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Recent ruling confuses readers

This is for all you local golfers who have been e-mailing me about a golf ruling that you read about. You are all getting very smart on your rules knowledge and knew something was wrong right away.

The article stated that a player had acquired a two-stroke penalty because in the process of dropping his ball from a water hazard his caddie missed catching the ball and it went into the water. The actual ruling is that when a player is dropping a ball for a one that went into a water hazard, he may substitute a ball.

He could actually drop once, have that ball roll into the water, drop again, have that ball roll into the water, and then place a ball on the spot where the second ball hit the ground before it rolled into the water. The only penalty involved would be the cost of the two balls he let roll into the water.

I think the confusion comes from the ruling that involved a player whose ball was on the putting green. The golfer marked the ball’s position, lifted it and threw it to his caddie for cleaning. The caddie failed to catch the ball and it went into a lake and could not be retrieved.

The player holed out with another ball and was penalized two strokes for substituting a ball when the rules did not permit substitution. The caddie in this case needed to take off his shoes, go into the lake and find the original ball in order for the player to avoid the penalty.

Hope this clears it up.


Q. I’m always asking on the first tee how my fellow competitors have marked their golf balls. I like to know in order to avoid marking my ball the same way. Last time I asked this question the player replied, "I don’t mark my golf ball because it’s not a Rule of Golf and I don’t see any reason for it." Was I wrong in thinking it is a good thing to mark your golf ball even if you don’t have to? — Ed White

A. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be a nice guy. You were only trying to keep this player from getting into a situation where he would have a lost ball because he couldn’t identify his golf ball from the 20 others that were in the same area.

Rule 12-2 states that the responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.

If there is no identification mark on your ball, how do you know when looking for your ball that the ball you found is yours?

There are a lot of golf balls out there waiting for someone to come along and find them and, even though I like to find them, the only one I want to play is my own.


Sue May is a U.S. Open rules official. She is also a member of the USGA Senior Women’s committee, tournament director of the Trans National Golf Tournament and head rules director for the Butch Harmon Vegas Tour. Address your rules questions to smay@sngahouse.net.

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