Listen to dad about cleaning golf ball

Q. In reference to last month’s ruling on substituting a ball on the putting green, what would have happened if I substituted a ball on the putting green but did not play it? Could I correct my error in order to avoid the two stroke penalty? — Sam Owen

A. Sam, you could avoid the penalty by marking the substituted ball, take it out of play then replace your original ball on the spot from which it was lifted and hole out with it.

Q. My Dad says when I clean the mud off my ball by rubbing it on the putting green I could get a penalty for testing the green. Is this true? — Sean

A. No penalty will be given provided the act is not for the purpose of testing the surface of the putting green. It is recommended that a ball be cleaned in other ways to eliminate any question as to the player’s intentions. I’d listen to your dad on this one.

Q. I was playing in a tournament last week when my tee shot struck a palm tree and stayed in it. I saw where my ball hit but couldn’t get up high enough to identify it. Was I allowed to shake the tree or throw a club at it in order to dislodge my ball? — Jim Hatcher

A. Yes, you were allowed to do either of those things but should state your intention before taking such action to avoid any question being raised as to whether a penalty would be incurred under Rule 18-2a (ball at rest moved). It would be appropriate to state that if you were able to dislodge your ball and identify it you intended to take an unplayable lie to avoid the penalty under 18-2a.

Q. I hit my ball from the tee toward the desert area and went to search for it. After a couple of minutes I decided to go back and hit another ball off the tee. Before playing the teed ball and within my five-minute search period, my fellow competitors found my ball. Can I play my original ball or is the teed ball now my ball in play? — Susan Stillwell

A. The teed ball is not in play since you had not yet made a stroke at it. The original ball was not lost since the five minutes were not up, so the original ball is the ball in play.

Q. May a committee start play in a competition from both the first and 10th tee? Is it recommended? — Coach Dan

A. Yes, a committee may do this since the definition of “stipulated round” says that the holes are to be played in the correct sequence unless otherwise authorized by the committee. The USGA does this for the first two days of the U.S. Open and Women’s Open.

Sue May is a U.S. Open rules official, a member of the USGA Senior Women’s committee and tournament director of the Women’s Trans National Championship. Address your rules questions to

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