Rules Guy: Are you allowed to brush ice away on the green if doing so forms a path for your ball to follow?
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My rules question dates back 30 years, but it has never sat well with me — finding out if it was resolved properly is on my bucket list. One morning in league play, I drove a par 4 to 20 feet from the cup. Upon leaving the tee box, it started sleeting; by the time we reached the green, it was blanketed in sleet. Obviously, I wanted a reasonable chance of holing an eagle, but I knew there was no realistic way of keeping my ball on-line over a layer of ice pellets. Play hadn’t been suspended — it was a quick, freak storm — so waiting for the ice to melt wasn’t an option. I proceeded thusly: Without creating a trough, I used my hand to brush away as much sleet as I could along my line. My eagle putt stopped a foot short, and I tapped in. No sooner than I plucked the ball from the cup, a playing partner said my brushing action constituted a rules violation, and I was assessed a penalty. Should I have been penalized, or should the birdie have stood? —Steve Jones, Springfield, Ill.
Steve, 30 years is a long time to stew.
Natural ice is and has been a loose impediment for quite some time — almost since the Ice Age — and removing loose impediments has pretty much always been allowed without moving the ball.
Perhaps the facts have changed in your favor since the original event, but it sure sounds like no penalty and a birdie to us.
For more loose-impediment guidance from our guru, read on …
On a gusty day, the wind had blown a branch just behind the hole on the low side of a sloping green. The first player up had a long putt from above the hole and wanted to leave the branch in place as a backstop. We agreed, thinking he wasn’t obligated to remove a loose impediment. The next player to go was below the hole, blocked by the branch, which he removed. You guessed it: The third player was above the hole, and he wanted the branch returned to where it had been to get the same advantage as the first player. We were baffled. — Jimmy Jackson, Charlottesville, Va.
Jimmy, please allow me to un-baffle you: The third player can indeed have the branch put back.
Under Interpretation 8.1(d)1/2 (yes, seriously — the Rules are nothing if not thorough), a player is generally entitled to the conditions that existed when the ball came to rest. Since the conditions affecting his stroke had worsened, the stick could be re-stuck.
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