Rules Guy: What if you hit the wrong ball after accepting a conceded putt?

What do you do when your team's balls get mixed up, and one of you hits the wrong ball after receiving a conceded putt? Rules Guy answers.

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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.

In a four-ball match, my partner stiffs it to two feet, and my ball rolls off the back of the green. Due to an obstructed view, however, we walk to the wrong balls. Our opponents concede the two-footer for birdie, so I pocket what is, in fact, my partner’s ball. For practice, my partner decides to chip onto the green, only to realize that he played the wrong ball when picking it up. Meanwhile, our opponents make par. Did we win the hole or lose it for playing a wrong ball? —Randy Feldner, McLean, Va

Interesting question, Randy. While the knee-jerk reaction is that your partner played a wrong ball, he really just made a practice stroke.

While your side may have been confused about who was who, you had completed the hole, since your/ his birdie was conceded and the other player chose not to complete the hole (see Rule 23.3).

Therefore, such practice was allowed under Rule 5.5b. You won the hole … well, he did …  actually, you both did.

golfer hits bunker shot
Rules Guy: When playing a match, can you hit a practice shot out of a bunker after a hole is completed?
By: Rules Guy

For more match-play guidance from our guru, read on …

A female, I recently played a round in a match-play event against a male. Due to the course rating and so on, I was moved back a tee box. I know that the course rating adjusts my course handicap based on tee box and gender, but how should the order of pops be allocated? Typically, the hole difficulty is listed at the bottom of the card with the forward tee (aka “ladies’ tees”), but now I’m playing the tees at the top of the scorecard where the “men’s tees” are located. What’s the ruling? As it happened, this made the difference between tying the match or losing by 2 holes. —Trish Selcher, via email

Let’s start at the end, Trish — from a Rules of Golf perspective, unless a timely ruling request was made under Rule 3.2c(2), the agreed result of the holes and match stand even if the strokes were applied incorrectly.

From a handicapping perspective, the USGA Handicap Committee Guide addresses stroke index allocation. Here’s the most relevant part: “The USGA recommends that each course has one allocation for men and one for women, based on the most commonly played tees for each gender. In mixed competitions where players play their own ball and where allocations are different for men and women, the players are to receive strokes based on their respective stroke allocations.”

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With that said, unless the Committee changed the allocation(s) used for the competition, you should have received your strokes based on the women’s stroke allocation.

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