Rules Guy: If you concede a putt to your match-play opponent, can you hit it for practice?
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In match play, my shot and my opponent’s land on the green. My opponent concedes my birdie putt, then putts my ball into the hole before attempting his putt to halve. Is this legal?
—Bill Dolbow, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Golf, or at least its rules, can be a funny thing: Your opponent’s action is only legal if it wasn’t really putting. If he had merely been attempting to return your ball to you or get the ball out of the way and then the hole simply got in the way, he’s in the clear.
If instead he was performing some kind of trial run for his own putt, maybe hoping to glean information on, say, green speed or the break — i.e., practicing — he violated Rule 5.5(a), with the penalty being loss of hole in match play. Moral of the story: A gentle toss of the ball to your opponent is the safe way to go.
Read on for another match play-related ruling …
In match play, my opponent and I are both on the green. My ball mark is on his line, so I ask if he’d like me to move it. He says no, then walks by my mark and presses it down with his putter — and it sticks to the bottom of his putter! I didn’t want to make a big production out of it, so he replaced my mark as close as possible to its original location, and we played on. But what is the ruling?
—Kevin Smith, via email
The old “Crazy Glue on top of the ball mark” trick, eh, Kevin? Very sneaky … you should be ashamed of yourself!
As it happens, this isn’t a sticky situation in the least. If the player wouldn’t get a penalty, neither would the opponent. So, assuming your opponent didn’t mean to move your mark — and there’s no reason for suspicion — then under Rule 9.7 you do just replace the ball or ball marker and get on with things. Only if your opponent had intended to move your mark would there be a one-stroke penalty.
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