Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ask Linda #243-Touching ball at address

Hi Linda,

Good day. My buddy has a habit of placing his putter very close to his ball at address when putting, oftentimes touching it. I told him he should incur a stroke penalty because the ball is already in play. He argued that it is fine as long as the ball does not move. Is that right? So what's the ruling on this one?

Thank you very much and keep up the good work.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

The general rule is that a player is not permitted to purposely touch his ball in play. However, there is an exception to that rule: a player is permitted to touch the ball with his club when he addresses it [18-2a, i].

Your buddy is correct in telling you that there is no penalty for touching the ball with his putter as long as he does not move the ball.

Great care must be taken when touching the ball at address that the ball is not accidentally moved. Should that happen, the ball must be replaced and the penalty is one stroke.

Needless to say, the cautious golfer would be advised to break this habit.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ask Linda #242-Changing balls

Dear Linda,

During a match, my opponent hit a Titleist on the 16th hole. She played an old Nike on the 17th hole (there was a hazard to cross and she didn’t want to use a new ball). On the 18th hole, she put away the old ball and played the same Titleist again. Is she allowed to do that? (We are not required to play the same brand and type of golf ball in our matches.)


Dear Lulu,

Your opponent was entitled to use ball A on hole #16, ball B on hole #17, and ball A once again on hole #18.

If the One Ball Condition is not in effect, a player may start a hole with any ball. She must use that same ball for play of the entire hole, unless she loses it or the ball becomes unfit for play. A ball is unfit only if it is visibly cut, cracked, or out of shape.

Interestingly enough, there is no penalty if a player uses a ball that was declared unfit on a subsequent hole. However, if she does so, she loses the right to declare it unfit a second time for the same damage [Decision 5-3/2].


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask Linda #241-Good drop, bad drop

Hi Linda,

I was wondering if you could help me with the following situation.

A player hits his tee shot into a lateral hazard located to the left of a dogleg par 5. The last point that the ball crossed the margin of the hazard is about 25 yards in front of the tee. The player goes to the last point the ball crossed the margin of the hazard and drops the ball within two club lengths of that spot. After dropping, another player in the group says that there is a drop zone located to the right of the fairway near the tee. Is the player permitted to lift the ball which has already been dropped and then use the drop area?

If the player lifts the ball and plays from the drop area, is there a penalty and how should the player proceed?

Thank you.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

My answer is going to make someone very unhappy, Lou.

When the player dropped a ball within two club-lengths of the lateral hazard the ball was in play. He should have played that ball and filed away the existence of a Dropping Zone in his head for future rounds.

When he picked up the ball that he had properly dropped, he incurred a one-stroke penalty for lifting a ball in play [Rule 18-2a]. Even if he realized he wasn’t permitted to do this, and immediately replaced the ball, he would still incur the penalty.

When the player dropped the ball in the Dropping Zone and played it, he was playing from a wrong place, which is a two-stroke penalty [Rule 20-7]. He has now accumulated three penalty strokes, but it could get worse. If the player tees off on the next hole, and it is determined that he gained a significant advantage by playing from the wrong place (the Dropping Zone), he is disqualified.

If the player was unsure whether he was permitted to use the Dropping Zone, he should have played two balls – the one he dropped next to the hazard, and another from the Dropping Zone. At the end of his round, the score he got with the ball he played from next to the hazard would be ruled the player’s score for the hole. There is no penalty for playing the second ball [Rule 3-3].

The only free way out of this mess would be if the Committee had a requirement that players use the Dropping Zone. This is a fairly rare requirement, since the USGA recommends that Dropping Zones be an additional relief option, rather than mandatory [Appendix I, Part B, 8].


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ask Linda #240-Repairing ball marks


When your ball is just off the green and you have elected to putt can you fix ball marks on the green?


Dear Lulu,


Rule 16-1c states that the player is allowed to “repair damage to the putting green caused by the impact of a ball, whether or not the player’s ball lies on the putting green.”

It makes no difference whether you are putting or chipping onto the green. You are always permitted to repair ball marks that are on the green.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ask Linda #239 - Different rules for team games?

Linda, our club often holds tournaments where we play as a four-person team.

Are the rules different in a team game? Can you ask a partner for advice such as what club did he use? Can I leave my ball behind the hole if I feel it might benefit my partner who is chipping onto the green?

Thank you, Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Your first question is simple to answer. A player is entitled to ask his partner for advice, and also to give him advice [Rule 8-1]. If he has three partners, he may give or get advice from any of them.

Your second question is a bit tricky. A player whose chip from off the green strikes another ball on the green incurs no penalty – the player who chipped the ball will play his ball as it lies, and the other ball must be replaced [Rule 18-5]. However, if two players agree to leave a ball in place that might assist another player (regardless of whether they are partners), both players are disqualified [Rule 22-1 and Rule 31-7].

If no discussion has taken place, there is no penalty – the USGA has yet to penalize a player for his thoughts. But if you remark that you are going to leave your ball behind the hole because it may serve as a backstop for your partner’s chip, and your partner says: “Gee, Bob, that’s a great idea,” you are both disqualified. Once you have indicated your intention aloud, you can only avoid disqualification by marking and lifting your ball before your partner chips his.

When a player’s ball is in a position where it might help another player, he is permitted to decide on his own whether to lift it; he is required to lift it if he is asked to do so. If a player sees that another ball might assist a different player, he may request that the ball be lifted, and his request must be granted.

When any ball interferes with your play, you may ask that it be lifted, and the player must lift that ball. However, if your ball is in the way, you are not permitted to lift it unless you have been requested to do so. If you lift that ball without being asked, you are penalized one stroke for lifting a ball in play (Rule 18-2a).

Of course, you are always permitted to mark and lift a ball that lies on the putting green, and you may clean that ball. If you lift a ball any place else on the golf course that is assisting or interfering with play (this lifting is permitted anywhere on the course, including in hazards), you are not permitted to clean it. That ball should be held carefully in two fingers; if you drop it into your pocket, that is tantamount to cleaning it; the penalty is one stroke [Rule 21].

Personally, I am not fond of tournaments with four-person teams. When every person in a group is on the same team, I suspect that there are occasions when penalties are overlooked. For some players it can be psychologically intimidating to call a penalty on a teammate. While we all like to trust that every golfer is policing himself and is knowledgeable about the rules, that is not always the case.I think that tournament results are always more reliable when pairings contain opposing players. Formats with four-person teams are more suited to outings and charity fundraisers.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ask Linda #238-Cart path relief-right side or left?

Dear Linda: (First, thank you for such a delightful, and informative web site)

A golf colleague and I (both of whom read your advice regularly) still have a difference of opinion regarding a ball that lies along the extreme right side of a cart path in the direction of the hole. As a result, I provided the attached drawing to him to argue my point that the left side of the cart path will most often provide the nearest point of relief. As the Chief Justice of Golf Rule Interpretation, can you kindly tell me if there are any errors in the drawing (although I have not taken the time to laboriously draw it to scale)? Many thanks in advance,

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

You are, of course, talking about a right-handed golfer in this question. (Lefties, just reverse everything–I'm guessing you're used to that.)

Generally, the left-hand side of the cart path will provide the nearest point of relief for a right-handed golfer. However, if the cart path is exceptionally wide, the nearest relief may turn out to be on the right side. If it is not obvious which side will provide the nearest relief, you should establish the nearest point of relief on both sides of the path, measure from where the ball lies on the cart path to each nearest point, and then choose the side where your relief point is closest to the ball.

For a ball lying between the left side of the path and the middle, you can bypass the two-sided measuring procedure. The nearest point of relief for such a ball will always be on the left side for a right-handed player.

Don't forget that "nearest point of relief" means exactly that. If the ground to the right side of the cart path is fairway, and the ground to the left is covered in fescue, and your nearest relief is on the left side, then you must drop in the fescue. This is why I always advise readers to assess their relief options before lifting their ball – the best shot you have may be to hit the ball right off the cart path.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ask Linda #237-Ball ricochets backward into hazard

Hi Linda,

I came across the following interesting scenario during my round a couple of days ago.

Hole #3 is a Par 3 that shares a common tee ground with another hole (#12) facing the other direction. There is a water hazard marked for #12 between the tee and the hole for #12.

The tee-shot of #3 hits the sand box and ricochets all the way backward into the water hazard on hole #12, which is behind the #3 tee.

What is the correct procedure to continue? Should I go across the water hazard to drop?

If I must go across the water to drop, what if that body of water is the Pacific Ocean??

Thank you very much!

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

I will answer your question by first proposing the best solution for your predicament.

Rule 26-1a (Relief for Ball in Water Hazard) offers you the option to play a ball from the spot where you played the original ball. In the case of a ball that was hit from the teeing ground, you would be permitted to tee up another ball and try again. Counting the one penalty stroke for taking relief from the hazard, this would be your third shot.

If you choose to take relief under 26-1b (and I can’t imagine why you would want to), you would have to go to the other side of the hazard and drop a ball behind the hazard on a line directly to the hole. This, too, would be your third shot.

Regardless of whether the hazard is a narrow creek or a large lake, there is most likely no sane reason to do anything other than re-tee.

The Pacific Ocean would never be a water hazard between the teeing ground and the hole, so that theoretical part of your question is unanswerable. When a large body of water such as an ocean or a river is in play on a hole, then it is generally marked as a lateral water hazard.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ask Linda #236-Recording scores

Greetings Linda,

I have a question about how to record scores on the score card. Is there any rule or decision concerning how to record one’s score on a score card? I play with a group who like to record the number of strokes over/under par on their card. For example: a birdie would be -1 and a bogey +1, etc. They say it makes it easier to total the score card at the end of the round because they have smaller numbers to add to get the over/under par total. I thought I once read a score must be recorded as the number of strokes taken for the particular hole. Granted we're only playing for fun, but it would be nice to know for future reference.

Thank you,

"Lou Lou"

Dear Lou Lou,

When a golfer is competing in a tournament, he is responsible for recording the correct score for each hole on his score card. That number would represent the total number of strokes per hole. The Committee is responsible to add those scores, and they must be written in the traditional way: 5 for a bogey on a par 4, not +1.

When a golfer is playing a casual round, it is his responsibility to post his ESC score (total score minus deductions for Equitable Stroke Control) at the end of the round. As long as he comes up with the correct total, he is at liberty to choose his own system for recording scores.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ask Linda #235-Playing wrong hole

Hi Linda,

When playing a Stableford competition a group played the wrong hole. They finished the hole and realized their error. What is the penalty? Disqualification? Is it the same for a regular stroke play tournament?



Dear Lulu,

Stableford tournaments are a rarity in the United States. I have never run or played in one, so my knowledge of Stableford rules is sketchy at best. I consulted a rules official at the USGA, and we came up with what we think is the correct answer, which I will share with you. However, I would suggest that you contact an official with the R&A for a definitive ruling.

In a regular stroke play tournament, if a player plays from the wrong teeing ground (the wrong hole), she incurs a two-stroke penalty and must return to the correct hole. However, if she continues play at the wrong hole and does not correct her mistake before she tees off on the following hole, she is disqualified [Rule 11-5 and 11-4b].

While Stableford tournaments are stroke play competitions, the rules vary somewhat from a normal stroke-play event. Rule 32-2 lists all the instances under which a player in a Stableford would be disqualified. Rule 11-5, Playing From the Wrong Teeing Ground, is not on that list, so playing the wrong hole would not result in a disqualification from a Stableford tournament. Rule 32-2b tells us that in all other cases where a violation would result in a disqualification, the competitor is disqualified only for the hole where she broke the rule.

Under the Stableford scoring system, players are awarded points for certain scores, and the player with the most points wins. A competitor playing the wrong hole would receive no points for that hole, and no points for the holes she skipped. So if she completed the third hole and jumped to the sixth, she would receive no points for hole four, five, and six, and would continue play at the seventh hole.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ask Linda #234a-Illogical golf rule?


I read your response to post #234 and was a bit surprised by your answer even though I now agree that it was correct after researching Decisions 16/2 and 16/3. However, I do not understand the logic behind those decisions. Intuitively, I think Decisions 16/2 and 16/3 are backward.

If more than 50% of an embedded ball is within the circumference of the cup, it would seem that the prior shot should be deemed to be holed because placing the ball on the lip would be on a spot that is further away than where it landed. If it were placed exactly vertically upward, it would fall in the hole 100% of the time. I cannot think of another situation where a player would be "REQUIRED" to both mark and play his next shot from a further point on the green. Even in a damaged green or with casual water, the player has the "OPTION" of playing the ball on "the spot" where it landed. Thus, Decision 16/3 seems to be a manufactured anomaly to other Rules.

Decision 16/2 states:

16/2 Ball Embedded in Side of Hole; All of Ball Below Lip of Hole
Q. A player's ball embeds in the side of a hole. All of the ball is below the level of the lip of the hole. What is the ruling?
A. The ball should be considered holed even though all of the ball is not within the circumference of the hole as required by the Definition of "Holed."
This decision also appears illogical. If the ball was not embedded in the side of the hole but rather anywhere else on the green, the spot for the next shot would be vertically above its current position on the surface of the green. So why is a player entitled to spot his ball as much 50% closer to hole (enough to deem it holed) solely because it is embedded below the surface of the green while merely touching the circumference of the hole?

To illustrate the unfairness of these Decisions, consider two situations:

Situation 1: A high arching shot embeds deeply (below the surface of the green) on a wet green next to the cup such that its outer edge is barely touching the circumference of the hole. Under Decision 16/2, that shot is deemed to be holed even though 99%+ of the ball is outside the circumference of the cup.

Situation 2: A high arching shot embeds on a wet green on the lip of the cup such that 7/8 of the ball is hanging over the cup but the ball is not below the surface of the green. Under Decision 16/3, that ball must be placed on the lip which is 3/8" further from the spot in which it came to rest.

Clearly, the shot in Situation 1 was not as good as the shot in Situation 2 but the result is one less stroke. Further, both Decisions 16/2 and 16/3 resulted in an artificial placement of the ball in a spot not consistent with where it landed on the green.

I realize you do not make the rules, but maybe you could lend some insight as to the logic behind these seemingly weird decisions. I would be surprised if I am the only person who responds to this situation.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

I’m glad to learn that I have readers who are motivated to read the Decisions I cite in my answers and to spend quality time analyzing and considering the implications of those Decisions. I will do my very best to try to justify the logic behind these particular Decisions.

Let’s first look at your statement that you “cannot think of another situation where a player would be "REQUIRED" to both mark and play his next shot from a further point on the green.” Here’s one: Rule 17-4 talks about what to do when your ball is resting against the flagstick. If the flagstick is removed and the ball falls in, it is holed. However, if the ball moves away from the hole when the flagstick is removed, the player is required to place it on the lip of the hole without penalty. This is clearly a case of a ball that was partially in the hole being placed further from the hole.

You’re looking for some logic, Lou, so let’s find it. We should start with the definition of “holed.” “A ball is ‘holed’ when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.” The ball must be in the hole and below the lip. A ball that dives into the hole and embeds in the side of the hole with all of it below the surface meets the definition of “holed.” The player cannot be held responsible if the cup liner has been sunk too low or if there is no liner in the hole keeping the ball from embedding in the side when conditions are extremely wet, so the requirement that it be within the circumference of the hole is waived. The player’s ball entered the hole first, before embedding, and finished completely below the lip; it is “holed.”

A ball that embeds in the side of a hole and is not below the level of the lip has smashed into the back of the hole. It has not truly entered the hole. Part of it is sitting on top of the green, albeit plugged. This ball has not met the definition of “holed,” since it is not completely below the surface and is partially on top of the green.

So, if a ball cannot be considered “holed” if it did not enter the hole and finish below the lip, what are the rules’ makers supposed to establish as a procedure for a ball embedded in the side but partially above ground? The only possible and logical solution is to place the ball on the lip of the hole, and the player can then tap it in. A player can never be awarded a holed ball – it must have entered the hole as the result of a stroke. While placing a ball “on the spot” is an option elsewhere on the golf course, it can never be an option to place a ball in the hole. Decision 16/3 is not a “manufactured anomaly to other Rules,” as you suggest, but a reasonable and fair relief procedure for a ball that has not met the definition of “holed.”

Now let’s address your examples. In your first situation, the ball embeds in the green next to the cup with part of it within the circumference of the hole. This ball is not considered “holed.” Decision 16/2 is talking about a ball that has entered the hole and embedded in the side. Picture the ball diving into the hole and, with no cup liner to stop it (or a cup liner that has been sunk too deep), plugging in the side. In your example the ball embedded in the green; it did not dive into the hole and embed in the side.

In your second situation, part of the ball is above the surface of the green, and has therefore not met the definition of “holed.”

Sometimes rules have to be made in accordance with what the rulebook calls “equity.” Think about it for a minute. What is the fairest relief for a ball partially within the hole that has not met the requirements for being considered “holed?” I think the answer you will come up with is the same that the rules’ authorities adopted, which is that the ball should be placed on the lip of the hole.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.