Lenobel answers readers’ questions

Contributing Columnist

I want to thank my readers for providing me with material for my columns on the rules of golf. Here are four that were sent to me this week.

I was playing a tournament at an unfamiliar course last week. Twice I putted the ball into the hole, only to have it bounce right back out again. Everyone in the group said they clearly heard the ball hit the bottom of the cup, and the cups definitely seemed shallow. At the 19th hole afterward, someone said the putts should have counted and I should have won. What is the rule?

It is not that unusual for a ball to jump out of the cup, but to have it happen twice in one round is very unusual. By definition, for a ball to be “holed” it must come to rest inside the circumference of the hole and below the lip for the hole to be over. By leaping out of the cup, your ball was most assuredly not at rest, and therefore your hole wasn’t over. You might complain to the person who prepared the hole.


My approach shot flew long and my friend found my ball buried in very high grass behind the green. We verified it was my ball and I took a swing at it. My friend said, “Nice shot,” which I thought was sarcastic because I saw the ball fly out short and left. Turns out that my ball was a few feet from the pin. I had also dislodged a second ball, unseen by either of us before my swing. I putted out for a par, but I wonder whether or not I incurred a penalty for striking two balls.

There is no penalty. According to Decision 15/2, you are not responsible for abandoned balls that you accidentally dislodge from their hiding places. Not only are you not penalized for hitting the “wrong” ball, you are also not required to hit your ball again so you were free to putt out. Not only did you save par, but you also got to keep a free ball.


I hit a perfect layup tee shot in the middle of the fairway, 10 yards short of the water. When I got to the ball, half of it was buried. Thinking it had landed in an old divot, I swung down as hard as I could. Up went to the ball, 20 yards and into the water. After taking the shot, I noticed that the ball had not been in a divot but actually in a drain with grass growing around it. I thought I had no choice but to drop, playing 4, but my playing partners told me I shouldn’t take a penalty, since the ball was on a drain. I took the free drop, landed on the green, two putts for a par 4. Were they correct?

Had you noticed that your ball was on top of a drain and not in a divot, you obviously would have been entitled to a free drop under Rule 24-2. Unfortunately, your discovery was too late. Once you hit your ball, you lost any claim you had for relief, and instead were required to play from where it landed (or in this case, sank).


A player’s ball lies behind an immovable obstruction. The obstruction interferes with the player’s swing and also intervenes on his line of play. In obtaining relief from the interference with his swing, must the player drop the ball in such a position that intervention on the line of play is maintained?

No. Since the obstruction interferes with the player’s swing, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 24-2b. If in proceeding under this Rule, the player could drop the ball in a place that would also avoid intervention on his line of play, he is entitled to do so.


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