Old Wives Tails
(or misconceptions on the Rules of Golf)
How many times have you played golf with a person who acts like the absolute authority on the Rules of Golf only to discover later that what he/she told you was incorrect? It has happened to all of us, or if you are new to the game, it will. Hopefully after reading this article you will be better prepared. Just remember, the question to ask of anyone who seems like an authority: “Would you please show me that in the Rules of Golf book?” Here are some of my favorite old wives tales.
Myth #1: “Only the person who marked and lifted the ball on the putting green can replace it.” WRONG. Rule 20-3 tells us “If a ball is to be replaced, the player, his partner or the person who lifted or moved it must place it on the spot from which it was lifted or moved.” Since the player would be responsible for any breach of the rules in the replacement, he is always in control of his golf ball and can replace it himself.Second piece of misinformation: “If the ball is in the middle of the cart path a player may choose the side on which to drop the ball.” WRONG again. To find the nearest point of relief, address an imaginary ball on either side of the cart path. Where the club head touches the course, put a tee in the ground. You then measure or eyeball the distance from the ball lying on the path to each tee. The tee nearer to the ball determines the side of the path where you drop. If that side happens to be a vertical slope, rocks, clumps of high grass or trees, and if you dropped your ball there it is likely to be unplayable, you still have to drop on that side of the path if you want free relief from the cart path. This might mean hitting the ball off the path is the best option – so don’t move your ball until you know where you will drop.
Old wives tale #4: “In singles match play if a putt is conceded, but the player putts anyway and misses the putt – too bad, the miss counts.” W-R-O-N-G. I guess this expert never read Rule 2-4 which tells us that “A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.” Furthermore, the Rules of Golf allow a player to practice a putt after the conclusion of the hole. Rule 7-2(a).
Don’t fall for myth #5: Common thinking is that you cannot remove a water hazard stake when your ball lies in a water hazard, and that you are entitled to relief from an out-of -bounds stake as it is an obstruction. If you just reverse what you have heard about these two types of stakes, you will have it right.
Water hazard stakes are movable obstructions and as such they may be removed whether you ball is inside or out of the hazard. Movable obstructions are movable anywhere on the golf course. The difficult part about finding this information is that you back into the answer. Rule 24-1 tells us how to take relief from interference from a movable obstruction if a ball is either next to or lying on it. There is no qualifying statement restricting this relief on any particular part of the course. It is only when you read about immovable obstructions, Rule 24-2, that you learn the part of the course where the ball lies determines whether relief without penalty is allowed.
Stakes that define out of bounds are out of bounds and because of that they are not even classified under the Rules of Golf as obstructions. By definition, they are “immovable artificial objects.” There is no relief without penalty from that OB stake or fence. Play the ball as it lies or take the one-stroke penalty when you declare you ball unplayable under Rule 28.
Remember: When someone tells you a rule, ask to be shown the information in the Rules of Golf book. It will make everyone involved more knowledgeable instead of a victim of an Old Wives Tale.