, if so, is the scoring 2 strokes for each provisional if original ball is lost.
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
This question sounds a bit like the old tongue twister “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”.

Here is your straightforward, no frills answer:

1. If you find your original ball within five minutes after you begin your search, you MUST play it. (Don’t forget to pick up the two provisionals – it sounds like there’s a good chance you will need them before you complete your round!)

2. If you do not find your original ball within five minutes (rendering it “lost”), and you find the first provisional ball, you must play that ball and it lies three. Your next shot will be your fourth.

3. If the only ball you are able to find is the second provisional, it lies five. Your next shot will be your sixth.

There is no limit to the number of provisional balls you are permitted to hit.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone to put a personal identification mark on each ball in your golf bag. If you carry several golf balls with the same brand and number, put a different mark on each ball; if the numbers are different, your mark on each ball can be the same.

When you are hitting a provisional, you should announce which ball you played first and which ball you are playing as a provisional. For example: “My original was a Titleist 2 with red and black dots; my provisional is a Titleist 3 with red and black dots” (same brand, same mark, different numbers). If you hit a second provisional, you might announce: “My second provisional is a Titleist 2 with three green dots” (same brand, same number, different marking).

Hit ‘em straight, all you Lou Lou’s out there; less math = more fun!


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rules #2-Relief Options, Part I: Finding the NPR

There comes a time during a round of golf when you may choose or are required to play your ball from some place other than where it ended up. Perhaps you hit it out of bounds, lost it in a water hazard, or knocked it down a rabbit hole; maybe it landed in a puddle of water, got stuck in a tree, or is resting on a bench (you might want to rest, too, if someone were pounding you with a club all day!).

Different rules will apply to different situations. Sometimes you get free relief; other times you pay for it. Sometimes you have several choices of where to drop the ball; other times you are restricted to dropping the ball in a specific area.

I am going to try to help clear up the mystery of where to drop the ball by addressing each different situation in a separate article. For today’s topic I will explain when you are permitted to drop your ball with no penalty at the nearest point of relief (NPR), and how to find that point.

You are entitled to FREE relief when you are unable or unwilling to hit your ball because of interference from an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition, or a wrong putting green. Let’s pause a moment and define those terms:

1. IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS are artificial, man-made objects such as paved cart paths, water fountains, electrical boxes, pump houses, etc. that you are unable to pick up and move. I should mention that objects that define out of bounds (e.g., walls and fences) are NOT obstructions – you DO NOT get free relief if they are in the way of your swing.

2. ABNORMAL GROUND CONDITIONS are casual water, ground under repair (GUR), or holes made by burrowing animals. Casual water refers to such temporary things as puddles, overflow from water hazards, and ground that is so wet that you see the water rising around your shoes when you take your stance.

3. WRONG PUTTING GREEN refers to any green other than the one that belongs to the hole you are playing. You are REQUIRED to take relief if your ball is lying on a wrong putting green; indeed, you will incur a two-stroke penalty if you hit a ball that lies on the wrong green. (Please read Ask Linda #43 for the complete story about how to proceed when your ball lands on a wrong green.)

What all of these immovable obstructions and abnormal ground conditions have in common is they are not supposed to be in your way (unlike trees, fescue, and azaleas, all of which live on the golf course). Therefore, the rules provide their version of a “get out of jail free” card. What they tell you in Rules 24 and 25 is that if your ball lies in or on an immovable obstruction or an abnormal ground condition, or they interfere with your stance (where you are placing your feet) or the area of your swing, you are entitled to free relief.

Note: It is very important that you understand that this free relief does not entitle you to a clear shot at the green; you may still have to hit your ball over the puddle or the water fountain or the electrical box after you take relief.

If your ball lands in one of these predicaments, the rule book will tell you that you may drop your ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief (NPR), and it also tells you that the spot you choose may not be closer to the hole. Let’s review the procedure for finding this magical NPR.

My first, and perhaps most important, piece of advice is DON’T PICK UP YOUR BALL until you evaluate your relief options. The NEAREST point of relief may not be the NICEST point of relief. If the NPR for a ball lying on a cart path would be in the middle of a group of sticker bushes, you might prefer to take your medicine and hit it off the path. Once you pick that ball up off the cart path, if you decide to put it back because the cure (where you would be permitted to drop) is worse than the disease (the cart path) you will incur a one-stroke penalty for moving your ball. So always look before you lift!

Here is the procedure for finding the NPR (I will use a cart path running alongside the fairway for my example):

1. You will need to use two different clubs to find the NPR. First, select the club you would have used to hit the ball if the cart path weren’t there (perhaps a pitching wedge or a 6-iron). Next, move away from the ball (angling slightly away from the hole) to the spot on the course closest to where your ball lay where your feet are not on the path, and your club, in a natural address position, is not touching the path. Put a tee (or marker) in the ground where the clubhead touches the ground. Now, using any club in your bag (most players will select their longest club for this measurement), lay it on the ground with one end at the tee and the other end no closer to the hole. Place a tee in the ground at the end of this club. You may now drop your ball in the quarter circle area bounded by the two tees and the arc described by the radius that is your club going away from the hole with one end anchored at the first tee you put in the ground. (This area will be MUCH easier to visualize if you look at the diagram in Decision 25-1b/2. I have explained at the bottom of this article under Additional Information, Note 3, how to find that Decision online.) When you drop the ball, if it rolls closer to the hole, into a hazard, out of a hazard (if you were in one), onto a putting green, out of bounds, more than two club-lengths from where it hit the ground, or rolls to a spot where you will still have interference from the condition from which you are trying to get relief, then you will have to re-drop. (I will explain dropping and re-dropping at a later date; for a sneak preview, read Rule 20).

Note 1: You are not required to go through the procedure of marking the area in which you will drop the ball. As long as the spot on which you drop the ball is no closer to the hole and within one club-length of the NPR, you have dropped in the correct spot.

Note 2: While my example was a cart path on the side of a fairway, bear in mind that when you take relief in other situations (e.g., from a water fountain, or a cart path crossing the fairway), the one club-length area starting at the nearest point of relief in which you may drop your ball could be almost as large as a half circle.

2. If your ball is in a bunker (you may be looking to get relief from casual water, for example), follow the procedure in #1 above. However, please note that for FREE relief, the ball MUST be dropped IN the bunker. You may drop it outside the bunker on the line-of-sight to the hole, but taking the ball out of the bunker will cost you a penalty stroke (add one stroke to your score).

3. On a putting green (the likely culprit here will be casual water) you will be placing the ball instead of dropping it, and you are permitted to place it off the putting green if that is where you have to go to find the nearest relief.

Note 1: On a putting green or in a bunker, if complete relief is not available, you are allowed to find the maximum relief possible. Elsewhere, you must take COMPLETE relief.

Note 2: You may not take relief if something else is interfering with your stroke. For example, if you would have to stand on a cart path to hit your ball, but your ball is lodged between tree roots in an unplayable lie, you are not entitled to free relief from the cart path. You would have to proceed under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).

Note 3: For an excellent diagram showing how to find the nearest point of relief, see Decision 25-1b/2 on page 357 in the Decisions book (Decisions on the Rules of Golf), or visit:


scroll down the left side and click on Rule 25, then scroll down the lower right side under Decisions and click on 25-1b/2.

Note 4: If the casual water looks more like a lake than a puddle, and you cannot retrieve your ball without a rowboat, then the point of reference from which you will establish the NPR is the point where your ball entered the casual water. This would also hold true for a sizable area of GUR.

Note 5: Freedom of relief does not mean freedom of choice. If you are a right-handed player, and your ball is lying in the middle of a cart path, then your NPR will be on the left side of the cart path. Even if dropping on that left side would put your ball in a virtually unplayable lie (dense undergrowth, for example) and dropping on the right side would put you on the fairway, you do not get to choose which side to drop it on. The only time you have a choice is when there are two relief points that are equidistant from your ball.

Note 6: The rule book makes no distinction between fairway and rough. If your ball is lying in the rough in a situation that entitles you to free relief, and the nearest relief is on the fairway, it’s your lucky day. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, which is why I strongly advise you to always check out your options before you lift the ball.

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ask Linda #45-moving ball marker on green

Dear Linda,
Would you please explain how to properly move your ball marker on the green when someone asks you to move it because it is in the way of their putt? I have seen some strange procedures that don’t look too kosher to me!

Dear Lulu,
There is more than one correct way to move a ball marker on a green. The most important thing to remember, when you are asked to move your ball marker off someone’s line of putt, is this:


Here are a couple of scenarios:

1. You have already marked your ball.
Someone asks you to move it one clubhead-length to the left. Place the heel of your putter alongside your marker, line the toe up with a fixed object on the course (a tree would do the job nicely), pick up your marker and place it in front of the toe. When you reverse the procedure, you will replace your marker and then replace your ball.

2. You have not yet marked your ball when asked to move it.
You may mark it and then follow the procedure in #1 above. You may, instead, place the heel of the putter at the side of your ball, line up the toe with a fixed object, and place a marker in front of the toe. When you reverse the procedure, you will line your putter up with the fixed object and replace the ball at the heel of your putter.

Note 1: Repositioning of your ball or ball marker on the putting green is by CLUBHEAD lengths, NOT by CLUB lengths. We’re talking inches, not feet!

Note 2: If you forget to replace your ball before you putt, you will experience some pretty harsh penalties. In stroke play, you would incur a two-stroke penalty and you would then have to place the ball in the correct spot and putt it from there. Even worse, if this occurred in a tournament and you failed to putt the ball from the correct spot before you teed off on the next hole, you would be disqualified! (Sounds a bit like overkill, don’t you think?) In match play, you would lose the hole.

USEFUL TIP: I learned this from a wily old veteran, and it has stood me in good stead over the years. When you move your ball marker on a green, place it upside-down in its new position. That way, even if you have been distracted by a heron flying overhead or a hawk capturing a mouse, the unusual occurrence of seeing the flip side of your marker will trigger your memory and remind you to replace the ball.

ETIQUETTE SUGGESTION: If you notice someone forgetting to replace a moved marker, please remind them to replace it BEFORE they putt.


Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.