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Rules Guy: Does a hand warmer near my golf ball violate the rules?

December 3, 2019

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.

We play golf year-round in southern Georgia, but occasionally the winter temperatures warrant a supplemental heat source. I’m on a blood thinner and my hands can get really cold, so I’ll often toss a disposable hand-warmer packet in my front pants pocket. A playing partner thinks having the warmer in the same pocket as my golf ball could violate the rules by softening the ball, improving playability in these conditions. —JIM PALMER, ALBANY, GA.

To avoid the proverbial hot seat by, er, warming up your balls, don’t place them in the same pocket as the hand warmer. If you make a stroke with the ball after it’s been warmed, the penalty could be disqualification under Rule 4.2a. (“Could,” because whether the heating was deliberate may be debatable.)

Assuming this was just an oversight, you could lift the offending ball anywhere on the course and substitute a different ball in exchange for the general penalty for an impermissible substitution, which beats being DQ’d; if the warming happened while between play of holes, you could do that same switcheroo without penalty.

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.