Rules Guy: If I drop but then find my ball under the cart, am I still penalized?

A man looks for his golf ball under a cart.

Good news! You found your golf ball. But is it too late?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Player A hit his drive into the rough. After the allotted three minutes of looking, we considered the ball lost, but when Player B moved his cart the ball was in plain sight. We felt it was only fair to let Player A proceed without penalty, but I’m sure we violated a rule. Which one? —Ron Crosser, via email

Dare I say, there’s no carte blanche for a cart block. As for fair, that’s a four-letter word, as is lost, which is what the ball in fact is, since it wasn’t found in time. The player must play under stroke-and-distance…unless (a) you were playing match play and (b) nobody was sure how correctly to proceed under the rules (which, oddly enough, “I’m sure we violated a rule” suggests… arguably). In that instance, a + b = you can decide amongst yourselves how to handle the situation, even if that procedure turns out to be as wrong as playing in flip-flops. This doesn’t hold for stroke play, since the field must be protected, and what’s verboten in both match play and stroke play is for players to agree to waive a Rule of Golf, under penalty of disqualification. Ignorance isn’t quite bliss, but it beats collusion 9 and 8.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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